Tag Archives: challenge

Trials and Tribulations of Selling in the 202

30 Jan

Cherry_Blossoms_HomeThe past six months of my life have been mostly consumed with the whole process of preparing to move. It really started February 2014 when we renovated our full bathroom, which was a necessary first step towards the process of selling our house. The house preparation and selling saga continued though most of January 2015, all the meanwhile we were living in our house. From new carpet installation which meant that all the 2nd floor furniture had to be moved down to the first floor and then back up again – fun! Later we moved onto the glory of granite counter top installation, a new sink, sealing & sealing again the new counter tops, and finally it came down to touch-up paint and cleaning until your fingers literally bleed. Then came the initial phase of packing to “thin out” the stuff in the house and make it look like no one actually lives there. In the midst of this, wee proceeded to get one of our beloved kitties through the USDA paperwork process and then sent down to Costa Rica with my father since we will only be allowed one cat per person when we finally move. Opp and then its on to staging, because of course the house has to look like it came out of Better Home and Garden Magazine with a perfectly chic interior, complete with perfectly *fake* red apples, *plastic* orchids framing out the kitchen, and always poofed couch pillows. Blahh! That is just another part of the real estate game in the 202 (in DC proper). Needless to say but there is nothing sexy about preparing a house for sale , especially when you are working full-time and have a toddler, 3 cats, and a very special dog to take keep happy.

Then came the whole listing process. Ugh. Average days on the market on Capitol Hill is about 6 days, which seems Garden_Homecompletely doable when living in what is close to a museum with a toddler, 2 cats, and a very special dog. Except for us it turned into 66 days on the market. What does that mean? That means several times a day you get a text message and stop everything you are doing at a moment’s notice to…

  1. Viciously clean the house and make sure it looks museum perfect.
  2. Get the dog into the car.
  3. Get the baby ready, no matter if he is napping or hungry or needs a diaper change.
  4. Get out the door.
  5. Find something to do for the next 1-2 hours depending on how long the showing is. No matter how cold you are or hungry or tired or sick or anything else. You have to be out of the house.
    – We walked and we walked and we walked. In the sun, in the cold, and in the rain, we walked.
    – We sat in the car for hours on Saturday and Sunday nights when it was raining or too cold to walk.
    – We left the dog in the car and got dinner and then sat in the car while we ate dinner.
    – For months our weekends evolved around doing only things you can do with a dog like go to the farm, go to a walking park, hiking, and anything else outdoors. That was probably the highlight of the whole process.
  6. Now repeat and do this all over again 2-3 times a day for 66 days while working a full-time job.

Home_SnowI am not going to put lipstick on a pig. It sucked big time. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to give us back the time we lost with the damn showings. There were even times in this rather horrible process where our son was playing at a special activity across town and my husband had to literally pick him up and run out of the place to get home before a very short notice showing. I mentioned earlier that we have a special dog, well he is the sweetest and most amazing dog with us (his 3 humans) but he is scared to death of strangers and scared dogs bite. So getting the dog out of the house before a showing was absolutely critical.

Throughout the 66 days there were a lot of “close calls” in getting an offer, a lot of interested buyers but in the end they didn’t choose our house. Finally at a point of desperation, and at the point of basically giving up, we finally got an offer and for asking price. Talk about a sigh of relief. Then came the anxiety of the home inspection, which is stressful when you have a historic home that is nearly 120 years old. At the end of the day a house is not sold until it is sold. On the financing and underwriting process, right in the middle of the holidays. If you guessed delays and an uncertain closing date, you were right! Could any more stress and anxiety be added to this process? I guess so. But FINALLY we closed.

To top it off, right in the midst of this home selling process I also had a major job and professional transition with no Kai in Snowvacation time in-between. I am not going to kid you, selling your first home is also emotional even if you bought almost exclusively for investment purposes. We made this home ours. We poured endless time and energy into making it beautiful. We planted the tulip bulbs, daffodils, and cherry blossom tree that bloom every spring. We’ve shared endless dinners at this house with friends and family. This house is filled with memories that can never be relived. It is the home we brought our baby home to. And now it is going to be someone else’s home.

