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The Real Estate Market

I chose to become an educator as my first career, however, I have dabbled with real estate a few times in my life. As you all know by now, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE anything about homes…home design, home decorating, home remodels, anything that makes a house a home is one of my passions! So, it should not surprise anyone that I have taken the real estate courses…however, I have not completed any exams. I took them while back in Iowa, working on the house flip and thinking of leaving education. Then, I decided to move back to Houston, and I got a job back in education…so I just went with it. I did meet with a real estate company and started the Texas courses, but as a campus administrator, I had limited time and I knew I couldn’t give it my all.

But, that doesn’t stop my passion, for sure! I continue to follow market trends and anything that includes houses, housing, design, etc. So, today I want to share my own thoughts on this crazy real estate market!

I built my first home in 2001, in Houston, Texas. It was a lovely, 2200 sq. ft. home in a reputable neighborhood, zoned to great schools, and I got a fantastic price! At that time, the average price for a home like mine was around $120,000…which looking back, seems like a STEAL! Houston was one of those cities that the housing prices really did stay pretty stable and I definitely benefited from that! I ended up selling years later, and although the market was beginning to adjust here, I still would say homes were very reasonable and I was able to find a buyer quickly.

When I returned to Houston two years later (2015), I noticed prices starting to rise. Nothing too, too significant, but enough where as a single income, I couldn’t buy in the more trendy areas of the city, and chose to wait and lease in the suburbs. During my last 6 years of leasing, and finally deciding to make the commitment to purchase a home, I certainly have had a few surprises along the way!

Here is what I now know:

  • I began this house journey in January of 2021, and just had the home appraised so I can begin to process the closing, and I am already in appreciation of about $20,000! And that is above the cost with my pricey upgrades!
  • My friend just sold her house, on the market for one weekend, for well above what she paid to have it built…like I am guessing over $100,000 more!
  • My real estate agent is having a very difficult time finding homes for her clients, as most homes are getting offers above asking, before clients are even seeing them!
  • Listening to my podcasts last week, the low interest rates are driving these home prices up everywhere across the US, and it may not change until 2022…or beyond!
  • The cost for materials has increased so much recently…lumber, piping, etc…that it has become difficult to build at prices that I locked in at, just 6 months ago!

It amazes me that housing prices are so high…thinking about many of the homes I looked at prior to deciding to build would have needed a pretty major overhaul….and they were higher than the cost of building. As I mentioned, I watch the market often and it really is everywhere!

So, I wonder….how does the average household afford home ownership? A new teacher in many district around my side of Houston have a beginning salary around $60,000…and that is not enough to purchase the average home in the area. (However, rent is not much better right now!) I also wonder…what happens if the market shifts….will all of us home owners be at a loss? And, if rates do go back to a higher rate, will a yearly salary just over $100,000 allow for home ownership?

All things home truly will continue to be my passion….and I hope to continue to dabble in many areas of real estate in the near future. I am anxious, but also completely excited to see what happens with the housing trends in the future! And, I certainly hope that one day, I have the ability to answer some of my wonderings, especially when it comes to how I can help others (what I do believe I was put on this earth to do) find affordable housing that becomes a safe and secure place for those who are the average, hardworking families around the Houston area! Stay tuned, my friends!

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First Impressions

As a little girl, I was always fascinated with people who walked into a room and were completely put together. I observed everything. I noticed their hair, make-up, teeth, clothes, and of course, their shoes! I watched how they carried themselves. In addition to that physical presence, I also noticed how they lit up the room, made others feel, and who got the most attention. All of this together made an impact on those around…I guess I was already learning about first impressions.

As I continued on my journey through life, I quickly realized that making a positive first impression is EVERYTHING! And, it doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money! And, I have learned, that the first impression is your natural business card. It is what people are going to remember about you. And, you only get ONE first impression! So, I have learned that personally, I want to leave a mark on the world whenever anyone first meets me!

As an avid home decorator over the years, your home leaves a first impression too! The lawn, the upkeep of the home, the landscaping, and the front facade of the home is what draws people in. It is your home’s business card! So, how do I ensure my home leaves a GREAT first impression? Let me share a few of my tips with you below.

  • The Lawn: I do my own lawn work. I, one, enjoy the hard work and sweat that goes into perfecting it each week. But, I also like to be sure I take the time to explore my yard, and touch each inch of it. I like to have the edging done like I want. Fresh cut grass and trimmed edges make a huge difference to the appearance of a home! Whether you do your own lawn or have it hired out, be sure to keep up with your lawn. You sure do not want your “first impression” to be of an over-grown yard that looks neglected!
  • The Landscaping: I will be the first to admit, I do not have the best GREEN THUMB! So, I always want to be sure that my landscaping is easy to care for. I live in a very hot, humid climate, so I need landscaping that can accommodate the sun, the heat, and the varying precipitation. I LOVE rocks, yard boulders, unique plant pots, and dark mulch. Again, things that are easy to maintain! Whatever your preference is, be sure it meets your lifestyle. If you have plenty of time to spend on your landscaping, go for it! But if you are like me and work a lot, find easy ways for your landscaping to look neat and fresh, and still bring the right attention to your “first impression”.
  • The Home: I like homes that have some kind of design element that stands out in the front. Whether it is the lighting, the porch, or the front door, I find that whatever can draw attention and ensure people stop and think, “Wow”, the more I love it! I am not a very traditional type of girl, and prefer an eclectic or modern type of look. I love grays, black, and white color schemes. I suggest that you spend time looking at other homes in your area. What do you love about them? What draws your attention to the home? Once you know your personal style, you can then work with your home’s design and ensure it gives that feeling of “wow” when someone passes by!

