Olive You

I bought a pair of olive jeans from J. Crew Factory that I seem to pair with most things. These are a few examples:

Olive jeans, jean blazer, striped tee, black heels

Olive jeans, jean blazer, striped tee, black heels

Jacket: The Limited, Shirt: H&M, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: J. Crew Factory, Shoes: random store in Vienna

 

Jean jacket, olive jeans, light pink tank, tan belt, tan flats

Jean jacket, olive jeans, light pink tank, tan belt, tan flats

Jacket: The Limited, Tank: Banana Republic, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: J. Crew Factory, Shoes: Lands End Canvas

 

 

Black blazer, white tee, olive jeans, black sandals

Black blazer, white tee, olive jeans, black sandals

Blazer: Lands End Canvas, Tee: Gap, Belt: Banana Republic, Jeans: J. Crew Factory, Sandals: Aldo

 

 

 

Mint to Be

I can’t hide my love affair with the color mint very well:

Mint blouse, white jeans, leopard print flats

Mint blouse, white jeans, leopard print flats

Blouse: Banana Republic, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: Levi’s, Shoes: Zara

 

Mint blouse, white jeans, suede boots

Mint blouse, white jeans, suede boots

Blouse: Banana Republic, Necklace: Banana Republic Factory; Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: Levi’s, Boots: Lands End

 

 

Mint blouse, jeans, brown booties

Mint blouse, jeans, brown booties

Blouse: Banana Republic, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: Levi’s, Boots: Aldo

 

Yellow cardigan, striped tee, mint jeans, black flats

Yellow cardigan, striped tee, mint jeans, black flats

Cardigan: Gap Factory, Shirt: Zara, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: Gap, Shoes: Kenneth Cole

 

Gingham Style

A couple of my gingham inspired outfits:

Green sweater, navy gingham shirt, jeans, suede boots

Green sweater, navy gingham shirt, jeans, suede boots

Sweater: J. Crew Factory, Shirt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: Levi’s, Boots: Lands End

 

Tan sweater, navy gingham shirt, jeans, suede boots

Tan sweater, navy gingham shirt, jeans, suede boots

Cardigan: Lands End Canvas, Shirt: J. Crew Factory, Belt: Banana Republic, Jeans: Levi’s, Boots: Lands End

 

 

 

Black Out

I’m finally catching up on some outfits from this past year. Here are some outfits with an emphasis on black:

Black leather jacket, white tee, black jeans, black flats

Black leather jacket, white tee, black jeans, black flats

Jacket: Target, Tee: Hanes, Jeans: Levi’s, Shoes: Kenneth Cole

 

Black blazer, black tee, gray jeans, black booties

Black blazer, black tee, gray jeans, black booties

Jacket: Lands End Canvas, Tee: Gap, Jeans: Banana Republic, Booties: Saks Fifth Avenue

 

Black cardigan, gray tee, black jeans, black belt, leopard print slip-ons

Black cardigan, gray tee, black jeans, black belt, leopard print slip-ons

Cardigan: H&M, Tee: Target, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Shoes: Kenneth Cole

 

Black blazer, white tank, black jeans, red heels

Black blazer, white tank, black jeans, red heels

Blazer: Lands End Canvas, Tank: Express, Belt: J. Crew Factory, Jeans: Levi’s, Shoes: Style & Co.

Inner Voice Outside

Most people know a little kid in their lives. And, as you think about these adorable little children, innocent and full of life, you’d never do anything to intentionally hurt their feelings right? You just want to scoop them up, smother them with kisses, and remind them of how perfect they are. (Because really they are.)

Dr. Laura had been a weekly part of my life for months and I could see the notable difference in my life: I’d reflected on a lot of things, recognized things I wanted to work on (and was actively working on them), put myself first, and was working on self-love. I’m saddened to share that all that has ended, not because she wasn’t absolutely incredible, but because it got too hard.

