As this year comes to an end, Matt and I have had so much to reflect on. 2016 was truly “the rarest of years,” as we now call it.

In 2016, we:

  • house hunted,
  • got engaged,
  • planned a ceremony,
  • got married,
  • lived in a cramped rental with four men,
  • put together a celebratory backyard bash in honor of our marriage,
  • purchased a multifamily house in need of fixin,
  • inherited the tenants living in our second unit,
  • began renovating the first unit as our own,
  • moved into the incomplete renovation just a week before Matt was scheduled for a music tour…

…to name a few things. All this alongside maintaining our work as a private tutor and a musician, growing our shared home renovation business, Matt touring in the spring and again in the fall, and keeping the travel plans we had booked well before we realized what beautiful chaos 2016 would unleash. Whew!

You might be thinking we’re crazy for taking that all on in such a short time. I’d have to agree. In fact, most of those experiences were packed into less than 8 months. 2016 was filled with many blessings, but 2016 was a lot of work–in such a short timeframe.

We had what we thought was a perfectly manageable, simplified schedule of order in store for 2016. While we were quite in control of setting dates around wedding plans, we quickly learned that in the world of home ownership and renovation, you are often at the will of the wind. We thought, “We’ll get married the last week of May, pack and store all of my belongings except a few clothes and work supplies, close on the home the first week of June and just stay in Matt’s apartment until then, have the hardwood floors restored right away while we’re on vacation in North Carolina, return to finished floors and start moving in, and spend the rest of June, July, and maybe August renovating the home while we live in it. By then we can just focus on the reception in August. And our house will be up and running in time for the new school year” (when I work from home part-time, using Skype)… “We’ll be back to a normal rhythm, settled in before the fall, with plenty of time to breathe before Matt goes on tour mid-October to early December,” we thought. The plan seemed perfect, and boy were we excited!

And then reality worked out a schedule of its own. We wouldn’t end up closing on the home until the final days of July. Contractors’ schedules were incredibly packed due to the rigorous home restoration market, so once our closing date was shifted, everything needed to be shifted. A lot. In opposition to our idealized schedule, we lived in Matt’s old apartment (with his roommates, and without my stored belongings) for four months instead of a couple of weeks. Our floors were refinished at the end of September. Our bathroom+laundry renovation began in October, and Matt left just as the floating countertop and sink were being installed. (We still have to design and install the shelving next to our stacked washer and dryer, but we’ve pressed pause on that. Probably just for sanity’s sake.)

While we didn’t choose the timing of events surrounding the process of home ownership and renovation, we chose the goals we wanted to conquer this year. Sometimes with high anticipation, and sometimes with overwhelming frustration, we conquered those goals. We were challenged and stretched in more ways than we could have ever anticipated in 2016.


Here and there, I’ll encounter someone who shares their interest in my Modern Livingston Instagram and blog posts. And like most people, I love hearing that others are enjoying my work and hobbies! But sometimes, I get the vibe that they think our life is easy…and that is a facade I hope to never portray. Our journey has presented many mountains to climb. Our story, probably like yours, is one of depth, with conflicts, climaxes, and so much in between.

Why do I share this? Because I believe in the power of thoughtful honesty. I believe in the power of vulnerability, of being relatable.

Social media may teach that we ought to post polished pictures only. That we ought to appear to have it all together. Social media is often a great disguiser of truths. It can trick us into believing that others’ lives are easier than our own. That while you had to face the difficult journey of a climb before reaching the mountain’s peak, others are just air-lifted there.

And sure, we all tend to preserve moments of happiness and success through photographs more often than difficult times. I don’t have pictures or posts declaring our many moments of feeling emotionally, physically, or financially overwhelmed. I didn’t turn to blogging when I felt weakened by living in constant transition. Instagram didn’t capture the looks on our faces each time our plans fell to pieces and we had to fly by the seats of our pants. This year required of us more patience, persistence, introspection, and adaptation than ever before…and, well, in ways that pictures and words could never fully describe anyway.

I truly don’t know how we got through all we did in 2016. From where we are now, we would never turn back. Not to undo those experiences, nor to relive them! (Perhaps with an exception for reliving the day of our ceremony…that was the most powerfully present, transcendent day, and I would repeat that again and again if I could.)

Matt and I were not air-lifted to the top of a mountain throughout the year’s experiences. This year had the highest of highs, but also such difficult lows. And sometimes the two are  mysteriously bundled together as one. We worked through all of it, together, and often with the support of dear friends and family.

For the life we lived in 2016, we are thankful. For all its unfamiliar, all its woes, and all its wonder, we count 2016 as one powerful story. We welcome 2017 with the widest of open arms, but  2016 will forever remain “the rarest of years.”


Cheers to a new year! May you be able to look back on 2016 and highlight both the highs and the lows for how they’ve grown you. And may you look forward to 2017 with hopeful anticipation, embracing the challenges required to attain your greatest goals.

Happy New Year!

Shay Gabriel



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