These tips have worked for me over the years, as I truly believe that first impressions are definitely important. I think what is most important to think about in it all, however, is to find what works for you! You certainly don’t want to put together a great look that you cannot maintain! Nothing is worse than a messy, un-kept front facade! Take time to think about what you want and enlist the help from a professional if needed. But remember, you do not need a ton of money to keep a clean, neat, home. To me, it is definitely a HUGE element in your home’s “first impression! Stay tuned, my friends!

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The Story of Too…

What a busy week it has been! Ending the school year is always busy, but during a pandemic…or the end of one…makes it even crazier! Not much writing done this week, but I did get a chance to keep up with my social media. And, let me tell you about a real life story that is sparking this post!

I recently have been friending and following some great new friends through my networking opportunities with my blog and ran across a post from a new friend on Facebook. Basically, she was sharing that she, after a divorce, has been starting to date again. It sounded like she found someone she liked to spend time with, but unfortunately, he felt she was just TOO much! What???? How can anyone be too much???!!!???

However, during my journey of being a strong, single woman, I have encountered this many times. I have heard the following phrases….

  • You are just too smart. Translation: Are you smarter than me?
  • Oh, you are just too busy for me. Translation: If you are spending time with others, are you “cheating” on me?
  • I think you are too involved with your daughter’s life. Translation: I don’t have children and do not understand the parent role.
  • Maybe you are too fit for me. Translation: Why do you spend time eating healthy and working out?
  • You are too particular for me. Translation: Will you see my flaws soon??
  • And this one is the best….you are too important to too many people. Translation: I want all of your attention. (Yes, this one was the best yet…without going into too many details…this one made me realize someone who was trying to isolate me from my old life and wanted to form me into his new life.)

Yes, I will admit….I am busy, smart, fit, and a bit particular. I run a school so of course, I am important to many people and it is a job that you are on 24/7. But, to be real, there are many women…and men…who have jobs that are just as busy. Many who workout and stay active. Many who have children and are committed to family. These people have very healthy relationships with their significant others and I know it can be done.

What I believe is that, looking back on these relationships that I have had, clearly they were not the people for me….but more importantly, were these men intimidated by me? Because ultimately it does come down to hearing…”you, my dear, are too much…for me!”

So, after taking a break from a relationship that just was not working, I will begin dating again…and this time, looking for someone who is comfortable enough in their own skin to be able to handle a woman who is too much. Because I truly believe, can you be too much????? Stay tuned, my friends!

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They Call Me Boss…

It happened for the first time this year….a first grader saw me in the cafeteria on the first day of in person school, and not knowing my name yet, he said, “Hey, Boss!” It struck me as funny! Not necessarily because it is not true, but that even the students know that the buck stops with me!

When I decided to be a teacher at the age of 6, I really did not anticipate doing anything but being a classroom teacher for my entire career. However, if I think back to my childhood years, I have always been around leaders. My grandma was a “unit head” at her job…my grandpa was a respected, unofficial leader of the town I grew up in…my dad was a deputy sheriff for a time and then a lead at his job…my step-mother is a manager at the town Walmart Pharmacy. I also think back and guess who was always in charge of deciding what games or things we would do in my neighborhood….yes, you guessed right….so I guess I have to say, I have always had it in me. But, at that time, if I didn’t know you well, I was painfully shy. I knew I was smart, but did not want others to know. I knew how to organize things, but not confident enough to stand up and take charge. I guess I can say, this completely changed in me as I grew into my career.

Now, I will not lie to you…becoming the “boss” comes with a lot of sacrifices. Just to get my bachelor’s degree took both my es-husband and I working multiple jobs, missed time with my daughter, and late hours studying at night after the others went to bed. Fast forward to deciding to take on leadership roles in my school lead to me having to change my relationships with my friends that I taught with. The master’s degree was even more of a sacrifice…not because of the cost (I was lucky enough to find a grant that paid for it all), but because my daughter was beginning middle school and it required, again, missed opportunities to spend some important time with her. And, ultimately, getting the job, which does require a lot of time and effort to do it well, probably contributed to the failure of my marriage.

But, would i change any of this? Absolutely not! I affect hundreds of children’s lives each year. I make decisions that impact the future. And, I think I am actually pretty good at it! Does it still require sacrifice….of course. It is hard to spend time dating when you already have people around you that you want to spend the little time you have with. When work needs to get done, it needs to get done…which means you work until it is done. But, being the “boss” has been a very rewarding experience for me and I really would not want it any other way.

As far as missed time with my daughter over the years…well, I truly believe that we have used it to teach us. She has seen me move into leadership roles and serve others. She sees her mama as a strong woman that is making a difference in the world. And, she is even beginning to follow the same path in her career, one day serving others in many anticipated leadership positions in education!

And, what it has provided me more than anything else…I am a single woman in a position where I do not need anyone to take care of me. I can problem solve when situations, not only in the work place, but in real life arise. I can financially support myself, which is something I have seen other women over the years not be able to do and possibly be in a place where they are stuck without other options in life. And, it has given me a chance to have a big impact on the world.

As I continue on my journey through life, I embrace the many titles that I have. And, boss…is certainly one of them! Stay tuned, my friends!

