Finding Your Village

I created this space to provide you with stories from my own experience and information that I gather from the most trusted and verified sources. I want to help you find your home and your village, just like I am lucky to be a part of mine. 

You’ll find my blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because I care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. I'd love to talk with you!

Dec. 31, 2020

Local Virtual and In-person Holiday Activities

Happy New Year! If you're like me and trying to enjoy as many holiday festivities as you can, then check out this list below of local and virtual events you can enjoy!


“A Christmas Carol” Two Ways

Ford’s Theatre: Available for streaming through Jan. 1 at 

Olney Theatre Center: Available for streaming Dec. 15 through Jan. 3 at $15-$20.


Winternational Virtual Marketplace | Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center

About: The Winternational Virtual Marketplace celebrates DC’s diverse diplomatic community and its artisan diaspora in a new, year-long format designed to showcase the cultural heritage of diaspora communities from around the world. Shop from the embassy-curated collection including visual and decorative arts, handcrafts, apparel, jewelry, and artisan-crafted culinary fare. The Virtual Marketplace will be open through December 2021—a unique place to shop for holidays and special occasions throughout the year.


Bull Run Festival of Lights

Where: Bull Run Regional Park | Centreville, VA

When: November 6 – January 10

Admission: $20-30/vehicle (look for discount below)

Experience 2.5 miles of colorful holiday light displays. As you drive the festival route, turn off your headlights and just follow the magical glow. It started early this year and online ticketing were added to provide minimal contact. Take advantage of a discount for purchasing online — use promo code WEB20 for $5 off the Monday-Thursday rate.


Lights on The Bay

Where: Sandy Point State Park | Annapolis, MD

When: November 20 – January 2

Admission: $20/car look for discount! (Discount coupons are available through local publications and at many retail locations.)

Driving through Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point State Park has become a tradition for many area families for the past decade. The scenic drive along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay features more than 60 spectacular animated and stationary displays illuminating the roadway. The holiday light show is sponsored by the SPCA of Anne Arundel County. 

Please note that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights tend to be our most popular nights, so please plan ahead or visit us Monday - Thursday. Don’t forget to purchase your 3D glasses upon admission to the park to make the already magical light show come alive.


Symphony of lights

Where: Symphony Woods at Merriweather | Columbia, MD

When: November 25 – January 1

Admission: $20/vehicle

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 100 all-new larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. On November 29, the Family Festival welcomes visitors to walk through the lights + enjoy activities for the whole family ($12/guest).


Sharpen your kitchen skills with the U.S. Botanical Garden

While the U.S. Botanical Garden might be closed, it’s making it easier than ever to bring the plant magic home with you by providing a regular schedule of online classes and tutorials that are perfect for the holidays. Create your own fall floral centerpiece or winter door wreath to bring a joyous vibe to your home, or take a cooking class that’ll help you make delicious Thanksgiving side dishes or figure out what exactly to do with all those leftovers.

Cost: Free



Take a virtual tour of DC museums to keep the learning going.

DC has a plethora of museums, including 17 Smithsonian's. If you're looking for creative ways to get out of your house and into a new environment without actually leaving your house, we've compiled a list of virtual museum offerings in DC. You can take a voyage to space, see live animals, discover famous women in history or view the Hirshhorn's Sculpture Garden from a whole new perspective. 


Dec. 23, 2020

Creating Connections In Time of Uncertainty

If there’s one big takeaway for me from 2020 it’s that, as humans, we need connection. We crave it. And, when our traditional ways of connecting become tricky or even impossible, we can get wildly creative.

I think of healthcare workers who printed pictures of themselves and pinned them on their scrubs and protective gear to connect with patients so they could see the human behind the face masks and face shields.


I think of the local food banks and shelters, who gently remind us of so many in our community who need more assistance now than ever before.


I think of my kids’ teachers who moved their entire lesson plans to virtual and yet somehow show up every day with the same enthusiasm and passion for connecting with their students as they do in person.


And I think of my own neighborhood and how there may have been no summer pool parties, book clubs, or backyard barbecues, but yet somehow our sense of community has never been stronger. Back in the spring, when the stay-at-home orders went into effect, my family and I started taking more walks and bike rides in our neighborhood. The first thing we noticed is that we weren’t alone. At all times of day, we saw neighbor after neighbor out doing the same thing. Getting out of the house for a little while to connect with nature, and connect with one another with a friendly greeting or wave.


