Fire in Your Belly

Image Description: Winter sunrise through an archway of trees at the dog park. I really really love being able to walk to a nice big dog park.

We are half-way through [REDACTED]’s first year of law school and one of the main conversation topics in our home recently has been his plans for the summer.

In law school, you are expected to seek out summer opportunities related to – you guessed it – the law. These summer opportunities range from internships to clerkships and can come with a minimal stipend to almost a year’s salary (or so I’m told) over the course of three months.

The location of these opportunities also range.

Sunday morning, [REDACTED] drove back down to our old neck of the woods and stayed with some friends for a networking event with local firms. Part of me enjoyed some quiet time to myself, but mostly the house just felt empty without him there.

The whole point of his trip was to make connections. Connections that could lead to future work – summer work, perhaps.

It is here that I feel the creep of envy and anger into what I have worked so hard to hold in a positive and optimistic light. I have found contentment in the present moment – I am settled in at work, albeit missing the bright passion and joy of my work-life from before the move, we are settled in our new home, but the future is far from set in stone. (I’m starting to wonder if it ever will be – ugh, eternal growing pains!?)

Once again, we are faced with options and opportunities that don’t necessarily fit with one another’s personal aspirations or situations.

While [REDACTED] searches and applies for what he might do this summer, I feel the familiar sensation of being stuck. Wherever he goes this summer, I will be here, in this new place.

He is mostly applying to things nearby, and he has assured me that those are his first priority, but it’s more complicated than that.

It is an uneasy process of trying to plant and grow a garden in a new place while keeping our old roots intact. My instinct tends towards rooting wherever I am – I am a nester, a home-body, a hygge connoisseur, and all of those things require some amount of stability and restfulness.

Before we moved, I had plans to make law school a three-years-and-done commitment. We would move, live somewhere else for three years, then move back – I would go back to where I was before law school, ready to dive back in, as if I had never left.

With that in mind, connections from this networking event are incredibly important. Making a good impression, landing a job, and taking a summer job in our old city could mean that [REDACTED] has a spot ready and waiting for him if (or when) we decide to move back!

But – and this is a big one – I don’t want the next three years to feel like I am just biding my time. I want them to yield growth and learning for me too, which means that while [REDACTED] makes connections in our old city, I am actively growing my network in this new city.

If he gets an offer for a summer job two hours away, with pay that is closer to the “year’s salary” end of the scale, it’s going to be hard to say no to that.

Even if it isn’t a matter of money (say, two equally low-paying opportunities are offered) and one is something he has always wanted to do but it’s out-of-town while the other allows him to stay in-town but doesn’t spark his passion – I want to say “go.”

I’ll rent out the spare bedroom for a few months and live with a roommate. (No I won’t – I would have the zoo of animals with me!)

Image Description: Our pup gazes into the camera with her bright yellow eyes. Her coat almost blends in with the woodchips of the path we are walking.

We’ve never been “long-distance” unless you count the summers in our first few years of dating when we both lived at home – about 600 miles apart – for two or three months at a time, but that was years ago. I think I would handle it better than he would. He is a more social, extroverted, dog-person while I am definitely more on the aloof cat-person end of the spectrum.

Now that I know the difference between work that puts a fire in your belly, makes you want to get up in the morning, stay late at night, and come back on the weekends and work that is bland, but sustaining, I want [REDACTED] and I both to have the kind of work that sparks joy. I want him to pursue what he is passionate about, even if that means that we will spend a few months apart.

The bigger question is around his 2L summer, since (apparently) the work you do during the summer after your second year of law school is generally how you are offered a position, ready and waiting for you upon graduation. For those gigs, you apply in the fall of your second year.

Luckily, fall is still half a year away, although even that feels very soon. I’m cautiously optimistic that the right doors will open at the right times for [REDACTED] and I. I am starting my own search to try and rekindle the fire in my belly and find some way of growing alongside my husband in preparation for the road ahead – whether that means staying where we are, or returning to where we were.

I’m not “job hunting,” but I am keeping my eyes peeled, and trying to spark against whatever comes my way.

I recognize that I have been in a bit of a slump, the “what-ifs” and anxieties are getting a little bit louder recently than I wish they were. This past year has forced me to do a lot of self-reflection and focus on “me” – it is not something I enjoy or am comfortable doing. My self-reflection is often highly critical, overly harsh, and not very kind. I did some research, made a call, and left a message to schedule an appointment to talk to someone about that.

Whatever nudge you need for the coming year, friend – go find your spark, go get some fire in your belly.

I wish that for you too.

Image Description: Another highly wished-for sighting- potential animal friendship!? One of our cats and our pup snooze inches away from each other. 

I Heart Frugalwoods

Hello! Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020, and the start of self-improvement projects!

I have been reading a blog called “Frugalwoods” for a little over a year now.

