In countless homes across the country and around the world, there are millions of people working from home, including students. Managing both your own workload and possibly your children’s, you may be at a loss when it comes to ensuring productivity whilst working from your home and with a television across the room and no boss or teacher hovering, distraction comes easily.  Here are some tips to create a space that enables productivity!

1. Light up your space!

Letting in as much natural light as possible to your at-home work space is the first step to making a better place to get things done. Your body works best with natural light because of circadian rhythms, which tell your brain to be awake and productive when natural light is around you. Natural light will help you feel alert and the vitamin D you will get from opening those windows will help boost your immune system.

2. Add minimalist decor!

You don’t want to crowd your work space, but it is important to decorate your space in a way that you will enjoy. Having a clean, organized space with a few quirks that will make you smile – like a favorite photo.  Make sure any items you will need, like pens and highlighters, are within reach, so you are more motivated to stay put! There’s a fabulous blog post here which will give you more ideas on how to make this work:

3. Make your work space only a work space.

It is important to train your brain to differentiate when it is time to work and when it is not. When we drive to work or school, it is natural for us to switch into ‘working’ mode, but when we work from home, it is hard to get into that mode. By only sitting in your work space when it is time to get things done, you will train your brain to be more productive when you are in that space.

4. Manage your cell phone use.

While you may need your phone to make work calls or check in with your teacher, it is important to set boundaries and stick to them. If you find yourself constantly wanting to scroll through social media instead of getting work done, try download an app that will limit your social media access each hour. If you don’t need your phone for work or school, try keeping it in a box across the room.  There are some great apps listed on this blog post:

If 2020 is the year for you to buy a home, consider making these 5 New Year’s resolutions to help you be as prepared as possible to become a homeowner.

1. Cut down on monthly subscriptions.

With each month, there is a new subscription service out there. What starts as convenience turns into an endless list of subscriptions that we often don’t use enough to justify the costs. Sit down and go through your monthly/yearly subscriptions and cancel whatever you don’t use. Set aside that extra money with the rest of your savings so your down payment can continue to grow.

2. Build a better credit history.

Paying bills on time and paying off debts will help create a solid credit history. Make sure you have some utilities or rent in your name so that you can pay them on time and continue to build a solid credit history.

3. Avoid changing careers.

Alongside income, your employment history will be a major factor during your mortgage application evaluation. While a new job could be a good career move, most evaluators are looking for a steady job history with little to no gaps in your employment over the last few years.

4. Check your credit.

If you don’t know where your credit is at currently, now is the best time to check. Most credit sites will tell you what is impacting your credit, and you can use those tips to change your choices heading into the new year. If large debts are negatively impacting your credit, get started on a pay off plan so your score can improve in the new year.

5. Avoid large purchases.

Your debt-to-credit ratio makes a major impact on your mortgage approval. If you buy a brand new car or fund a large vacation, that ratio could sway in the wrong direction. If you want your lender to be willing to give you the maximum amount possible, make sure you aren’t making any large purchases heading into the new year.

This fall I had the honor of Photographing the wonder Leslie and her family, including both her and her husband’s mother.  It was such a fun session and I rubbed my hands together gleefully as I ran off with my camera and a whole bunch of photos to edit!  Leslie, you have a beautiful family.  Thank you for letting me photograph you all!

Sharing here some of my favorites.

If you’re getting ready to buy a home, you’re likely realizing that one of the most critical parts of the process is getting approved for a mortgage that works for you. To get the best rate, and avoid losing your deposit, steer clear of these common mistakes.

Leaving out details from your financial profile.

The best way to avoid doing this is by having a great mortgage lender. Making sure you include not only your basic information, employment and living history, income, assets, and debts but also ensuring you answer every single question. Leaving details out of your profile can throw off the entire process, so having someone who is meticulous enough to make sure all your information is made available is key.

Assuming pre-approval is equal to actual approval.

Pre-approval for a mortgage means that you’ve talked to a potential lender or maybe even provided some documentation that gave the impression that you will be approved for a certain amount. Don’t be confused – this is not an actual approval. You need to make sure an underwriter approves your loan before making any offers to buy a home. When you are “underwriting approved” you will be able to get a formal loan commitment. Without this document, there is no proof of actual approval, meaning that your profile has been evaluated but nothing official to show approval.