I think 2020 forced us all to get small, and that’s not a bad thing. Because when we get small, we come to realize that everyone else is small right alongside us. And that can be a great comfort and even provide some much-needed hope when the world feels uncertain and a little upside down.


It’s impossible to predict what the next year holds. But what I know for sure is that connections matter. And we are the single biggest determinants of how strong those connections are. 


As the year comes to a close, I want to thank you for your business, but more importantly, I want you to know how very grateful I am for your friendship and for the connection we’ve made this year. I look forward to working with you and helping you in any way I can in 2021 and beyond.


Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

With gratitude, 



Posted in Community
Nov. 25, 2020

Creating meaningful connections

If this year has revealed anything to me, it’s the importance of creating and nurturing meaningful connections with others. It’s ironic isn’t it? That during times like these where we want the comfort of having our loved ones physically close, it’s become nearly impossible. 

I think about the possible and the impossible often. And how, even in the toughest of times, we’re somehow able to dig deep and reveal the resilience of humanity in big and small ways.

I think about my kids’ teachers and how they’ve gone above and beyond to maintain connections with students, whether it’s in the classroom or virtually.

I think about my extended family and how we’ve been calling and texting more frequently these days. And, knowing our Thanksgiving will look a little different this year, we’ve already made plans for lots of FaceTime calls.

I think about my colleagues and friends at work who are simply the most extraordinary partners. Over the last several months, as our industry has pivoted and adjusted to overcome things that may seem impossible, we’ve come to rely on one another for help. The reassurance I have in knowing I can call on them for assistance during this time of isolation has touched my heart. 

Yes, there are most definitely people out there who are doing the impossible.

Did you happen to see the SpaceX launch? It’s always an impressive sight, but what struck me was the video of the astronauts’ arrival to the International Space Station. The cooperation, the teamwork, the open arms to welcome the newest arrivals on this mission, a mission which would have been implausible just a few years ago — inspiring. And by the way, the name of the capsule that launched these astronauts to space? Resilience. According to NASA, the astronauts chose this name in honor of the “enduring and resilient nature of humanity to persevere through difficult times.”

This has been a difficult year for so many. But the kindness and resilience of humanity reminds me that there is still so much to be grateful for. 

Wishing you and your family a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted in Community
Oct. 28, 2020

Around Here..Fall Feels Like Home

Hello Friend,
A sure sign that fall is here is when I see our kids gathering twigs and branches so my husband can get a fire going in our fire pit for s’mores. The air gets cooler, the leaves transform into bright red, orange and yellow, and the smells? Apples, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, fire pits…it’s a feast for the senses. Fall traditions are a big deal in the Cruz home. And while this year may be a little different with quarantine and distancing, I’m grateful there are still so many ways we can celebrate the fun of this season with our family, friends, and neighbors.
And speaking of neighbors, have you ever BOO’d your neighbors? It’s literally my family’s favorite thing to do in October. When the sun goes down we leave a bag full of treats or small gifts as quietly as possible at an unsuspecting neighbor’s front door. We ring the doorbell and then — ding-dong-ditch — we run like crazy to hide behind cars or bushes so we can watch them discover their surprises! We do this every year and it’s such a great way to spread a little kindness among neighbors.
Just outside our neighborhood, we’re lucky to be surrounded by so many local farms and orchards — two of our family’s favorites are Butlers Orchard in Germantown and Homestead Farm. We cannot resist the corn maze, the haunted hayrides, the caramel apples, hot chocolate for the kids, and (my favorite) warm apple cider. We love choosing the perfect pumpkins to carve. And while we always come home with more apples than we need, our daughter Sofia makes good use of them. As an aspiring baker, she makes our home smell absolutely delicious with her mouth-watering apple pies.
Another tradition that makes this community so special is the highly popular "Trick or Treat On The Row". Our offices are located on the Row and it’s always fun to join my fellow agents in dressing up and handing out candy to trick or treaters.
I think I like fall so much because it’s a season devoted to sharing experiences with the people you care about. And aren’t we lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the country? Fall is special in Montgomery County. I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else. Because here, fall feels like…home.
With much gratitude,
Oct. 8, 2020