In my final sessions we talked about my self-perception and how I talked to myself. You see my inner voice can be really mean to me when I stop to listen to what it’s saying. It’s not like some people that think they need to be perfect – I don’t feel the need to be perfect and am very forgiving of not being the best at things. Instead my inner voice is just downright mean to me. It’s critical of my lack of motivation to work out; it beats me up over and over again about things I say to people that might be taken the wrong way; it makes me believe that because I grew up on a farm and have never been exposed to finer things in life that other people are better than me; it tries to convince me I’m undeserving of my KISA and friends that shower me with love; etc. It’s something I don’t admit to other people because I’m ashamed of it. I try so hard to keep my life loud enough outside to not be able to hear it from inside. Or else if I move fast enough I don’t have time to let it be heard. I pride myself on how well I can hide it by pushing it down so far that all of it is hidden and then faking confidence so others don’t know it’s in there.

The downfall to Dr. Laura is that she seemed like she really cared about me. She treated me so well that I wanted to make myself a better person for myself, my KISA, and her. It was like she saw something in me that I didn’t see, and I was willing to try, hopeful to see whatever it was. She was like having a stranger that cares for you in the way a mother does, even in hearing the gory truths you admit. Because of this it was inevitable that I opened myself up to her and admitted the real side of me that I was ashamed of.

I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow the inner voice got outside and she heard it. I was embarrassed that it slipped out and I could tell how surprised Dr. Laura was to hear it, which made me even more embarrassed. Like a magician’s magic scarf, she started pulling at it and the inner voice kept coming out and getting louder. Dr. Laura knew enough about my past to know that my father’s outer voice had become my inner voice, which I was ashamed of. If I’d stopped long enough to listen to what it was saying I would have realized that too, but what it was saying hurt too much to listen. Why would you listen to someone criticize you like that? You wouldn’t. Those are the people you don’t keep in your life, yet this one stayed with me, determined to be heard.

What struck a nerve with me was when Dr. Laura wanted me to imagine myself at 5. I closed my eyes and saw a little girl dancing and singing. After a few seconds I realized the 5 year old was a mix between myself and my niece, Emma. I admitted this to Dr. Laura and she asked me if I’d ever let the inner voice say to Emma the things I allow it say to me. The emotions hit hard and quick – a combination of violent anger and overwhelming sadness at how it would make her feel. Those are the things you protect children from, not say to them.

At the end of our session on August 1st Dr. Laura tasked me with making a list of the things I said to myself. She asked me to text her when I was done. I left without making another appointment, not yet realizing that I wouldn’t be back. I still carry the piece of paper in purse that she wrote on with my assignment.

So why haven’t I done the assignment and been back after all the raving I’ve done about how great she is? Because it’s really hard. It’s so hard. The idea of acknowledging that voice and what it has to say scares me. I know it’s going to hurt my feelings and upset me. I know the pain it wants to inflict. And to know it’s coming from within me and are my thoughts is too painful to see on paper or admit to anyone. Even myself. To admit that I’m that cruel to anyone, especially myself? It’s much easier to just shove it away rather than dissect where it’s coming from and relive my past.

I know one day I’ll get the strength to reach deep within myself, pull out the demon, and listen to what it has to say. And when I find that strength I’ll call Dr. Laura or another therapist and find out how to kill it. Until then I plan to smother every little kid I meet with loving words and affection so that hopefully my outer voice will become their inner voice when they grow up.

Wedding Planning

I’ve always known I don’t handle stress well. Planning a wedding reinforces that. I missed the last week of my senior year of high school because I stressed myself out so much I got sick with a head cold and the flu at the same time. When I was in college I stopped sleeping because I was so stressed with working full time and going to school full time. I eventually had to become temporarily medicated to make it through graduation. At my last job I used to do the sales onboard trainings and management trainings that would involve all aspects of accommodating and entertaining the staff. I would get stressed in the weeks leading up to it, it would peak the week of, and then it would take almost a week after the training to unwind and get back to my normal, still anxious lifestyle. In addition to that, my job required me to travel 2-3 weeks a month. The lack of routine, changing time zones, eating out for every meal, sleeping in different beds every night, etc. stressed me so much I’d get tension headaches for months and would have to take a break from traveling. Once the headaches went away I’d go back to my reckless schedule. 