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My Aging Body…Part 2

Last week, I shared with you thoughts about my aging body. Turning 50 has made me very critical of myself, as I want to be sure that I have done everything I want in life, lived life on my own terms, and still feel that I “am myself” as I continue to navigate through life. What I did not share with you is how I continue to preserve and care for my body.

If there is anything I learned this past year it is truly that our health is very important….and without it, you just do not know what could happen to you with illness and stresses that are out there. I have been very fortunate to not really have been affected too much from the pandemic. I do have some “acquaintances” that did not do so well with this virus. But, I also have to say, I have friends and other people in my life that even before this crazy virus, have had several health problems that potentially lead to unfortunate resolutions. Now, as a former PE major in college, and a current runner, of course, I thrive to keep myself as healthy as I can….not just concern about the “image” of it all!

So, how do I do it? Let me outline my daily, weekly, and monthly routines.

  • Sleep! I am not a great sleeper. Sleep is so important, and it is a struggle for me. I fall asleep, but I cannot usually stay asleep. So, I allow myself to sleep when I can. If I want to stay home and go to bed early on any given night, I do it. If I want a nap, I take it. If I want to sleep in late, I welcome it! This is my ME time….and I have trained myself to take full advantage of it.
  • Water! I start my day with a large bottle of water (equivalent to 4 servings). This is a daily routine, no matter what. I know it helps flush my system out each morning and starts my day out strong. Throughout the day, I continue to drink 2-4 regular size bottles of water (more if I work out). Then I finish my day with the large bottle of water to clean out anything from the day and settle my system.
  • Food! I have learned over the years that I can no longer eat whatever I want. However, I cannot stay with a diet. I follow the rule, everything in moderation. I always start my day with breakfast. And, this is where I try to consume most of my carbs. I am a creature of habit and I LOVE peanut butter…so it is usually two slices of wheat toast with all natural peanut butter (currently I am eating Smuckers). Then, I have a small snack later in the morning (on work days). This includes carbs if I am planning a workout later in the day. I make a protein shake for lunch each day. I include “super fruits” in this smoothie, and I am NOT a milk drinker, so it is always almond milk. However, this keeps me full for about 3 hours…and especially if I am working out later, I need an additional snack. So, I eat a protein bar later in the afternoon. I LOVE Quest protein bars….and I am pretty particular on flavors….but these do keep me going during that afternoon slump and keeps me full through the evening workout. And, finally, I usually eat a sensible dinner (expect on Fridays and Saturdays…these are truly my cheat days!). But….I am the first to say…I don’t turn down a good sweet treat! And, I am ok with allowing myself this every once in a while!
  • Wine and Margaritas! Again, everything in moderation….most weeks (haha)! Who doesn’t love a good Margarita! I limit myself during the week, most of the time, and allow myself to enjoy life on the weekends.
  • Exercise! As you have heard me say, I do strive to workout 3-5 days per week. I always ensure that my weekend workouts are longer, as I have more time. I do a little bit of everything. I LOVE my running days and training seasons. But, when it is hot….and it is in Houston….I also dabble with HIIT workouts, kickboxing, and spin classes. And, no matter what, I include some weight training each week. This will be something I am planning to increase doing now that I am aging, and anticipate that will make a bigger difference and affect my slowing metabolism.
  • Vitamins and Supplements! Ok…here is where you are going to call me a little flaky! I totally believe in vitamins and supplements! Here is what I take daily: a multivitamin, a probiotic, a metabolism booster, calcium (remember, I do not like milk!), vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, and this year I added elderberry with zinc. It seems like a lot, but so, so, so important! I really do swear by these. I truly believe this is part of what keeps me going on a daily basis.

In addition to all of this, I do make sure that I see my gynecologist yearly. I don’t have a general doctor, as I do not get sick, but I do take my daily allergy medicines AND I did get a COVID vaccine. Also, I ensure that I hug my dog every day! I also truly believe this has such a calming effect and it surely keeps me grounded! My daughter is the joy of my life! I talk with her at least 3 times a day….and it keeps my (and hopefully her) stress level in check. I even have been thinking recently about a statement she made. She told a friend one day, I live a life of peace. I feel that is what we try to do. We have stressful jobs and of course, things happen out of our control….but staying away from people who are negative and enjoy “drama” is not something we practice. My friends are important. I make as much time for them as I can…and we try to ensure we talk about life….not just work. And, finally, I try to ensure that I make time for my family. They all live far away, so seeing them regularly is hard, but with the new technology discoveries this past year, we have learned to love zoom!

10 days as of today until birthday number 50. I am ready! I am looking forward to seeing my aging body continue to conquer this world! Stay tuned, my friends!

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My Aging Body

My biological parents were quite a pair, physically speaking. My dad is tall (over 6 feet), slender, and was pretty athletic growing up. My mother was short (I believe 4’10”), stocky, and very uncoordinated. I believe I was pretty blessed to get a very good average between the two. I cannot complain at all. However, growing up and spending time with my mother as a young child, I would hear often about diets and losing weight. I remember times when she would eat something, then move into the other room to “exercise it off”.

Unfortunately, I inherited a bit of this craziness. I too have been known to be overly concerned about my weight during my teenage and adult years. It took time for me (and I honestly still have to work at it), to accept that I was not going to be model material! Haha!