Things to Expect From Your Agent When Searching For Your Dream Home

Hello Friend, Buying a home isn’t always a straight line from searching…to making an offer…to acceptance…and finally, to closing. Of course, sometimes it happens that way, but when you’re in a competitive buyer’s market (as we are right now), the process can take a lot of detours and become pretty frustrating. I’ve found that when things get frustrating, it’s best to stay the course, remain laser-focused on your goals, and keep an open mind.
While there are many things you can do to position yourself well in a competitive market (make sure your financials are in order, get pre-qualified, etc.), the most important thing you can do to cut through all the noise and frustration is to have someone on your side who will be your advocate. Your biggest champion. Someone who’s willing to fight as hard and as tirelessly as you to help get the house you desire. This is what I do best. I’m on your side from day one and I’m ready to work for you no matter how frustrating the process becomes.
As an experienced realtor, my strength lies beyond simply knowing the market really well. My strength lies in knowing how to leverage that market knowledge and industry expertise in ways that best serve your individual home buying wishes, desires, and goals. That’s why the first thing I do is learn as much as I can about you. What’s your vision? What’s your endgame? What kind of home and lifestyle do you envision? What’s most important to you? Armed with this personal information, I become your informed, trusted partner and ally who will always have your best interests as my highest priority.
For sure, it’s easy to get discouraged sometimes when you’re in the market for your next home. Especially in a competitive market where things may not be happening as quickly as you’d like. That’s ok. Be patient. Stay the course. And keep an open mind because, working together, I know the right home is out there just waiting for you.
With much gratitude,
Aug. 27, 2020

My Key To Navigating This Strange New World

Six months ago, if you asked me what my family’s calendar looked like you would have been hard-pressed to find any white space at all. Every hour of every day was seemingly accounted for. Between school events, sports activities, work meetings, birthday parties, graduations, rehearsals, recitals, practices, fundraisers and so many other personal and professional commitments, each member of my family knew where we had to be and when. No question. We were busy! But now, just a few short months later, our daily routines have changed. So much has been canceled and now it seems my calendar is pretty sparse. I’m guessing yours is, too. Strange isn’t it? School starts in just a couple of weeks and by all accounts, this will be a strange and different experience, too. Our district has opted for remote learning for at least the first part of the school year.
For my family, that means a lot of things. It means carving out dedicated spaces in our home to support a learning environment and creating a routine so kids can stay on track and not feel as though this is an extension of summer vacation. It means considering learning pods and other creative ways to engage our kids as well as adjusting work schedules to make sure at least one adult is able to be home. And, it means my husband and I will be taking on the roles of amateur educators in earnest support of our kids’ growth as well as their teachers’ efforts to educate. We’re all doing the best we can. But boy it sure can be stressful. That’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the support systems I have in place. My “village” consists of a tight network of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and colleagues, all of whom are committed to doing one thing really, really well: supporting one another the best way we know-how. 
These people are my keys to navigating this strange time. And it’s not an understatement to say that I would be lost without them. 
My village is like a GPS signal for weary, lost travelers. I don’t think too often about the benefits of technology, but during a crisis like this, when everyone is staying home, technology has been an anchor. A lifeline. It’s allowed me to stay physically distant but socially close to an incredible community that listens to, encourages, vents, cries, and brainstorms with one another. In our village, we struggle with how to help our children solve math problems the way they were taught in the classroom (does anyone really understand this new math?!) and we send each other silly gifs and jokes to brighten someone’s day and share a laugh. In our village, it’s the little things that pack the biggest punch and create the strongest connections.

I could not survive without these amazing people. Their presence reminds me that we are all in this together. That no matter what challenges we face, we’ve got each other’s backs. 

If I had one wish, I’d wish this kind of village for everyone.

With much gratitude,

Posted in Community, Schools
July 15, 2020

Opportunity to Give Back



On a podcast I heard recently, the interviewer asked a woman: what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

The woman, whose family immigrated to the United States from Russia when she was a little girl, paused only for a moment before replying, “The best thing that ever happened to me was my parents choosing to move to the United States. I am grateful they immigrated here because if they hadn’t, I think the whole trajectory of my life would have been very different.” 

