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Sunday, January 24, 2016

#oneword365 :: Optimism

I have been doing the One Word 365 challenge now for 4 years and it has had a more powerful impact on my life than I would have imagined when I first started. In just a few words, here has been my experience over the last four years.

2012: Simplify - I could not have picked a better year for this theme. I had just returned from several months living in India with an excessive amount of stuff. Literally (and embarrassingly) two 75 pound bags and a 50 pound bag. Too much. It all worked out in the end but made my life so much more stressful. At the beginning of 2012, I was moving to Africa for four months. I packed only the bare minimum into my bags, set a strict budget, rationed my American food, and diligently tracked calories and fitness in my fitness pal. My life changed dramatically during my time in Mali - not just due to the things I mentioned above, it was also the incredible people I spent my time with and humbling circumstances. What better way to learn to simplify than from the people of Africa? I came home, cleaned out of all of my stuff I didn't need and moved forward. I got my first job and saved money. My life felt so much lighter. I feel relief just writing this.

2013: Self-Love - This year I learned to embrace both body and mind. I learned to better love my personality, my spirit, my body, my perspective. This was so much harder than I could have imagined but as I learned to accept myself with Rheumatoid Arthritis and love the crazy, stubborn, busy Liz, it made life a little easier. 

2014: Enough - I learned to stop comparing myself {still learning} and love who I am today. I read a lot of Brene Brown and did a lot of meditation. I figured out my limits and learned to say no. 

2015: Thrive - I struggled this year. I do not feel that I truly lived up to my "one word" but it did help me to stay focused on certain goals throughout the year as I made decisions on how to use my time. I did receive a promotion at work and we purchased our first home so I think I thrived this year, just in different ways than I expected.

Now for 2016. It has taken me weeks to decide on this year's word (obviously since it is now the last week of January). But here it is:
After coming across the Optimist Creed again, it kept coming back to me again and again. And finally, I realized this was my word for the year: Optimism. I am generally an optimistic person so this may seem an odd choice but it fits so perfectly with my life right now. As you know, I love adventure and challenge and change. As we have been settling into life a little more (particularly after buying our first home), I have struggled to be content and to be happy in the here and now. I often find myself looking back on my life even 2 or 3 years ago and how different things were. As much as I miss certain times of my life, there are so many better things ahead. Like many of us, I find myself at times discouraged with work, finances, relationships, and so many "things to do" {that may not feel as meaningful to me} that I struggle to stay optimistic. So, here is to a beautiful year of optimism. I want to feel enthusiastic and excited about every aspect of life. I want to share that optimism with others.

Read the Optimist Creed for yourself and see.

Buying a Home {for first-timers}

How to Buy a Home

Buying a home was so much easier than I ever imagined it would be. Ideally, you do want anywhere from a 3-10% down payment but if the market is good for buying, look into your options! You never know what will be available to you.

Here is the process simplified (from our perspective):
  1. Find a Real Estate Agent and Loan Officer - we loved working with Jen Kirchhoefer of Ascent Real Estate and Jan Hassell of Academy Mortgage.
  2. Find out how much you qualify for and loan interest rates, then determine what range and monthly mortgage you are comfortable with - your Loan Officer will help you with us
  3. Look for homes with your Real Estate Agent - think about what area and schools you want, more residential or commercial? Size of home? Year of home? Layout of home, etc. The more you share with your Real Estate Agent, the better they can narrow down your options as you go out searching - for us, this last one day when we looked at 16 homes, sometimes people will look at the market multiple times over several months to find the right now
  4. When you find your dream home, make an offer - this is when you go "under contract" - in your contract, there is an added stipulation where you can withdraw your offer without any penalty until you receive the results from the inspection. You typically have 30 days from the time you make an offer until you close on the home. Again, your real estate agent helps you work through all the details of the contract. 
  5. You will receive disclosures from the current owner regarding what they know about the history of the home, big repairs/rennovations, etc. You can use this to think of question to ask the inspector (see #6). 
  6. Get a home inspection (~$350 out of pocket) - this is when you learn more about the foundation of the home, plumbing, electrical, and any potential challenges - ask lots of questions because you will want to know as much possible about your new home! If your realtor does not do this for you, I also strongly encourage you to have someone look at the sewer/water line. I would also recommend you try to be there for most of, or at least the end of, the home inspection if possible to ask question and check things out with the inspector. 
    1. Regardless of what you know about the home, but especially over a decade or two old, I recommend a drug test, just to be safe. 
    2. If there is anything that you feel should be fixed before you buy the home, your real estate agent will put together an addendum to your contract to have those things fixed before you close on the home. For us, this included fixing the dishwasher and disposal, a couple of electrical outlets, and based on small traces of meth found in our furnace we asked for the furnace and ducts to be cleaned and another drug test completed. If we had any concerns after the 2nd drug test, we could have still withdrawn our offer. 
  7. Start the loan approval process (simultaneously with the inspection). You will provide lots of documentation to your lender. Once they have all the documentation they need, they will then send to the underwriter for approval. This process usually takes about 2 weeks, depending on the lender (and how fast you get them the documentation).
  8. Schedule the final walk through once the seller has confirmed items on the addendum are complete. 
  9. Once your loan is approved and the house is ready to move in, you can close on the house. This is really about an hour-long meeting with you, your real estate agent, loan officer, and the title agent (we loved working with Dawna Hendricks at First American Title). The title agents responsibility is essentially to distribute all of the money to the seller/buyer as applicable based on the settlement statement of transactions. 
  10. Move in! And start saving for little projects around your home :) There will be plenty!
It is really that simple. I hope you find this process just as easy for you. We had the best experience (although we did get a little impatient waiting ;)). 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Portraits :: Happy New Year!

On New Year's Eve, we drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon and took a few photos on self-timer with our 50mm lens. I love how these turned out. It's so fun to look back and remember I was about 15 weeks pregnant at that time. It was freezing but worth it. Such a beautiful day!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

{Megan and Ryan} Engagement Photoshoot

This is one of my all-time favorite photoshoots. The light was amazing and the scenery was breathtaking. We drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon early on a Saturday afternoon in December. It was freezing but so worth it. Megan is one of my colleagues and she is the sweetest. Her and Ryan are so perfect together and I am so excited for their upcoming June wedding! 

Year in Review :: {2015}

2015 has been full of so many beautiful adventures. It was a year of growth, success, and most importantly, lots of love. It will be hard to beat but I have a feeling the best is yet to come in 2016.

Our year in a nutshell:

Snowshoeing in Jackson Hole • Mesa Verde, Moab & Arches • Zion & Bryce Canyon for Valentine's • Lake Tahoe & San Francisco • Met my goal to complete the Southern Utah Half in under 2 hours • Ogden Half with Avee for her first time • Lots of Hiking up Big & Little Cottonwood • Canyoneering the Subway in Zion for my 24th • New York & Philly • Camping and hiking Ben Lomond • Twinner birthdays with Grandad & Avee & Glacier National Park {new favorite!} • Celebrating our 2nd Anni • Braden graduated and started a new job at Gartner • Mountain Wedding in Denver with Dear Friends • Buying Our First Home • Lexi started her mission in Guate • Autumn in Jackson Hole • Braden's trip to Florida • Canyoneering Boultergeist in St. George with Brew (Bryn & Drew) • I was promoted at work • and so much more!