moving pains

if i thought that finding a house, securing funding, and buying a house was a lot of tedious never-ending waiting, then moving into a house is a completely different ballgame. we took possession of the house at the beginning of june and finally started sleeping at the house almost 3 weeks later.

right as we were approaching our closing date, we made arrangements with a national moving company to ship our stuff from california to austin. we put a lot of our belongings in storage with some furniture that brandon had inherited from his grandparents. the timing of our move was actually one of the busiest moving times of the year, and california to austin is one of the most popular routes in the country. once the company gave us a date they could pick up our stuff, we had to jump on it and sign all the paperwork quickly, otherwise, we would’ve had to wait until july for our stuff to be picked up. my in-laws were very helpful in arranging to meet with the company for them to survey our storage unit for the estimate and being there on pickup day to sign off on the manifest.

once our items were picked up they were delivered about a week and a half later. the unloading took around 4 hours, and we didn’t honestly have that much stuff. we had no couch, no bed frames. we had a lot of bedroom furniture, multiple nightstands and chests of drawers. we also have multiple end-tables. all of these pieces will be used to furnish our upstairs where we have a loft and 3 guest bedrooms. for the downstairs living room, we purchased a sectional, area rug, and coffee table. in the master bedroom we purchased an entire bedroom set.

as i currently type this, we are partially unpacked, but the majority of our stuff is still in boxes sitting in an upstairs guest bedroom. i try to unpack a little everyday. but it’s hard. our upstairs furniture is not exactly where we want it to be, so i’m hesitant to start unpacking and putting away too much. the upstairs furniture needs to be cleaned and placed where we want it. i’ve been mostly concentrating on unpacking our kitchen supplies. i want to cook at home more. unfortunately, our box labeling was very haphazard. some boxes were clearly labeled “kitchen” while others are not labeled at all so it can be a crapshoot when opening a box. i’m not sure what i’ll find in there.

it’s weird going from a two bed/two bath apartment to a whole house. i’m finding it hard to figure out where to put items. i think about where i had them in our old apartment, a lot of the time things were placed somewhere out of necessity (like when i had a roommate and my stuff had to stay in my room) or lack of space. we do not lack space here in austin, and the whole house is mine to play with and decorate. i simultaneously feel like i have endless space and not enough space.

at the same time i want our house to be tastefully decorated. i read design blogs and i see cute and meticulously decorated homes online. i would like to bring a little bit of that into our new home. i like how our living room is shaping up. i have an idea of a floor lamp i would like, then we have to decorate the mantle above the fireplace. we have a lot of family photos and some pictures we like that would probably go well in here. i don’t consider myself super creative when it comes to home design. i’m not great with out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to choices like colors or textiles or decorative objects. i would love to hire a professional interior designer, but it’s just not in the budget right now.

even though we aren’t all unpacked, the feeling of living in our own home is unbelievable. waking up every morning and knowing that this is my house and i will make it our home is great. whatever i feel about our move to austin dissipates in our house. i know we are a lucky couple to have found such a beautiful house in a good neighborhood and in our price range.

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my year of “no shopping”

at the end of 2017, i decided that in 2018 i would stop buying clothes, shoes, and accessories. i decided that i owned enough and i don’t need anymore. in fact, i probably could do with less.

i’ve done shopping freezes numerous times for varying lengths of time. these no shopping challenges have also been met with varying degrees of success. sometimes i cave. i’m pretty good at justifying why i NEED to buy something. in the beginning of the year, i did see my credit card bills go way down. i don’t think i realized how much i was spending on clothing, accessories, and shoes. in the past few months, especially after moving to texas, i have seen the bills start to creep back up. it’s so easy with moving to justify spending money. i haven’t been spending money on my banned items, but i have found it amazingly easy to treat myself to a chai tea latte most days.

