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I love my problems!

I have latched on to a new theory, borrowed from an idea in the book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’. Catchy, right? It is this: Life is a series of problems. 

Wait, it gets better. 

We spin our wheels working to graduate from one hierarchy of problems to the next. As soon as we conquer one set of problems, another begins. Hopefully, our new problems aren’t as bad as the old ones, but they’re still our own. So we fixate on them just the same. 


Walking on rocks in stilettos is hard.

Think about the approach to food by different economic classes. At the lowest level, people worry if they they will eat. Take a step up and the poor worry about quantity. Will there be enough

The middle class is fixated on quality. Is it good? It’s the friend who invites you over for dinner, but you can’t get a word in around the self-deprecating critiques of the meal. Too much salt. Not enough salt. (I don’t cook so I literally can’t think of ANY OTHER spice that could make or break a meal….pepper?) Meanwhile, it never occurs to either of you that there might not be enough to go around. 

Beyond the middle class, people are concerned with preparation and presentation. Is my food pretty? How many Michelin stars does the chef have? Would this look good on my brunch spread? #Insta #postIt! #avacadotoast #whitegirlseverywhere True #firstworldproblems


We will never top these Christmas card photos.

Switch gears and look at the mother of all problems—relationships. Relationship problems evolve with time. Growing up as the oldest/rightest child, I struggled, (still struggle?…) to find balance between being sister and third parent, because they always reaalllly wanted to hear my guiding-light, words of wisdom…. As a young adult, we have single-people problems. How to choose between all the boys? or Where are all the men? It’s tough. When Adam convinced me to spend forever with him, we were living coast to coast and dealt with long-distance problems. Now worse and three years into this thing, we’re dealing withliving together in a New York studioproblems. It’s not natural for two humans to share such close confines, but the miracle is that I still love him. One day, God-willing, we’ll have crying-baby, dirty-diaper, never-sleeping problems. Oh boy. I can’t wait for all of that. 

I’m not being negative. Au contraire. If life is a reflection of the choices that we make, we also choose our problems. With this perspective, I often talk to myself (as one does) and say things like, I love my problems! With each new layer, people experience major gains in the overall quality of life. If you’re doing it right, your problems will become hipper and happier. Most reading this blog are already at #avacadotoast andwhich Christmas card photo makes me, I mean, my family look the best?—problems.

This world of problems is less like a revolving door and more like climbing a never-ending staircase. Every once in a while, remind yourself why you’re climbing, and look back at the problems in your wake. They have been training you for your today problems. Realize they’re never going away, and they become bearable. You might even learn to love them.


But hey, I love our problems! 

It is happenstance that I’m posting this on our third anniversary, but I kind of like it. We don’t pretend to have anything figured out. We just hope to be mindful of our choices, and continue growing and graduating from one set of problems to the next.

26.3 miles would be crazy


On Sunday, my dad, brother, and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in Washington, DC, and spent much of the afternoon post-run recounting signs that we saw on the road. My favorite: Good thing it’s not 26.3 miles. That would be crazy!

This was a first for me and a significant cross off my bucket list. Of all the runners that I know, I am the worst. I look like I should be fast, but looks are deceiving. When we ran a half-marathon in Montreal in September, I wore purple spandex and the same cropped tank I wore for the marathon. Adam rightly called me out and said, “Girlllll, you better be pushing six minute miles looking like that.” If only. What about boyyyyy, #thehairofajp looks like a mushroom. So there. 


Montreal Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon – 30th birthday surprise – September 24, 2017 

My comfortable pace during the marathon was 10.30. All runners under the age of 60 are like Oh damn…. So yeah, it’s nice when you’re covering a distance for the first time and your PR is guaranteed. Timing was not my concern. Finishing was. Trust me when I say that if I can do it, YOU CAN TOO!

The night before the marathon, we attended the MCM sponsored carbo load dinner with guest speaker, Michael Wardian. He is the crazy person who completed 7 marathons, on 7 continents, in 7 days. In his effort to motivate us for the 26.2 miles that loomed ahead, he said that the run was really just a celebration. A CELEBRATION.

Dear Michael, I know we don’t know each other, but running a marathon is not how I celebrate.

This reminds me of another sign that I liked: Run now, WINE later. This sign gets me. But fine, I get your point Michael, and I admit that after having 4+ hours to think about your point during my “celebration”, I also like it. As I crossed the starting line, I realized that this was it. At the end of this run, and after two knee surgeries and several failed attempts at training for this feat, I will have accomplished something I once thought inconceivable. Getting to the starting line was the hard part. Now we run, eh hem, celebrate to the finish.