It was recommended to me by a friend whose advice I appreciate, and whose stance on life, raising kids, etc. I greatly admire.

January is one of two months each year when Mrs. Frugalwoods (the blog’s author) challenges her readers to an “Uber-Frugal Month Challenge.”

I’ve half-heartedly attempted this challenge in the past, but never fully committed (I’ve done the readings, but never answered the questions).

We’ve entered the new year (HAPPY NEW YEAR!) and a fresh start to committing to personal growth and improvement.

This is not only a place to log my efforts, trials, and perhaps a failure or two, but is hopefully also a good spot to stay accountable.

If you would like to follow along and join the challenge too, you can find all the information you will need right here:

Uber Frugal Month Challenge – Day 1: Everything in life that is worth doing takes effort. 
The first assignment in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge to answer 5 questions establishing goals for why you would want to be frugal in the first place. 
  1. Why Participate in the Challenge? I just bought a house, which means that my entire life savings is no longer liquid – it is, in fact, very solid. My husband is in law school, which means that he is actively taking on debt for the next three years. There is nothing like thousands of dollars in loans that makes you want to save every penny. I would love to feel like there was wiggle room in my budget to pursue personal artistic passions, take classes, gain knowledge, etc. Right now, those things feel selfish and unnecessary and I want them to feel good and fulfilling.
  2. What do you hope to achieve? I’d like to be able to grow my savings again, even if it’s just a little bit every month, to feel like I am saving for the future and to have a little cushion in case of any bumps in the road along the way.
  3. What are your longterm life goals? I’d like to have an artistic practice that I can commit time and money towards. I want to be able to invest in high-quality things that I know will last rather than low quality, short-lived items that are more “affordable” in the short-term. Last, but certainly not least, I want kids. I have known that I want to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I don’t think everyone has this feeling, but I definitely do. Kids are expensive, and I want to save for them, their futures, their dreams, their messes, all of it.
  4. Where do you want to be in ten years? At the risk of sounding incredibly boring, I want to have a house, one (maybe two) kids, a dog, two cats, and [REDACTED] – obviously.  I want to have leisurely mornings when I wake up early and make myself a hot cup of tea, take the dog to the dog park, take the kids to a museum, and have time to cook – maybe not all in one day, but spread those things out over a week, and that sounds great. I want to have passion projects, a strong community, and lots of laughter.
  5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it? Frankly, I think [REDACTED] and I are pretty good about keeping tabs on our spending. The things that trip me up most are 1) thrift stores – I love searching for treasures in racks on racks of clothes at dirt cheap prices. It sounds frugal, but it isn’t if you are me and would be more than happy to go out hunting for finds every weekend. 2) food waste – for some reason, [REDACTED] and I can’t seem to go through one of those tubs of lettuce you can get at the grocery store for $5 before it goes bad. We just can’t do it. For us, and for the environment, I would really like to be better about not wasting the food we buy.3) home improvement projects – some of them are definitely more “necessary” than others, but in general, I think we’ve gotten on a kick of home improvement projects that aren’t always the best for our bank account. In the coming years, I am hoping to find balance in saving up for specific projects and working our way through home improvement at a “slow(er) and steady pace.”
Step one – done! That wasn’t so hard. Step 2 and 3 are more dollars-and-cents centered. Step 2 is to review last month’s spending, and Step 3 is to categorize your expenses. 
This isn’t a financial blog – so I will spare you those details, but I will come back (when I’m done) with Step 4: What can I eliminate entirely!?

Merry Happy

It’s that time of year! A time for celebration, gatherings of family and friends, and a time for reflection.

This year we have a lot to reflect on.

A year ago, I was wishing at every opportunity for [REDACTED] and I to stay where we were. I was in therapy, working on my anxiety and preparing for this enormous life change.

A lot can happen in a year. It’s a good time to reflect.

For one, I am much happier than I thought I would be. I expected the move to sever our ties to old friends and for our new city to feel terrifyingly lonely.

Instead, I have found myself going out of my way to build connections with others. Last weekend we hosted our neighbors for a holiday cookie party – and it was delightful. I signed up for bumble BFF, and while I didn’t stick with it long-term, I met some people and have developed friendships with two pretty great women from the meet-ups.

I was worried that I would never see [REDACTED] and that his school work and new friends would come between us and our relationship.

That hasn’t happened. Sure, he has been busy – many nights have been dedicated to him staying up late and studying, but we find time to be together. Also, I can tell how happy he is and that’s pretty great.

I was terrified that my new job would never live up to the job I was leaving.

That is a little true. I still really miss pretty much everything about my last job, but I don’t tear up the way I did the first few months thinking about it. I do like my co-workers, and have settled in to my new role. It isn’t everything I want from my career, but it is a steady paycheck and provides health insurance, so I’m thankful for that.