in reality, i have cheated on my no shopping rules. i bought new shoes to wear to my friend’s wedding where i was a bridesmaid. i also bought two new pairs of athletic leggings and two new bras. i definitely feel that these were all worthwhile purchases. other than that, though, i have purchased no new clothes, accessories, or shoes. i am living with what i have.

in preparation for our move to austin, i gave away A LOT of clothes and shoes. i honestly couldn’t believe how much i gave away, and then i couldn’t believe how much was left. i brought a small selection of clothes with me when i drove to texas and the rest of my wardrobe will arrive with the rest of our belongings being shipped from california. i think that when i unpack my clothes, i’ll find even more to give away. after close to three months of not seeing or wearing those items, i’m sure i’ll pull some pieces out and wonder why i kept them.

obviously, this no shopping challenge was more fun and interesting when i was still working and having to somewhat dress-up for work every day. i learned that honestly, no one cares if you wear some variation of the same outfit all the time. i learned which of my clothes i actually liked the best, made me feel the most comfortable. i also learned to get more creative. i follow a few style bloggers and seeing their always new outfits on their blogs and social media would sometimes make me envious. i wanted to try that trend. i needed pants like those. but i tried hard to stick to my commitment to not buy clothes. i just had to get creative with my outfits if i got bored or envious of people i saw online. i definitely feel that in the last few months the pull to shop both in-person and online has lessened dramatically. i don’t go to many clothing sites, i don’t spend much time at the mall. i can’t remember the last time i tried on clothes at a store.

once i find a job here in austin, i hope to keep up my no shopping commitments. i want to make it to the end of 2018 victorious. i think the year off from shopping will help me take stock of and reassess my wardrobe needs. and once i go back to shopping, i want to start supporting more ethical clothing brands. i already have a few everlane pieces and i really like the quality and price point. another brand i would like to try is amour vert. i need to find some more brands who best represent quality over quantity. also, i hope to have built up the restraint to not purchase if i don’t need something. it doesn’t matter if it’s ethical or fast fashion, if i don’t need it i shouldn’t buy it.

end the stigma: my struggle with depression and anxiety

mental health should be treated with the same care and concern as physical health. i personally have dealt with both depression and anxiety in my life as recently as last year. but it’s not confined to a single or a handful of incidents only last year. i have been dealing with depression and anxiety off-and-on throughout my life, and i saw a therapist consistently from mid-2011 through the end of 2017. right now i do not see a therapist, but i would never discount that option in the future if symptoms should arise again.

i find it difficult to talk about my own mental health journey and progress because mental health is stigmatized in a way that physical health is not. too often people say, “suck it up,” or “just go run it off,” or something similar that puts down mental health in a way that no one would ever put down physical health. i do think that building resiliency and incorporating an exercise regime are both important steps to taking care of your mental health, sometimes these steps are not enough and it is not a sign of weakness to seek our professional help. no one should feel bad for doing so.

for about six years i worked with the same licensed therapist to discuss and address my depression and anxiety. she is a wonderful professional who was able to help me see ways to re-frame my thoughts. i went through some bad depressive episodes in mid-2011 and in mid- to late-2016 and i feel that her guidance helped me out of those low moments and to steer myself onto a better path and a better view of my situation. my depression was very situational; once i learned how to reassess my situation i was able to come out of my depression.

anxiety is another issue i worked on with my therapist. she helped me to recognize when i was heading for an anxiety spiral. she helped me to learn how to ask myself guided questions to lead out of these spirals.  i know some people see my anxiety as silly. when i express anxious feelings or thoughts i know some people don’t take me seriously or think i’m just overreacting. this is why i sometimes feel shame about my own mental health history and why i avoid talking publicly or in-depth about my own struggles. in fact, it is the reason that even in this post i am not as candid as i could be. i am painting with very broad brush strokes right now.