Running a marathon is no longer unique. What is interesting is why people run. To me, it was a mental barrier to break down, and honestly, it feels amazing to know that my little legs can make it, in some form or fashion, albeit how ever slow. 26.2 miles, and even 26.3 miles no longer seem crazy. This will be music to Dad’s ears, as he is already hot on planning the next one.


Christmas Letter 2016

In February of 2017. Yes, yes, I know I’m late.

All the noise of 2017 is making it hard to remember 2016, but that’s what I get for procrastinating. Here’s a consolidated reflection on 2016, and a glimpse of what 2017 may (or may not) look like for us. The adventure continues!

This time last year, I was launching Venue at Postcard from Paris while Adam decided his startup T.I.E., (Time Is Everything), is not in fact, how he wanted to spend his time.

The irony.

This epiphany sent us spiraling into a year of self-discovery, and honestly, it was hard. Getting a job was Adam’s full time job, and my day to day routine often left me wanting. But over and over again, we were incredibly blessed by family and friends, and we have a solid highlight reel to show for it. 

In April, I joined Kelly, her parents, Anna and Bradley in The Exumas where I ate conch salad and fed stingrays au natural in the clearest water in the world, according to Neil Armstrong. We went island hopping, free diving, and cave exploring. Never mind the time we ran over the dinghy, Kelly Beasley can fix all things. It was a complete dream.

In June, the women in my family met for our first annual girls weekend – an extended-stay therapy session where we spent copious amounts of time in matching robes and monogrammed wine glasses, as we do. Our Moms wrote us beautiful and touching letters. At the end of the trip Mom had to get it off her chest and confided to me, “It is possible that I don’t love you as much as Elizabethann and Ellen love their girls.” LOL. Canda, a thinker, not a feeler, pulls no punches, and for that I love her and her realness so.


In August, I went to Paris, my favorite city on the planet. Anna Marie was finishing her summer abroad, and we spent four blissful days strolling the Seine, pausing for picnics, wandering the towers of Notre Dame, and musing like Rodin. Yes, it was as dreamy as all that, but the real gift was being with Anna Marie, just the two of us, as sisters and adults, for the first time.

Adam joined us for a few days before jetting over to La Spezia, Italy to visit the Reardons. I have new respect for Aperol and trofie pasta, and my old obsession with the Reardon children was reborn.

In September, I spent my birthday week with my Mom in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, of all places. Kristen said, “I didn’t know people lived in Idaho”. I think the people of Idaho (Idahoans?) would like to keep it that way. It’s their best kept secret.


In November, Grandma Betty took what will most likely be her last trip to San Diego where we spent Thanksgiving on the beach and celebrated my cousin Michelle getting married to Jack. Adam was really aggressive on the dance floor.


But most significantly, drumroll please….

In October, I fulfilled a longtime dream, and Adam and I moved to New York City.

Looking back at the year, I laugh. We started 2016 in Selma, South Carolina at an Air BnB to unplug and re-focus on our goals. We ended 2016 in a sublet in the Upper East Side, and have since ‘lived’ in Airbnbs in the Financial District and West Village. I feel like it counts as an official move when you have no other place you call home. Last week, we moved into our first lease after 2+ years of marriage. Adam’s retort? “This is what makes me unique.” Now we both laugh.

Adam is particularly focused on his personal uniqueness these days as he wrote and rewrote graduate school essays. Here’s a little peak and what I believe is a great consolidation of our married life so far, as well as the latest on Adam.

Since leaving the Navy, instead of seeking conventional jobs that would provide predictable paychecks, I have pursued opportunities that have piqued personal and professional interests. While exploring some of these experiences has come at personal sacrifice, they have collectively expanded my intellectual diversity and professional skills. My career is at a natural inflection point where I am prepared to learn management and business skills as part of a formal education.

So there. We left Greenville for the big city in October. Adam took an opportunity for an 8 week internship at a world-class financial firm and has leveraged that into a 9 month position.  This fall, he’ll attend business school, unless of course, he doesn’t. We like to keep our options open.

People often ask, “How is he?”, and I am reminded of a quote from the broadway production, Holiday Inn that I had the pleasure of seeing with Erika and Emily in December.

“Now and then it’s good to pause our pursuit of happiness,

and just be happy.”

The pursuit of happiness in New York City is a grind. Adam works a lot, (like everyone else here) and while the city is not an easy place to live, it’s where we believe we can best pursue our happiness while also finding a million ways to just be happy.

Since arriving in New York, I began working on Your Sequel, a non-profit founded by a recent veteran, new friend, and current luminary, Brooke. Last month we rolled out our mentorship platform where we’re connecting female veterans to female rockstars in every industry. The goal is to help women make informed decisions about their transition, resulting in happier veterans and longer lasting company hires.  I wrote about it more here but in sum, I feel connected to our mission and passionate about our project. A total win.