Then its on to the actual moving process but I will save that for another post. ūüôā

Growth, Growing, and Community

10 Sep

Color photo of horizon landscape after the rain

 

Today was one of those days that inspired me to “travel back in time”. ¬†Not literally of course, but mentally. ¬†I had a chance to catch-up with a close friend that I don’t get the opportunity to spend much time with anymore since we live almost 1,000 miles away. ¬† There is something very special about friends who knew you “back then”, who know about the skeletons in your closet, who love you unconditionally, and when you talk its like hardly any time has passed – even if its been a few years or more. ¬†That was today. ¬†And while the conversation and news we shared was not all roses, it reminded me of how grateful I am to have such amazing friends. ¬†We grow apart to grow together in some mysterious way.

It also made me slip back in time and think about the challenges I have faced in my life’s “chapters” thus far – and what growing means to me. ¬† The life I live today is one that I am responsible for, it is the product of my own decision making (good & bad), relentless determination, and hard work. ¬†And I can tell you that I am truly happy with where my life has taken me… though the road has not easy in the least. ¬†I think back to the “chapter of life” called high school and I can’t even begin to express how I never want to go back to those days at any level. ¬†Many people yearn to “go back to the good ol days of high school when they had no worries” – that is not me! For me high school was largely characterized by family conflicts, chronic health issues, and major ¬†financial insecurity. ¬†I recall very clearly just how painful growing was during that time. ¬†The challenges seemed impossible to overcome, and at the time they were. ¬†¬†Those issues aside, you can always find kindred spirits anywhere in the world, and those years also brought some incredible lifelong friendships that I’ll cherish forever.

College on the other hand was a wonderful chapter in my book of life. ¬†I continued to deal with all of the same issues as I had in high school, though they were less pervasive since I was a “few states away” from some of them. ¬†And with each passing year of College I became a little bit more in control of my destiny. ¬†It was empowering. ¬†And in the process I uncovered many of my passions in life. ¬†It wasn’t the physical place of going to college – it was the people, community, and learning (and growing) environment that was such a positive experience for me. ¬†It was exactly what my soul needed to get beyond the dark years of my childhood and learn to follow my heart. ¬†I can’t say enough good things about my experience at Colby-Sawyer College. ¬†It was really the beginning of my life. ¬†The day I graduated, I knew at that moment that I now¬†own this life – and it was up to me what I made of it. ¬†I now had the power to experience both personal failures and successes. It wasn’t that I had “grown-up” – I don’t believe we ever “grow-up” because we should never stop growing.

Then there were all the years, places, communities, and friends in between those great College days and the current chapter in my life. ¬†They too were wonderful, not without their challenges of course. ¬†I spent several years living and working in Costa Rica. ¬†What an incredible experience. ¬†The community I was a part of was so inspiring at many levels. ¬†I also met the wonderful person who is my forever partner in this life. ¬†Then there was grad school at UPEACE – another amazing part of my life. ¬†And another community I am forever grateful for. I have to add here, the “Costa Rica” chapter in my book of life is not finished yet, I’m convinced that we’ll move back there someday in the foreseeable future.

After a few years of living in the land of pura vida, I felt ready & charged to take on the world’s biggest problems – pervasive poverty, injustice, deadly conflicts, environmental degradation, oppressive regimes, domestic apathy & greed. ¬†My mind was spinning and I was determined to solve all of the issues plaguing the world. ¬†Lets stop here for a moment… how the hell did I go from battling a chronic disease in high school to attempt to take on the world? ¬†It’s all a part of the journey through life I suppose. ¬†Then I made the move to Washington DC, and it was a reality check of sorts – I was suddenly a tiny fish in a very big pond. ¬†I had to create a community where there was none. ¬†And I had to find a place to harness my passions, put them to use, and make a living in the process. ¬†All this in a city where success is predicated on “family” connections, which I didn’t have any of. ¬†Now this is when I learned that changing the world begins with bite sized pieces. ¬†I resisted these facts of life. ¬†I was frustrated by how difficult it was to “make change” vis-a-vis public policy. ¬†I came to Washington DC – with utopian ideals for how democracy works. ¬†Oh I had so much to learn yet…

What is the point of this glazed-over monologue of a few years of my life? ¬†There are a bazillion incredible little stories in there that really reveal the essence of life. ¬†This “big picture” gives a reminder of just how valuable growth is. ¬†It may mean something slightly different to each of us and that is a-okay… that is a goal of this blog “vive y deja vivir“. ¬†Life – and growth – is both happy go-lucky and painfully challenging at the same time. ¬†We are constantly growing and changing and should continue to do so as long as we still wake up each day. ¬†I don’t know what life has in store for me, but I do have some good ideas of what I’d like to make of what I see coming along in the journey. ¬†For now I’ll continue to productively harness my passions towards changemaking and allow the universe to work its magic.