i want to see an end to the shame and the stigma or mental illness. i want to see people openly talking about their experiences taking care of their mental health. i want to be able to talk about my past therapy in the same way i would talk to someone about a past doctor’s appointment. there should be no shame in wanting to take care of our brains. so yes, i have seen a therapist in the past to address real struggles and mental health issues i was facing at that time. i no longer see that therapist, but if i found myself in a similar situation in the future, i would seek out a licensed professional here in austin to help me. i hope that anyone else going through something similar will also seek out professional help without feeling ashamed.

we bought a house! pt. 2

disclaimer: i am not a real estate agent, attorney, or another type of real estate professional. this post is meant to describe our experience buying a home. if you want to purchase a home, please contact a real estate professional in your area.

this is the second part of our home-buying story. you can read the first part here.

i ended the first part with our offer being accepted after some back and forth negotiations. brandon and i were so happy to have our offer accepted and know that we were going to be homeowners. however, just having our offer accepted wasn’t the end to the purchasing process. we had multiple other items to cross off our to-do list before we could get the keys.

the first part was the one week option period following our offer being accepted. basically, this was the week where we paid the sellers a small fee ($200) for them to take their house off the market so that we could decide if we really wanted to buy it. during that week, we could back out of the contract and we’d only lose the option fee. during the option period, we had our home inspected and negotiated money back on the closing costs for any necessary repairs. we also paid our earnest money to the title company during this time and continued to work with chase to secure our mortgage since we now had a contract and property address. if at ANY time during the option period we had wanted to walk away, we would have gotten the earnest money back and there would have been no other consequences aside from losing the option fee. our inspection came back clean (the inspector said he would let his mom buy the house) and we negotiated a fair amount back in closing costs.

once our option period ended the next due date was to make sure our financing was in order. if we couldn’t get our financing in order the contract would have fallen through and we would have walked away from the purchase. obviously, we did not want this to happen. this is where it became tedious to deal with chase. since we had started the mortgage process with a loan officer back home, we had to continue to work with that person even after moving to a new state. this meant lots of back and forth emails and phone calls, lots of trips to the local chase branch asking them to fax paperwork for us back to our loan officer and asking their loan officer for clarification on items when we couldn’t get in touch with our original loan officer. we had to sign the same forms multiple times and with chase not using a program like docu-sign, we couldn’t e-sign online and submit. it was nice to be able to have that local branch available to us for those administrative functions and all the staff were very nice and helpful.

technically, once our option period ended we were officially in escrow and scheduled to close 30 days after. however, i will say that knowing our financing was secure was actually when i felt we had really moved into that escrow period. another to-do was to secure homeowners insurance. back home, we had our car and renters insurance through aaa and we’ve been very happy with their service. we decided to take care of our car and homeowners insurance at the same time and transfer both to aaa texas. we found a great insurance agent to work with who is actually originally from san diego, so she understood the process of moving from ca to tx. after discussions with chase, we decided to escrow our homeowners insurance and property taxes. this means that in addition to our mortgage payment we pay an extra amount per month that goes into a holding account with which chase pays the homeowners insurance premium and our property taxes. we’re not positive if we’ll continue to do this through the life of the mortgage, but we will continue for probably a year and then reevaluate.

during our escrow period, we went to the house once to take some measurements and give brandon a chance to see the house since he hadn’t been inside since we saw it the first day with our realtor. we spent a lot of time deciding what to tackle first from our list of repairs and changes we wanted to make. our realtor was a great resource for local vendors. we also did some furniture shopping. we got a bedroom set and a couch from ashley furniture that we’re very happy with. in addition, we ordered a new cooktop. we also got some quotes to put carpet in the upstairs, but it was just a little bit more than we wanted to spend. carpeting will most likely come at a later date. we spent a lot of time going between home depot, best buy, and sears. in our contract, the sellers left the refrigerator, oven, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer (and the aforementioned cooktop). we’re very happy that we didn’t have to buy or replace any other appliances.