TLDR: Things that have changed

  • I am friendlier and more outgoing. Seriously – I have been making it a point to find friends wherever and whenever possible and it’s working.
  • I’ve gotten more comfortable doing things alone. From walks to the dog park to grabbing drinks a bar, I am way more comfortable going out and trying new things on my own. I love it when [REDACTED] can tag along, but I’m ok exploring the city by myself (or with a new friend.)
  • [REDACTED] is happier. Enough said.

TLDR: Things that are the same

  • I still have anxiety. I take meds, and I’m on the hunt for a new therapist. Meanwhile, I feel good, and am doing well.
  • We jumped back into a 3+ year D&D campaign with some friends from Chicago. We play via video chat with an online tabletop, but it feels good to keep connecting with these folks. #subtlenerd
  • We love our pets. We love our home. We love each other. Enough said.

Protecting This House

Last weekend, [REDACTED] and I had my parents up for a visit to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

It was their first time seeing the house with all of our things moved in and (almost) all of our boxes unpacked.

While they were both enthusiastic and encouraging about the life goal we had unlocked by becoming homeowners, having them stay with us made me realize just how little experience we have in maintaining a property.

Having only ever rented property as a married couple, our forte tends to be in small aesthetic fixes. [REDACTED] has made a point to replace knobs on cabinets and simple hanging fixtures to make each apartment feel more “ours.” I love scouring thrift stores for the perfect accent piece for the mantle or frame for a family photo to be hung on our walls.

We haven’t had to worry about preventative upkeep because apartments tend to be designed with a revolving door of tenants in mind. It can feel a little daunting when every inch of your home is in your control – and therefore, is your responsibility to adjust, maintain, fix, protect, the list goes on and on!

Luckily, our list is fairly short for now.

I say “for now” because we don’t really know what might need to be fixed or could be fixed to make our home easier to care for and maintain.

A great example of this – our butcher block countertops.

Before we moved in – pristine raw wood countertops

A google search led me to invest in two bottles of Butcher Block Conditioner. YouTubers assured me that this would be a good way to keep the raw wooden plank in our kitchen from absorbing the worst of our wear and tear.

Maybe I didn’t apply it often enough, or should have given the counter tops a thick layer of the beeswax-based conditioner and let that sink in before we went about normal living in our kitchen. Either way, the protective layer was no match for life.

Within the first week of our home ownership, the counters had suffered two rings, a smattering of water spots, and a large abstract splotch where a forgotten packet of frozen berries thawed and stained our pale beige wood a deep purple.

I take full responsibility for the berries.

When my parents came to visit, I shared our bumbled attempt at protecting our countertops and lamented the inevitable aesthetic demise of our poor butcher block.

My father, experienced homeowner and creative problem-solver extraordinaire performed a much more thorough google search and forwarded me his findings.

The answer to our problems, he thought, might be a primer/sealer/finishing substance called Waterlox.

I had never heard of Waterlox, but agreed to give it a try for the sake of our poor, defenseless countertops.

My dad (being the awesome parental figure he is) helped [REDACTED] and I pick out a good quality paintbrush, some sandpaper, a tack cloth, mineral spirits (to clean up our mess), and treated us to a quart of the Waterlox.

As mom and dad packed up for the drive home, both of my parents wished us well in our new home-improvement project and offered to plan another visit soon to help us check off our growing list of to-dos.

With that, [REDACTED] returned to his studying (he is currently in the midst of finals – I’ll get to that next week), and I set my sights on sealing our kitchen countertops. I was determined to make this home ours – not just with accent knobs and decor, but with hard work, dedication, and (if necessary) my blood, sweat, and tears.

Waterlox requires 24 hours to dry between coats and recommends three coats on the surface of your choice.

Since we use our kitchen every day, I decided to tackle one half of our counter space at a time, which meant that applying three coats of Waterlox took six days. SIX. DAYS.

I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. (It was)

My proud home improvement post-Waterlox (and move-in) photo

Not only do I now feel that I made a home improvement equal to installing a driveway, but our countertops look amazing.

You can still see some stains, and we may need to apply an extra coat or two in the course of our time here, but overall I’m thrilled.

Plus, having all of our counters fully useable again has made the kitchen feel so spacious!

There is no question – homeownership is a heck of a lot more responsibility than renting.

Driving home from running errands the other night, my thoughts centered on the notion of being “settled.”

Part of me felt a twinge of sadness – some people take time to travel the world and pick up odd jobs in remote places in their twenties. That is something I will never do.

The sadness was short-lived. The thought barely crossed my mind before a flood of good things that come from being settled took its place.

I would rather spend a night curled up with a book and a cat on my lap than out in a bar full of strangers. I don’t wish for hikes on remote mountain tops, I am perfectly happy taking our dog on walks to the dog park and watching the sun rise over the trees.

I like to travel and experience new things, but I really love being surrounded by familiar places, and people, and things.

I am finally starting to feel like our new home is familiar. I am building connections and making plans with new friends. Tomorrow, we are hosting our neighbors for a holiday cookie party/housewarming.