There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.  РRonald Reagan

Time – Our Most Precious Commodity

25 Aug

wordle in color for the blog

Lately I’ve been feeling as though there simply isn’t enough time in the day. ¬†Why can’t a day be twice as long? ¬†Okay, yes I get the science behind “time” and that I can’t just change the fundamental structure of the universe. ¬†But I’ve been finding myself in a predicament that its just not humanly possible to be in three places at one time, or answering more than 2 calls and an email all at the same exact same moment.

We’ve all heard the saying, “time is money… invest it wisely”. ¬† I’ve always kept it there in the back of my mind. ¬†And sure, I’ve gotten really busy at work or a major deadline is looming – and there that saying was in the back of my mind to keep me focused & on-point. ¬†But never like it is today, or this week, or next week for that matter. ¬†Lately it’s been like my life is set at overdrive and I have to keep the race car on the track and prevent it from crashing. ¬†Yet, I’m completely challenged by the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things required to keep the race car on the track. ¬†You know what I mean… make the impossible somehow possible. ¬†Most of us have been there at least once.

For those that can’t relate to the race car analogy. ¬†It’s like I’ve been hit with Tsunami wave of stuff requiring my attention – and everyone wants answers & solutions now or 10 minutes ago. ¬†Emails flow in at a rate of 1 per minute. ¬†I’m on a conference call and by the time its over I have 3 voice mails from people that need to be called back, and 20 more emails that need to be answered. ¬†And I’m already 10 minutes late to the next meeting. ¬†The weekend comes… and well my mind is never “quiet” from work. ¬†I need the weekend to think through challenges and come-up with solutions that I can make happen during the week. ¬†Then there are those sacred vacations. ¬†Yes, sacred vacations – when my mind finally goes quiet and starts to dream & live in the beauty of the moment.

I know that I am not the first person to find themselves in this place. ¬†If we can’t figure out how to get more than 24 hours out of a day then how can we do all that we need to do and do it well? ¬†At times, the information flows at a speed that I can’t even filter out whats important and what needs my most immediate attention. ¬†Its not always this “bad”… there are those rare days, once every couple of months, that I can actually spend a whole day working on a paper or a project. ¬†I treasure those days. ¬†Its like a day of peace. ¬†I love it. ¬†On these days I can go for a run in the morning and not feel guilty about it.

In the midst of this major dilemma I am having over time – and my lack of ability to get more than 24 hours out of a day. ¬†I’m finding a lot of my “time” is spent dealing with politics – navigating power & money hungry DC players. ¬†I make my very best attempt to influence things in the background so that the right thing happens for the right reason with not direct benefit to myself personally. ¬†Its a twisted battle of good versus evil, but in this little microcosm that defines my professional life. ¬†Do I really have time for these battles? ¬†No, but I try to pick and choose them wisely. ¬†I’m not always wise though in these decision, I still have a lot to learn.

As I reflect on this conundrum on time, I think about the broader context of how finite time really is. ¬†On Tuesday I felt the grumbling begin and then my office began to shake – it was an earthquake alright. ¬†As I biked home that evening, I stopped at a red light in front of the World Bank building and the sound of their alerting system gave me goosebumps… the sound reverberated through the streets of downtown Washington DC, “There has been a region-wide earthquake, everyone must evacuate the building.” ¬†The World Bank building did not collapse, but this moment meant so much more. ¬†It reminded us (and me) about the fundamental limitations of time. ¬†All this time we invest day-in and day-out in creating & building this “infrastructure”, or however you characterize the fruits of your labour, could somehow become completely meaningless history in a matter of seconds.

I’ve come to the conclusion that time truly is the most precious commodity. ¬†And unlike other commodities, time is the one commodity that you can’t get more of. ¬†I need more days of “peace”, where the information flow & task lists are manageable. ¬†Where my professional life is balanced with my personal needs. ¬†Guess that is my goal for the next 5 years of my life.

Color photo of a musician in Madrid, Spain

I wonder what advice this musician from Madrid would share about time?

All Shall Be Revealed!