I really have to say, the obsession seemed a bit much for years. I have been a runner for a long time, not to say I have the typical runner’s body, but I have never been anywhere near overweight or unhealthy. However, aging can really take a toll on the body! About 3 years ago, I was diagnosed with the early symptoms of menopause….fantastic, right? And after that, everything has begun to change.

Not only have I lost my “abs”….but my body has undergone changes in the elasticity of my skin, the ease of losing weight quickly, and there are days I feel the aches and pains of life. This was hard for me to accept. As I prepare for my 50th birthday in a couple of weeks, this has certainly been on my mind. Does that make me shallow???

I have dedicated this month to self improvement and reflecting on my life. Today, I told myself this (yes, I do self talk sometimes on my morning runs!), it is going to be ok. I am able to get up each day and live life. I don’t usually get sick, not even the common cold. I workout 3-5 times per week….and can do it even when I am feeling tired and don’t want to. And, for 50, I still look pretty good.

So, my friends, I share this today to say….I think it is absolutely normal to have fears of aging. And, as women, I think we are always concerned with our bodies….and I think to some extent, that is ok too. But, I will say, learning to accept the changes in life are difficult, but doable. As I continue on my journey of self improvement and reflection, I want to embrace myself in all aspects and live life with no fear! Stay tuned, my friends, as I am sure there will be more on this! 🙂

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My Des Moines Adventures!

About 3 years after my divorce, I had the opportunity to move back to Iowa. I didn’t want to go back to my super small town, especially after living in Houston…but I wanted to be closer to my family for a while. So, I said…if I get a job, I will move. Well…I got the job, and the move was on!

The first home I lived in was a rental that I did love. It was small, but so cute! It needed a lot of work, however, and I really wanted to live in a different area of the city. I lived there for the first year, and then moved to one of the suburbs. This home needed work also, but nothing structural, so I was good to go!

The house was sweet! It had a lot of those old house features…hard wood floors, glass knob door handles…and they caught my eye. When I first went to the home, I fell in love with it. I am not really sure why. It was not super cute, but I guess it was because I walked in and the first thing I noticed was the potential! I thought…I could finish these floors, I could change this kitchen, I can make this home one of those that you walk into and just say, “beautiful”! I was so excited! I couldn’t wait!

I started with floors! They were hard! I stripped them down and refinished them all on my own! It took forever…or at least what felt like forever! I wanted a modern feel in the home, so I went from that generic brown oak color to the darkest brown I could find! Although the dark color showed all the dust and dirt and I was cleaning them every day, I was so proud of the finished project!

Once I did all of the stripping, I did the staining…loved it so!

Then I worked on the bathroom! It was hideous! I wanted something that felt like me! I visited several different design stores, open houses, and looked through many pinterest posts before I found something I loved! It started with the counter for the sink. I was in a design store, and this quartz counter was in one fo the model kitchens. What stood out was that the cabinets were a taupe color and the door handles sparkled! The quartz was quite expensive, but for the bathroom, I was able to get them to a price I could afford…with the rectangle sink included! This was truly a statement piece and I wanted to go bold. The bathroom already had wainscoting, so I painted that a fresh white and the rest of the wall a dark blue! I used a gray tile flooring and white subway tile in the bath surround. t was amazing when it was done!

The picture does not do it justice! The counter sparkled!

We did more work, but my most favorite project was my back yard! I fenced the yard, cleaned up and made the deck area pretty, and cleaned up the old fire pit in the back! Cool, fall wine nights were amazing just enjoying the night air!

Although I made the choice to leave this project early and head back to Houston, I totally enjoyed my time in this home. It made me believe that home decorating and design is actually a passion of mine! I cannot wait to begin the final touches on my new build. And, soon, starting my next love project…A Refresh by a Girl and Her Dog, a decorating and staging company! Stay tuned, my friends!

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Big Goals!

I have recently been on a journey….learning how to be 50! While on this journey, one of my reflections has been….am I doing everything that I I planned to do in my life? Now, yes….I have done some pretty great things! I’ve touched the lives of thousands of children as a teacher and principal. Yes….I have helped hundreds of teachers perfect their craft. Yes….I have raised one of the most amazing young ladies that I know. And yes…I really feel that I have done a good job of being a friend, a daughter, and a sister.

So, I ask myself, is this enough? And, I have to say…no! I want more! I want to leave a legacy. I want to be able to say, yes…I did that too! I want to see if my other skills are worth pursuing. Call it a mid-life crisis, but whatever it is, I know I am not done learning, growing, serving, and making a difference in the world!

So what is next???? That is the question. I am loving sharing my thoughts with y’all in my blog! It is a place where I hope I can just tell my story like it is…raw, real, and honest. I also hope that when it is read, it can have on impact on at least one person. Maybe even one day, I can take my story on the road and get into public speaking. Did I tell you that I have been a public speaker before….I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a community of young mothers, talking about my journey as a teen mom and how I was able to get my degrees and secure a career that enables me to have a good life.

I am also starting a book! Yes…I am so excited! Finding time to write while wrapping up a school year…during a pandemic, is a bit challenging, but when it is done, I know it will be great! And, I cannot wait to share a bit of it with you here! Did I tell you that in college, I had work published? It wasn’t huge, but it certainly was exciting!