probably the last part before our closing was making sure that we had our utilities set up. of course, as former renters, we were familiar with setting up electricity and internet utilities. we were less familiar with setting up water/trash/sewage service and gas service (since we have gas in our home). because of where our house is located we have different utility providers for all of our services. as part of our contract, the sellers paid for a home warranty for us, and they provided a free utility concierge service to help us set up our utilities.

the 30 day escrow period seemed to drag on for a long time. even with so much to do for the house, including arranging for our items back in california to be shipped to texas, there were still periods of downtime where we didn’t really have anything to do house-wise. in addition to our homebuying activity, brandon was working his job, i continued my job search, and we even found time to take an overnight trip to dallas. we just wanted to get the keys to our new house. we wanted to have our house and make it ours!

for our closing, the escrow officer sent us a copy of the closing disclosure provided by chase and a break down of payments and credits showing how much we needed to provide at closing. our total cash needed to close included our down payment, some interest charges, next quarter’s hoa payment, a few months of property taxes, the first year’s premium of homeowners insurance. we got credit for the option fee, earnest money, and money back from the sellers. the rest of the purchase price was our loan amount that chase sent to the title company. brandon and i decided to pay by cashier’s check rather than wiring the money. this option we felt was safer and more secure as there is the potential for wire fraud. i took the check to the title company the day before closing.

on the day of closing, all we had to do was sign the paperwork at the office with the escrow officer. we had the first appointment in the morning and the sellers signed everything around mid-day. the transaction is not considered fully closed until the purchase is fully funded, so we didn’t get our keys until the afternoon as we had to wait for the sellers to sign and chase to send the money. that was definitely anti-climactic as we signed, they told us congratulations, and we walked out without keys! in the end, it was totally not a big deal. the most important part was…WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!

throughout the process, our realtor was the biggest stick we leaned on for information and guidance. she was a real asset and i think working with a great realtor helps to make the whole process so much smoother and easier and less stressful. in addition to our realtor, we worked with the transaction coordinator who was also great. she was very responsive, answered our questions promptly, and sent us all the necessary paperwork to sign electronically.

we bought a house! pt. 1

disclaimer: i am not a real estate agent, attorney, or another type of real estate professional. this post is meant to describe our experience buying a home. if you want to purchase a home, please contact a real estate professional in your area.

this is going to be a two-part post because this is a long post.

last wednesday morning we signed the paperwork to close on our very first house! it has been an exciting process to go from looking at homes, getting approved for our mortgage, having the property inspected, waiting for escrow to close, to finally signing all the documents and owning our own house. the process has also been very tedious, at times exhausting, and at times frustrating.

as i mentioned in a previous post, one of the reasons we were interested in moving to austin was because we could afford the type of home we wanted to own. as soon as brandon had accepted his job offer, we started looking online at housing options. we had to figure out where we wanted to live, how big of a house we wanted, how bog of a lot we wanted. we had a pretty good idea of our budget, and we knew that would definitely be needing a mortgage.

to get a sense of the city and neighborhoods we might be interested in, brandon and i took a quick trip to austin at the beginning of march, right after he got his job offer. we spent a couple days visiting open houses, walking around neighborhoods we liked, talking with real estate agents we met. we knew that none of the houses we saw would be ones that we would end up buying, but this was a good way for us to get a feel for what we could get for our money. we also were recommended a realtor by one of brandon’s new colleagues who we ended up using to purchase our home and she was a complete rockstar.

knowing that we had to get a mortgage we decided to start the pre-approval process at our local bank branch back home. some real estate agents we talked to had their own list of local lenders that they recommend to clients. however, being long-time clients of chase, and knowing their national presence, we decided to go with chase for our mortgage. getting the ball rolling on a mortgage requires A LOT of paperwork and personal information. we laid bare our taxes, our financial records, our employment records. one thing we both had going for us was that neither of us has any debt. we have no student loans, no car loans, and we pay our credit cards off in full each month.