7 Aug

I can’t believe its been over a month since I came back from my “once in a lifetime” rendezvous in Southeast Asia, and I regret to report that I’ve been in overdrive running a million miles. Needless to say that is my life in the “202”, that 68 square mile diamond-shaped swath of land, where my life revolves around all the seemingly irrelevant facts of life – politics, money, power, and a dose of healthy intellectual stimulation every now and then. Basically when I landed at Dulles Airport, I bounced right back into the groove of this rat race almost like I had never left, except for the 200 or so people that were waiting for responses to emails or returned calls. Yikes! No time for reflection.

Letting your mind travel back in time is such a fun escape from the madness. So amidst the organized chaos of my daily life I chose today to get back where I left off… Northern Laos.

I woke up this morning to, what I thought, was some major parade and festival filling the streets with music and people celebrating. All I can hear is a myriad of different instruments and people singing and talking from my second floor hostel room. Its about 6:00am and the sun has just risen, I scurried about the room to get myself together and ran out the door and down the hall to the front balcony of the hostel. There is no parade or festival in the slightest way. Instead a group of 3 Lao men are simply celebrating life. there they are in the front yard area of the little house next to the hostel making music! They are just having a good ol’ time (seemingly sober too) singing, playing guitar, hitting the kong, and playing a few other instruments. And this I suppose is just daily life in Laos being revealed to me in yet another color. At this very moment, I realize that (much like the 20+ hour boat ride) I really had no idea what was ahead of me. Hence the title of this blog – All Shall be Revealed!

After a short 5-10 minute video on “safety” at the headquarters of the Gibbon Experience¬†(but don’t be misguided by the website, be sure to checkout these reviews on Trip Advisor, they are most accurate)¬†I hopped in back of a pick-up truck with my backpack and we were off. We sped through curvy mountain roads along what appeared to be the only paved road around. We passed through beautiful rice patties and terraces, swaths of forest, and occassionally we came to a halting stop for some cows that were basking in the sun in the middle of the road. After about an hour we made a short pit stop at a little road-side hut selling basic provisions, then back in the truck and we were off down a dirt road driving through small rivers and all the rest. We had just picked-up a young man as well (whose name is Yia Lao) who we learn is our “guide” for the our jungle tree house adventure.

After about an hour and a half we arrived at a small village surrounded by astute lush & green mountains. This is where we grab our packs and get with the five or so other travelers in the truck – and we are off by foot following our guide into the thick mysterious jungles of Northern Laos. We walked through some streams, rice paddies, and lots of thick rich mud. We stopped at a little bamboo & wood shelter that is the equivalent of a “base camp”. We drank water, ate a sandwich, and then strapped on a bulky old harness that would become our “life line” as we fly through the tree tops. And there it was, the only “map” we ever saw of the trails and zip lines we would be spending the next several days on. Eventually we entered trails in the forest and that is where the fun began. I wasn’t more than a few hundred feet into the forest when I became lunch for the leeches. With my every step they “jumped aboard” my hiking shoes, some went right through my shoes & socks, and others climbed up my shoes and onto my legs where they latched on for a meal. At any given point I’d have 1-5 of these blood sucking leeches on my legs. Totally gross squirmy parasites! Now I’ve backpacked a lot in many other tropical rainforest in very undeveloped countries but I have NEVER had to deal with this quantity of nasty persistent leeches. And well its fair to say that this was my welcome to the Gibbon Experience…

I continued onwards, leeches and all, hiking up hills in dense bamboo forests. The hiking was beautiful, energizing, and challenging all at the same – I love the feeling of nature testing my limits. The forest was mostly “secondary” forest, meaning that it had once been clear-cut pasture land and natural succession brought forth new forest growth. Most of the trees stood tall and swaths of bamboo bent and swayed with the winds. It was enchanting.

After a few hours of hiking we arrived at the first platform. Yia Lao gave a 30 second refresher on the procedure for “clipping” onto the line & the minimum safety basics on checking your harness and caribeaner. That was the first & last time we even did so much as talk about safety. Its a case of, here you are and here you go. Live it or loose it. Here we gave our harnesses one last blessing and one at a time we clipped the carribeaner to the metal cable waiting for the person ahead of us to reach the next platform, said a prayer, lifted our legs into the air. And vavoom – there I was flying across a valley of dense foliage, some 800+ feet in the air, at a speed of somewhere between 20-30 miles/hour, for nearly an entire kilometer or more. I was careful to keep my legs poised upwards so to keep my body (weighed down with a heavy pack) perfectly postured and balanced with the cable. I did not want to even do so much as risk stopping (or spinning) mid way across the zipline. It was exhilerating… I looked around and all I could see were these vast tropical forested mountains. Below me I could see a small river valley and a herd of water buffalo. Here I am in Northern Laos, flying through the landscape. A reality beyond my wildest dreams.