I was speechless. Her comment really resonated with me because I, too, am an immigrant and I’ve often wondered the same thing. What if my family hadn’t moved to the United States from India when I was young? I have no doubt my life would be wildly different. Not necessarily better or worse, but certainly different. 

When I think about my life now, I am humbled. I am surrounded by family and friends who have become my village. My community. It’s overwhelming sometimes, but isn’t that feeling of community something that we all strive for? A sense of belonging and connection. A place to grow and learn and share ideas and support one another and ultimately, give back so that our kids will have that same opportunity to cultivate happiness?

As Americans, we celebrate our pride in America’s independence on July 4. But there are also many events all month long to welcome and celebrate America’s newest citizens. Some of these citizenship ceremonies are small and held in town halls; others are held in large public arenas such as the one held at Monticello each year. This year, because of COVID, there were drive-thru citizenship ceremonies. And while the logistics of the event were different, the feelings were the same. People described feelings of gratitude and pride and most notably they described feelings of community and a deep sense of belonging.

Today, if that podcaster asked me the same question, what is the best thing that happened to you?, my answer would be pretty similar to the woman at the beginning of my story. I am endlessly grateful to my mom for moving us here. Her courage in that one decision gave me so many amazing opportunities. And, most importantly, it gave me the chance to pay it forward. To serve others. And, to help friends and neighbors like you discover your village, your community, and a stronger sense of belonging. 

I am grateful to be on this journey with you.



Posted in Community
June 17, 2020

Top Trends in the Housing Market That Are Here to Stay

Just Tryan It with Gwen Tolbart

Do you remember what you were planning for 3 months ago? Doesn't that feel like a distant past? Things have changed drastically and it hasn't been easy. Yet I find myself getting used to the "new normal". Graduation and birthday parades have become the new tradition that's connecting streets and neighborhoods. You can now do almost anything virtually, including participating in a kid's triathlon. I'm encouraged to see my neighbors and people in our communities helping each other, standing up for what's right, and adapting to the changes in every aspect of life. 

With everything else that has changed in our day-to-day routines, the way we navigate the housing market has changed dramatically in just the last few months. Here are the top trends we see that won't be going away any time soon.

  • Working from home is changing the way we think about where to live. People are seeking out bigger houses in the suburbs to save money, get more space, and gain a better quality of life that is offered by eliminating a long commute.

  • Nursing homes and senior communities have been impacted the most by COVID-19, therefore families are looking to move their older family members nearby or purchasing bigger homes. 

  • LIVE Virtual Open Houses are here to stay. Although it may seem like you'll be missing the physical aspect of being in a house at first, live virtual open houses offer many benefits. Virtual tours and virtual open houses on social media quickly became the popular (and sometimes the only) option for buyers in place of the traditional open house – and offers an incredible opportunity that benefits the buyer and the seller. Click here to see my first LIVE open house. 

  • The uncertainty of COVID-19 has led to able buyers to purchase second homes and vacation properties. With the concern of air travel being so high and the use of hotels very low, vacation properties are becoming more viable options. 

  • Mortgage rates are an all-time low which is enticing first-time homebuyers to hit the market. Current mortgage owners are looking to refinance. 

As always, I am ready and happy to guide you through your real estate journey, no matter where you choose to find your community. 

All the best,


May 3, 2020

Should I sell or Should I Buy?

Dear Friends,

I hope you're all staying safe and keeping well during our extended shelter-in-place. As an active member of our community, I've seen and heard countless stories that have moved and inspired me. Despite the daily challenges, struggles and changes, one thing is clear - we all are in this together and the sense of community is stronger than ever.

As I was writing this entry, I was reminded of an incident that involved one of my children in the first grade, many years ago. My husband and daughter returned home after a playdate and our little one was inconsolable. Despite our reassurances, as well as support from the other child's mother, my child pleaded with us to not make her go to school the following day. It pained me to see my child so distraught (and hysterical) at the idea of going to school, a place, prior to this incident, she has enjoyed and thrived in. I emailed my child's teacher and in a matter of seconds, my phone rang. I will always remember what she told me: While her priority is to educate her students, her higher priority is to provide them with a safe, nurturing and loving environment, making it possible then for a child to learn. My daughter's teacher assured me she would take care of my little girl, as well as the other child, and use this as a teaching moment to share with her entire class. And she did just that--within ten minutes of the start of the school day, this very caring and thoughtful teacher emailed me to let me know my child was happy and smiling once again and wanted to remain in school for the rest of the day.