When my KISA and I started talking about getting married I told him I didn’t want a wedding. Of course I liked the idea of it, but I’d had enough experience with myself to know I’d be miserable. He conceded and after he proposed he announced he’d like a wedding, but we’d be getting a day-of wedding planner to ensure that I was stress free. I challenged him on not wanting a wedding and he was fearful I’d regret not having one and therefore we’d have one. (Plus, let’s be honest, he loves a good party.) I proceeded to not sleep for the next three weeks in a panic of trying to figure out what I wanted for a wedding and scouring Pinterest for inspiration. Having a wedding had never been more than a fleeting thought, so I felt ill-prepared as people started asking me what our wedding colors would be, where we’d be getting married, etc. I didn’t have answers and my KISA had no strong opinions on any of it. I inevitably spent Memorial Day, four days after getting engaged, with the flu.

After the first push of booking the big vendors and determining we’d do the wedding back in Madison the stress of wedding planning alleviated and we moved to blissful planning. It started being fun. That is until my trip back to Wisconsin in June for my brother’s wedding and my bridal shower. I again stopped sleeping, spent a bunch of time crying alone in the bedroom, and could feel my stress level rising. By the end of the trip I didn’t feel like I’d gotten everything done that I needed to feel prepared for my return trip in September. Thankfully my brother was having a wedding reception in August so I could have some more Wisconsin time to plan.

Unfortunately flight prices never dropped for the weekend of my brother’s reception, so we accepted the fact that we wouldn’t make it back to Wisconsin again before the wedding. This also meant I couldn’t do more wedding planning in Wisconsin. On July 20th, two months before the wedding IT happened. I was talking to my mom on the phone about all the wedding planning that still needed to be done. By the time I got off the phone with her I could feel the sharp pains in my chest and back. I couldn’t breathe and I knew I was having a panic attack. I couldn’t stop shaking and when I stood up I fainted. Thankfully my KISA was home to come to my rescue. After making out a list of all the things I felt I needed to do before the wedding he forced me to lay down on the couch with him and watch a comedy. The pain subsided during those two hours and it was less painful to breath. As the day wore on the pain came back and I didn’t get much sleep for the next couple of days. The wedding to do list made things seem manageable and realistic, but I’ve still had stress headaches every day since.

In my sessions with my therapist she has helped me come to terms with the fact that panic attacks are like a disease that you don’t choose to have. And, as much as you can try to prevent it, it’s sometimes inevitable. It took me a while to wrap my head around that because I’m a control freak and like to think I’m in control of my body and how it reacts to things. Plus, millions of people plan weddings every year without having panic attacks. Some even enjoy it. Unfortunately I’d have to accept this wasn’t something I could control.

Another interesting thing has happened in the wedding planning – my self-perception has changed. I have always been accepting of how I look, even when I knew I wasn’t a top quality version of myself. I had self-compassion and have never been too hard on myself. However, this has changed as the wedding is getting closer. I find myself scrutinizing the size of my arms, the whiteness of my teeth, how long my eyelashes are, my skin quality, etc. I had a dress fitting last week with all my accessories, my hair and makeup done, and looking as closely to how I hoped to look on my wedding day. My KISA saw me before I left and was commenting on how good I looked. For some reason I couldn’t see the person he saw and I came home crying about how I didn’t look like a beautiful bride in my dress like I’d hoped to. He reinforced that he’d seen me before I left and that he’d thought I looked good even in street clothes. My response: “Maybe I look good in street clothes, but I don’t want to look just mediocre on my wedding day.” It’s obvious I have unrealistic expectations of how I should look as I’ve always believed my wedding day would be the day I looked the most beautiful I had ever in my life. I cringe even as I write this. And, it saddens me to know I’m that hard on myself right now.