I love, love, love this big journey I am taking while building my dream home! It may not be a mansion…but it is the home of my dreams! And, when I finish the decorating, it will SPARKLE! This will be the start of my next venture…home decorating and staging! I plan to use the staging of my current rental, a few free jobs for my closest friends, and the new home project to start my portfolio and really attain one of my dreams! Did I mention that for a period of time at the end of my high school career, while preparing for college and my plan of study, I dabbled in home design????

I know I will continue running, with a goal of at least 20 half marathons…and hopefully one full marathon before it is all over! In addition, I want to help others on their own health journey! I enjoy planning with someone a path to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle! Did I mention that I have an associates degree in physical education….so why would I not???

I believe 50 and beyond is going to turn out GREAT! I am loving my day job (my career) and looking forward to what else is out there for me! And, maybe…just one day….I will have someone give me a new job…that of grandma!! Stay turned for more, my friends!

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Sparkle, Sparkle Everywhere!

My ex-husband and I decided to build a house back in 2001. We picked the neighborhood, the floor plan, but the type of home that we built was somewhat of a “package” deal…they gave us the package, and we only had to choose a few upgrades, if we wanted (upgraded carpet, garage door opener, and that was about it). Fast forward to January of 2021, and the home building process was SO MUCH DIFFERENT!!!!! And I could not wait to get started!!!!!

I got the call that my first home buying appointment would be virtual (yes, that dang pandemic), and I would need to review the workbook prior to my 3 hour appointment. Just let them know if I had any questions…they were emailing me the workbook! I excitedly checked my email and WOAH….the workbook was about 100 pages! I was choosing just about everything! I had already picked out the floor plan, but basically, everything else was open for options! I had my budget and I was ready to go!

Now to say I made choices, changed my choices, and changed my choices again was definitely an understatement! There were just so many sparkly things to choose from! How was I ever going to make a decision????? That is when I decided to do what any good home designer would do, get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere! I began by researching Pinterest and Houzz, and of course, watching HGTV…I was looking for that exact look I wanted for my new home. I did some virtual home tours and thought about design choices I have done in the past. What did I love about each place/picture I found…what didn’t I like…and what would make me feel absolutely at home when it was all done! This process helped me tremendously!

Then, I started reaching out to my peeps…my parents, my daughter, and my friends to see what things could we do together that I could save money on. You know, sometimes you can achieve the look you want without spending the amount builders will charge you. This helped me as I began to prioritize what I needed/wanted that could not be an easy fix later on (like the 9 foot ceilings).

Once I had done my homework, I was ready to sit down and make my lists. As any good planner would do, I had a list A, list B, and list “here are the fun things I will add if I still have money left over”! Well, my friends, here is my list below!

  • 9 foot ceilings – which allowed for 8 foot doors and 42 inch cabinets
  • Vinyl wood plank flooring
  • Subway tile back splash
  • Stainless appliances
  • Granite counters in the kitchen
  • Rectangle undermount bathroom sinks
  • Elongated bathroom toilets
  • Coach lights at the garage
  • Garage door opener
  • Upgraded brick
  • Upgraded interior doors
  • Upgraded kitchen faucet
  • Pendent lights above the kitchen island
  • AND….my splurge….a stainless apron sink in the kitchen

With the items that come with the home, I know this will make me very happy! What I still will need to add as I move in and it becomes mine are ceiling fans and additional ceiling lights, various paint colors per room, cabinet hardware, and a back patio (I will need time deciding on this design for sure).

After my first design appointment, then I had the privilege of visiting the design studio in person! Oh boy! Now I was in my element! I am so glad, however, I spent the time researching and making my lists, as this can be a very overwhelming process. I did not make too many changes in my choices, but I did decide on flooring and faucets during this visit. But to be truthful, if I had not done my homework before, I would have definitely went over budget!

So, here are my lessons learned in this part of my home building experience. Know that this can be an overwhelming process and you definitely need to do your homework. Having an idea of what I could not live without and what my bottom line price point was helped me stay right on track. Also, trust your instincts. You know what you like…and this is your home. You have to live there day in and day out…make your choices based on what you want! And finally, understand that there are things you can do later or on your own that will help you save money in the end. You can google how to do almost anything these days, and I am sure if you offer your friends cold beer or a bottle of wine, they will do anything to help you make your home just how you want it by tweaking the little things. Focus your money on the things you cannot change later (like those extended ceilings).

I am happy to say I only went over budget by $30. And that was due to the kitchen sink, which really was a splurge! Now, as I begin thinking about design choices for furniture and other accessories, I feel that the canvas is ready for me to begin making art! Stay tuned for my exciting decorating adventures!

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Appointments I Make With Myself!

One thing that I have learned over the years is that it is very important to ensure that you are living a healthy lifestyle. I had a bit of a cancer scare a few years ago, and while preparing for surgery, my nurse and doctor both commented how although I was in my late 40’s, my health stats were like I was still in my 30’s! Yay me!!! They know that I am a runner and that I really do follow the motto…everything in moderation! But I can say, after enduring that scare and learning that I am fine, I would contribute most of that to my my healthy way of life.

Now, I will say, I have had friends and colleagues ask me over the years to help them start living a better life. They have asked for workout plans. They have asked for eating plans. I have provided, but with hesitation…because a person can have a plan, but until they are committed to a lifestyle, a plan is just a plan. So, how do I run a school, start a blog (and eventually a new career), raise a healthy and happy young adult child, mentor aspiring leaders, clean my own house, mow my own grass, find some time for fun, and keep this healthy lifestyle? Well, it isn’t easy! But, it can be done!