Law school hasn’t changed my relationship with [REDACTED] as much as the articles and terrifying statistics said it would. So many sources of advice for newly married law students cautioned that law school is a pervasive weed that will reap havoc on your relationship. Statistically, there is a higher divorce rate for couples with one partner in law school.

So far, we’re beating the odds! And I think this whole experience – of moving, of pushing to expand comfort zones, of meeting new people and trying new things – has helped us both grow.

I am feeling really hopeful, and that feels really good.

A beautifully frosty leaf at the dog park.

A Driveway for One’s Home

When we moved into our new home, we knew there were some projects ahead of us. No house is perfect. Whether it’s insanely obvious, like a murder basement, or invisible to the untrained eye, like backward electrical wiring, every spot comes with its own “to-do” list.


Image Description: A small white house at night, lit up with white christmas lights along the gutters. The house has a cheerful red door and red shutters on the windows.

For our home, we knew we would have to deal with the moat of mud previously known as “the driveway.”

Our driveway had slipped into a state of disrepair – a squelchy quicksand of muck that held onto shoes, boots, dog paws, tire treads, and anything else unlucky enough to pass through it. The mud had been displaced by wheels in some part, creating a disarray of valleys and peaks sunk into the mostly clay soil.

Our little car couldn’t muster the ten or so feet of pure squelch and slippery muck to make it to the two strips of pavement that remained above the quagmire, so we opted for street parking.

After three weeks of parking on the street in front of our house, we received word from the powers that be that snow removal was in the forecast. Snow removal meant restrictions on-street parking, and restrictions on-street parking meant that we needed to address the driveway.

[REDACTED] hopped to and researched paving options. He found a nearby company that offered driveway paving services and scheduled an estimate.

If you had asked me how much it would be to pave a 10’x12’ rectangle of driveway, I would have guessed somewhere in the $500-$750 range.

Holy cow. I was so dead wrong.

The professional, who knew about the cost of labor and materials for driveway pavement installation, quoted us at about $3,000.


For what is basically dirt, rocks, sand, and glue – three of those things we already had underneath all that mud!

I almost laughed out loud.

I would rather just pay the fines and park on the street! It would probably be cheaper (maybe not in the long run, but short-term…)

There had to be another option. And there was!

You know what else people use for driveways? Gravel.

You know what is a fraction of the cost of asphalt or cement? Gravel!

We were getting a gravel driveway!

Kind of.

We put in an order for gravel, making that gravel into a working driveway was up to us. It was a DIY driveway!

We did a bit of searching on Youtube and saw other homeowners successfully digging, arranging, and installing their own gravel driveways which buoyed our confidence. If they could do it, we could too!

There was just one small detail.

All of our Youtube gurus were working away in shorts and a t-shirt under bright blue skies. We were already a week into December, and there was snow in the forecast.

No matter! We moved our gravel delivery date back a few days, layered up in coats, hats, and gloves, and got to work!

As promised, our first day was grey and misty. We quickly discovered that the soil in our area is packed with clay and holds onto moisture with gusto. The extra water weight made the muck heavier, and harder to break apart.

Half-way through our scheduled morning of muck-raking, the mist condensed into a soggy snowfall.

In nearly 6 hours at work with a pickaxe, shovel, and wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of muck transferred to the backyard (that will be a project for the spring), we were able to adequately prepare a 2’x2’ patch of ground – that estimate is generous.

Clearly, our DIY project was not going well.

[REDACTED] was doing most of the heavy lifting. I felt less than qualified for the undertaking.

There had to be another option.

And….there was.

The next day, [REDACTED] called an equipment rental company and ordered a mini track loader. (I had to look up “small digging machine” to find out what the thing was called – one example of my limited knowledge of machinery.)

Image Description: Taken through an upstairs window, a bundled-up figure rides a miniature tractor up a very muddy driveway. The other driveways on the street look impecable clean in comparison.

The track loader arrived mid-morning and [REDACTED] got to work.

I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that I did almost nothing in the hours that followed. I was home with a nasty cough and spent my day answering work emails while wrapped in a cozy blanket.

Armed with the digging machine, [REDACTED] dug out the ruts, removed the muck, and flattened the driveway.

When he was done, I helped lay out a weed barrier fabric. He secured the last corner of fabric just as the truck with our highly anticipated gravel delivery arrived!

In minutes, the truck had deposited it’s load and departed, I returned to my blanket and emails, and [REDACTED] took to the track loader to distribute the gravel, tamp down the driveway, and finish the job.

The DIY day was saved!

One of the beauties of being married to [REDACTED] is having him be good at things that I am not good at.

He is physically very strong. I have almost no muscle at all.

He has knowledge and experience working with machinery. I have a knack for recipes and ingredients.