Failing to provide every single piece of documentation needed.

Your lender is going to want very detailed documentation of your financial profile, including the following:

  • Pay stubs covering 30 days

  • 2 of tax returns & W-2s

  • YTD business financial statements (if you’re self-employed)

  • 2 months of statements for all your asset accounts

  • Explanations and paper trails of all deposits withdrawals over $1,000

  • A home insurance quote with adequate coverage

  • Full financial information on any other homes/businesses you own

You will need to provide all these documents, and if you have a commissioned or variable income, you will need to give permissions to your lender to verify that income. Your credit will be run, which can expose any information you didn’t disclose.

Not knowing enough about mortgage rates.

Once a seller accepts your offer, you will be in contract on that home, and you will be ready to lock in your mortgage rate. You cannot lock your rate until you’re in contract, which means that any rate market movement can impact you until then. Rates change throughout each day, and they are priced based on how long they are locked. A shorter lock, about a month or less, will have a lower rate than a lock of 60+ days. If you want to avoid any surprises, talk to your lender and ask them to use your closing timeline to quote rate locks.

I attend Weight Watchers.  I’ve been with Weight Watchers, on and off, for most of the past 30 years.  I’ve lost weight, and I’ve gained it back many times over those 30 years.  My husband, being a smart ass, says it’s because my goal has always been to lose weight, and when you lose something, you invariably find it again eventually and that I should try, instead, to get rid of it.  Ha!

That has absolutely nothing to do with the epiphany I had this weekend after the meeting!  The discussion at the meeting was about finding your ‘why.’  Now, your ‘why‘ has to be more than just wanting to be thin or wanting to look better in clothes or even simply wanting to be healthier; it has to be something that will hold you to your goal and help you stay the path when the going gets tough.  My ‘why,’ back in February, was to be alive for my kids in the coming years.

Around that time, I had laid in bed one evening and wondered if the pain running across my back and down my arm was my having a heart attack. I didn’t do anything about it and fell asleep instead.  Thankfully, I woke up the next morning and resolved to do better.  Over the coming months, even though I was failing at tracking my points, we all began eating better.  I’m not a fan of processed foods anyway.  I don’t cook with cans of soup, I make a roux and add wine! Ha!

Towards May, I started logging my points again, and I lost 16lbs before I stopped tracking.  I am terrible at tracking.  I hate it.  I don’t know why, I just hate it.   It’s now October, and I am still 16lb’s down and am very proud of that status quo.

Back to the epiphany.  My amazing leader, Deb, had us think about our ‘why‘ again and where we see ourselves in the future, and I saw myself where I wanted myself to be; somewhere high in the mountains, healthy and fit, looking out at some spectacular view.  That’s what I want.  In that moment, I realized getting there has nothing to do with my weight, and it has everything to do with my personal fitness.  If I can maintain without doing anything in the way of exercise, I can lose weight just by getting my backside out of my chair and moving more.

On Tuesday, I did 30 lengths of the pool.  I did the same on Wednesday, and this morning I had an appointment with a trainer at the YMCA who set me up with a workout plan.

Funny thing though, on Wednesday evening I went out with a big group of ladies to this lovely Italian restaurant for dinner and I didn’t want to eat anything heavy, so I ordered a salad.  I never order the salad. I only had two small slices of the bread too.  I did have a bite of my friend’s chocolate cake dessert too, but that’s okay.  I’m getting healthy.  I’m making better choices for my body. My goal is not to be thin, but to be strong and healthy. I want to feel strong again!  I’d love to get thin as a side effect of being healthy, but my goal is longevity through health and fitness!!

So, that was my epiphany.

Featured image by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

The beginning…

When I’m never sure where to start with a story, I always default to the beginning, and the beginning of this story is about 12 years ago when Alex was just a toddler.

He was a beautiful happy, laughing baby, but the terrible two’s were off the chain.  I mean, I wasn’t a newbie parent. I’d run this road before with Tom, but Alexander was a whole different ballgame.  His tantrums were epic; like head spinning, possessed by a demon, epic.  John and I didn’t know what to do, so we just kept on keeping on and waited out the terrible two’s and then we all know that the three’s are way worse than the two’s, and I just kept on praying for him to turn four and grow out of it.