Adam started a new position at his firm this week, where he will work with excel less and people more. Don’t you know – he’s thrilled about that. I am pursuing full-time (aka paid) opportunities in both international relations and consulting, and as per usual, we’re accepting all prayers on our behalf as we head into the New Year – can you still say ‘New Year’ in February?

powell-cip-0031Photo: Chris Isham 


Regardless, 2017 is another where we have no idea where we will be when it ends, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We feel at peace where we are now, as we continue our pursuit of happiness, stopping often to just be happy.

Happy New, February!

Two Years enroute to Mars


Today is our second anniversary, and we find ourselves newly planted in New York City. For me, being here is an actualization of a dream since I was in high school. For him, the city is a perfect fit for his career aspirations. For both of us, it’s a new chapter. This city is bursting at the seams with opportunity. We feel we’re in the right place at the right time to push each other towards our best selves while enjoying the perks of the world’s best food and drink, entertainment, museums, and art.

Two years ago, New York was nowhere in sight. We were headed for the hills in North Dakota. Four months later, we woke up in South Carolina with our future plans at ground zero. We fell into a bit of a mid-20s crisis.

In response, I worked at an interior design firm, indulging in my creative interests, while Adam soul-searched. I know it was unconventional – working while Adam frequented coffee shops, went on lunch dates galore, and attended “cigar therapy”. It seems even odder now as I write it, but I fully supported Adam’s quest to determine his best path forward. I knew that every latté was one conversation closer to clarifying his vision, and it has already paid dividends. Against all odds, Adam was offered an opportunity with a finance firm to acquire invaluable skills not yet in his portfolio. I’m uber proud of him, and we are elated to be here.

We’re elated, but we’re not naive to the challenges that follow transplants from sweet, small towns like Greenville, SC to the big city. Rather, I should say we’re elated and mindful of the tasks at hand. Everyone made it clear that New York would be expensive, inconvenient, frigid in the winter, sweltering in the summer, and then more expensive again. After two weeks adjusting to the city’s quirks, we set our budget and confirmed that all you people are right! However! The money that we have or don’t have now is not nearly as relevant as to the reason why we are here. As much as we love to wine and dine, we moved in order to learn and grow. Money can come later. Security can come later. We are currently in a short term, sublet lease, and while we literally have no idea where we’ll be living in two months, (in returning to our theme) I feel we are more unencumbered than ever.

Adam started work on Monday two weeks ago. One day and 100 lbs of luggage later, I joined him. Hamilton and Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” played on repeat during my flight while I stared out the window. Feeling determined to not throw away my shot and giddy with excitement for bright lights (but they’ll never blind me), a million sporadic thoughts swirled through my head. Then it hit me.

This is why I married him. I paused and allowed a moment to let it sink in. I couldn’t help but smile. I love him so much, because he doesn’t shy away from risks and because he mindfully pushes himself and those around him to break boundaries, be better, explore more, and achieve more. For all these reasons, I love him and am just as thrilled to do life with him today as I was two years ago.

When I said I would follow him to the moon, he asked me if I really wanted to go to the moon.


In true Adam fashion, he responded,

“Yeah… but what about Mars?”

Happy Anniversary Baby! #bestpowellsforlife Today and forever and all the way to Mars.

The Fathers Who Are More

In my haste to find the perfect Father’s Day card at the last minute this morning, I went to CVS and read every card still in the stands. Struck by the quips and cartoons, I found that the messages on most covers relegated Dads to stereotypes and a basal list of responsibilities. If taken as true, what I was left to believe about Dads from my morning at CVS was this…

  • Dads mow grass.
  • Dads fire up the grill.
  • Dads like power tools and muscle cars.
  • Dads love dogs.
  • Dads are really happy when they have control of the TV remote.
  • Dads are even happier if they can drink beer and have control of the remote.
  • Dads are happiest though, if you let them nap and do nothing.
  • Dads really like to nap.

Sure, there are the sentimental cards with less satire and more cursive, but in my humble opinion, most are full of fluff and void of sincerity.

No card seemed worthy, because what I believe about a Father’s significance is so much more.  Their value extends beyond any honey-do list, and their identity cannot be summed up in their hobbies. From a lucky daughter’s perspective, their role is vital to happy families and healthy communities.

If I should start writing cards, I would celebrate these messages.

  • Dads are heroes.
  • Dads laugh with their kids and make their kids laugh.
  • Dads are continually learning.
  • Dads make sacrifices for their children.
  • Dads ensure their kids know that they are beautiful, handsome, capable, treasured.
  • Dads make their kids believe that the world is their oyster.
  • Dads are leaders in their families.
  • Dads teach their kids to dream. Nothing is impossible to Dads.
  • Dads take their kids on adventures and make adventures out of the ordinary.
  • Dads enjoy life and living it well with their family.