I never think of our strengths or weaknesses as being inherently “better.” Even though driveway installation isn’t in my wheelhouse, I did single-handedly alter our old curtains for our new bedroom windows.

Our DIY days are far from over – we have butcher block countertops to seal from water damage, and shelves we are hoping to install, and another – even bigger – mud pit of a backyard to work on come spring.

For now, we’re still unpacking, [REDACTED] is in the midst of finals, I’m sanding and sealing our butcher block countertops, and life feels full of options.

Video Description: A big dusty truck tips back a load of gravel and drives forward, dumping three tons of red rock chunks all over the muddy driveway. 

Giving Thanks

(A beautiful blue sky at the dog park this morning!)

In the spirit of the season, (and because I gave myself the week off last week and am now wishing I had just sat down and written something to keep my awesome streak of posting every week!) I think it’s important to spend some time appreciating the good things in life.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it contains just some of the people and things I have been thinking about recently. I should also mention that these are in no particular order.

  1. My husband. We have been together for a full seven years. I cannot imagine my life without him. I love that we can make each other laugh, and how we challenge each other to examine new perspectives.
  2. Dungeons and Dragons. Seriously. A game I hadn’t even thought about until a few years ago has brought so much into my life—friends, laughter, love, confidence, super powers, you name it.
  3. Parents. Mine and his. I am so grateful for the folks with more life and experience than [REDACTED] and I, who have provided insight, advice, and empathy on this journey.
  4. Friends. This has been a long few months of reaching out and finding new ways to connect to people. My preferred method of checking in is always picking up the phone and talking for a while. Second favorite is probably email. Texting just always makes me anxious.
  5. Pets. Warm. Fuzzy. Creatures. They are just the best.
    (one snuggle cat helping with emails)
  6. Writing. I haven’t considered myself a writer since middle school. It has felt so good to put down words, tell stories, and process openly. Thank you for reading my words.
  7. Public Transit. I’ve been able to take a bus down to see my parents and back, and I ride a bus to work almost every day. Commutes are a great time to read!
  8. Books. I haven’t read as much as I would have liked to this year (isn’t that always the case?) but I am glad to be reading books that are helping me along my journey.
  9. Lexapro. (Technically, I take the generic version.) I don’t know if I would have been able to go through the past year without a little help balancing the neural scales.
  10. The House. Having a place to call home is indescribably joyful.
(a book I am currently reading. it is great.)

The only thing that is driving me bonkers about the house is our muddy mucky puddle of a driveway, but that may or may not be fixed by next week.

[REDACTED] and I tried to DIY it with some shovels and a pick-axe, but that method took us nearly six hours to clear six square feet of muck. Admittedly, we were working with wet muck and it was snowing, but that was really not my idea of a good time.

Today we are renting a mini-bulldozer thing (I forget what it’s called) to get the work done before gravel arrives.

Hopefully the DIY project can be salvaged.

Maybe that’s what I will post about next week. Stay tuned.

Deep Joy

I am happy that [REDACTED] is enjoying law school.

I am happy to have a job.

I am really happy that we have a home.

It’s a good feeling – happiness – but I haven’t found much joy in our new life quite yet.

Before law school and the discussions around moving, not moving, school ranking, loans, and everything in between, I felt happiness and experienced extended bursts of deep joy.

I’ve been trying to find that same joy lately – a joy that carries me through the day and leaves me ready to climb into bed so that I can wake up in the morning and do it all over again. The kind of joy that pushes you to want to live in every experience and be present in each moment. The overflowing well and the calm waters underneath. I mean an ocean of joy.

Happiness is a contented hum in comparison to the music of joy. It is the difference between a pre-packaged meal wrapped in plastic and the sustaining act of preparing a simmering soup and warm crusty bread to serve a gathering of friends.

I know I’ve felt that joy, and I still catch traces of it when I’m at home and on weekends but recently it feels like I’m only getting to a surface-level happiness.

There are lots of things in my life to be happy about.

I have a husband who I love and who loves me.

I have a new house that is cozy and cute.

I have a job that pays the bills and provides me and my husband with health insurance.

I have two of the best cats in the world.

I have one of the best dogs in the world.

Those are all really good things. I am very lucky to have them and I am grateful that I have them.

But I used to get a deep joy feeling from my work, and now I have a job that pays the bills and provides health insurance, and leaves me inert.

I used to dip into deep joy when I was creating something or writing something that felt just right. I got it when one of my students ambushed me with a hug in the hallway of their school.

It was a joy that came from all of the things I still have—my husband, a cozy home, three cuddly creatures—and by a feeling of purpose and passion for my work. It was a joy I felt in my whole body.

It’s not that I hate my job now—I don’t. It pays the bills and provides healthcare, and that is great. I just don’t feel inspired by it. I am mostly content, which is a far cry from joy. Content feels like a small step above neutral.

Maybe that’s normal and I never knew that this is what jobs feel like?