However, I will say one very positive thing: my friends and family have been incredible. I’m serious. They’ve been absolutely amazing. Anything I even mention my mother executes on. She’s been a workhorse getting everything ready and scouting for items at thrift stores. My aunt Amy has been my sounding board for all of my ideas and gives me her honest feedback. Her husband made chalkboards for the wedding so that we didn’t have to rent them, which their daughters then wrote on and designed (in addition to making coloring books and a beautiful display of origami cranes). My aunt Karen has comforted me through my anxiety and is reminding me of why I’m marrying my KISA through the questions she’s been asking to prepare for her speech (she’s our officiant). My sister has checked in regularly with me, even just to hear my latest ideas, and planned my bridal shower. My bridesmaids and close girlfriends have been quick to reply on requests, advice, plan a memorable bachelorette party, and also to check in. My sister-in-laws are planting flowers for the bouquets. My nieces and nephews have had an excitement for the wedding that is almost tangible and makes it seem more important than Christmas or Kindergarten (which is a big deal when you’re little). My brothers and brother-in-law haven’t complained once about having to buy a suit to be in the wedding and have asked about details of the wedding and taken an interest in it. My Godfather, who’s our wedding photographer, makes it seem like we’re the only wedding they have scheduled this year. All of our friends who are paying loads of money to come to our wedding and are so excited about it. And, most of all, my KISA has been my rock throughout all of the craziness.

I have to say, even with the stress and toll it has taken on me to plan this wedding, if the love I’ve felt by everyone leading up to it is an indication of what our wedding day will be like, it will be all worthwhile. Seriously.

Dr. Laura

Hey! Do y’all remember me? I know most of you are Facebook friends with me or follow me on Instagram, so you probably know that I’ve been busy. Maybe sometimes a bit too busy – I love to be at home and haven’t been there a lot in the last few months. That’s actually not the reason I haven’t been blogging. When I’m trying to process things or work through events in my life I’ve come to prefer to journal them to understand and I think I’m finally reaching a point where I feel I can share things.

These last few months have been a big learning and growing time for me. While things were brewing under the surface for a while now, there was one life event that caused them to rush to the surface: I lost a dear friend. Now, when I say “lost”, I mean she’s still alive, but I’ve lost the friendship we once had. It was a very difficult time for me and I would compare it to going through a relationship breakup. Thankfully I’ve had to break up with more boyfriends in my lifetime than friends, so I didn’t realize how much it hurts.

Without going into too many details, my KISA and I had an argument one night when we were out, in front of her and her fiancé. My KISA was under the influence, which I now recognize was one of the first issues I unknowingly had, because I thought it would be best he go home since he was running a relay with some coworkers (including an executive) the next morning. We agreed to part ways – me going home that night and my KISA would drive home the next morning. When I was leaving to go home I overheard a conversation that was not meant for me to hear and some hurtful things were being said about our argument and me leaving by her to her fiancé. After a confrontation I left to go home. Because of the way things unfolded in the coming weeks I requested she no longer be a part of our wedding party and we’ve since gone our separate ways.

After that evening my KISA and I dissected not only that evening’s argument, but other arguments we’ve had (which thankfully aren’t very often…just for some reason in front of them). There was one common denominator: me trying to control him. It’s funny because while you can hear from everyone that you have an issue with control, until you realize it for yourself are you able to work on it.

At that point in time I reached out to see a therapist here in San Francisco. I’ve always intended to see a therapist since I’d seen two different ones in Madison, but I was always afraid. You see, it’s easy to see everyone else’s problems, but to admit your own problems and to then work on them is more difficult than a person would think. When you’re with a therapist and are honest with yourself it’s painful all the hideous things you realize about yourself. After my second therapist (a psychoanalyst), it actually put me into a deeper stage of depression, thinking that I was no good and an awful person no one should want to be around. (Hence the reason I was a little sluggish to go back to see one.)