I have a book in my head about a Father’s role, specifically the one they play to their daughters, but today I just want to say Happy Father’s Day to the heroes out there.

I hope you felt celebrated while sipping your drinks of choice and enjoying your favorite pastimes, but we celebrate you for being more. Never underestimate your value to your children. You are irreplaceable.

Happy Father’s Day.

Why It’s Been 8 Months Since I’ve Posted

When I started Living Unencumbered in April 2015, I made the tag line: Building a Life with Freedom.

I laugh at that a bit now. Freedom is what we had and determined to protect, but as the months passed, what we were missing more than freedom and free time was purpose. It is purpose that we craved, purpose in our desire to contribute to a greater good or affect an exponential number of people.

In our first post, we defined Living Unencumbered as eliminating the superfluous things that prevent you from dreaming of what you want to do and doing what you dream. That’s still pretty good actually, but after a year since the blog’s creation, my wiser self would emphasize the need for purpose. Today I define Living Unencumbered as the freedom to pursue your purpose, as opposed to merely reacting to the conditions and circumstances the world gives you. The truest freedom lies in our ability to pursue purposes that bring joy and ultimately, satisfaction.

I stopped writing because I lost purpose, or rather lacked purpose from the start. The prospect of rebuilding a life is entertaining, but when life became monotonous and routine, I didn’t feel I had anything noteworthy share. So while I could have written about mundane updates on our life in the meantime, after belaboring our sob story, I was waiting for that piece of news that said, “Everything is working out!” I was expecting it.

Living Unencumbered was inspired by life-changing circumstances, but every post does not need to deliver life changing news in order be engaging. While my story will always influence my writing, I don’t always have to be the subject. This is a huge relief.  

So moving forward, I will write with new purpose. I will write with a unique perspective, about observations of life during our adventures and pursuit of purpose. I will write to share small victories and lessons learned along the way. I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the world just as effectively as sharing news of my world. As long as I am challenging myself, I believe that I will have some words, of some value, to someone, somewhere.

So thank you to those who have asked where I’ve been. I have been so encouraged by your interest, and look forward to continuing the conversation.

A Birthday Poem

Apparently you cannot skip your birthday. September 21st was mine, and I wanted to  defer until next year. I’m 28 and officially in my ‘upper twenties’. No, I don’t think 28 is old, but beyond the fine lines that continue to creep in around my eyes, what have I gained from 27? Living in the meantime is beautiful in concept, but trying in practice.

As my birthday approached, I did not feel like my usual festive and celebratory self. I was channeling Eeyore more than Birthday Princess.  So Mom, knowing my heart, wrote the happiest birthday poem combining the words of Dr. Seuss and Jesus like only she can. My family and friends’ birthday love was just the pep rally that I needed to make an attitude shift.

I have been sitting on the sidelines since April, waiting, watching, and wishing since we moved to Greenville. I have blamed displacement for feeling sullen and slow, but sullen and slow was so 27.  My new year has spurred in me a new attitude, and I am excited to get back into the game.

Disclosure: Liz does not play sports. It is just an analogy.

Happy or not, Birthday or not, Mom’s poem is too good not to share.

In Dr. Seuss’ book Oh The Places You’ll Go

He doesn’t tell us how fast or how slow.

For everyone’s journey is uniquely their own.

Some seek adventure while others choose home.

You just want “to be awesome” – a reasonable request.

Consider these questions…Will you pass the test?

Do you work hard, play hard, are you committed and true?

Determined and disciplined, pay your bills when they’re due?

Do you love Jesus, justice, people and puppies?

Republicans, democrats, hipsters and yuppies?

Do you encourage others, inspire them to be more?

Hear opportunity knocking, and open the door?

Do you use the good in each moment – Trusting God’s in control?

Are you eternally grateful, feeling blessed…If so…

I’d say you’ve done it – you’re even better than best!

You’re AWESOME (fill in your name)

You passed the test!

Now, rest in the knowledge you’re forever loved.

He who knows you best is watching from above.

More than (your bff) , Dad, You or me

He loves you, died for you, and wants you to succeed!

So lay down your worries, impatience, concerns,

Give it all to Him, and then, in return –

Live each day, each moment, relieved from life’s care.

Live life in abundance so His joy you can share.

Oh, the places you’ve been – Oh the places you’ll go.

Relax, No worries – Cause you know – He knows!

In the Meantime. . .

Hello again. It has been too long, and I have struggled through writing this for no less than eight weeks. It’s been difficult because I have no great revelation to share. No life-changing epiphany as to our future plans. I think I kept waiting for it to come, but if I wait for the perfect plan to fall from heaven, I may never write again and would miss all the beauty in the meantime. I have struggled with that – finding beauty in the meantime. So fair warning: this is not written to inspire but to inform. Maybe together we’ll learn something along the way.