But he didn’t.  Four rolled around, and he was still hell on wheels.  I remember buckling him into his car seat, and he’s kicking like a mule and screaming and closing the door on the sound (the old Chrysler Pacifica had fantastic soundproofing) and leaning up against the door wondering what I had done wrong whilst the muted sounds of his screams and the rocking of the car continued unabated.

I spent time researching and trying to figure out what we could do.  I read all the books on how to help my ‘strong-willed child,’ but what I didn’t know then was what we really needed was a diagnosis.  He is such a smart child and had a miserable time of it in Kindergarten because he was extremely bored.  We had him assessed, and in First Grade he went into an all gifted class and was back to being the animated and excited child we knew he could be.  He had no troubles at all in school, which on the one hand was fabulous, but on the other left us wondering what we were doing wrong.  It wasn’t until he was around nine years old that we got the diagnosis that started to change everything for the better.

A change of scenery and a diagnosis…

We had moved to Maryland, and Alexander was back in a regular classroom and sadly back to being bored at school again.  He was doing okay but was definitely not as happy as he had been at his old school.  Then, at Christmas, a child in his grade passed from cancer.  Alex did not know him, but the stories the school told the children in their counseling triggered something in him.  He developed an extreme case of separation anxiety and panic whenever we went to school.  He would scream and kick and cry all the while we were trying to walk him into the school.  It was heartbreaking and horrifying, and we finally sought the help of a psychiatrist.  It was here he was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The Anxiety made sense based on his current behaviors, but OCD?  I mean, that was washing hands all the time, right? Well, that’s part of it, but only a small part with Alex.  He had started opening doors with his T-Shirt rather than his hands, and he did wash his hands all the time, but nothing excessive like you imagine when people talk of OCD.  The thing about OCD that most people don’t understand is that it’s primarily an inflexibility of thought.  Your brain makes a decision and changing it is incredibly hard, if not impossible.

He did fine in school in Florida because he knew the structure of every day and the rules were quite strict and disciplined and that worked wonderfully with Alex. People didn’t follow the rules, and they got into trouble. Exactly how it should be.  When we moved to DC, the school wasn’t as strict, and they would tell the children that they weren’t allowed to do something, but then not reprimand them when they ignored the rules.  Alex didn’t deal well with this.  Added to this, his brain had told him that if he went to school something terrible would happen to me, so he would fall into an extreme panic whenever we went to school, and he couldn’t shut it down.  We did eventually, but it took time and patience and a lot of tears.

The most significant change to our family though was learning that all of Alex’s outbursts and tantrums were due to unexpected changes in his routine.  What I had put down to him being strong-willed and uncooperative, was Alexander freaking out because we were mixing up his schedule.  I would tell him to get his shoes on because we were going to the store, and an epic meltdown would ensue.  After an education into how Alex’s brain functioned, a simple modification changed everything.   Whenever we knew something was coming up or if I thought I might have to go somewhere, I would give him a heads up.  Example: “Hey, Alex.  This weekend we are going grocery shopping tomorrow at some point and then we might be heading over to X’s house either on Saturday Night or Sunday”.  It was ridiculously simple, but life-changing.  I’d give him another hour warning when it was actually happening so he could mentally prepare himself for the change, and he’d, for the most part, come along begrudgingly (I mean, he’s still a kid! What kid wants to grocery shop!?), but calm.

It’s okay to ask for help…

There is more to this story, but this is a good stopping point for now.  He wasn’t suddenly the perfect child, and we still had lots to learn in ways that we could help Alex work through and work with his OCD, but that’s another story.  My reason for posting this is that if your child is acting out and seems to be more extreme than most, don’t struggle through on your own.  There is help out there and perhaps even a diagnosis that can bring some answers and support your way.  You don’t lose parent points for asking for help!

Featured image by Hisu lee on Unsplash

So you’re ready to put your home on the market and to you, everything looks great. Unfortunately, much of the wear and tear on your home becomes unnoticeable when it is something you see every day. While you may not think about the one light switch that doesn’t work or the chipping paint in the guest bedroom, now is the time to take a step back and look at your home with fresh eyes. When you decide to sell your home, the first thing you should do is make any repairs you can to save yourself money in the long run. Here are a few repairs to cross off so you can get the best deal for your home!