I did a bunch of research online at PsychologyToday.com and read the profiles of many therapists that specialized in anxiety and control. One that I read stood out from all of them: her name was Laura and her theory on effective therapy had more to do with the relationship with the therapist than anything. I called her that morning, fell in love with her, and made an appointment to see her the following week. She had me fill out some long questionnaires that she requested I handwrite, as opposed to type out. I knew from my first therapist that he believed that there’s something more that registers when you write something versus type it, which I’d come to believe as well.

Our first session was reviewing my responses to the questionnaire. I knew she was going to be great when she never made me feel defensive. In fact it was quite the opposite – she made me feel loved. She explained to me that in therapy they have a term, called transference, which is when you unconsciously transfer feelings and experiences to the therapist. I felt like she was really listening and she understood me. When you’ve felt like I have the last 31 years it’s great to feel like someone finally understands you, even when you’ve been disgustingly honest with all the hidden caverns within you; you’re not crazy – you’re just hurt.

In our second session I admitted to her the falling out I’d had with a friend and we talked through it. She then brought up a subject that was a soft-spot – my KISA and his alcohol usage. I was never raised around alcohol usage, so I didn’t understand or have a point of reference on whether my feelings on it were normal or if I was being overly sensitive. Laura tasked me with reading a book, called “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and to go to my first Al-Anon meeting. She explained that she was less worried about my KISA’s alcohol usage (or diagnosing him) and more about my reactions to it.

In reading the book learned the word “codependent” didn’t mean what I thought it was. I’d always thought being codependent meant I couldn’t do anything without the assistance of others. I’ve always prided myself on being independent, so I was shocked to learn that I’m a raging codependent. To give you some examples of what resonated in the first chapter of the book:

Overly responsible; dependable; “mother hen” in most situations; anxiety; depression; control; I work while others play; with my KISA he’ll say he’ll do something later – I intervene and do it myself; I feel obligated to do things to make others happy; I worry about other people when I shouldn’t; I try to help others even when they don’t ask for help; I like to surround myself with men that are challenging; I like to feel needed; I allow other peoples’ moods to control my emotions; I believe that if I take care of others they’ll appreciate and love me more; I am constantly seeking approval and affirmation; denial; fear of anger or criticism.

You get the idea. The most startling thing in the book is realizing that all these problems I thought my KISA and past sig others had was really my own unresolved problems. Feeling the need to control my KISA when he drank was another example of this. His drinking wasn’t necessarily the problem – my feeling the need to control him was.

I also started attending Al-Anon sessions. The purpose of Al-Anon is to have a support group of other people that have or have had some sort of a relationship with someone who drinks. Again, it’s not about diagnosing the person because the group is not meant for the other person – it’s meant for yourself. I finally settled on a group that I grew to really like that meet every Monday at local church. Their group name is “Progress, Not Perfection”. The motto of the group is to continue to work on yourself because you’re never really done. They also believe that in each session you should take what you like and leave the rest – not all of it is for everyone. The biggest thing they teach is detachment and how to let things go. I’d never been good at this, but thankfully hearing other stories and sharing at our meetings have helped me dramatically. And, it has helped me realize I’m not alone in the way I feel and the struggles I have.

Similar to AA meetings, Al-Anon has 12 steps to work on how to make yourself a better person and to practice detachment. The steps seemed a little hokie to me when I first started, but every other week we read about one of the steps and I’ve come to realize they’re really good, well thought out life lessons. And, every week I feel like it’s speaking directly to me and what I’m going through in life. What’s even more interesting is that you have people that have been going for 30 years and are continually working through the steps again and again – either solo or as a sponsor (I think of it more as a life coach). Throughout life your struggles change and you look at each of the steps differently.

Granted, I’m only a few months in, but I really like the progress I’m making. While it’s unfortunate the means in which this life lesson was taught to me, I’m glad it’s something I’ve learned since I’ll be spending the rest of my life with myself. And, I need to like me. (And I suppose my KISA will be around as well.)

The Oakland Housing Market

I’m going to attempt to explain something that I don’t understand: the Oakland housing market. My KISA and I have now dedicated over six weeks to looking at houses to buy in Oakland. As I mentioned in the previous post about this, Oakland is the only area left in the Bay that we can afford…and even that is becoming more of a pipe dream. Let me explain why.