Adam asked me this morning if I thought Charles (my Dad) loved him less since he wasn’t providing for me financially. I replied with no emotion, “I’m not sure”. Fully aware of how much Adam needs verbal affirmation, I knew this would drive him nuts, but I also know that Charles adores Adam, and that this chapter is merely that – a chapter.

Basically, Adam is a boss. If I told him at every opportunity how great he was, his head would inflate until he blew away. On June 3rd, Adam was accepted to a program called The Founder Institute. Founded by Adeo Ressi (Elon Musk’s college roommate for your daily trivia), the program’s first Greenville chapter launched this summer, marking their 100th city where the program is active. Talk about good timing. Adam was reading about this program in March while we were still in North Dakota. Little did we know we would be in Greenville and he would be available to participate. After bizarre and tormenting personality and aptitude tests, Adam was not only accepted to the program but awarded the Veteran’s Fellowship. Since July, he’s been leading his team of other participants through the weekly challenges of building revenue models, perfecting his pitch, branding his business, and surveying his market.

The Founder Institute’s strength is stepping entrepreneurs through the process of building their ideas into a business. Their track record for successful businesses launched under their supervision is impressive, but it is not guaranteed. This is just the beginning! We are currently accepting all prayers on our behalf.

And me, well… I envy those who have strong convictions and clear direction for what they want to accomplish in life. I know the path is winding, but so many people at least have an end goal that drives them – whether it is to be a fashion designer, Fortune 500 CEO or stay-at-home-Mom. But what if you just want to be awesome? What if being the best version of yourself is the end goal? What yellow brick road leads you there?

My first pursuit since North Dakota was Interior Design. I toured the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with dreams of study dates with my sister who is pursuing a degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Inside the classrooms of SCAD’s design building in Savannah’s historic district, desks were covered with floor plans and cardboard house models built by hand. Bulletin boards were full of actual pins and clippings of each student’s inspiration for their project. It was like Pinterest in real life. My respect for the profession was made new when I realized that Interior Design is just as much science as it is art. Their skill set is more closely aligned to architecture than décor. Maybe this is common knowledge, but it was eye-opening to me. To be the professional designer that I was imagining, I needed to start from square one, but I don’t want to start from square one. I want to capitalize on the experience the Navy gave me and utilize skills that I’ve already practiced and proven.

In June, I began working for a property management company based out of Georgia with real estate throughout the Southeast. They have mastered the art of revitalizing historic buildings into luxurious living spaces and giving new construction the character that is starved from most complexes today. Their team is top-notch, and I have learned a new dynamic of management in this largely complaint-driven industry. I’m working part-time now to focus on other opportunities, but while this position is temporary, I will forever have the best recommendations if anyone is looking for a new home in Greenville, Spartanburg, or Asheville!

In the meantime, my head has been everywhere. I’m pursuing opportunities in the corporate, small business and real estate worlds as well as opportunities for higher education. I was excited about law school for approximately 3 hours before realizing my desire was not actually to practice law but to be intellectually stimulated. I have looked into various MBA programs, and most recently, I’m seriously considering an MFA in creative writing where the end goal is writing a novel. Who am I kidding – The end goal is to win the Pulitzer Prize. A girl can dream J

While Adam is on his way to big things, for me, living unencumbered + 4 months of soul-searching no longer feels liberating. It feels more like anxiety. It feels like being a mouse in a maze of tall hedges trying to determine which way is out. It feels like the pendulum has swung and now the lack of a plan or a focus is itself encumbering.

I want more than anything to pour myself into something that excites – Not just for the purpose of earning a living but for earning a purpose while living.

So I warned you. This story does not have a spectacular ending. It really has no ending at all, but I’m learning that life isn’t actually about the endings. Isn’t life made up of the moments in the meantime? We anxiously anticipate the next milestone, but it’s the moments in the meantime that are crucial. It’s the moments spent studying that led to your scholarship, and the moments of endless practicing that led to winning the competition. It’s the moments focused on self-improvement that attracted your spouse, and those moments spent parenting that developed your children into adults. Isn’t it the meantime that really matters, while the milestones are merely the result of your efforts? I think so. While I cannot wait to have some sort of plan for my life, I’m learning to pine for tomorrow less and live in the meantime more, because today is too good to miss.

Parting words from a cheesy, throw pillow quote:

Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

We Lost the House

The Real Estate market has always appealed to Adam and me. We want to be investors in Real Estate as well as own our own home, and since we have been in Greenville, we have been shopping for houses to rent, flip, wholesale or call home.   The market in Greenville is ON FIRE, and while that sounds like good news, the bad news is that everyone else is shopping too – People whose pockets are a lot deeper than ours. We’re just the little guys trying to put our savings to good use, but bigwig investors are lurking in the shadows, waiting to sweep up our dreams at every opportunity.