A dozen or so zips later, each time counting my blessings, and we arrived at our tree house. Yes, a real treehouse perched 600 feet on a beautiful tree in the Bokeo Nature Reserve. Its the kind of tree house I dreamt about as a child. Its incredibly rustic and beautiful. I am in complete awe at my surroundings. So far from anything remotely considered civilization. No cell phone signal, no signs of even a near-by village. Just this group of adventurous spirits, Yia Lao, and the flora & fauna of Bokeo. If you’re having a hard time visualizing it, think of the landscape of Pandora in the movie Avatar. Yup, that is Bokeo, and that is what you come to the Gibbon Experience to feel and be one with.

We laid thin sleeping pads out onto the wooden planked floor of the tree house, chilled out and ate some fresh mango. This is not what you would envision as a “luxury” tree house by any stretch of the imagination. All that separates you from the tree house and falling out is a mediocre wooden guardrail. There is no safety net to catch you if you are careless or a ladder to come down if the metal zip cable breaks from a tree that feel in the night after it was struck by lightening (just think about that for a couple of minutes and you will get what I am insinuating). I eat a piece of juicy mango and pop a lyche fruit into my mouth, Life is Good for now. Then I decided to explore the bathroom. I push back the little curtain and viola – Asian squat toilet, why of course! Only this time its 600 feet up in the air. The best thing of all was taking a shower. Here I was, totally isolated, high in a tree house, surrounded by nature. I reached over the wooden rail to turn the water lever on and glorious rainwater poured over my body. I starred out into the lush hills. I looked down and saw the rainwater sprinkling down into the tree and there were also water buffalo grazing in the valley. This was the best, most cleansing, outdoor shower of my life!

A couple of hours later it was dinner time. Yia Lao graciously zipped into the tree house with a bag carrying our food. A bamboo rice carrier was filled with sticky rice and a stack of 4 metal tins contained our food. Each tin had a different dish. Forest gathered mushrooms stewed in broth & spice, sauteed greens from a local garden, and morsels of succulent pork with chile. It was divine.

As the sun began to go down the clouds rolled in and skies opened-up. Rain poured down all around us. Lightening and thunder also roared in. There were some leaks in the thatched tree house roof but it didn’t matter. The sound of the rain pattering on all of the trees and leaves took over the ambience. It was so peaceful and cleansing. There we were in the clouds as they fed the forest with life energy. We sat around on the wooden tree house floor and played a few games of cards, talked, and drank a cup of funky Lao wine. We then pulled out these large pieces of black fabric and draped them over our sleeping pads, like the kind of tents or shelters you make with blankets & boxes as kids. We each slept below these draped fabrics to keep the mosquitos, spiders, and tree rats out. I slept just a few inches from the edge of the tree house, next to the railing. No rolling over too far, or well, you may just roll out of the tree house. It was just fine. And I slept wondefully listening to the music of the birds and the bees.

I awoke at sunrise, pulled the fabric up, and looked over the railing. There before my eyes was an incredible sunrise. Clouds hung in the trees & valleys below and around me. In the distance the sun slowly revealed her life force to all that remained in Northern Laos. Complete serenity. It was magical.

I don’t really know what to say next. The next several days were filled with much the same. “Same same but different” as they say in Asia. It was breathtaking, spiritual, challenging, fun, uncomfortable, really freaking scary all at the same time. Each moment revealed something new and unexpected. I “graciously” overcame my fear of heights and enjoyed it in the process. I developed a new appreciation for safety and the safety regulations of the “developed” world. I learned that I am no longer the fearless 20 year old I used to be. I am not invincible. I realized that cherish life more now than I used to. I spent time in nature a way I never had before. And well I gave a few ounces of my blood to the leeches of Bokeo Nature Reserve.

Was it worth the long boat ride, tests of patience & sheer discomfort. Absolutely YES. But I am honest in sharing that as glorious as the Gibbon Experience was, I will never do it again. Why? Simply because I know that I am not invincible. And it was NOT safe at all. I take risks all the time. But relying on worn-out harnesses & equipment as your life line to fly through the forest – and a complete lack of basic safety & first aid by your “guide” – made it glaringly obvious that safety was hardly a consideration. So lack of safety revealed, Bokeo was incredible and I am forever changed by all it has taught me.

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