Maybe I was just living in a fairy tale workplace and wearing rose colored glasses.

I wish I felt passionate about my current job. But it is really hard to feel passionate about putting meetings into other people’s calendars and ordering lunch for the next small group discussion.

I know plenty of people work jobs that they aren’t passionate about. Most people probably wish they were doing something else with their lives instead of sitting at a desk and staring at computer screens all day.

I’m only a few months in, and I keep feeling like I must be missing something. There must be something to this role that I have just completely overlooked and ignored and one day it will be discovered that I haven’t done this thing for months and then I will realize that I am actually bad at my job and will be fired.

That’s probably anxiety talking, right? Probably.

When I’m not actively responding to emails, or scheduling meetings, I try watching tutorials online or reading articles and catching up on local news. Sometimes I write this blog.

I am working on taking stock of what is going well, and am searching for things that bring me deep joy between the hours of 9-5.

We have three years. There’s a chance I could find my deep joy in three years.

I know this feeling of not being happy “enough” from college. I remember when I had all sorts of things to be happy about and couldn’t figure out how to feel the joy I knew I should or could be feeling.

I know from experience that deep joy does not last forever. Things come and go in waves. A particularly low time won’t last forever and neither will life’s highs.

What helped in the past when the “lows” felt like there was no upward momentum, was going to see a therapist.

I was in therapy before we moved, and I feel like I left on a good note. I did a lot of work preparing for the move and I was ready to face it when the time came.

I never expected to be “done” with therapy. I just don’t look forward to the process of finding a new therapist.

Therapy would be good. I’ll start the search.

A gentle reminder would also be good – this is all still very new. Four months is no time at all in the grand scheme of things.

This is me, gently reminding myself – give it a year.

Take deep breaths.

There are still small joys in a sea of contentment.

What If

Let’s do this together.

Take a deep breath in, and think of one thing that is bringing you down.

It’s winter. It’s cold. Maybe, like me, you have a runny nose and a slight headache.

Now exhale, and think of one thing that is lifting you up.

Do you love your job? That’s good! Do you have a friend/partner/spouse to hang out with? That’s so nice! Do you have a warm fuzzy (or scaly, if that’s your thing) creature to snuggle when you get home? Aren’t they the best!?

Our kitty Lucy (aka Smooshy) sleeping on my favorite cozy sweatshirt.

Thanks. I needed that. Now, on to business!

I’m in a bit of a whirlwind of emotions with lots of highs and lows lately. My highs are super high – I love our new house, even though it is mostly just an obstacle course of boxes at the moment. My lows are pretty low – I really miss my old job. The new one is fine, it just doesn’t hold a candle to where I was before.

I am trying to stay positive, to reframe and acknowledge all of the good things I have going for me while giving time and space to feelings like sadness, anger, and frustration. It’s tricky to allow for negative feelings and keep the anxieties at bay, at least for me.

Two nights ago, [REDACTED] and I were in the midst of our move. We had just finished loading up our rental van with the last few boxes from our old apartment and were on the way home – to our new house! [REDACTED] was driving the van, and I drove separately in our little hatchback.

About two blocks from the old apartment, traffic and lights didn’t time out well and I lost sight of [REDACTED] and the van. No big deal, we were headed to the same place, and the new house was just 15 minutes away.

Here is a little glimpse into the world of anxiety – my world, anyways.

As I drove through the snowy roads lined with picturesque trees and cozy little houses, my mind started to fill with dreadful “what-ifs.”

What if [REDACTED] skidded on a patch of ice and got into an accident? Or another driver on the road couldn’t stop and hit him? What if he was injured? What if he died?

What if [REDACTED] was gone and I had to live in our new home by myself? What if I had to live on my own without him? What if I had to go through life without him?

What if I called him to make sure that he was ok, and while searching for his phone he lost control of the wheel, and the van drifted over into oncoming traffic?

Half-way home, my eyes were starting to tear up. I could feel my heart pounding fast and hard in my chest. The worst things could happen in just fifteen minutes or less, and what if they did? What if those nightmares came true?

I took a deep breath, filled with all of my fears, and let it go.

[READACTED] is a good driver. He grew up driving out to see his grandparents on old dirt roads and farmland. He is accustomed to slick ice and maneuvering large vehicles. He is good at keeping calm in stressful situations.

I gripped my steering wheel firmly in both hands.

I would drive carefully over the ice patches, and think of the best what-ifs I could until I reached the doorstep of our new home. I would be greeted by our dog, her amber-yellow eyes and feverishly wagging tail. Maybe an insistent cat would make herself known with a yowl of annoyance over dinner being late.

Together, [REDACTED] and I would unload our belongings and settle them into whatever empty floor space we could find, adding to the clutter of boxes to unpack in our new home.