We have walked through approximately ten houses that were listed on MLS. We would see them at 8 am on the morning they were listed, and by 5 pm those same houses either already had several offers or were under contract. People are doing paperwork in driveways on the hood of cars to get their bids in first. In this market, it is imperative to act fast. Blink once, and it’s gone.

Knowing this, we try to look at every house as an education and keep our hopes in line with the market reality. We are learning about ‘comps’, the difference in renovating for the purpose of renting versus living or renting, and the past, present and future stories of various neighborhoods. The more knowledge we can obtain, the better our discernment in choosing an investment and recognizing it’s potential for growth. When the perfect deal pops, we want to seize it. Well, on a Tuesday afternoon not too long ago, the “perfect” deal popped.

Tuesday nights are typically our date nights. Date nights are sacred, so when Adam delicately asked if I wanted to view yet another house instead of our planned picnic, I rolled my eyes and made some comment alluding to, “It better be worth it.” I knew the importance of not waiting until morning. The pictures were promising, and the price was so low, we could actually afford it.

Me: “Baby, if this house is as good as it looks, are we ready to move on it? I don’t want to sacrifice date night for another learning opportunity, but for a home, I might.”

Needless to say, we viewed the property at 7:00 pm, and in minutes, we were hooked. Nestled in between the Brandon Mill (currently being renovated into a multi-use property with loft apartments) and Greenville’s West Village art district, the location is PRIME. Larger than traditional mill homes, it is a 3 bedroom-2 bath with a second floor open loft. With a cottonwood tree adorning the side yard, it sits on a corner lot across from a Baptist church. The street is quiet while being within walking distance to nearby art studios and coffee shops, boutiques and salons. This was a no brainer. Listed for $41,000, we had to get home to draft a contract.

Yep, forty-one thousand dollars was the sticker price. In 2010, it sold for $57,000, and all the comparable properties sold within the last year range from $60k – $90k.

So what’s the catch? No catch, but some things need clarification.

  1. Obviously, we’re not in San Diego anymore!
  2. This is still an “up and coming neighborhood.”
  3. It’s a foreclosure owned by Fannie May, and there are rules.
    • All offers submitted within the first three days will be rejected. Still don’t understand this one, but nevertheless, we waited three days.
    • The first 21 days on the market are reserved for offers from owner occupants. i.e. this is not one to turn around and flip in a month. The buyer must live in it for at least a year. This is an advantage for us, giving the ‘little guys’ a chance, since most likely investors wouldn’t be willing to live in a shanty 3-2.

Ok, bring it Fannie May. We played by the rules, pulled our pennies together, and offered to pay cash, CASH. The DREAM: a world where I get to pick out paint colors, play hostess for parties, purchase a puppy, and NOT PAY A MORTGAGE (clearly the definition of being unencumbered!) Surely, this listing came from heaven and God is just like, giving it to us. Yes. That’s definitely it.

We waited patiently for three days to roll by before our real estate agent submitted our proud offer. Hours later, we were notified that our contract was not the only submission for the property, (shock) and we had until Monday morning at 8:29 am to submit our “highest and best” offer.

Highest and best. Offering the full price in cash was not good enough. Now it’s a gamble. What are we up against? Did they also offer cash? Did they offer more? How much more? We could drive ourselves crazy playing mind games, but there is no way of knowing. We had to evaluate just how much this house was worth to us.

Since the house had to be owner-occupied, we planned to live there for at least a year and then find good renters and hold the house as an asset. Since we would be the ‘owner-occupants’, all the paperwork would have to be in our name. So even if we wanted to take out a loan to make a significantly higher offer and secure our place in the game, we couldn’t. Banks don’t look favorably on those that are unencumbered (unemployed), so cash was really our only option.

We did the math. At $41k, the house needed some love before it could be move-in ready. After taking our total amount of cash we could liquefy and subtracting the costs of minimal renovation, we took that amount and submitted our ‘highest and best’. If our offer was accepted, we knew that we would still be buying under the market value, and if it was rejected, we could rest easy knowing that we truly offered our best.

Monday came and went. We heard nothing. I needed to know. I was anxious. Did we win the house or not. It felt like a game, and in this market, even more like a gamble. Would we be spending June and July sweating out a house renovation? Painting walls, refinishing wood floors, mowing lawns, and playing with a new puppy??! I was already arranging furniture in my head and setting tablescapes with china that I’ve never been able to use. Unpacking wedding presents for the first time and reuniting with our belongings that we parted with in September – Talk about Christmas in July! We would have a place to call our own for the first time!

Then Tuesday came with an email that read, “Game over. You lose.” Ok… It actually read, “Your offer was rejected, and we won’t know any further details until closing”. But it felt like Game over. You lost the house. The end.