the pre-approval process was frustrating because as first-time homebuyers we didn’t always know what to expect and we were unfamiliar with chase’s policies and procedures and terminology. for example, everything i read online said, get a mortgage pre-approval. don’t get a pre-qualification letter because it’s not really worth the paper it’s written on. of course, when we got the email from chase with a conditional loan amount, i opened the attachment and was crushed to see “congratulations, here’s your pre-qualification letter” (i’m paraphrasing here). brandon and i were messaging and i was upset that even after talking with our loan officer about the differences, i felt like what we wanted was still not understood.

basically, these professionals do this all the time. they know the process inside and out, they are working with multiple clients all day, every day. and that means, they probably forget what it’s like to not know what’s going on, to not know the process from beginning to end, front to back. sometimes, the explanations fall by the wayside. we had to ask for clarification on multiple items and sometimes we had to ask for explanations of explanations. we did get the pre-qualification vs. pre-approval thing straightened out.

once we were both settled in austin, we spent a sunday going around town with our realtor to look at listings. we saw probably 8-10 listings that day. some were immediate nos. some were maybes. two really stood out to us. our realtor was great as we walked through homes. she would point out things like interesting features, or potential issues that we wouldn’t have noticed. viewing houses was actually fun. i love looking at what choices other people have made to their homes. we saw a lot of precious moments figurines.

at the end of the day we narrowed it down to two houses, one i really liked, and one brandon really liked. we visited our top two again that same day. the house i preferred was a single story with a nice updated kitchen. i think i was particularly drawn to the design choices made in the kitchen. it had a huge center island with a butcher block countertop. but it was on a corner lot where a lot of the land was in front and the backyard was very small. in the end, brandon made some really excellent points about his top choice, about why it was the best house for us, and i absolutely agreed with his points. we decided that we wanted to make an offer on that house.

the house had just come on the market and it was at the very top of our budget. our realtor recommended that if we wanted to pay less we could wait until it had been on the market for a week and then go in with a below list offer. she did tell us, that with this strategy we’d have to be ok with losing the house if another offer came in during our waiting period. brandon and i decided that we would go with this option. after a week on the market with no offers we came in with our offer way below list. the sellers countered back. we asked our realtor for a lot of advice regarding our strategy. our realtor used to work in finance and is very numbers-savvy. she was absolutely instrumental in guiding us in the right direction with our negotiations. we felt comfortable completely trusting her judgment. we countered back with our best and final offer, $12k below list, and our offer was accepted. once our offer was accepted, on a saturday evening, we were officially under contract!

the second part will come at a later time. this post ended up being way longer than i had initially anticipated!

read part two here.

remembering kate spade

i am a woman of a certain age (31) so in my teens and early 20s i was all about kate spade. i am, to this day, a fan of the kate spade brand and lifestyle. of course, i was devastated to hear of her passing on june 5, 2018.

i was introduced to the iconic brand by my aunt in the late 90s. i credit my aunt with introducing me to a love of the finer things in life: designer clothes, accessories, makeup, perfume. whenever i would go visit her, we’d go to the mall and window shop. she introduced me to kate spade one time while we perused bloomingdale’s. at that time in the late 90s kate spade wasn’t quite the household name that it would become in the early 00s or nearly quite as ubiquitous. there were only a few styles, in a few classic colors most memorably black, red, and navy. i immediately fell in love with the iconic nylon square tote. you know the one.

the bag, to me, represented a classy and polished woman. the bag was sophisticated, the design emphasizing that less is more. the clean lines and boxy shape meant it went with everything and could hold everything. it represented the type of women i wanted to be in my adult life: classy, put-together, sophisticated.

i didn’t have enough money to buy a kate spade bag. my parents would not buy me a kate spade bag. it was a lot of money and i was a teenager who had no real need for a purse. but every time i would walk through the department store (before they had their own retail stores), i’d stop at the kate spade section and just imagine myself owning one of her bags someday. i knew i would make it happen.