1. Paint Your Walls

Re-painting the rooms that need a fresh face is the cheapest way to update the appearance of your home. Consider using light, neutral colors to appeal to a broader group of buyers. If the room is too dark or has chipped or dirty paint, make it look brand new with a coat of paint.

2. Make Minor Kitchen Repairs

Even if your kitchen isn’t large and spacious, a full renovation might not make sense financially. If your agent doesn’t advise you towards a renovation, consider making minor repairs instead. Paint what needs painted and install new fixtures where necessary. If your appliances aren’t operating properly or are in awful shape, you will need to replace them.

3. Update Your Bathroom

The first priority is making sure your bathroom looks clean. If the toilet looks old, replace the seat to give it a fresh new appearance. Replace any tiles that may be missing, clean the grout, and remove old wallpaper that may still remain. This is a room you should consider painting if need be to make it appear bright and clean.

4. Fix The Exterior

The outside of your home is the first thing buyers will see, so it is important that it looks good. Touch up the yard with sod as needed, remove any junk that may be in the yard, and make sure your fencing doesn’t have any missing parts or boards. Mow your grass and consider renting a power washer to make your siding look brand new.

5. Maximize Lighting

The goal is to maximize light so you can maximize the appearance of space. Light does a great job of making rooms look larger than they are. Update your fixtures, ensure that your windows appear clean and new, and add mirrors across from light sources to reflect even more light.

6. Ensure Functionality

Potential buyers are going to want everything to work. Do a full walk through of your home, checking all light switches, doorknobs, and locks. Repair or replace anything that doesn’t work as it should. The less issues that arise during the buyer’s home inspection, the better chance of you maximizing your profit during the sale.

When you’re preparing to put your house on the market, you are probably already aware that most of the first impressions made on potential buyers will be via your listing photos. It is important to take the time and make sure you are taking photos that will attract those buyers, not send them running. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you make the best of your listing photos and get the attention you want it to have.  Also, don’t over-edit your photos.  You want buyers to enter your home and be excited by what they see, not disappointed because the reality doesn’t match the photos!


  • Make your house look welcoming. A warm entryway and open front door will set the tone for the rest of your images.

  • Consider other perspectives. If you have access to an aerial photographer, having a bird’s eye view photo will help show off your property if you’ve got a great location.

  • Capture the best parts of your home. While you may think skipping certain rooms is the norm, it is better to show off what it is that makes you love your home. Do you have a beautiful garage? Make sure you get great photos of it!

  • Stage your rooms. Make sure potential buyers can see how great your space can be so they can picture themselves in it.

  • Show off the view – if you have one. If you’ve got a beautiful porch where you love to have your morning coffee because of the tree line, make sure you get a photo of that.

  • Take a curb shot. A buyer will want to know what to expect when they pull up to your home, so make sure there aren’t any surprises.


  • Try to get creative with angles. Real estate photography isn’t the time to try out new angles. Your clients will want to know what the home actually looks like, and making it look like there is a landslide with an artsy angle won’t help sell your home.

  • Use a fisheye lens. Extreme fisheye lenses can actually make your home and the rooms inside look smaller, and the distorted images can leave a bad taste in a potential buyer’s mouth.

  • Snag selfies while you’re photographing rooms. Buyers don’t want to see you in listing photos. Make sure you avoid angles that put your full reflection in any photo you use to list your home.

  • Capture the everyday mess of life. While in most cases it is important to show reality, this is the one case where it is key to not capture what your home actually looks like on a day to day basis. Your home should be clean and organized when listing photos are taken because potential buyers may have a hard time picturing themselves living in your home if they can’t look past the mess.

  • Show off your furry children. While there are plenty of pet lovers out there, featuring your pups or kittens will often detract from what your home looks like and lead clients to worry about potential pet damage or smells.

Regular house-hunting isn’t always easy, but adding distance into the mix can present challenges you don’t have when looking a few neighborhoods over for a new home. While it may not be a walk in the park to buy a home from far away, it is possible. If you find a great agent and follow these steps, you can take away some of the stress that comes with moving long-distance.