That’s it, the end to our little story. We lost the house, and we don’t know what, where, who or why. We have found that in order to not go insane, we must look at life in all its moments, the wins and the losses, as learning opportunities. We love a good learning opportunity. Here is what we are learning through this experience.

  1. You are not always going to win. Sometimes you lose. Not everyone gets a trophy, because where is the joy in winning if everyone else is doing it? When you do lose, think of every loss as a guiding light leading you to your big win.
  2. You don’t always know what is best for you. (Parents everywhere applaud.) We are merely human and are often misled in our thinking and wanting, and if this hasn’t occurred to you yet, my guess is that you are in middle school or in desperate need of self-reflection. Think about it. I’m sure there has been one instance (or two or twenty) in your life where you thought you wanted something/someone SO MUCH, but then something/someone even better was just around the corner. What we see and know is through such a small scope; Adam and I trust that God sees the bigger picture and actually does know what is best for us. Unfortunately, we do not have a follow-up story to a bigger and better and even more affordable house (yet). This house seemed absolutely perfect for us on paper, but we believe that He’s in control and that His ways are above ours. So we’ll wait for His timing and His direction, and in the meantime I (Liz) will practice patience. My least favorite thing to do.
  3. One fail does not equal a dead-end. Someone once told me that there is always another house. In our case, it’s a house, but whether it’s a job, a trip, or even a relationship, there is always another fill in the blank. Don’t see one disappointment as a dead-end. See it as an opportunity leading you to something different. It is the end of one endeavor, not the end of the world.
  4. Celebrate now and refocus. Finally, when you don’t win the house, the car, the scholarship, the grad school, the girl, whatever it is – Take a deep breath, and celebrate what you do have. Right now. In this moment. We spend so much time wanting more, more, MORE, but thankfulness is the epitome of true joy. So, count your blessings and refocus your efforts. When you do try, try again, you want your energy to come from appreciation, not desperation.

A Day in the Life & How We Afford It

Before we graduated college, we both knew our next steps were onboard Navy destroyers. Before we resigned our commission, we had a 5 year plan: Get married on November 1st, and then make something of ourselves in the oil and gas industry. We have always had a plan and been anxiously looking to the next thing. Adam was so anxious to get to the next thing in North Dakota that even on our honeymoon, it was a chore for him to relax. His body would be eating boeuf bourguignon at a zinc bar in Le Marais, but his mind was in the oil fields, excited to learn about the corporate world and get involved in the company’s growth. You can imagine how this drove me nuts, but nevertheless…What a contrast to our situation now.

We don’t have a definitive plan like we did as we entered the oilfields, but what we do have is Time. And, what is even better is that we can afford to take that time to breathe and think for ourselves. So, What in the world do we do with our days? How could you do the same should you ever find yourself living unencumbered? Well, it’s like this…

A Day in the Life

 Our eyes open to a six o’clock alarm. We wake up slowly, and around 630 eventually muster the strength to put our feet beneath us. We stumble through making our bed and clumsily dress for a run. Lucky us, we live about ½ mile from the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail – 20 miles of pavement alongside railroad tracks and the Reedy River that link Greenville to Traveler’s Rest. I jog, and Adam runs circles around me. We return feeling much more alive than when we began.

 We like to follow our runs with a fresh juice. Kale, carrots, apple and ginger mix into an awful color but a tasty treat. Breakfast is always eggs and bacon, and we sip cappuccino and lattes from our wedding gifted Jura throughout the morning.

By nine o’clock we are showered and show some semblance of being ready for the day. We form blocks of time between 9-12 and 1-5 to be productive. We rotate between shopping for real estate and researching alternate income opportunities. We frequent coffee shops and get to know local business owners. (It’s a dream of Adams to open his own restaurant.) We eat lunch at home and have recently made a habit of walking down to Falls Park to work at outdoor café tables in the afternoons.

In the evenings, we go to various community meetings in efforts to learn more about what makes Greenville tick and the leaders who are making waves. Greenville is happening, y’all! #yeahTHATgreenville

On our most enjoyable evenings, we find ourselves at my dearest in-laws’ house. Their screened-in back porch with globe string lights, fresh flowers and pitchers of mint-sweet tea set the stage for home-cooked-dinners and long, meandering conversations.

Life is not shabby. In fact, it’s lovely, but we are not so ignorant to believe this stage of life can go on forever. We are ready for momentum, but we want to share how many – A Day in the Life – days have been possible, and why we didn’t have to FREAK OUT when we lost our jobs.