in the end i didn’t honestly have to wait too long. for my bat mitzvah i received a lot of cash gifts and my parents let me use some of the money to buy my coveted kate spade bag. a little while later i got the matching wallet. over the following years, i collected some more kate spade handbags. the proliferation of kate spade outlet stores and ubiquitous sales made it easier on my bank account to justify purchasing another one of her whimsical, yet practical designs. one particularly fond memory is from my first year of college when i got into an ebay bidding war to win a discontinued pink nylon bag that i still love. it is, to this day, the only thing i’ve ever bought from ebay.

when i heard of her death on tuesday morning, my social media was flooded by women, just like me, remembering their first or their favorite kate spade purchase. we remember what the brand meant or still means to us. but i have to remember that while kate spade was a brand, she was also a person. and it makes me so sad to think of the pain in which she found herself. i hope that anyone who saw the news of her death who needs help reaches out for help. you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

moving blues pt. 2

yesterday i expressed some dissatisfaction with moving to a new city and a new state.

a lot of it comes from moving so far away from friends, family, community, and location. but, a lot of it comes from trying to live up to the expectations and hype set by myself and others.

i visited austin once before we decided to move here. i came here with some college friends in may 2017 for a very quick 48-hour trip. we were traveling in a big group and staying at a hotel on the ut campus, so we were close enough to walk to bars, restaurants, trendy shopping. we had a jam-packed, fun-filled 48 hours in the city before departing back to our homes. we all loved austin, all agreed it was a great city, and all wanted to come back on vacation again. we didn’t venture too far from downtown and we got to experience some summer fun and some of that austin weirdness on which the city prides itself. the trip certainly wasn’t about how much we wanted to all move to austin.

of course, once we started telling our friends and family that we were moving here, their reactions were all overwhelmingly positive. people have a great impression of the city, and they were all very happy for us. my travel friends were especially enthusiastic since it had only been about a year since we’d all had so much fun exploring the city. in a weird way, the enthusiasm for the city made me feel like if i didn’t immediately love living here, i had somehow failed.

visiting somewhere and living somewhere are two completely different things. i visited austin once but it’s just not the same as trying put roots down. knowing it was only a vacation, i wasn’t thinking about neighborhoods we’d want to live in, where our utilities would come from, where i could find a job, or anything like that. i wasn’t thinking about finding a new hairdresser, or favorite places to shop, or finding new doctors. i was 100% focused on having a good time with my friends.

the past 6 weeks or so that i’ve been here have definitely had their vacation moments. we’ve gone to hill country to wine taste and eat bbq. we toured a brewery. we visited the zoo. we’ve even done an overnight trip to dallas. we’ve explored and had fun, but during the week, i’m mostly concentrating on completing paperwork for our mortgage, establishing utility services, arranging for a plumber to come look at our water heaters. it’s very mundane and not particularly exciting and serves to reinforce that this is not a vacation, this is my everyday life. i know that if we were still living back home, we’d be dealing with very similar situations, but it’s so different when it’s your established home with roots that go deep.

i had such high hopes for this move that haven’t been met yet, and i don’t know if they ever will be met. over and over i kept hearing from friends and family how cool it was going to be to move to austin because of how it’s a “funky and weird and progressive” city. i’m happy to be living in another progressively minded city (although our new house is in a conservative congressional district…ugh…). i’m more concerned that people seemed to think that i am the type of person who enjoys “funky and weird.” what about me screams funky or weird? i don’t take it as a put-down, not at all. but i  know that it is in no way how i see myself and in no way descriptive of the type of life and style i want to live. people have raved about all the live music available in the city. what about me has given anyone the indication that i enjoy live music outside of a few select artists and going to hear an orchestra perform? i don’t profess a love for live music or jam sessions or going to small music venues to hear unknowns or up-and-comers. maybe i’m more worried that people really don’t know anything about me.

again, only time will tell what the future holds. but so far, it’s been a real downer. all i want is to go home.