Above is said clutter of boxes (this isn’t even all of it!) I really need to look into minimalism…

I filled my head with hopes and plans for the near future, putting some of the tools I’ve learned in therapy to work to help battle the monsters my synapses seem to conjure up so easily.

When I got home, I unloaded the car and waited (anxiously) for [REDACTED] to arrive. I unpacked a few boxes, and watched for the rental van headlights down the road.

They did, and [REDACTED] was behind the wheel, safe and sound. We unloaded the van, returned it to the rental facility, and grabbed a fast-food dinner on the way home.

Before the move, my therapist encouraged me to recast my anxiety, not as a monster, but as something that is meant to protect me. I have a hard time doing that.

I think that on the other end of anxiety is probably a deep desire to be prepared, and to know what the future holds.

The future is unpredictable, so how do you prepare for that?

If you had told me five months ago that I would be buying a house, I would have laughed it off, but here we are!

For now, I am focused on taking deep breaths. Acknowledging and allowing myself to feel sadness, to feel nervous, to feel frustration, and balancing those feelings with what I feel is bringing me strength.

I don’t like this job as much as my last job, and I have a house that I really love.

I miss my friends, and I have people here who I am getting to know, and who I really like.

It’s cold! And it is the same temperature here as where we used to live, so suck it up buttercup!

Our ~almost~ settled-in living room! (see the bedframe in the back that still need to be moved upstairs?)
It’s a work in progress.

One last thing, before I get back to my real work (my job).

Last night I was overwhelmed by the anxiety that buying a house here meant that I would never get to go back to where we used to be.

What if we never go back and I never get to have my old job, my old friends, my old hometown again?

In the midst of this storm of “what-ifs,” [REDACTED] reminded me: law school is just three years.

Yes, we bought a house, but in three years we might decide to stay, or we might decide to sell the house, or we might decide to rent the house.

It is good to be reminded. What “might” happen isn’t what “will” happen.

“Might” feels much better than “What-If.”

Home Sweet Home

I went down for a quick trip to see my parents last weekend.

I had been looking forward to the trip for weeks.

It was just for one night, but I squeezed as much as possible into those 24-hours.

I stopped by and helped one of [REDACTED] and my best couple friends move. (And by “move” I mean I played with their two-year-old while they did all the heavy lifting.)

I got dinner and drinks with my two best friends from childhood.

I took a long walk with my mom and our family dog.

I sat with my dad in his studio while he worked on a new light sculpture.

I filled my weekend with all of the things I have missed doing since the move.

[REDACTED] stayed home, partially because he had homework to catch up on, partially because we have three creatures who rely on us to take care of them, and partially because I think he knew that I needed these things all to myself for a bit.

When I got back from my visit, I felt the weight of missing home collect on my shoulders and pool down my back. It settled in the pit of my stomach.

Monday morning, I felt weighed down. Physically and emotionally.

It wasn’t just that I was tired (Saturday night I stayed up much later than I am used to in order to savor every last second I had with my besties).

Something about being the one who lives in a different city gave my best-friend dinner date a tinge of sadness. It was a feeling of being homesick for a place I was already in. It was hard to stay present with the knowledge that when I drove back to the new city and my new life I wouldn’t have these two women just a Lyft ride away.

When we parted ways, I gave them each an extra tight hug and demanded that they visit me after [REDACTED] and I move into our new house.

I feel too young to be a grown-up yet and too capable to be a child anymore. I keep thinking of Peter Pan and remembering my childhood fears around aging and leaving childhood behind. While I love being independent, I miss having a shorter list of to-dos and tasks to track all the time.

I felt the loss of childhood intensely on my visit home. Memories from childhood were around every corner, like Peter Pan’s shadow. I just couldn’t get the present to stick, to feel confident in my “now.”

Me, playing Nibs (a lost boy) in a college production of “Peter Pan.” Photo taken by Rafi Letzer.

Peter Pan never had to think about a five-year plan. He never had to ask himself where he wanted to be in three years, what he might want to do professionally, when he might want to have children. He didn’t have to worry about whether his professional dreams would be hindered by personal life circumstances, or if having a baby would disrupt his hopes for the future.

Visiting home was like a little bit like returning to Neverland.

Sleeping in my old bed, walking our old family dog, spending time with old friends—those are my mermaid lagoon and skull rock. They hold echoes of the past, memories from childhood, and revisiting those feels like stepping back into another world.

But unlike Peter, I am comforted by planning for the future, especially by big picture hopes and dreams.

Something that my parents and I have been doing since I was old enough to participate was to create lists of our hopes for any major life event (planning a family vacation, hosting a holiday meal, choosing where to go to college—they all count.)

We would sit in the living room and take turns saying one word to describe the experience we wanted to have. For example, before [REDACTED] and I got married, the four of us made a list that went something like this:


They can be any words, any tense, any language that describes the ideal version of that event.