Four Steps to Follow Now to be Ready for Whatever Life Throws At You Later

  1. Develop a support system. You CANNOT do it alone. Surround yourself with people who have your best interests in mind, even if your best interests go against the norm. Develop relationships with people that will support you regardless of circumstances. At any time of crisis we should all be able to turn towards our friends or family.
    • Not only does living in Adam’s parents’ apartment free us of a major living expense, but having both of our parents’ support and encouragement as we go through this transition is huge. Monumental. We are fortunate we have our family, but if they were not supportive or close by then we know we have many friends who we could count on if needed.
  1. Eliminate debt. Between college, cars, and credit cards, you’ve got to get rid of it.
    • College – Adam had like 14 scholarships that covered his ride to The Citadel, and I (between my scholarship $ and a Naval Degree Completion Program) was able to pay off my school debt within a year of graduation. Make good grades in high school kids! If you do have college debt, don’t sweat – just make a plan and pay down your smallest balance loans first. Create a debt snowball to increase your success.
    • Cars – Calling all those Thousandaires… Car payments are not cool. I bought my Kia Forte in 2010 and paid it off within two years, and Adam’s car…Well, have you seen #RhondatheHonda??
      #RhondatheHonda in Denver, CO.

      #RhondatheHonda in Denver, CO.

      • Adam bought his ’93 Accord in 2005 for $3500, and it WILL NOT DIE. As much as Adam obsesses over planes, trains and automobiles, he has always valued not having a car payment and that discipline is paying off now. Thank God for #RhondatheHonda.
      • If you do have a car payment, look for ways to pay more than the minimum payment. At best, pay it off in less than 6 months OR sell it now and buy a different set of wheels with cash. Poof! A monthly bill could disappear!
    • Credit Cards – Girls – You know that even if it’s a SALE, you’re still spending money, right?! If you cannot pay off your credit card at the end of the month, something has to change.
      • This is still an everyday battle for us as we have to monitor our expenditures monthly. We dream of the lifestyle where we can spend casually, but your 20’s and 30’s is not the time (unless you’re the Elon Musk type). Make the sacrifices now, and get AHEAD of your finances instead of endlessly trying to play catch up.
  2. Minimize living expenses. Reduce your living expenses to increase your living experiences. Take a look at your credit card statement. Where is your money going, exactly? I bet you have auto drafted expenses being drawn from your accounts that are NOT necessary.
    • Adam and I were forced to make cut backs to reduce our living expenses, but don’t wait to be forced. Lighten your load of recurring charges.
    • A few examples…
      • Reduce your cell phone, cable and internet bills. We combined two phone bills into one, lowered our data plan and committed to using wi-fi more. This is saving us over $80/mo.
      • Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions. Like our subscription to a monthly credit report, $12/mo.
        • What about Netflix/ Amazon Prime/ Spotify/Hulu/ HBO GO/ Sports Packages and Cable? Do you need them ALL? I canceled my Netflix and saved $8/mo.
        • (Note that just with these three simple examples, we are saving $100/mo and $1200/yr!)
        • Another option is to cancel cable and get a cool digital antenna like this one. We can get our fix with ABC, NBC, CBS and a total of 30 FREE Channels, but I should note that this success only applies if you are living in the developed world. We tried this same antenna in North Dakota and had only marginal success with 2 botched channels.
  3. Automate Savings. This is the real kicker. We saved the best for last, but this is where you should start (if you haven’t already). Set up an auto draft from your checking to a savings account and ALWAYS pay yourself first. Shoot for 10 percent of your income. If that’s not doable, start anywhere.
    • As you eliminate expenses and debt, turn that newfound “income” towards your savings until you hit the 10% mark. Once your 10% savings is in fully-automated swing, switch your focus to paying down your debts. After your debt is paid, start looking into other investment opportunities before increasing your living expenses.
    • Warning: This is not easy or without sacrifice. You have to commit to focusing on your goals, but I promise the reward is WORTH IT. We cannot stress this enough. Despite all of our other advantages, we would not be able to afford our current flexibility if we hadn’t individually and faithfully saved our money.
    • What we did well: Adam moved from his 2 bed 2 bath apartment downtown San Diego to sub-lease one room and one bathroom from a friend. This enabled him to save and invest an average of 50% of every paycheck during his last two years in San Diego. Automating our savings for 4 years allowed for us to pay for our wedding and a 3 week European honeymoon, contribute to multiple investments and an “Emergency 6 Month Living Expenses” account.
    • Where we went wrong: We took too much comfort in our supposed job security, and by the time we were let go, we had not recovered a full six months of expenses. Learn from our mistakes, and don’t assume anything. No one is watching out for you, like YOU. Are you taking care of yourself and your future?

There is a quote that I love, “Self-discipline is the ultimate freedom”, and these beautiful “Days in the Life” have been made possible by these set disciplines. It’s a new day!, as I like to tell Adam in the mornings, and we welcome it with open arms, feeling in control and ready for whatever life brings us.