Although I am pretty ADHD, I have learned ways to cope with this so that I can function without any medications. I have learned to be a planner! I plan almost everything! And, I work the plan! Just as I make my to do lists and fill my calendar with my work and other responsibilities, I do this for my workout and my eating schedules. I plan to workout 3-5 days per week, which is scheduled on my calendar (and yes, I am old school, I still use a paper calendar). I plan my weekly meals so that I can ensure that I get the groceries that I need each week (as that too has been a challenge to remember to buy the groceries). And to make sure that I can stick to these plans, I also plan for flexibility…because even the best made plans can go wrong!

When my above mentioned friends and colleagues ask for plans, and I share how I do it, I am often asked…how do you stick with this? This is a lot??? Well, I look at it as if I am making appointments with myself! I feel that I am important enough to stick to these appointments. Most people don’t just skip important appointments, so it helps me stay on track and not just skip out on myself!

Life is busy! Believe me…working 50-60 hours per week in my day job, starting a new 2nd career, and finding time to actually live life, is hard! If you value your health, please find time to make those appointments with yourself and KEEP them! You will find that it makes changing your lifestyle so much easier! More to come, my friends!

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Achieving Work Life Balance…or Giving It a Good Try!

One thing people can say about me, I am an extremely hard worker. I was given that gift by most people in my family. We are a working class family! Everyone….my grandpa, my grandma, my dad, my stepmother, my sister, my brother, and most of my extended family….has the same work ethic. It was instilled in us at a young age. My grandpa would say, do the work and do it right the first time. And that is what we do.

I decided early in my teaching career that I wanted to do big things one day. I would dream of one day working for the president as the Secretary of Education (then reality hit)! I knew that the more I moved up in my career, the more children I would be able to have a positive effect on. I also knew that you did this by working hard and showing those above you that you could juggle multiple tasks, while still doing the job assigned better than anyone else. So, naturally this became my world. I learned to juggle many things at once, including supporting and parenting my child, while still putting in the 50-60 hours per week to get the current job done. It all paid off and I now say that I influence about 650 students and 60 staff members per year…and I absolutely love it!

However, this sometimes comes at a cost. I find time to exercise. I find time to spend with my daughter (when she has the free time). I find time for my dog. I find time for friends, on an occasion. What I don’t find time for is traveling, dating, and resting….sad but true! My friends tell me that I need to balance a bit better. They tell me that at the end of the day, the job will still be there and they will replace me quickly when I am gone, but that I will regret the time I missed enjoying life.

Now, let me be clear, I enjoy life, but could I be happier with more? Of course! I want to live a life that is FULL of life, FULL of love, and FULL of adventure! So, I am committing to balancing a bit better. Just as I plan my daily to do lists for work, I will plan my to do lists for my life. I am going to enjoy this home buying process. I will commit to enjoying the home decorating process that goes with it. I will find time for relaxation…not sure what that looks like just yet, but stay tuned for more details! And, I will find time for a better social life, including dating when I find the right person!

So, as I reflect and move toward 50 and beyond, I am still learning! Learning how to relax and enjoy life…not just throw myself into work! It will take me out of my comfort zone, but I know I can do it! Looking forward to the next chapters of my life ahead!

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The Countdown Begins!

I was born on Friday, May 28, 1971, at 4:27 pm. My parents were pretty young, but I believe that didn’t mean they loved me any less! I am the oldest child of three, and the oldest of 9 first cousins. I am close with some of my cousins and siblings and not as much with others. I have good parents (my parents split when I was 14 and I lived with my dad and stepmother). I had great grandparents who have both passed away and are greatly missed. My mom died in a car accident in 2007, as we were beginning to repair our relationship. My dad and stepmother are living and loving life in Iowa!

I was 19 when I had my daughter, and 20 when I married her father. On my 24th birthday, I visited Houston for a job, and decided to move 1000 miles from home to begin my life! I have taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. I have been a district administrator, an assistant principal, and an elementary principal. I earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in educational leadership, and had the opportunity to study for a summer at Harvard University!

I raised a beautiful, strong daughter who also teaches. We have laughed together, cried together, and overcome many obstacles together. We are very close now, but have had our days when we didn’t always like each other. I have bought 2 houses (almost 3) in my lifetime, soon to be two new builds. I was married for 19 years, and I have gone on numerous dates (both from traditional meetings and online dating sites). I have friends that I met when I was 5 and some that I met just last week.

Reflecting on all of this, I must admit, it has been a pretty great life! And in one month, I will turn 50! It seems surreal to say I will be on earth this long, but on the flip side, I must say that I am proud to have lived, loved, learned, and thrived this many years…and still look and feel pretty good!

How will I celebrate the big 5-0??????? I have not yet made a plan, which being a bit ADHD this should not be surprising! But….however it is, I know it will be FABULOUS! And, each day leading up to my birthday, I plan to pamper and just take great care of myself! I plan to use reflection, gratitude walks, time for fitness, time for rest, and time for play, leading up to the 28th of May!

Happy Birthday Month to Me!

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com
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And the Journey Begins!

8 years ago, I put my house up for sale. I did “for sale by owner” and found a buyer within a week. I had decided that one, I would move back to Iowa, and two, I did not want to keep the house as a rental…I just wanted to be done with the memories that came with that home. It was hard to leave…we had been through a lot there. My daughter’s middle school and high school years, her high school graduation, my master’s degree graduation, numerous parties and get-togthers with friends, two hurricanes, and many redecorating experiences! It was the perfect house, the perfect yard, but carried just not so perfect memories.

