What to Do When You’re Feeling Stuck

Full disclosure: I am stuck right now.

And by stuck, I don’t necessarily mean that I’m experiencing writer’s block. I know what I need to write. I just don’t want to write it. (I’m refering here to feeling stuck in my work, and not stuck in my life, which is a whole different kind of stuck I still struggle with.)

I find that in my work, there are definitely ebs and flows. Some days are super productive. I work hard, cross things off the to-do list, and get shit done. Other days? Not so much. Today started out strong but I’m sliding into a bit of a rut.

So how do I get un-stuck?

Take a walk

With Ellie, I go out for a few walks a day. It is super helpful to just get up, move and enjoy some fresh air. It helps to kind of restart the brain. But sometimes that’s not enough. I read about people who work from home and whenever they’re not feeling the work, they take a walk around the block and then come back and they are ready to go again. That’s not quite the case for me – especially if I’m coming back after having been out in the cold and the rain. Usually, I want to curl up on the couch and ignore work even more.

Take a break

The nice thing about working from home is that there is always something non-work related that I can busy myself with. When I’m not feeling the work, I can get up and do some dishes, start laundry, write a card or figure out our dinner plan. It’s a nice change of pace. But again, if it’s just another chore I don’t really want to do, it doesn’t actually motivate me to get back to work.

Do the fun work

I currently have eight clients that I’m working for. And while that can be really hard to stay on top of at times, I love the variety that it affords me. If I don’t feel like writing a blog post, I can switch gears and schedule photos for social media, check on emails or do some other task. So technically, I’m still doing the work; I’m just doing the most fun work first. That way I can still feel productive without having to get into the hard stuff just yet.

Break it down

An oldie but a goodie: break a big project into digestible bites. If I don’t want to finish an entire article, I’ll set myself the task to just finish the intro. Usually, by the time I’ve done the intro, I’m inspired to at least write the first few paragraphs. So I trick myself into actually doing more and I feel better about it since I’ve surpassed my own goal.

Reward yourself

If I’m really feeling stuck and know that work isn’t going to happen, I’ll compromise and give myself an incentive. I’ll work on it while watching HGTV on my second screen, I’ll make a hot chocolate to get me through or read a magazine once I finish the task. It’s not always the best option, but when I’m really stuck sometimes compromising and rewarding myself with something fun or delicious really helps.

Lean into the stuck

And other times, I decide to just lean into feeling stuck and not wanting to work. I don’t want to write anymore? Awesome, then I don’t. One of the pros of working from home is that I don’t have a strict work day schedule I need to follow. If I don’t feel like working right now, I don’t have to. I can put it off until later this evening or even tomorrow. I can go bake something, curl up and watch TV, or even write a post fo my own blog (case in point). If I give myself permission to not work, it means I don’t have to feel guilty and it means that I usually come back to the work sooner.

Still stuck?

If none of these tricks work or I find myself feeling stuck more often, it’s time to re-evaluate. Is it one type of work that I’m always stuck on? Maybe it’s time to figure out whether I want to continue with that client or how I can change the work to make it something I want to be doing. Is it the time of day? Maybe I realize I’m always stuck at 4:00pm and that’s because my brain turns off then. Is it the location? Maybe sitting at my desk in my office all day long isn’t working out anymore and I need a change of scenery. The whole point of me pursuing this freelance career and working from home is that I’m doing something I love and it’s allowing me to enjoy a lifestyle I want. If there’s something that’s keeping me from enjoying the work or the lifestyle, then I need to look into it and find a solution. Of course, that’s often much easier said than done!

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The Dos & Don’ts of Working From Home

I’ve been working from home since December 2016.

And in that time, I’ve actually worked in four different homes (Colin’s old house in Surrey, my old place in Kits, our first apartment in New West, and our current home in Surrey). During that time, I’ve definitely found some things that work and some that don’t. Even though I’ve been at this for 14 months, I absolutely still struggle with working from home. So some of the do’s on this list are more aspirational and some of the don’ts are things I still do. But maybe this list will inspire me to get better!

DO: Carve out a space for work

This do took me a bit of time to figure out. At my place in Kits, I first started out working at the kitchen table. I then purchased a desk and had a designated work space. In New West, I had purchased a thin little desk (I think it was 15 inches wide) that just fit into our bedroom. But it wasn’t realistic to work at. That desk ended up becoming a shelf for shoes and my work moved out to the kitchen table once again. While the table was spacious, it wasn’t the most condusive for work since it was out in the middle of the apartment. Plus, it made it hard for Colin to do anything in the living room because he felt he was disturbing me.

Now, in our Surrey apartment, I’ve finally got this one figured out. I have my desk and office space set up in our second bedroom. We also have a bed in there for guests but when we’re not hosting, it’s my office. It’s really nice to have a space that’s all my own that I can close off from the rest of the apartment. It makes it feel more like I am actually going to work. And I’ve been slowly getting it set up with everything I want and need – I’ve got back and butt support on my chair, a stand up desk, an extra monitor, a to-do list whiteboard, and lots of pictures on the walls.

DON’T: Stay inside all day long

It’s hard to be cooped up in the same space all day long. And when you work from home, it’s literally all day and all night in the same spot. Luckily, with Ellie I’m leaving the house 2-3 times a day to give her a walk. As much as I hate going out when the weather is awful, it’s really nice to break up my day and not have an excuse to skip the walks. But I know I need to do more than just go out on walks with her. It was a bit easier when we lived in New West or when I lived in Kits to just walk around the neighbourhood and run errands nearby. It’s not quite the same here in Surrey but I know that just means I need to go farther to make sure I’m still getting out. Once the sun comes back, I hope this one gets easier!

DO: Get out of your pajamas

Okay, confession time: I’m currently wearing my pajama top. The nice thing about having to walk Ellie means that I do have to put on pants and I can’t go out in my pj shorts. But because I just throw on a jacket, I often end up spending all day (and then all night) in my pajama top. So this is a do that I need to work on.

I think it’s important to change out of your pajamas to signal to your body that sleep time is over and it’s time to start working. Of course, working from home means you don’t have to put on a nice dress shirt and heels. I’m all for changing into sweatpants and a tank top. But as long as the work outfit is slightly different than the pajamas, I think that helps. Even just the act of getting changed can put you into work mode.

DON’T: Turn on the TV

It’s confession time again: I’m absolutely sitting in front of an episode of Mexico Life on HGTV. I totally turn on the TV when I’m working from time to time. I acknowledge that this is not a productive way to get stuff done. But I also have days where I’m in my office for hours, working through meals and working into the night. So, I think it’s a balancing act. When I’m doing a task that doesn’t require my full attention, I like to have a bit of white noise (read: HGTV) on in the background. But when it comes time to actually get shit done? The TV goes off.

DO: Create a work routine

This is another do that I’m still fine tuning. Because when you work from home you don’t have that commuting time, I find it really important to create a routine that gets me into my full work mode. When I enter my office, I first sit down and write in my journal and update my planner. I then ease into the work day by entering some contests (it’s my fun hobby, and it has paid off a few times). Then it’s checking emails (which I’ve already seen come in on my phone) and getting to my work for the day. I like having a few things that I do every morning to ease me into my work day. And because they’re fun tasks, like entering contests, it makes me more excited to sit down and get working.