  1. Every house has two prices – a list price and a purchase price. Now, that’s not different than anywhere else in the US except that the mentality of this is different. Normally you have a list price and you’ll offer a little under that, the seller accepts, and that becomes the purchase price. Out here, they have a list price that is admittedly under what the property will sell for. (I personally believe they pull a number out of the air, but I’m sure they do some research to figure out what price will attract the right clientele that they’re looking for – not too high to deter people, but not too low for people to dismiss it.) There then becomes a bidding war with all interested buyers. It’s not unusual to see houses being sold for $150K-$300K over list price. On the date the offers are due (we’ll talk about that in the next part) they will take the top three offers and counter offer them for more than what was initially offered. This is what separates the boys from the men. You can then offer considerably more than the counter off just to ensure it will be your new residence. If not, let’s hope it wasn’t the only house you were interested in.
  1. A house is not listed for very long on the market, so you have to act quickly. There is a methodical process to the timeline from when a house is prepared to be listed until the time they accept an offer. First, the owners will have an inspector and pest control company come out and assess the property. Once that information is received they now know what needs to be fixed on the property or disclosed to put it on the market. They can then choose to pay to have everything fixed and have a clean disclosure or disclose the estimates of what it’ll cost the new buyers to fix whatever ails the house. (Many owner occupied houses don’t make the fixes.) Now, don’t think they do this out of the kindness of their hearts – they do this in hopes to prompt people to forgo an inspection when bidding gets tough and then close faster on the house. Next, if it’s owner occupied and not a flipped house, the sellers will then spend the first weekend putting their belongings into Pods or storage. That Monday the Pods will be picked up. Tuesday the staging company comes and either stages the house with the existing furniture or else puts all new furnishings in the house (always the latter with a flipped house). Wednesday a professional photographer comes and takes pictures of the house. Wednesday night or Thursday the house is listed on the market. Sunday there will be an open house for a few hours, and typically it’s the only open house unless there are some quirks to the property. On Tuesday or Wednesday the sellers will accept offers on the property. Normally they don’t accept preemptive offers, so there’s no use in tempting them with an early offer. By the end of the week their house is sold. And, if you were out of town for the weekend, you may have just missed out on your future home, so don’t plan to have a life while you’re looking for a house.
  1. The market conditions are controlled by supply and demand. Currently in all of the Bay Area there is very little supply, or people looking to sell their houses, and lots of demand of people looking to settle down and wanting to buy property. This means you have to riffle through the limited amount of properties that come on the market and figure out what you’re willing to settle for, unless you have a trust fund or are CEO of a start-up that just went public or was acquired and you have the money to put down on a house way over list price.
  1. When you write an offer, you’re not just sending them an offer, but painting a story of your life. Yes, like most places they get a contract with your offer price. In addition to that, you write a letter to the sellers stating how great of people you are and why you should be the future home-owners (and proceed to argue with your sig other on what picture you should enclose of yourselves to make yourselves look professional, yet fun, yet responsible, but not staged). This is where stealth LinkedIn and Facebook stalking comes in handy to know everything about the sellers – even if they birthed their youngest child in your potential new home (I wish I could say I was lying about that being true). You write them a check for your down payment amount to prove how serious you are about buying it. You also send them either a bank statement or print screens of how much money you have in your accounts (or just savings if you’re wealthy) to prove your check won’t bounce and that you’re not poor. Your lender sends them a preapproval letter along with an additional letter talking about how great of people you are and how quickly they can get you to close on the house (aka get the seller their cash). Your realtor schmoozes their realtor and gives up his or her free time to go to any realtor open houses they have to make themselves memorable when your offer comes in. (This is in addition to your realtor calling them incessantly in the days leading up to their offer date to see how many people have submitted offers and to get a ball park of what you should offer.) You sign their disclosures, saying that you realize all the defects of their home and promise to not make them fix them. And, if you want a little cherry on top, your realtor (and maybe your lender) will present your offer to the selling realtor and the seller, if they’re willing. Yep, it’s that exhausting.
  1. Getting a loan to buy a house in the Bay Area isn’t easy. Granted, cash is king, but most of us don’t have over a half a million dollars lying around. A lot of young couples out here take money out of their 401K to have upfront cash to buy a house, but I prefer to keep my money where it is, earning me the retirement I dream about. Plus I don’t have enough loot in my retirement fund to buy more than a run-down shack. You can do a traditional loan and put 5% down, but the maximum loan amount for that is $417,000. And, unless you’re looking for a one bedroom or a condo, this won’t buy you a house. You can do 10% down, but the maximum loan amount is $625,000 (that’s an easy $50,000 minimum, plus closing costs). Thankfully we found a loophole. There are loans out there called FHA loans. This is the financing method I used to buy our last house in Madison. An FHA loan is intended for first time home buyers, but since it had been over 2 years since I owed a house I qualified in Madison. Since my KISA wasn’t technically on the mortgage in Madison and I don’t own any existing property we were able to qualify for this. The down payment on an FHA loan is only 3.5%, but the loan max is again $625,000. We’re very ok with that because while it limits our house search a little, we don’t care to be house poor just to own. Unfortunately sellers are jaded, thinking FHA loans are for low-income people and that they have a tough time assessing, but we’re going to take our chances.