I sold for exactly the purchase price. I knew I could have made money on the home, as the Houston housing market was beginning to shift,, but I certainly did not want to risk “drama” from my ex-husband, once he knew I made money (even though I paid for EVERYTHING in that home). I made a little money, considering that I lived there about 12 years. I took the money, packed my few belongings I wanted to keep, grabbed my Oakley and my daughter, and off we went, to a new life back in Iowa!

Boy, that experience was interesting! Reflecting on it now, I wonder how I became that girl that needed a man so badly that I sacrificed my money to keep not just one, but two around! The first one moved in with me (a rental to start), with a promise of a BIG, BEAUTIFUL life! Well….I am still single, so we know how that worked out! Another man who felt the need for me to pay for everything and take care of him. Well, that last about 6 months…and then I found another just like him! I guess I was a sucker for these beautiful…yes, they were both very nice looking :)…but both equally messy in their own lives and needed a woman to come in and pay for their life! And, sadly, I did it for another year…

Once I got back to Houston, I felt like I had finally got it together! I knew I was not going to get into another relationship with a man who needed me to finance them….and really, I am a school administrator….who am I to be financing anyone’s life! But, once I got back, my past continued to catch up to me. I ended up with a tax bill to the IRS that was going to cost me a lot of money…and I had to take on a payment plan, in addition to paying much more for rent, because as I mentioned, the Houston housing market was changing and rent was becoming much more expensive! And, on top of that, I had a health scare that cost me a year of payments to the hospital and doctors! Whew….I am exhausted to writing about all of that!

Well, as it turned out, I FINALLY, and I mean FINALLY, realized that if I was going to fix this and be able to live a stable life…one that includes travel, fun, and a home of my own, I was going to have to get it together! This was a year and a half ago. And here is how I did it!

  1. I started developing my vision. I did not know exactly what I wanted in the beginning of this journey. I knew I wanted to own a home again, but where and for how much, I had no idea. So, I started attending open houses. When I could find any of those, I started going to new neighborhoods and looking at their model homes. I needed something in my eyesight to keep my focus!
  2. I reviewed all of my finances and made a plan. I began paying off credit card balances. It was a slow process at first, as I struggled to discipline myself enough to really make a difference…but once I started to feel the success of seeing the balances go down, and my credit score go up, I was on fire! I did not really realize that part of my credit score was based on my revolving credit balance…thinking that it was fine to have a balance as long as I paid my bills on time (which I always did)…so it was also a bit of a learning curve.
  3. I started a savings plan. I had to convince myself that if I put more in savings each month than I thought I should, I could always transfer the money back, if ABSOLUTELY necessary. But, as I started to see my balance increase, it became harder and harder to justify what those absolute necessities were, and I discovered that I really didn’t need them! Besides, a 10 dollar bottle of wine helps one unwind and relax just as well as the 30 dollar bottle, right?
  4. Finally, I had to make a decision! My friends say I am afraid of commitment, and a house, of course, is a huge commitment! I was so worried that I would choose and then wish I had something different! I worried that if I decided on a new build, the next week, a great existing home in a better neighborhood would go on the market! It came down to me finally deciding, as I learned that literally ONE lot was left in my soon to be new neighborhood! I realized it was probably fate (yes, I am a bit hokey like that!). I put the earnest money down and the building began!

As I anxiously await my move in date…June 18 is the tentative closing…I have to continually remind myself, don’t spend money, don’t stop saving and paying extra on those bills, and don’t revert back to your old ways! I feel a little like I am in some kind of recovery program! But, really, it is just me, learning how to manage my own life and take charge (finally) of my own finances! Looking forward to what is next and sharing my home building process with you all!

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When Work Gets Me Stressed!

So many of us have high stress jobs these days…especially in education! My job is no different. I work 50-60 hours per week most weeks of the school year. I feel that there are days when I truly lead, and days when I just put out fires. I bring in on myself…I work to help struggling schools improve and this is not a job for the faint of heart!

As I became a school administrator, I remember how much I loved running (I started running in some capacity when I was young). I remembered how in college, it helped me focus and get studying done. As a young mother, it helped me find balance and remember that I was still a person, not just someone’s mom. And, as a principal, it not only helps with my health, but my stress level as well.

I run at least 1 half marathon every year. I love the training! I love the feeling of exhaustion after those long weekend runs! I love the feel of crossing the finish line! And I love that I know that I did it…my body allowed me to complete 13 miles (yes, I would love to run a full, but I am not sure I can commit to the time it would take to train)! I also love that after the official run, I can wear the shirt and walk confidently around, showing the world that I did it!

This year we had this little thing called a pandemic….have you heard about that? So, the Houston Half Marathon was virtual this year. Yes, I said virtual! All 13.1 miles on my own, without the crowd, without the noise, just me and my thoughts in my neighborhood on a crisp January morning! I am not going to lie, I was a bit nervous. I trained as usual, but I was fearful that if I didn’t have the crowd to keep me going, I would not finish!

Well, it was a perfect morning! I went out early, after the sun had just come up. My daughter and I had a route planned that included pit stops back home to get water and use the bathroom. She also had herself stationed around the neighborhood, with her music playing from her car, cheering me on! As I came upon my first mile, I saw a small crowd on the side of the road…some of my teachers and my assistant principal was there wishing me luck as I began my journey! About 4 miles in, another one of my teachers drove by, honking wildly, boosting my stamina a bit more! And, of course, at each trip back to the house, my Oakley was there to give me loves and to keep me going!