DON’T: Totally isolate yourself

Here’s another one I kind of struggle with. When you work from home, it can be a bit lonely. For 8-10 hours a day, it’s just me and Ellie pup. I’m lucky that I live with my partner, so I don’t go without human contact for days at a time, but I also know I can’t rely on Colin to fulfill all of my social needs. He spends eight hours a day talking to patients and co-workers, so it can be a bit much for him when he gets home and all I want to do is chat and hang out together. He needs his alone time too – and I totally get that. So that means it’s up to me to find my own social outlets. I’ve never been a huge extrovert. I don’t love hanging out with big groups, joining clubs, etc. But I know I need something. So I make plans to go out with friends for dinner a few times a month. With some of my local clients, we have meetings in person. And I have Skype dates with friends and family back east. I’m still working on this one, because I think there’s more I can be doing, so it’s a work in progress.

DO: Organize your day and your work

I’m a huge believer in having a to-do list and using a planner. Working from home means working on your own without a boss or much instruction. I prefer that, but I know that means the organization comes down to me. There’s no one telling me when I need to get this thing done or when I should work on that other thing. So I have a big white board where I write down what I’m doing for each of my clients. And then I have a daily planner where I write out what specifically I want to accomplish that day. I like visually being able to see what needs to get done and I love being able to cross things off the list.

DON’T: Get trapped in a 9-5 routine

The whole point of working from home is that you have a flexible schedule. I struggled with this a lot when I first started working as a freelancer. I was convinced that I needed to have a proper work day with the same working hours as usual. But that’s not true. These days, I usually just mimic Colin’s schedule. So when he works early, I work early. When he works late, I start my work day a bit later. It’s nice having a partner who works outside of the home because it gives me lots of time to focus on my work and put in the hours I need to be putting in. I know some freelancers who exclusively work in the mornings or exclusively work at night because that’s when they’re most productive. I haven’t really found a time when I’m at my most productive. I think I’m actually pretty adaptable, which is a plus.

DO: Remember why you’re working from home

Whenever I get trapped committing some of the don’ts or failing on the do’s of working from home, I have to take a step back and remember why I’m doing this. Working from home means that I get to work as a freelancer and pursue my passions of writing, social media and content. It means that we get to have a dog, because it would be really hard to be dog owners if we both worked 9-5s really far away. It means that we were able to move to Surrey and buy our own home, because I don’t have to travel to UBC or somewhere else for work. It means that I have a flexible schedule and am able to run errands throughout the day or be there for family and friends when they need me. It means I can say yes to travel adventures and flight deals because I can work from anywhere.

Every now and then I’ll see a job listing for a full time job, with regular hours, in an office building somewhere in Vancouver. Sometimes, I’m tempted. And for the right job, I might even say yes. But I have so much freedom and flexibility working from home. It’s allowed me to create a life that I really love. So it would take quite a bit for me to give this up, even on the days when it sucks.

That Time I Almost Went to New Zealand

Last night, I had a really hard time falling asleep. I was too worried about work projects and the light from my phone wasn’t helping. So I mentally started writing a blog post. I had planned to write all about my upcoming, very spontaneous New Zealand trip and how it was filling me with excitment but also some nerves and doubts.

But then this morning, I received an email saying that the airline had cancelled my flight.

I was crushed. Definitely 95% disappointed and just 5% relieved. It’s shitty to have something that you’re looking forward to get ripped away from you.

So it all started on Tuesday morning when Secret Flying was advertising ridiculous prices to New Zealand from US cities. Like less than $300 roundtrip. So insane! I was intrigued and had called Colin over to witness the outrageously low prices. Sadly, none of the airports were near us.

But then I got an email from YVR Deals saying a similar deal was being offered out of Seattle – $370 roundtrip to go from Seattle to Auckland. Now I was really interested.

I wanted to go in the summer, since we have Ireland in April and Toronto at Chrsitmas. It would be perfect to have something in the middle. But the dates only worked at that price for February/March travel.

I hemmed and hawed. Colin watched me panic at my desk. Even though he couldn’t go, he was encouraging me to go for it. Eventually, we found dates that worked where I would be away 10 days, with 8 full days in New Zealand. It wasn’t a ton of time but it was just enough for a little adventure. So, I pressed the purchase button.

I was excited! I quickly texted a bunch of people to let them know about my plans and see if I could find any takers to join me. But, to be honest, I was kind of liking the idea of going alone. That way, I wouldn’t have to try and plan out a short 8 days while balancing someone else’s ideas. I could do some of my freelance work and not feel like I was holding someone back. And I could do the things I wanted to do in NZ.

I reached out to a friend who lives there to see about meeting up. She’s on the South Island, so it was proving difficult, but she had invited me to fly down and visit her. I started to look up things I would do and planned out my itinerary for the short trip. I was going to ferry over to an island off of Auckland, take the bus down to visit Hobbiton and the glowworm caves, and maybe spend a couple days in Rotorua. I had it all roughly planned out. I was looking into tours and had checked prices on AirBnB (actually, very reasonable!).

But a small part of me was nervous and worried about this trip. It was a combination of a few things. Obviously, I was sad to not be traveling with Colin. I know 10 days is not a long time to be apart, but we would still miss each other. A year ago I went to Vietnam for three weeks without Colin and I’ve done a handful of trips to Toronto without him. But maybe now because we have a home where we live together and a dog, the separation was feeling bigger. Of course, Colin was so supportive. He was excited for me and assured me we would Skype and that 10 days would fly by. He was even going to drive down to Seattle to pick me up when I returned.

I was also a little bit worried about work and balancing that with my trip. I wanted to work while I was down there since it was a spontaneous trip and I hadn’t planned to take 10 days off. That’s the luxury of working freelance – I can totally do it from New Zealand. But at the same time, I wanted to make sure I was actually experiencing New Zealand and not just there to sit in a cafe and do work. So I knew my work, and therefore my income, would slow a little bit. And even though the flight was a great deal and AirBnB was pretty cheap, I knew this trip would still set me back a fair amount.

I was also a little hesitant about the length of the trip and the destination. 10 days is a while to be away from home but it’s such a short time to journey to the other side of the world. I would much rather have gone for like a month. But I definitely wouldn’t want to leave Colin, Ellie and our home for that long. And New Zealand is known as this gorgeous outdoor paradise with tons of hikes, adventures and extreme sports. Seeing as I don’t drive, hike or bungee jump, I was worried NZ would be wasted on me.

All that to say, I was a little bit nervous and doubtful. But I still really wanted to go. After chatting it through with Colin more and him reassuring me, I was feeling better about the decision. And doing all of my research and planning out my itinerary had me really excited.

So I was totally gutted when the airline cancelled the flight.

I’ve always booked these crazy flight deals and I have never had one cancelled on me. I know it’s a possibility and they always say not to book anything else for 24 hours in case the flight does get cancelled. But this email came past the 24 mark and they still cancelled it. So I’m pretty disappointed about that.

I was telling Colin we should go somewhere or have some kind of adventure every month. It doesn’t have to be somewhere as far as New Zealand every time but just something – a weekend on the island, a drive down to Seattle or up to Whistler, even exploring some more of the Lower Mainland on a day off – just something! I know that Ireland is going to be this big awesome adventure for us but I’m itching for more. This last minute New Zealand thing was crazy but it also really appealed to me. I kinda loved the idea of having New Zealand, Phoenix and Ireland all back to back. It would be exhausting but it would also be really fun and adventurous.

So yeah, I’m bummed. It looks like my New Zealand trip is going to have to wait a little longer. Hopefully the next time NZ comes up, I can go for longer and maybe bring Colin along so we can rent a campervan and drive around both islands. We were saying this trip would be my appetizer of New Zealand and that we would go back together for a main course. So fingers crossed that still happens! And fingers crossed getting my refund from Air New Zealand is a smooth process!

Farewell to the Freshman Freelancer

As of 2018, I have finished my freshman year of freelancing. I have officially been working as a freelance writer for over a year!