Given all this, it is difficult to stay positive and to have the energy to consistently look at places; I’d guess we’ve looked at somewhere between 20-30 houses and have put in offers on three. With that being said, if I send you links to the latest house crush I have, don’t get too emotionally attached like I do and pick out your guest bedroom because the odds are unfortunately not in our favor. And, if I send you a link to a dilapidated old house that we’re buying for a half a million dollars, don’t judge me…just offer to come visit and help us make it into something habitable; you would feel bad if our future babies died from eating lead paint chips, right?

Oakland is the New Brooklyn

My KISA is convinced that Oakland is the new Brooklyn. For those that aren’t familiar with the reference, Brooklyn has experienced gentrification in the past decade of people that couldn’t afford Manhattan or the “better” parts of New York City and therefore sprawled out into Brooklyn, pushing many lifelong residents with it, along with much of the low income housing. Oakland doesn’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to crime rates, but there aren’t a lot of places left to move to, which is why he believes it’s following in Brooklyn’s footsteps.

Since many of you aren’t from the Bay Area, let me give you some background on the 4 areas which one could live:

  1. San Francisco is super hipster and has all the amenities you’d want in a big city. However, it’s unbelievably pricey and the average person can’t afford to rent, much less buy a house in the city. My friend Sheena told me last week that her saved online search to have 1 bedroom apartments under $2500 has fizzled out in the last few months. And, odds are you’ll probably have a job down in the South Bay which you’ll need to commute to.
  2. The South Bay, which is everywhere south of San Francisco to San Jose (some people also call it the Silicon Valley) has some of the best school systems in Northern California, therefore making the housing unbelievably high and unaffordable for non-millionaires. (But your kids would be hanging out with Mark Zuckerberg and other big name CEO’s kids.)
  3. The North Bay (across the Golden Gate Bridge), which is Marin County, is absolutely stunning but has also been absolutely expensive for decades. Imagine having a house set perfectly on a hillside to have beautiful sunsets over the bay while having a skyline view of San Francisco. Yep, that’s what you’re paying for.
  4. The East Bay has cities without much crime, such as Berkeley, Piedmont, and Walnut Creek. However, as you can probably guess, people flocked to these areas early and it is now overpriced as well. Oakland is also in the East Bay and is literally the only city left with “affordable” house (I put it in quotes because you’d probably still wet your pants if you knew the prices).