I finished with a pretty solid time! It was weird, but not as awful as I thought! And, I was even prouder of myself this year, knowing that it was more challenging than ever, but I could still do it (and in my 49th year of life!)! Of course, the medal and shirt were a bit delayed, but when they came in the mail, I wore them both proudly!

Running will always be a part of my life! It helps with stress, but it is definitely my place to lose myself in my thoughts, enjoy the beauty of nature, and feel accomplished by doing these half marathons each year! I highly suggest to all, find something physical that you enjoy doing and set yourself up to do so! It will truly help with your work-life balance! It will keep you healthy, and we all have learned this year how important that is! And, it will make you feel that you can be more than just the principal, the mom, the co-worker, or the single lady in the crowd!

The email came yesterday that Houston is back on, in person, in 2022! Cannot wait to be at that start line and do my thing!

My view as I approached mile 3, 7, and 10 during my virtual Houston Half Marathon 2021!
Running along Lake Houston during my virtual Houston Half Marathon!
My MOST favorite house in my neighborhood, which I got to run by 3 times during my virtual Houston Half Marathon!

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A 40 Year Old’s Guide to Divorce

I love spring days in Houston! I walk my dog, enjoy the low humidity (yes, we get like 10 days of low humidity here), and soak up the sunshine! I also lose myself in my thoughts…well actually, I reflect. It is such a peaceful time to look back on what I did that day, that week, that year, etc. Today, however, I spent time thinking about how lucky I am to have gotten to a point where I LOVE my life! I am in charge! I make my decisions! I got this!

This has not always been the case. There was a time when I would walk my dog and reflect (in a different world, with a different dog) on how lucky I was to have a partner (thinking I had to have a husband to be happy) and that we would go through the rest of our lives together. Of course, you are reading this because that is not the way my life turned out. Re-framing my thoughts definitely had to happen….and in the process of doing so, I made some good and bad choices along the way! And I also had to realize that that was ok!

Here’s what I should have done differently:

  • I should have realized that a major life change like this would take time to embrace. I wanted to feel better instantly, and when I didn’t, I thought there was something wrong with me.
  • I should have realized that my friends did not understand what I was going through. Until you have experienced certain things in life, you just don’t know. I was hurt that they didn’t understand.
  • I should have realized that I would learn so much from this experience. Instead, I was angry all of the time…or wanted to NOT FEEL anything. Not a great place to be.
  • I should have realized that dating in 2010 was WAY different than dating in 1989! That was my biggest learning curve ever…well, except learning Istagram! 🙂

But, here is what I did well…and got me to where I am today!

  • I got up and did life…every day! No matter what!
  • I learned how to sleep in a bed alone…well, ok, with the dog! But, he never snores!
  • I learned how to live alone…safely! Something we all need to know!
  • I spent time with my single friends (which I don’t think I did so much when I was married) and refreshed those relationships!
  • I took challenges that I may not have taken when I was married…like relocate 1000 miles back home! And, I didn’t feel bad when that move didn’t work and I rushed right back to Houston!

The list can go on and on…but my point today is, when you reflect on your own journey, know that however you handled it, whoever you got a little angry at, and whatever bad decisions you made (hopefully, they didn’t get you in too much trouble…haha), it is ok! Everyone needs to embrace their own journey…heal in their own way…learn to love themselves and their life again, no matter what it looks like when you come out on the other side! My biggest piece of advice, keep going, keep getting up every day, keep dreaming, and keep working toward you new normal! I know you will make it!

Photo by Puwadon Sang-ngern on Pexels.com
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My Journey to Home Ownership

It took me years to realize that I could own my own home once again! It has been a bumpy road to home ownership! Let me share my journey (both mistakes and celebrations) with you!

When I learned that I was getting a divorce, I also discovered that my ex-husband was walking away from everything…well, almost everything…he wanted the washer and dryer…hmmmm. It made sense because at that point, we had separated our money and I was paying most of the bills, which included the house payment and all recent repairs needed due to a massive hurricane. Within a couple of years, as I decided to transition back to Iowa, I sold the house and used the money to fund my courageous move to a new life in my home state.

Once in there I decided to try a house flip. Unfortunately at the time, I could not get financed for a home loan, so I walked away, leaving behind the money I used to help a friend make her home better (yes, see, I made many mistakes!). I came back to Houston, with hopes that I would lease a house for a year or two, build my credit back up, and purchase my dream home! That was six years ago! Do you realize home much money one throws away renting for 6 years! Yikes!

I had to learn how to budget and save money! I love to shop, decorate, have fun out with friends to nice places…and I was spending a lot of money that I should have been using to pay off f credit cards or put into savings. Learning to do this was HARD! I think mainly because prior to the moment I realized that I really truly wanted to do it, I really truly did not care if I owned a home or not! It took me time to get feelings back…to care about my future….but once I did, it was on!

January 4 will stand out as a very important day in my life! That was the day I drove past my soon to be new neighborhood, went into the home office, and decided that I would commit to a mortgage once again! I close in June and to be truthful, I am nervous each day building up to the closing, but so excited to have something I can say is mine…that I did this, on my own, because I am a strong woman…whether I am married or not!

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com