Do you ever step back and wonder how you got to where you are? From where did you start? How far have you gone? If you ever feel lost, taking some time to reflect on your journey can help you see how far you have come.
Sam and I met in an entry level Nuclear Engineering class our second year at RPI. I was in Navy ROTC and was committed to serving in the Navy after I had my degree. He was contemplating either a double major or getting a Bachelors and a Masters degree in his 4 years there. We had plans. We became friends. But then my mother’s life was taken by ovarian cancer. He was there for me in my grief. He was willing to get dirty and be in my messy life. He loved me when he didn’t have to. So we dated, got engaged, skip ahead… and we decided to get married right after we graduated. I mean, ONE week later. But my orders arrived and we were going to be moving from the northeast to San Diego, California.
Before Sam and I were into real estate, I served as an officer in the U.S. Navy (surface fleet) and he was a researcher and engineer in the nuclear field. We both enjoyed our careers, but we also both hoped to have a large family. While I served, we chose to rent and to live on one salary. We planned to save the other salary for our future home. We drove dependable used cars, we lived in a modest 2 bedroom apartment (OK, it was only 3 blocks from the beach), but overall, we tried to make wise decisions with our finances. We still went out to eat with friends, or to grab a delicious Greek gyro or double burger merely walking distance from our place, but we didn’t party and drink every weekend like some of our single friends.
I served as the machinery division officer aboard my first ship and met so many incredible people. I earned all of my entry qualifications aboard USS RUSHMORE. We did tsunami disaster relief in 2004, we did a Persian Gulf tour defending Iraqi oil platforms, we visited different parts of the world from Hawaii to Bahrain, U.A.E to Australia. I learned so much. My second tour I served as Navigator of the USS GARY, which was forward deployed out of Yokosuka, Japan. For my collateral duty, I was the Public Affairs Officer. We were always on mission and I loved my job!
The time came when I had to decide if I was going to stay in for my next tour, a shore tour, or if I was going to submit my letter of resignation. I feared that I would not be able to give 100% to the Navy, 100% to our marriage, and 100% to our family and be exemplary in all. I sought out female leaders in the Navy (Commanders, Captains and Admirals) to learn how they balanced it all. The examples I desperately hoped to find did not exist. I couldn’t find women with three or more kids, who were still married, who were also in Naval leadership. That helped me make my final decision to leave the Navy. I chose to make our family the priority. Raising children is not a side job for me– I wanted to be the one training and correcting, snuggling and cheering, the one forming those moral values, and the one wiping their tears. We were blessed with our first child in June 2008. Then another about a year and a half later, then another two years after that. It was around this time that Sam was learning more and more about the real estate market. It was a hobby for him to go online and see what was available on the market. I was fully immersed in mama life and I was loving it, most of the time.
We were blessed with three amazing little people before we experienced our two miscarriages. Those losses wounded us both, losing one baby early just after 6 weeks. Then another loss, but this time at 11-12 weeks. Saying goodbye to a baby that I’d delivered alone in my bathroom shook me deeply.
I made my own health more of a priority, even if it meant getting up before the family to exercise. I found other local moms with similar goals, and we became a support system for each other, in more ways than you know. Meanwhile, Sam started investing in single family homes in the town where he grew up. We bought one for each of our three children at the time, “investing in their education.” We knew we could sell that house if they needed help paying for college. Sam looked for deals, and we used equity from one house to buy another. You may have heard it called the BRRRR method: buy, renovate, rent, refinance, repeat!
We adjusted our strategy to invest in multi-family homes. Sam had run the numbers and we felt the ROI (return on investment) would be better if we invested in smaller multi-families (2, 3, or 4 units). We followed our process, and we even bought a 5-unit residential, which was technically our first commercial investment. Then we bought some commercial space in a couple of other towns on their main streets. Our latest investment was in our hometown and we moved our property management business office into our 30+ unit building. It was scary for me, who has always been more afraid to make the “leaps of faith” in real estate. But Sam knows the market, he does the research, he runs the numbers, and I trust him wholeheartedly.
We survived more loss at the end of 2015 and in early 2016. I lost my dad, who had been unwell for a bit. Then we lost Sam’s mom (and my second mother) in a hit and run car accident. She was standing at her own mailbox when a (distracted? tired? drunk? high?) driver crashed into her and kept on driving away. This tragic loss gave everyone in the family a reason to re-evaluate their lives and remember what is truly important… because life here on earth is fleeting.
Our twin babies; are going to be 7 years old soon. Our oldest is in high school. We are doing life, and a lot of it with them right now. So what is next? We’ve never done vacation rentals or short-term rentals before. Maybe we will expand in that direction? Or maybe we will look for larger unit residential or other commercial real estate? Whatever direction we head, we will be leaping in together, as partners. And what more could we pass on to our littles?