In all fairness, Oakland has many of the same perks as San Francisco, including eight BART (subway) stops and is literally just a bay away from San Francisco. (I like to think of Oakland as San Francisco’s naughty half-brother…same genetics and potential, but not quite molded into its potential.) It has some really cool, hip areas with restaurants, bars, and stores – but there are more neighborhoods not like that. It also has a lot of very residential areas that remind me more of Madison than Oakland. And, since we escaped Madison to postpone suburbia those neighborhoods aren’t real appealing to us DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) yet.

When my KISA initially proposed the idea of buying a house in Oakland I naturally shut him down. I understood the investment potential as Oakland housing was already on the rise, but it wasn’t an area I saw myself living. Or at least from what I knew of the times I visited Oakland to go to an A’s game and to buy our car. Ok, maybe I hadn’t really given it a fair shot. I put my Oakland feelers out at work and I learned a lot of our executive staff lived there, including our VP of Client Marketing and our VP of Sales Operations, my boss’s boss. Then our Inside Sales Manager told me he thought it was a phenomenal idea because it was so up and coming. He warned me I’d hate the commute, though. Great. That was what put me into my panic attack a year ago and made me want to quit my job. But, maybe I could somehow tolerate that this time.

I knew my KISA often let me have my way and I realized it was my turn to let him have his way…or at least hear him out. He told me that if we bought a house in Oakland we could take the honeymoon to Antarctica, have babies sooner, and I could get a convertible. I was sold. (I mean our current car is leased, so I’d for sure be going over the miles driving four days a week until our lease is up…we’d need another car so a convertible made sense.) He knows the way to my heart; it took me all of 15 seconds to start creating a short list of realtors and loan officers to scope out.

Lent

One of my favorite times of the year is Lent. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird. In being Catholic, one of the Lenten beliefs is that you should give up one luxury from Ash Wednesday (yesterday) through Easter Sunday.

Now I don’t necessarily love Lent because I’m a devote Catholic…in fact I’ve fallen off the bandwagon more than I’d like to admit. However, I think people everywhere should practice the Lenten sacrifice for two reasons: one to be grateful and appreciative for what you already have and two to use it as an opportunity to give up any vices. In the past I’ve given up sweets, alcohol, shopping, caffeine, sweets again…you name it! This year I already gave up whining and talking bad about others for March, so I had to come up with something else.

A couple weeks ago I forgot my iPhone at work in the gym. I was at the train station and I had a choice to either bike back to work and miss my train (therefore be home almost 45 minutes later than usual) or else go without my phone.  I opted for the latter, partly out of sheer laziness. That night and the next morning I was severely uncomfortable and anxious to not have my phone; one would have thought my only child was missing for the night. I then realized how obsessive my iPhone habits were. Since then I’ve been more aware of my iPhone usage. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my email and social media. The last thing I do at night is check my email and social media. I’ve even found that when I’m taking a quick bathroom break I’ll check my email and social media. When I get on the train I’ll check email and social media. Since work has been busier than usual I don’t have time during the day to check up on that stuff, so I make every effort to do so when I’m away from my desk.

I knew an intervention had to happen and Lent was the best time to do it. Instead of going cold turkey on Sunday I deleted social media from my iPhone. Monday and Tuesday I deleted even more apps. Effective yesterday morning I shut off my personal and work email without checking it. So far I have been successful, but that’s not to say it’s not uncomfortable. However, I am finding the extra time useful. Last night, when I’d usually be catching up on social media or Pinterest I did my taxes on my laptop. This morning, when I would usually be in bed checking my phone as my KISA was getting for ready for work we instead had a conversation (weird, I know). I actually forced myself this morning to shower and be getting ready for work before hauling out my laptop to check my email (no social media, though). What’s odd is that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything social media-wise by not checking it, but my email is a whole different story.

I’ve realized that we’ve created a society where communication comes through email or instant messaging. I communicate more with friends and coworkers via email rather than the phone – my family and a couple of dear friends are the only exception. If someone emails me about something I feel the need to email back instead of calling. I wait for good news via email instead of a phone call.

So, we’re two days in and I haven’t died yet. I guess if Jesus went for 40 days and 40 nights without food I’ll be ok.