1. Start Your Research

Knowing what is in your neighborhood is something we tend to take for granted. You know where the best sushi place is and exactly what grocery store is closest to your home for those last-minute runs. When moving to a new neighborhood, especially in a new state, it is key to decide what is important to you when it comes to proximity. Does your new house need to be near a park for your kids? Do you need to be 5 minutes from the closest Starbucks? You’ll also want to look into crime rates and school ratings if you have children. Researching your potential neighborhoods will help you feel better about choosing a new home that may be far away.

2. Use Technology To Your Advantage

Google Maps may not be constantly updated, but checking out an aerial view can give you an idea of what your neighborhood looks like if you don’t have the opportunity to travel right away. Street view, if available, is also wonderful.  You can virtually drive through a neighborhood to see what it’s like.  Find out if that home is typical of all of the homes in a neighborhood, or a diamond in the rough before you plan to go see it! Getting the lay of the land is just another way to feel comfortable about your new neighborhood.

3. Have a Travel Budget

Even if you have a great agent showing you as many homes as possible, you need to plan for the possibility of making more than one trip to your future home state if you want to see it in person. While you may have adjusted your budget already to purchase a home, consider factoring in travel costs so you aren’t stressed about eating out or gas money during your trips – that way you can focus on finding your dream home.

4. Decide Your Non-Negotiables

Choosing a home from out of town already comes with challenges. If you’re heading in to check out houses and have a weekend filled to the brink with potential home tours, it will make your life easier if all of those homes meet your requirements. Instead of seeing all homes that ‘might’ fit, have your agent remove any houses that have a non-negotiable feature – whether that is no backyard or not enough bathrooms. It will make the most of your time and remove some of the stress of seeing homes that aren’t for you.

I will start by saying that my heart almost stopped when the call came in.  I was hard at work selling insurance policies and was on hold on the work phone when “White & Associates” popped up on my cell as an incoming call.  I froze. I actually let it ring about three times before abruptly hanging up the work phone and picking up to Janet.  Her first words were, “We won! John was fully approved”… and I didn’t know what to say other than “That’s great, Thank you”.  I sounded so unexcited in comparison to her obvious glee that I’m sure I was a complete let down!  She ran through the numbers of how much he would be receiving and what our back pay would be and what we had to do to have the children’s benefits added (the kids get a combined additional 50% until they are 18), then I thanked her once more and hung up the phone.

I immediately called John to let him know and his reaction was much the same as mine.  It’s an extremely surreal experience; your whole world has changed and yet nothing has changed, at least that’s how it felt on my end.  After talking with John at home later in the day, the reason for his reaction was nothing like mine.  On the one hand, we desperately needed the result for the income and he was relieved and so grateful for that aspect of the verdict, but an approval to John was also confirmation that he is, in fact, disabled.  We all knew this, but it is now truly official and documented and for him, that was a sad and kind of overwhelming moment.  Overall, yes, this is a fabulous result and we owe Stephanie Murphy a great deal for adding a congressional flag to our file and getting us in so quickly for the hearing.  It’s a sad day when 18 months is quick!  I recommend, if you are in dire straights waiting for a hearing, please contact your Member of Congress and ask for help, it’s in large part what they’re there for.

Disability shouldn’t take so long to be decided.  It’s an absolute travesty and I don’t understand why more people aren’t asking why.  I feel as though there’s a general feeling of “If you don’t really need it, you’ll go find work”, which is just fine if you’re trying to weed out those who really don’t qualify, but when people are genuinely sick and unable to work and they’ve worked their whole lives to pay into Social Security to provide help if this circumstance were to arise, it’s so very hard to survive those years where there is no income.  If John were on his own right now, with his cognitive issues and anxiety, it does not bear thinking to me to wonder what would have happened to him these past two years.  I genuinely believe that he would be dead.  I know that sounds harsh, but without money, you don’t have a roof over your head and John simply would not have survived on the streets.  He’s done it before, but he was different then.  This is the reality for so many people who start the disability process and end up either dead or on the streets before they get to see a judge and that’s so very wrong.  What’s was it Gandhi said?  “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”, and on this I feel this great nation is failing.

Anyway, on that note, now we wait again, for the money to start coming in, to get the final approval letter (that can apparently take a while) and to close this chapter of our lives and move on to the next.

Featured Photo by sarandy westfall on Unsplash