It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. A whole year (actually 14 months) since I’ve worked at an office job with regular hours. A whole year of doing everything on my laptop. A whole year of very rarely putting on a real bra (work from home perk!).

The freelance life is pretty different than what I thought it would be. And actually, I don’t know if “freelance writer” is the right title for me. A lof of the work I do is just remote or contract. I have work that I complete for clients on a per project basis (e.g. two articles per week) or a set number of hours per week. But I’m not pitching magazines or online publications to write one time only pieces. Though that is something I’d like to add whenever I can find the time.

I actually prefer the more regular work I’m doing than super traditional freelance work where you just do a one-off project and then move on. It’s nice to know that I have something reliable to work on every week (well, as reliable as contract work can be). It allows me to build relationships with my clients, take on new projects with them and advance my skills. And it means that I don’t have to spend time trying to find new clients all the time.

Another reason why the title “freelance writer” doesn’t really fit is because I’m actually doing a lot more than just writing. I’m doing a lot of social media work, which has been a new found love for me. I’m doing editing, content management, emails and different types of writing like copy writing, that I haven’t done before. And I’m actually really happy that it worked out that way. One of my fears of freelance writing was that I would get burnt out and tired of writing. So I love that I can mix it up and work on my non-writing projects when I’m not feeling too inspired to put pen to paper.

It’s also allowed me to find new areas, like social media, that I’m really interested in. A year ago, I had zero experience in social media beyond my own personal accounts. Now running social media channels, scheduling posts and engaging with audiences is a part of my daily routine.

Speaking of daily routine, that has got to be my favourite part of freelancing full time. I love that I can start whenever I want. I’m not on a set schedule. So when Colin worked his 5:00am shifts, I could mimic his schedule (well, a modified version where I’d start working around 7:00am). And when Colin worked his night shift starting at 4:00pm, I could mimic that too. I’m flexible if we need to take Ellie to the vet, visit Grandma or run errands. I love having that flexibility!

I also love that every day is different. Right now, I have about seven clients on the go. So every day is a different combination of tasks to do for those clients. Of course, some of the clients have similar work that needs to be done each week, but it’s never exactly the same. And there are always brand new things popping up – like this week where I got to work on a free elopement contest.

Of course, there are things that I don’t love. I don’t love that I don’t get vacation days, sick days or benefits. The pay is variable to a degree, which can be tough at times. Some clients have run out of funding and had to eliminate my position and sometimes I’ve had to part with clients when the project or pay wasn’t working out. I dislike that there is always work to do – which makes it hard to stop working and have real time off (especially when I can do a lot of work from anywhere on my phone). Sometimes it gets lonely when I spend all day in my office with only Ellie to talk to. I hate the competitve feel with fellow freelancers when fighting for jobs and comparing rates. I’m nervous about filing taxes for the first time as a freelancer. I miss having co-workers (well, only certain co-workers). I don’t have a set trajectory for the future or really any job security.

But overall, I am so happy with my decision to go for it and try on freelancing. It’s not roses and sunshine every day but there are many rosy and shiny moments. It has allowed me to live my life the way I want to live it – if I was still working at UBC there is no way we would have adopted a dog or bought a home in Surrey. And I probably wouldn’t be able to say yes to so many awesome vacation plans. Plus, you can’t beat my commute 😉

But the best part about freelancing has to be the fact that I actually enjoy my job. I don’t wake up dreading going to work, like I did at my UBC job. I don’t daydream about quitting. I don’t stare at a screen mindlessly and waste time on Facebook all day (okay, I still do this on occasion). I’m excited about the work that I’m doing. I’m challenged by it. I’m good at it. I’m learning from it. And, most importantly, I’m really passionate about it. Again, it’s not perfect, but it is pretty great. I don’t think I’ve ever said this about a job before but a year in and I’m happy to say: I love my job!

Looking Back on 2017

Every year I like to take some time towards the end of December to look back over the year and everything that has happened. I also like to make some predictions for the year ahead and see how accurate my predictions from last year were. So here is my review of 2017:

January:

I spent Christmas 2016 in Toronto with my family and returned to Vancouver just in time to ring in the new year. January was spent packing up my place, packing Colin’s house, trips to IKEA and shoveling snow.

February:

In February, we went with Colin’s mom and cousins to an all-inclusive resort in Huatulco, Mexico. It was so nice to leave the grey, cold and snow in Vancouver for a week of sun, beach and drinks. Plus, this was Colin and my first time in Mexico (my 32nd country!). The rest of the month was non-stop packing and moving.

Huatulco, Mexico

March:

We officially moved into our first apartment together in March – our one bedroom apartment in New West. We actually moved on Feb 28 but let’s just call it March. We also celebrated Colin’s 24th birthday and attended a date night with Young Hip & Married.

Our New West home!

April:

April was a really fun month for us! On the 1st, we brought home our Ellie pup! It was earlier than we thought we’d get a dog but looking back, we couldn’t be happier with our choice and the pup in our lives. We also celebrated our anniversary on April 16th and towards the end of the month, my sister Jade came out to visit us.

Look at that wink!

May:

May was fairly low key for us. We went on our first family camping trip with Ellie when we joined Colin’s friends for a weekend at Weever Lake.

10 points if you can spot Ellie!

June:

At the end of June, we headed up for our annual weekend in Pender Harbour. It was really fun to have that time away from everything with family and to be able to bring Ellie with us. We also had a really special time spreading Randy’s ashes up in Pender – one of his favourite spots.

July:

After Pender, we had about a week or so at home and then we were back on the road. This time to San Francisco! I love SF and was so excited to explore this city more and share it with Colin. We found lots of cool new gems (like Coit Tower and this delicious Korean restaurant). Plus, we got to see HAMILTON!

Hello, Lombard!

HAMILTON!!!!!

August:

In August, we headed up to Kelowna to visit Colin’s brother and his new baby boy. It was awesome to spend a weekend away and to meet the newest member of the Marriott clan. This is also the month when we started getting a bit more serious about our house hunting.

Colin and baby Jordan!

September:

Somehow, by September we had taken our house hunt to the extreme and actually had an accepted offer on a home! But outside of house stuff, we still had more traveling to do. In September, my mom came out from Toronto for a week in Vancouver. And then Colin, his mom, my mom and I all set off on a west coast train trip! The four of us journeyed by train to Portland, Eugene, San Francisco and Napa Valley. It was an amazing trip!

October:

October was all about the house. We closed and got the keys on October 6th and moved in on October 10th. Leading up to that move was so much packing, throwing things away, driving over boxes, sending emails, filling out paperwork and meeting with insurance people, mortgage people and bank people. Who knew it would be so complicated and time consuming to buy a home? But after all of that, we are so happy in our new place and hope to call it home for quite some time.

Our new home!

November:

November was kind of a chill month for us – which was needed after all of the house crazy and a busy December ahead of us. I got a new phone and buckled down to do lots of writing work.

December:

December was a crazy busy month and it was jam packed with family goodness. My dad planned a last minute trip out to Vancouver and it was so nice to host him here. The weather gods must have been smiling down because it was nothing but sunshine the entire time he was here. After he left, we had two days to pack up, finish off work stuff, watch the new Star Wars movie, and then we were off again. Onto our second trip to Mexico – with my family this time. We met the Lees in Toronto and carried on for a fun week in Cozumel. On the way back, we got to see some of my Ang family at the airport and then returned to Vancouver for Christmas with Colin’s side. It was a whirlwind but so nice to see everyone this month.

Christmas at Terminal 3!

My 2016 predictions:

So last year on Dec 22, I wrote my 2016 review post and broke down my predictions for 2017 into career, living and travel.

