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!

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

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!

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!

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

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