Before buying a house, [REDACTED] and I made a list. It went:

When looking at homes, we didn’t reference the list. We sat down once, wrote it, and left it alone. Mid-way through the home-buying process (after we had made an offer and it was accepted), we went back and read over our list of hopefuls.

This house has everything. Some things we hadn’t even remembered being on the list are present in our new home.

I can start to visualize our next few years in this home, and having even that small glimpse into the potential future is an incredible comfort and reassurance that there will be joy that comes from this move.

I still miss all of the things we left behind, but this experience is proving to be a learning process. It has been a time of growing pains, but also bravery and delight.

Turns out, growing up is not so bad.

I think Peter Pan would be proud of my adventure.

Money Down

I feel a little guilty about buying a house.

I feel a little scared.

I feel excited.

I feel like “who am I” to be a homeowner?

I feel like this is the right decision.

I’m feeling a lot of things. Underneath those feelings are questions; Do I deserve it? Did I earn it?

Part of our down payment is coming from money my grandmother left me when she passed away. My inheritance came from her teacher’s pension. My grandmother was a teacher for years. When her husband (my maternal grandfather) died, she went back to school and earned her masters in counseling and social work.

My intention for my grandmother’s money was to put it towards my own graduate degree.

I will write a post some other time about what thoughts are swirling around in my head in regards to going back to school. That is a future thing that I don’t have brain space to think about right now. Also, I’m not sure what higher education I would want to pursue or even what professional ladders I want to climb.

Like I said, grad school is its own train of thought and deserves its own blog post.

The other part of the down payment on our home is coming from my life savings.

I think that is what is making me cringe a little.

I am twenty-six years old, and I have a life savings. Once we buy this house, I will have a house but no more life savings. I won’t have this thing that I’ve been collecting my whole life. I won’t have a cushion to fall back on.

I have always been frugal. I am generally hesitant to spend money (unless it’s at resale or second-hand shops, that’s my kryptonite.)

I am worried that you, whoever you are, reading this post, will hate me.

Maybe “hate” is a strong word. I am afraid you will think I am selfish, or stupid, or spoiled.

And I am afraid of that because I wonder those things. Am I being selfish? Is this a stupid financial decision? Am I spoiled?

My parents helped me open a bank account when I was six years old, and I have dedicated as many resources as possible towards growing my little nest egg for the past twenty years.

I know you can’t go back and encourage your past self to put half of your babysitting money into the bank to save for later, but that’s basically what I was doing since eighth grade.

When I started babysitting in middle school, I was living at home and all of my needs were paid for by my parents. I was pretty lucky. I would allow myself ¼ of my earnings as spending money and the rest I would walk over to the nearest bank branch and proudly hand my cash over to the teller.

I kept a checkbook (very badly) and watched eagerly as my savings grew. Not much, but it did grow.

In high school, I got summer jobs and did the same thing. Through high school, all of my living expenses were paid for by my parents. I didn’t have to pay rent or buy groceries. If I went out to get food afterschool with friends, I paid for that with my own money, but otherwise, there weren’t many things I needed to buy for myself. I did buy my own clothes, but I almost never bought clothes new.

High school is when I started shopping for all my own clothes at resale shops and I have never looked back. You can get so much stuff for so little money.

Not into second hand? Weird, but ok.

If you ever see me wearing something and think “that’s cute! I wonder where it’s from.” I can almost guarantee it was purchased from a thrift store or was given to me after a friend got tired of wearing it.

I am very lucky. I got a scholarship for most of my college tuition, and my parents helped cover my cost of living while I was in school. For two years in college I worked at a local bakery, woke up at 5am regularly, and was basically narcoleptic. My weekly earnings covered any restaurant outings or lunch grabbed between classes, coffee, clothes, etc.

The summer before I graduated from college is when my grandmother passed away, the money that she left me and my mom allowed me to leave school with my loans paid off.

That is not how most people graduate college, and that is not how [REDACTED] graduated from college.

In fact, he still has student loans from his time in undergrad and is actively taking out more loans to go to law school.

For years, [REDACTED] has encouraged me to invest my savings instead of letting it just sit and collect the fraction of interest that it does every year.

For years, I have looked into investing and been too scared to make the leap. Put my money in a weird electronic world of numbers that fluctuate based on so many things I can’t really keep track of or understand? No way. Put my money in some walls, a floor, and a roof (whose value also fluctuates based on some things I can’t really keep track of or understand). Heck yes.

I am a nester, what can I say? The joy in making a house a home has been hard to find recently. Our apartment hasn’t clicked into that feeling of “ours.” I’m not sure it ever would have.

I still can’t believe we’re buying a house.

It feels wild and unbelievable and also comforting. It feels safe but also really risky. It’s an odd mix of emotions.

Clearly, the journey through law school is full of mixed emotions and unpredictable occurrences.

Buying a house was not in the five year plan five months ago.

Keep your eyes peeled, folks.

Pictures to come.

This blog is leveling up.