One of my big career goals for 2017 was to end the year being able to say that I am a writer. I was hoping to be full time freelance by the end of the year. I’m really proud to say that not only am I a full time freelancer now but that I have been all year long. I would confidently say I am a writer (and have said so when people ask what I do). But my work also went in cool new directions and I’ve found a lot of interesting projects in social media and editing. So I am a writer – but I’m more than that too. I really love the new areas I’m learning about and the possibilities for growth in these areas in the future.

On Dec 22, 2016, I was putting the call out for an apartment for Colin and I to rent. Little did I know that we would find an apartment a few days later and then move out of that place and buy a condo of our own before the year was up. Becoming homeowners has been the biggest shock and surprise of 2017 by far. Did not see this one coming! If someone had told me I’d own a home in Surrey with my partner and dog at 25 years old, I would have laughed so hard. But here we are. And while it wasn’t something I thought would happen, I’m so glad it did.

Last year I knew about our Mexico trip in February, surprise SF trip in the summer and train trip in September. I thought Europe was a possibility, but that turned into our second Mexico trip with the Lees. So there weren’t really any surprises travel-wise in 2017. We added a couple little trips but nothing major. But no complaints here – we got in lots of “local” (North American) travel and I really loved all the places we visited and people we got to visit with.

2017 in summary:

2017 was a big year for me and for my little family. It was my first year as a full time freelancer who works from home in a field that I am passionate about. It’s probably the first time I’ve been able to say I loved my work all year long and I really enjoy what I do. Travel wise, I think I learned to appreciate trips that aren’t as exotic or unique. Everyone and their dog has done an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean but it was still really fun and a great way to spend time with family. I’m learning to appreciate local travel and smaller trips.

Despite living away from my family in Toronto, I feel like I got to have a lot of family moments this year. And for our little family, we grew by one when we adopted Ellie, our wee pup. And we took another big step by not only moving in together but also buying our first home and returning to Surrey. So it’s been a year of some pretty monumental changes and shifts that will be with us for a long while. Overall, it’s been a really good year. I didn’t think it would be nearly as life changing as it was when this year started but all of the changes have been for the better and I’m excited about how they’ll continue to shake out into 2018.

Looking ahead to 2018:

My favourite part about these posts is predicting what will come in the next year. And maybe it’s because I love surprising myself and seeing how different things actually end up being. 2017 was definitely full of some big surprises that I didn’t think would be happening. But that has sort of been the case every year. So I’m thinking 2018 will also be full of a bunch of stuff I can’t predict. But here’s what I’m planning and hoping for:

Career: I want to continue working as a freelancer and growing in my writing, editing, content managing and social media. I want to strengthen my relationships with current clients, get raises, take on new projects and be even more successful. I want to get better at my craft and be more successful. I love being able to work from home and I want to keep fine tuning my work so that I’m on a schedule, in an office and working on projects that I absolutely love.

Travel: So far we have a trip to Ireland planned for April (which we are SO EXCITED about!). We got an amazing flight deal (about $320 per person, round trip) and can’t wait to get back to Europe. It’ll be a new country for both Colin and I and a new adventure. I’m itching to go out and do a big trip so I’m sure Ireland will satisfy that. We’re also planning to spend next Christmas in Toronto, which will be a first for Colin. I’m really excited to introduce him to all of my family traditions. And then there is talk of a trip to Arizona over Colin’s birthday in March. And I’m also hoping for some smaller trips in between Ireland in April and Toronto in December. Maybe we make it out to Calgary for stampede and to see Colin’s cousins, a weekend in Seattle, a last minute deal to Vegas, a weekend in Kelowna to see Kyle, a mini trip to Victoria to see Emilie – lots of options!

Life: So I feel pretty confident saying that not much is going to change on the home front. We’re so happy in our new home and with our pup. We have no plans to move or add to our family in the next year and I’m really okay with that. We’re not rushing down an aisle or to bring any human kids into our life (a dog kid is just fine, thanks). As I said, it’s been a big year. So 2018 is our time to just sit back and enjoy that. I want to work on the smaller things like getting my office set up just right, keeping plants alive, cooking better meals in our kitchen, using our condo gym, going to Zumba classes, reading more, cleaning more often, going out on more date nights and just being more purposeful with my time and working on things to improve myself and my life. It doesn’t have to be flashy or dramatic but just bettering the little things. That’s the goal for 2018.

A Family-Filled December

This month was pretty crazy for us! But despite being really busy, it was awesome because it was a month jam-packed with family.

Right at the start of the month, I got to see my good friend Jordan for a sushi dinner after his big trip to Asia and then my friend Ale for brunch, who I haven’t seen in over a year. It was so awesome to catch up with these two!

And then on Dec 5th we got to pick up my dad from the airport for his last minute week-long trip to Vancouver. I love when my family from Toronto comes out to visit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as I would like, especially with my dad’s family as they are 4 people. So I was really happy that my dad decided to come out on his own and spend a week with us out west. Now that Vancouver has really become my home, I love the chance to share it with my family back east.

Dad lucked out and we got nothing but sunshine for his entire week here. I loved showing him our new home and indulging in our neighbourhood sushi place. We got to do some x-mas shopping at the mall and discover some new and old parks in Surrey, which Ellie loved. We introduced him to Colin’s mom, Margie, and hosted our first dinner party at our house.

We also got to do lots of fun festive stuff like checking out the lights at Lafarge Lake, attending the Yule Duel in Gastown, seeing the Four Seasons Christmas trees and Hyatt gingerbread houses, and visiting the Christmas Market at Canada Place. We browsed Granville Island, had brunch with relatives, enjoyed deluxe theatre seating, and ate lots of good food like Black and Blue happy hour apps, poke bowls and steaks at The Keg. All in all, it was an amazing week in Vancouver with my dad!

And then two days after he left, we followed him back to Toronto to meet up with my step family, the Lees, for our trip to Mexico! Before this year, Colin and I had never been to Mexico and now we’ve just come back from our second all-inclusive Mexican resort in the same year. This time our group of 15 journeyed to Cozumel, Mexico.

I love family trips like this where you get to spend time with everyone over the week instead of just a quick dinner where you make small talk with three people and then have to leave. It was so great to spend time with the Lees, who I haven’t seen in almost a year. It’s crazy how big the little cousins have gotten!

I’m not a huge excursion person when it comes to these resorts. I’m really happy to just lounge by the pool with my book, hang in the ocean, cruise the buffets and head to the swim up bar. And since I get seasick, I happily passed on the snorkel trip and the catamaran sail (which ended in the group getting rescued because they couldn’t get back to shore). But everyone seemed to have fun no matter what they ended up doing.

These were our rooms!

A typical day for us: hit the breakfast buffet around 9/10 and then head to the pool. There we would play with the little kids, take them to the bar for Dirty Monkeys and push them around in Jade’s giant inflatable duck. We’d lunch at the nearby buffet and be sure to fill up on fresh nacho chips and even fresher fish. Afternoons I usually spent in a chair by the pool reading my book and chatting with family. We’d usually stake out a row of chairs and take turns heading to the beach, playing with the kids and reading our books. Around 5/6 we’d head back to the room to shower up and then meet everyone for dinner. After dinner it was mini disco time for the kids and then we’d either take in the nightly show or play card games in the lobby.

The kids at mini disco!