I am sharing this with you because as real estate agents, we too have duties to our clients--including financial, legal, loyalty, cooperation with competitors, and honesty in advertising. Just as beyond teaching, our teachers help our children feel safe and connected, I too have a higher priority outside of my duties. To connect and to engage, to listen and to advise my clients, making it possible then for sound decisions to be made, especially during times of uncertainty.

During this pandemic, clients considering a housing change are asking – what should I do - should I sell? Should I buy? Stay put or move? With interest rates at all-time lows and expected to stay low, today’s housing market presents opportunities.

Here are just a few examples of how I am doing things differently:

  • Virtual Tours have quickly become the norm. For my buyers, making videos as I tour the properties we have identified together, highlighting rooms or features of a home that are important to them, provides them with the feeling that they're actually inside the home while remaining at a safe distance. Producing these comprehensive videos gives them most everything an in-person client showing would.
  • Live Streaming a one-on-one showing with my buyers makes it possible for them to ask me specific questions or to take a second look at various parts inside of the home, as well as the outside, as together we go along on the live tour.
  • Holding Virtual Open Houses for my sellers allows me to show multiple buyers around a home, while answering questions as they come up, or revisiting a part of a home, upon the buyers' request.
  • These new ways of presenting and showing homes serve as a gateway to pre-qualify buyers’ interest, as it reduces the number of in-person visits to those who are truly interested. It’s also less disruptive to my sellers, as they can remain in their home, especially since most work from home while simultaneously having their children at home, as they distance-learn.
  • When a buyer visits my sellers' home in person, making certain that buyers have viewed the virtual home tour and have looked over the sellers' property Disclosure Statement further ensures a buyer is ready and able to make a purchase, benefiting both parties.
  • Now more than ever, verifying buyers are pre-approved is more vital as lenders have increased minimum credit score requirements, have tightened their lending guidelines, and require more reserves.

I hope you find the information in this newsletter helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me. I would be honored to be of service.

Together, we'll get through this.


Feb. 1, 2019

Home is where the Heart is


You know that feeling you get when you exhale deeply and your body relaxes, and you didn't even realize that you had been so tense up until that moment? Wherever you are when you exhale like that, whoever you are with - that is home. 


Although we traditionally think of home as a single structure where all your things reside, it can actually be more than that. It can be your entire neighborhood, your grandma's kitchen, or your own comfy bed. Or for you, home may be your child, your spouse, or any person who makes you feel like you truly and deeply belong here - every single part of you, not just the pleasant ones. 


Sadly, sometimes the house one lives in doesn't feel like a safe and secure place to call home. We recently learned that a close relative lived in such a place. He shared with us that he had lived in constant fear whenever he stepped outside of his old apartment. It is heartbreaking to know this, because one of our basic human needs is safety. To feel safe, that is to feel a sense of security, order, law, stability, protection from the elements, and freedom from fear is one of the pillars of happiness. Persistent fear and anxiety changes who you are. They can particularly affect a child's learning and development. It is such a relief to know that our loved one is now in a new home and is safe. He is smiling once again, that same beautiful smile we remember from when he was a toddler.


The affection and relaxation we feel in our homes, and the passage of time there, strengthen our attachment to the places that we live. Because our physical surroundings play such an important role in creating a sense of meaning and organization in our lives, it is not surprising that our sense of the place we live in is closely tied to our sense of who we are. A strong attachment to your home results in greater satisfaction and expectations of future stability in that place.   


I am eternally thankful for the safe, welcoming, and loving community and home that we have built here. It is our home that provides us safety and warmth. I'm reminded of that every single time I enter my home, put down my bag, feel my shoulders relax, and feel my body release any stress I've carried that day. That is, until my husband and all four of our children demand and/or complain about something at the exact same time. ;)

Home is where the Heart is.

Happy Valentine's Day!



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Posted in Community