Jadey and Maddie in the pool

Outside of our typical day activities, there were some extra special moments. On our last full day, we visited San Gervasio, a Mayan ruin, which was really cool to see. We took a jeep around the island and stopped for roadside chicken and ice cream. It was a really fun adventure and nice to see more of Cozumel. There was the fire show on the beach, which really blew us all away. There was basketball (both on the courts and in the pool) with Jade and Lee. And of course, there was the day Colin finally received his luggage after it had been missing for the first 5 days of our vacation…

One of the ruins at San Gervasio

But for me, it was the little moments that I loved the most. When my littlest cousin Jonny would let me hold him because he eventually recognized me. When I got to pick up Maddie from kid camp and she showed me all of her Paw Patrol toys. When Lara kept asking when Colin and I were getting married. When I got to connect and catch up with my aunts, uncles and grandparents on the pool chairs. When Chris taught us how to play Fuji Flush and I went to buy it on Amazon the minute we got home. When we watched the kids dance to the chu-chu-ah song and couldn’t get it out of our heads.

The little cousins hamming it up!

It was an awesome vacation and a great chance to spend time with family I don’t get to see very often. It was also really relaxing. A part of me felt guilty for not taking advantage of all of the excursions and activities. But I enjoyed my vacation and came back feeling relaxed and refreshed. It was nice to take a break from my laptop and real work.

On the way home, we got one more added dose of family. During our layover in Toronto, my mom and some other members of the Ang Gang showed up at the airport to hang out with us. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed so we couldn’t do dinner, but they brought up take-out and lots of Christmas presents. It was a short visit, but very sweet.

Christmas at Terminal 3!

And then back in Vancouver, it was time for even more family. On the 24th, we picked up Ellie, who we had missed so much. We visited Colin’s dad, Randy, at the cemetery and then spent the night watching Christmas movies and baking Christmas tree brownies. The next day, we went over to family friends Jackie and Derek’s home for Christmas breakfast and stockings. It was a really nice time to be with a small group and enjoy a really yummy brunch and fun stocking opening. Plus, it was snowing so we got a white Christmas!

We went back to Margie’s to open more presents and then it was off to grandma’s. We got her ready and headed over to Uncle Rod’s for Christmas dinner. It was so much fun playing games with Colin’s cousins and then eating way too much turkey for dinner.

We rolled into bed later that night with full bellies and full hearts from a month filled with family love.

Merry Christmas!

A Year Later

Today my good friend Emilie came over to see our new place and catch up. The same Emilie I was sharing a hotel room with in Ho Chi Minh City exactly one year ago. We both couldn’t believe it had already been a year. How time flies! And how life changes in just one year.

Last year, Emilie and I were just a couple days into our Vietnam trip. This was my big escape trip. It was the kind of trip you book last minute and your stomach does flip flops as you finalize the flights. It was an exciting trip. It made me smile uncontrollably. It was also a great way to run away. It was a nice break from real life. It marked the end of one chapter of my life.

When I left for Vietnam, I had just quit my job at UBC. I was living in a studio in Kits. I had a couple of writing gigs but nothing long-lasting or high-paying. We were still fresh off of the loss of Randy and so many things were up in the air. My life seemed very uncertain at that moment. Vietnam was kind of like the fork in the road.

If you had asked me a year ago, over eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast at Hello Hotel in HCMC, where I would be in a year, I would have optimistically said I would hope to be writing part-time, working another part-time job I didn’t hate and looking for apartments with Colin, maybe in Burnaby or East Van.

But of course, I was wrong.

Emilie was visiting me today from Victoria where she is living now and going to law school. Last year, she was working at Science World, pretty fresh off leaving her Master’s program at UBC. Now she’s in a completely different field and different city!

And, of course, I was way off for my predictions for myself too. I’m working full-time from home as a writer. It’s not exactly what I thought it would look like. In fact, a lot more of my time is spent in content management and social media than actual writing. But I am loving it! I didn’t even know I was interested in those fields. I’m learning a ton and there is so much room to grow. It’s scary and there’s a lot of unknown but I actually love what I do for work. I definitely wasn’t saying that when I worked at UBC.

I’m no longer in my Kits studio or even looking for rentals with Colin. We live in the home that we OWN in SURREY! I could have never predicted that.

And then there’s Ellie 🙂 We had talked about getting a dog sometime down the line. But Ellie coming into our lives this soon was a big surprise (even though I pretty much orchestrated the whole thing).

So life is totally different than it was a year ago. It’s way better than I thought it would be at this time. I’ve been catching up with a few friends over the last couple of weeks and it’s crazy to see how much has changed in such a short time.

Everyone keeps asking me (or us) what’s next. But I’m pretty happy where we are. We did quite a bit in a year. It’s been a lot of big changes. They were all positive changes. But it was a lot very quickly. I would be so happy if the next big things in our lives were awesome work promotions, really cool trips and new successes in the kitchen or at the gym. We can hold off on rings or babies or any of that business for a while now. We have this awesome life with our own home, a dog and jobs we love. And I just want to take a breath and enjoy it all.

Of course, that being said, if I had to predict right now where I would be in November 2018, I’m sure I would be way off. Life is just funny like that! Let’s hope that like my 2016 predictions, things are different for the better!

Home Sweet Home

After all of our house buying crazy, we finally did it. We bought a house.

Okay, a condo. But in Vancouver, that’s as close as we’re ever going to get to a house.

It was a lot of work to get here! There was so much paperwork, meetings, emails, signatures and endless to-do lists. But finally FINALLY we are finished and fully settled in. Last night, Colin and I popped the bubbly our realtor had given us on the day we got the keys. We decided to save it until everything on our Moving To Do list was crossed off.

Cheers to our new house!

So we met with the notary on October 3rd I think it was. I don’t remember the day but I do remember feeling so awfully sick. I had the worst runny nose and watery eyes, which everyone had to endure for like an hour while we signed all the papers. It was gross.

But then two days later, we got our keys! We met our realtor at our brand new home and she had a huge gift basket for us full of fun goodies (like the bubbly). We had also brought over a few boxes and a dining room table we had bought off Craigslist, so we moved that in too.

The next few days were all about running back and forth from New West to Surrey. We wanted to bring over as much as possible in Colin’s car so on uHaul day, we’d just have the big stuff to worry about. Honestly, these days were probably the most stressful. As well as moving things, we were still packing, eating Thanksgiving dinners, arranging for painters, etc.

And then on October 10th, we moved! Colin’s amazing friends helped us out and it was the fastest and easiest move ever. Well, it was a little bit complicated because we had to board Ellie at the vet for the day and then go to Coquitlam to pick up a couch we had bought (another online find). But the actual loading and unloading was super easy and we finished ahead of schedule – even with a huge rainstorm in the middle!

So why has it taken us two more weeks to actually settle in? It’s not because we’re bad unpackers. In fact, we had the place basically all unpacked the next day. And we had done our IKEA run ahead of time, so there wasn’t too much to buy. But there was the issue of our old apartment.

We had our lease until the end of October. So to save a little money, we decided to rent it out. We had guests book to stay at our New West place from Oct 14-24. So after we moved to Surrey, we still had to go back to New West to clean, ensure they had everything they needed and meet them with the keys. And worst of all, we had to leave our internet behind.

Lucky for us, our guests checked out a few days early (not because they hated our place but because they rented a place in Vancouver and were just staying at ours until they found something). So on the 21st we headed over to pack up all of our stuff and bring sweet WiFi back to our lives. Sadly, our internet company is the worst. We didn’t get connected to the internet until the 25th, despite being told every day until then that it should be working. Dealing with our internet provider was a nightmare.

And then yesterday, we headed back to New West to do a final clean, move our second bed out of the apartment and return the keys to our landlord. Once we got the bed all set up here in Surrey we were finally, blissfully done moving! The only thing left on our to-do list is to copy our mail key (which, in our defense, we tried to do but the key copy place didn’t have the right key) and buy some plants I won’t kill.

Okay, enough rambling! We’re home and we’re loving it. It’s so fun to have this much space. I love having my own office (/guest bedroom). There’s a great green space right across the street for Ellie. Our local mom-and-pop cafe is the best – and I would know because I spent a lot of time there in our pre-WiFi days. And the building next to us is going to become a Shoppers, grocery store and bank. Yay!

Here are some shots of our place. Please excuse my horrible phone-quality photos! I promise our place is actually beautiful and spacious.

Our first plant – courtesy of Margie. Hopefully we dont kill it!

Our built in shelves featuring our beloved Funko Pops 🙂

Colin’s desk

Our little gallery wall!

The kitchen

Our bedroom. It’s actually a good size with two big closets but tough to tell in this shot.

Our ensuite bathroom! It is so luxurious having two bathrooms.

One part of our balcony featuring our recycling bins 🙂

The view from our balcony. Sadly, not the mountain view we all wish we had.

Second bathroom!

In suite washer and dryer! One of the best parts!

My office/the guest bedroom

Ellie thinks the guest bed is hers…

Where all the freelancing magic happens!

Ellie wondering why the heck I’m running around the apartment taking photos instead of rubbing her belly. Fair question.

Welcome home!

The Mommy & Me Adventure Express

We just got back from our latest trip: The Mommy & Me Adventure Express!

The MMAE was a trip down the west coast by train with me, Colin, my mom and his mom. Adorable, right? Not only were we going old school and travelling by train but we were doing it with our moms. None of us had travelled extensively by train before (actually, I did a train through France and an overnight in Spain) and our moms had only met once before. But despite that, the trip was a huge success!

We started our adventure bright and early, arriving at Pacific Central Station for 5:30am on September 15th. We boarded our train and got to watch the sun rise over the coast. It was stunning!

Train views! Excuse my terrible phone camera…

Portland

Many hours later, we arrived in Portland, Oregon – our first stop of the trip! We took an Uber to our AirBnB, an adorable basement suite just a few minutes from downtown. That night we walked over to the local Hillside area and had a delicious Mexican feast (complete with giant margaritas, of course) and locally made ice cream. Yum!

Hanging out with the mascot of the Mexican restaurant

The next day we headed out to pick up our rental car and then spent the rest of the day exploring Portland. We hit up Powell Books, which was amazing. It was a bit overwhelming; I can’t imagine actually just browsing for a random book in there. Next we walked over to Voodoo Donuts, but couldn’t justify the line (don’t worry, we get to Voodoo eventually). So we settled for some delicious oysters and a glass of wine.

Powell Books!

Next up was the Saturday Market. By the river, a huge multi-block market sets up every Saturday selling food, crafts, clothing and everything else. It was awesome! We enjoyed browsing, picked up a few things, and then hit the food stalls when we got hungry.

Mom enjoying her mango on a stick!

After eating, we walked over to Old Town Brewery, which is supposedly haunted. It wasn’t quite as eerie or tourist friendly as we were hoping. In fact, the only creepy part was the bathroom. But we enjoyed a tasting flight of beer nonetheless.

By this point, my mom and I had pretty much converted Colin and Margie (his mom) to our preferred family-style sharing techniques. And by that, I mean that instead of each ordering our own beer or even splitting up the tasting flight so everyone got their own beer, we took each tiny tasting glass and passed it down the line, each taking a sip. We all gave our rating and the person who enjoyed the beer the most, got to finish it off. Genius, no?

After our beers, it was on to even more food (you’ll notice a theme over this trip). Our first Uber driver recommended the Portland City Grill, a restaurant on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp building. We arrived just before the 4:00pm happy hour to find a line up in the lobby. The elevators don’t start operating until 4:00pm but we learned quickly that you have to get there early if you want a window seat.

Despite being in the second or third elevator car up, we didn’t manage to snag a coveted window seat. But we did get a booth with some views. It was awesome to see the city and the happy hour food was really yummy. Would’ve been better if Portland wasn’t so smokey, but it was still great.

After eating, we walked to the downtown area and decided to pop into Target for a quick shop. Of course, we ended up spending a good 2+ hours at Target. They have everything! I honestly could’ve spent a day there. But we all packed only carry-on sized luggage, so we had to be careful not to overdo it.

With full stomachs and full bags of Target goods, we walked back to our car and drove home. We watched some Netflx and then headed to bed.

Florence/Eugene

The next morning, we got up bright and early to start our day. The plan was to drive down to Florence, about three hours southwest of Portland, to check out the famous sea lion caves and sand dunes. Then we would drive east an hour to Eugene for lunch and to catch our train.

Sadly, the weather and the roads weren’t so cooperative. The way down to Florence was pretty much one single laned winding road. And while the scenery was nice, save for the rain clouds, the car sickness was not.

Even worse, there were no sea lions to be seen in the caves! But since we had driven all that way, we headed down to the cave anyway. Even without the sea lions, it was a very impressive cave. And at the viewing points, we saw a few sea lions playing in the waves and a whale!

Sea Lion Caves

Walking the path down to the cave

No sea lions – but still a cool cave!

We didn’t have time to do the sand dunes – and weren’t so interested in doing them in the rain. So we went into the old town of Florence for lunch (such a cute spot!) and then drove some more winding roads to Eugene. In Eugene, we stopped into the other Voodoo Donuts location where we only had to wait behind five people, instead of 50. But even with five in line, it was a long wait. We picked out a few interesting looking ones and enjoyed them on the train. Like many people had told me, the donuts were a bit overrated. Or maybe we just picked the wrong ones. I liked them, but I wouldn’t stand in line for them.

And then it was back on the train! We boarded our train around 5:00pm in Eugene. This time, we were in Business Class where we got a couple seats each to ourselves that reclined way back and had a foot rest. It was almost as comfortable as you can be on a train.

The train experience was interesting. The WiFi was spotty and the steak dinner was scary. But the scenery was awesome. We sat in the Observatory Car for a while, which is all windows, and it was so cool to see the sights of Oregon passing around us. Of course, sleeping in reclined seats on a moving train right next to the dining car doors that kept slamming wasn’t ideal for a restful night. But it wasn’t the worst sleep I’ve ever had!

The Observatory Car

San Francisco

We pulled into Emeryville around 8:00am where we got off the train to take a bus into San Francisco. Our bus was supposed to drop us off in SF for 9:30, giving us an hour to make it to our Alcatraz tour at 10:30. Sadly, that didn’t happen. The bus took FOREVER to leave the station and then forever loading and unloading people at each stop before ours. When we did arrive in SF, we had to run to drop off our bags, use the bathroom and rush onto the boat. We just made it!

This was my 3rd visit to Alcatraz in the last five years. But I still really enjoyed it! The tour was the same but there were lots of parts I had forgotten. And as a cool bonus, an ex-prisoner of Alcatraz was in the gift shop signing copies of his book! We bought a copy so it will be interesting to learn more about his perspective.

Alcatraz in the background!

After Alcatraz, we met back up with my mom and headed to Boudin for the famed clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. You can’t come to SF and not have a Boudin bread bowl! We then walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and do a bit of browsing. The sea lions were so adorable! It totally made up for missing them in Florence.

Next, we went to Enterprise to pick up our rental car. It was convenient having a car, but such a headache to rent one. Once we finally got everything sorted there, we headed to Lombard Street to show Margie the most crooked street in the world. And then it was on to Ghiradelli Square for some more shopping!

After shopping, the last iconic SF site on our list was the Golden Gate Bridge. It was super foggy in the morning so we hadn’t been able to see the bridge yet. But because the weather in SF changes every time you blink, it was nice and clear when we decided to drive over. We drove over to the other side of the bridge and checked out the views from Battery Spencer. I’ve never been to that viewpoint before. It was GORGEOUS! It’s clear to see why all the SF postcards get their shots from this angle. The wind was insane but it was so worth it.

Can you tell it was windy?

We then drove to dinner. Colin and I wanted to take our moms to Surisan, the Korean fusion restaurant we had really enjoyed during our July visit to SF. The moms loved it too! It was a delicious dinner and we got to try lots of new things. My mom liked it so much that she’s heading back again on Friday.

Napa Valley/Sonoma

After dinner, we drove out to our hotel in Vallejo, which is just outside Napa. The hotel had some issues (broken phones, broken toilets) but it was nice to be in a big king bed, especially after spending the night before sleeping on the train.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel we drove out to Artesa, a winery in Napa that boasted the best scenic views and a reasonable tour price. We were blown away by the views. It was so stunning! Artesa is up on a hill so you can see all the wineries in the area.

How gorgeous is Artesa?

After picking our jaws up off the floor, we went inside to join our tour. We got to see the cellars, bottling process and hear from someone who had worked in wine production for 10 years. It was interesting to learn a bit more about wine. We also got to do a tasting of five wines, plus one to drink during the tour. Sadly, the red wines were wasted on me but I’m sure my mom and Margie enjoyed my leftovers. We also met a very sweet couple from Florida who were heading to Vancouver and Victoria.

We drove out to Sonoma for lunch at The Girl & The Fig. It was such a cute place for lunch! We sat in their beautiful little back patio area and enjoyed really yummy meals (steak, scallops, duck confit!). After lunch, Colin and Margie checked out the square while my mom and I indulged in some chocolate-y goodness.

Next was a quick trip to the Cornerstone, a nearby outdoor mall. It was a bit out of our price range ($50 placemats? Hard pass) and we were losing steam, so we didn’t spend too long there. We headed back to the hotel for a bit of a break.

For dinner, we had a mish mash of leftovers from Surisan and our take-out order from Red Lobster. It was way too much food, as usual. We had also stopped at Kohls while we waited for our Red Lobster order, and couldn’t wait to go back in the morning.

Alameda

The next morning, us ladies got up a little bit early (well, early for me) so we could get to Kohls for their 9:00am opening. That gave us one hour of shopping before we had to be on the road at 10:00am. We walked out at around 10:15am with baby clothes, leggings, shoes, dresses and more. A successful shoppng trip indeed! I think a Bellingham trip is in order soon because there are just some things in the States that we can’t get up here. And now that we’re moving, there’s so many home goods I want to buy!

We then drove to Alameda, a suburb of SF, where we were meeting our family friend, Kaitlyn, for lunch. Kaitlyn is from Toronto but is out in Alameda for a semester of co-op. We met her at Hang Ten to enjoy a seafood boil lunch.

It was Margie and Colin’s first time doing the seafood boil, and they loved it. We all did! It’s so fun to eat with your hands and, of course, the fresh and flavourful seafood doesn’t hurt. We finished off our big meal with cute little macaron ice cream sandwiches.

Seafood boil!

And then it was time for the Mommy & Me Adventure Express to come to an end. We said goodbye to Kaity and drove back to SF. We dropped my mom off at her AirBnB (which was in a classic SF building with views of Alcatraz!) – she is staying in SF a few more days, going to Santa Barbara, then to Santa Monica and flying home to Toronto from LA. We returned our rental car and took an Uber out to the airport. Sadly, our flight was delayed by a couple of hours, so we just got to hang out at the airport for a while. We finally arrived in Vancouver around 9:30pm.


The Mommy & Me Adventure Express trip was so much fun. It was very cool to take the train and see parts of the west coast I’ve never seen before. Highlights definitely have to be the food – we ate so well! And I still have to say that SF is my favourite city in the States. If I had to live anywhere in the US, it would be San Francisco (as long as someone else can pay my rent to live in the city).

Of course, it was awesome to spend that much time with my Moo (who I’m sure is reading this. Hi Mom!). It’s been a while since I’ve seen her last so it was great to spend time with her here in Vancouver and then on our train trip. The whole trip was her idea and her planning, so thank you Moo for doing such a great job! It was a blast!

And now it’s back to real life! Which for us means all of the crazyness of moving into our first home in a couple of weeks. There’s been lots going on with that (which probably means another Becoming a Homeowner blog post coming your way) and it’s getting so real. We’ll have the keys in just over two weeks!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 4

Note: This part was written on September 1st. Currently, it’s the last in the series, but I suspect there will be a couple more parts coming. Those ones should be written and published in real time. While this one was written on Sept 1, I do my best to catch you up on everything that happened (SO MUCH) since part three. And yes, it’s as lengthy and rambly as usual.


Part 4: In which I, the incessant rambler and over-thinker, finally become a homeowner.

Welcome to our new home! We own it 🙂

That’s right: I AM A HOMEOWNER!

How insane is that? Even more insane, it’s not the townhouse we first fell in love with.

Let me catch you up, because so much has happened in less than a week.

So last Saturday, Colin and I went to see the townhouse and fell in love (part 3 of this series). The next day, we went back to the townhouse with Margie, Colin’s mom, and our realtor, Leslie. 

We pulled up as Leslie was just coming out of the house. She greeted us and then very quickly said, “Well, they’re definitely overpriced.”

I was intrigued. Did that mean we could get in for way less than we thought? Score! But then she continued to list some of her concerns with the house. Things we hadn’t noticed, like older appliances and a hole in the basement ceiling, came to light. Leslie also mentioned how busy the open house was, how the sellers had only lived there a year and how the realtor didn’t have any strata documents for her to look at.

To say we were deflated would be an understatement.

So we went to tour the house again and it was kind of painful. While Colin and I tried to point out all the parts of the townhouse we loved, Margie and Leslie continued to voice their concerns. There were the uneven floors, the heat in the second bedroom, the paint in the basement, and so on. It hurt to hear people talking bad about our house.

Despite the issues, Colin and I still felt that if we could get it for a good price, it would be worth it. We loved the location, the amenities, the space and the fact that a townhouse gave us three separate levels. But we were ignoring some of the issues. The complex is old – built in 1970. And there’s upkeep with a three-storey 1500+ squarefoot house. Plus, all the issues like ceiling holes and slanted floors we had missed the first time we toured.

So we drove off, feeling a bit less keen on our dream house but still holding out a bit of hope. We decided to check out another open house by Gateway station. We were in the neighbourhood, so what’s the harm, right?

As we pulled up, Colin and I noted how much we liked the look of the complex. The complex, Access, is right by the skytrain, but off on a quiet road. It was much newer (built in 2002), looked great from the outside, and was a four-storey condo complex, which we like much more than the high-rise condos.

We arrived intending to look at just one apartment but ended up touring three.  The first was a one bedroom plus den loft apartment. We knew that wouldn’t be enough space for us but the realtor was waiting outside happy to show the space, and we were excited to see a loft.

We loved the loft! It was awesome to have the levels and the super high ceilings. And there were even mountain views! Unfortunately, it was more of a home for one person or two people without much stuff. A two bedroom loft might be an option but we’d get priced out of that pretty soon.

The next was the apartment we had come to see – a two bedroom on the third floor for $375,000. While I loved the wood laminate in the living space, the layout was what I’m calling “skinny rectangle.” It seems to be the default condo layout. The skinny rectangle is when you walk in and it’s just one straight line of space for the kitchen, dining room and living room. Everything always feels very tight and would be impossible to try and put desks or even a proper table in there.

As we were planning to leave, someone mentioned that there was another two bedroom having an open house in the next building over (same complex). We figured while we were here, we might as well check it out. Funny how a fluke tip to check out the next building would totally change everything for our house hunt.

We headed up to the apartment on the second floor. We stepped in, and immediately we were all smiling. The space was big, it was bright and, most importantly, it wasn’t a skinny rectangle. There were multiple spaces, little corners and tons of windows. The bedrooms were a good size, there were lots of closets, and the floors were nice. The kitchen was good and the balcony was large. We were pretty impressed. Until we heard the price.

$409,800.

Well, that’s why we hadn’t seen this place online. I generally ignore everything over $400,000. I understand paying over four in New West but in Surrey – c’mon! But at the same time, we had never seen a layout like this before.

I mentioned to the realtor that she was priced over $30,000 more than the other two bedroom we had just seen, and she replied that it was due to the space. She also slipped in that they would be reducing the price the next day. I nodded politely, assuming this had been a wasted open house for us since there’s no way we could afford it.

So we emailed our realtor and casually mentioned that we were interested in this place and the potential price drop. We also sent a couple more apartment complexes that we were interested in, Ethical Gardens and Pacifica. Our realtor let us know that this unit in Access had actually been on the market for over 40 days, which was a promising sign. On Tuesday, they reduced the price from $409,800 to $398,000. Our ears perked up.

At the same time, we were dealing with all of our mortgage issues.

The main issue was our push to use the mortgage professional we had been working with and Margie’s reluctance. To do our due diligence, we agreed to take a meeting with her bank. On the way there, Colin and I agreed that we would keep open minds, but not sign anything. We wanted to be loyal to our mortgage professional who had been so helpful thus far.

To our surprise, the meeting at the bank went way better than we thought it would. Margie’s guy, Saj, was personable, knowledgeable and definitely looking out for her best interest. He broke down all the numbers, was able to offer us a great rate and was patient with any questions we might have.

To summarise a lot of back and forth, we ended up going with Saj and Margie’s bank for our mortgage. We felt bad that we couldn’t continue with our mortgage professional. But having Margie’s support was important for our mortgage. And for Colin and me, we wanted to make sure we were getting a good rate and working with a good person. We get both of those things from Margie’s guy at her bank.

During this time, we also let go of our townhouse dream. The age of the complex and the issues brought to light were starting to make sense to us. And the fact that both our realtor and Margie were against it wasn’t a good sign. Colin and I agreed that our next home could be a townhouse, but we could let it go this time.

So on Thursday, we arranged with our realtor, Leslie, to go back and visit the unit at Access again. We were excited to tour it again and liked it even better the second time. I didn’t let myself start thinking that it could be ours yet – I didn’t want to get disappointed. But I was definitely getting attached to the place.

Leslie really liked it. She pointed out how rare the layout and location of the unit in the building was. She understood why they were trying to price high but believed there would be some wiggle room. It was really reassuring to hear Leslie speak so highly of the unit as she’s had experience in that complex. She said she hadn’t seen anything like that one before. We got even more excited.

We also checked out a unit at Ethical Gardens. I could tell as we were walking through, Colin was already sold on Access. While there were some pluses about Ethical Gardens, like a super long kitchen, giant closets and proximity to the mall, there were some noticeable downsides. For one, the living space was tiny and likely wouldn’t hold a couch and a dining room table. It wasn’t the one for us.

Ethical Gardens. Lovely building, but not the right one for us.

So as we walked back to the car, Leslie gave us some more info and said to call her if we wanted to put in an offer on Access. We headed home to crunch some numbers but I think we both knew what we wanted to do by then.

We called and officially put in an offer.

And then that’s where the real drama and waiting by the phone began. There was a counter, and another counter. There were multiple contracts to sign. There were emails. There were calls with the realtor, with the bank and with each other. And there were rushed texts and constant inbox refreshing.

All to say, just over 24 hours after our initial offer, we were signing the final contract. We accepted their latest counter and we were officially buying a house. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Of course, there’s a little asterisk next to that. We have the next week to remove subjects which means we need to do the home inspection, appraisal and make sure all our financing comes through with the bank. If no red flags come up, we’ll pay the deposit next Friday and officially be homeowners. And then we pay up on October 5th and get the keys October 6th.

How crazy is that?

It’s insane to think how fast everything has gone. In the big picture, it’s a little crazy to look back and see all that has happened in a year. Next Friday, the day our subjects are removed and we officially get the house, is September 8th – a year to the day when Colin’s dad, Randy, passed away. I would have never believed if someone told me at this time last year that by now I would be living in a condo in New West with Colin and our dog, working fulltime as a freelancer, and now buying a home. Unbelievable! Colin joked that we might as well get married and have a baby this year just to get it all done.

And while it feels like I’ve been looking at homes forever, this part of the process went way faster than I thought it would. I’ve been looking online at homes for a few months. And in that time, we’ve probably been to about a dozen or so open houses. But I never would have imagined that we’d go to an open house, schedule a viewing, put in an offer, go through negotiations and have a signed contract on a house in less than a week. We saw the place for the very first time on Sunday and had a contract signed before Friday night’s dinner. Insane!

Colin and I were also saying to each other how lucky we got on this one. The very first home we put an offer in was the one we got. Of course, our first offer wasn’t accepted; we had to negotiate. But still – it was all with just the one home. And we weren’t in a situation with multiple offers where we had to outbid someone else. I always assumed if we bought a home in the Greater Vancouver Area, we would be searching for months, putting in offers on a few places before one worked out, competing with multiple offers and being forced to pay way above list price. But nope, none of that happened! Maybe that’s why people move to Surrey…

So yeah, that’s my life right now. I still can’t truly believe that we have a house – that we are homeowners. It sounds so crazy to me. I’m not sure it’ll feel real for a while yet. I wonder if it will feel the same as just renting in a new place. I hope not. I hope it’s different. I hope it feels like home. And I hope we’re happy there for a long time. Or a long-ish time.

And until then, my brain gets to be filled with all of the logistics and stuff we need to get done. For the next week, we hold our breath and wait while the financing, inspection and appraisal get done. We cross our fingers and hope that nothing bad happens and we can get everything finalized on Friday. My mom is also coming in from Toronto on Friday, so we get to bring her to the place, which is even more exciting.

And then there’s all the fun of moving. We have to tell our landlord we’re ending our one year lease super early and hope he’s forgiving about any penalties we have to pay. We have to switch our internet over, which was such a headache when we moved here from Kits. We have to cancel our utilities and start new ones in Surrey. We have to figure out home insurance. We have to pick paint and hire painters. We have to get boxes. We have to rent a uhaul.

I sort of feel like we just moved – which I guess we did, since it was only Feb 28 that we moved in here. So crazy that we’re going to be doing it all over again in such a short amount of time. But hopefully after this one, we don’t have to move again for a long time.

I’ve never lived in the same place for very long, and even less so in my adult life in my own homes. The longest would have been 14 months at my place in Kits before this one. So it’s interesting to think that this is going to be a long-term move. We don’t think this is our forever home, but it could be good for a long time. There’s enough space for us to be comfortable there as two with a home office/guest room and space to move the office into the main room, should we want to put a kid in the second room sometime down the line.

And it’s a move to Surrey, which is bittersweet. I know Colin is so excited to be closer to his friends and close to work. I’m excited for him. And I’m excited we’re by a skytrain so I can go and see my friends. And I know our neighbourhood is just going to keep getting better. The sad part is being just that much farther from Vancouver and leaving New West after such a short time. If we are going to be looking for more space for less money in our next move, it will likely still be in Surrey or even farther out. So New West isn’t really in the cards, at least not for a long time. Maybe we can come back here as retirees 🙂

But it’s all exciting! It’s nerve wracking and there’s still so much to do and wait on. But it’s exciting! We bought a house. We’re homeowners. That is just bananas!