(Dear New Homeowner, Underneath the carpet in the playroom you will find this blue and white checkerboard that my boys never fully appreciated.)
This past January, Rory and I enrolled in a 16-week mission-oriented course called Perspectives. This intensive course walked us through the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic perspective of the world Christian movement and opened our eyes to see that from the beginning of time God has had one purpose- to be known, worshiped and glorified among all peoples. During the first class, we were warned that taking this course had the potential to change the whole trajectory of our lives. Supposedly, many unsuspecting students sign up thinking Perspectives is just a “special” bible study only to find themselves on the foreign mission field 16 weeks later. While Rory and I did not feel called to change our zip code, each week’s lesson made us long to join in God’s purpose and to make our lives count for something bigger than ourselves….we just didn’t know what that might look like for us as individuals or as a family.
It all started with the simple thought of how great it would be that Cohen could walk to and from school. He could literally roll out of bed and be in his homeroom class in 3 minutes. And how awesome would it be to not have to rush away from a job site every day at 3pm to go pick up kids from school, especially if Colby continues to think riding his bike to school is cool. From here I thought it might be nice to offer our home as a drop-off and pickup location to Cohen’s friends so their parents could also enjoy a little more flexibility in when they took and picked up their kids. AND then out of nowhere I had the idea for Taco Tuesday!! Every Tuesday, kids could come over after school and stay for Tacos until it was time for Tuesday night K-life club! How cool would that be! But wait!?! That would limit the number of kids to only those that could fit in my car. So we are talking 4 kids max… who am I kidding my car will never be cleaned out enough to hold an additional 4 humans. Maybe Rory could drive?, or we both could drive? Or…. instead of Taco Tuesdays and K-life we could HOST OUR OWN BIBLE STUDY!!! (thoughts of Perspectives and the great commission sweep in.) We could host a once a week breakfast and bible study at 7am! Morning would be great because I don’t ever get to a job site until after 8am so there would be no reason a project would get in the way of being consistent. And the fact that kids could just walk across the yard to get to school means I wouldn’t have to worry about maxing out seatbelt capacity. We could have a limitless number of kids. But what about Colby? His friends could come too, but again, we are limited to how many can fit in my car to deliver them to Junior High. YOUTH GROUP!!! Of Course! Colby is in the youth group and this home is literally just 1 field away from our church. Colby could have all his friends over for dinner before Wednesday night youth group and then they could walk across the field to church. What food starts with “W”??? (I’ll admit, I spent quite a bit of time and brain space trying to come up with a good food theme night for Wednesdays.. to no avail.) Wait just a minute!!!! Our church PARTNERS with Marguerite Vann Elementary, our other neighbor!!! Our children’s pastor is always looking for volunteers to go read with the kids at Vann. Now that I will live so close I could totally do that on my lunch break! Maybe I could read to a little girl. Oh my goodness GIRLS!! Maybe I could host a once a month breakfast and devotional for 3rd and 4th-grade GIRLS from Marguerite Vann! But who would drop their daughter off to a total stranger’s house? Oh- oh-oh!!! THEIR MOMS COULD COME TOO! Oh my goodness, maybe we could even have a TEA PARTY!!! I’ve always wanted to have a tea party. Tea, scones, and Jesus!!! “ahhh” (contented sigh) And then there are the TEACHERS! God bless the teachers. Our home could be a respite. I should get one of those coded locks for our back door and give all the teachers of Carl Stuart and Marguerite Vann the code so on a rough day they could sneak over for a cup of coffee or nap during their planning period. Could they do that??? Probably should talk to their principals. I could at least host a prayer breakfast for the teachers!!! Hmmm, that’s a lot of breakfasts and food. How am I going to pay for all that food?!?! I could have a concession stand outside our house selling coffee and donuts to those dropping off kids in the morning and soft drinks and water for those waiting to pick up in the afternoon? Is that allowed? Would I need a special license?… But what about the nations? How can we reach the nations from our home on Carl Stuart?? Ding! Ding! Ding!!! This house is just a stone’s throw from UCA! We could reach out to the foreign exchange students! I’m sure they would love an opportunity to leave campus and come hang out with an American family. We could invite the exchange students to come spend Sunday afternoons with us and then invite them to walk across the field to attend Sunday night church which is attended by mostly college students. That would give us a chance to learn about different cultures and perhaps share the gospel with students who have never heard the name of Jesus. And then they can share the gospel with their friends and family in their native land when they go back home. I should probably learn some different languages. Wonder if that Rosetta Stone really works?
But despite Rory’s steadfastness, the further I got from my night of revelation the more I starting doubting the plan. In fact during the interim of going under contract and signing the ownership papers I spent many more sleepless nights worrying that we were about to make the biggest financial mistake of our lives. This fear stemmed from the following:
1.) At some point, I remembered I’m not a kid person. Yep, this could be a big deal. I mean don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOOVE my own kids and my boys have some of the sweetest friends on the planet but if given the choice to have a kids sleepover or a quiet night at home, I’ll choose the quietness every time. So if the boys want to have a friend over they know to ALWAYS ask Rory first. Rory is the fun parent, the one joining the kids in a game of whiffle ball or flag football while I’m the one inside yelling “no running in the house” and “keep your drinks in the kitchen.” Nothing illustrates this “fun factor” deficiency more than the fact that I instigated “the obedience game” at Cohen’s 9th birthday party.
Afraid so. Here is proof…
In my defense, the game was a hit! In fact, I had at least 3 requests to play it again at Cohen’s 10-year-old sleepover. But seriously, this is what I’m talking about- I’m not fun! So even though my heart has a BIG desire to love on kids and provide a safe fun home that welcomes all kids at all times…. my head is afraid I will need a personality transplant to be chill enough to keep an open door at all times. Therefore, my daily prayer since going under contract has been “Lord, Please give me a heart for kids.” And can I just tell you, one of my FAVORITE parts about my surprise birthday party at our Carl Stuart house was seeing and hearing all the kids playing a spontaneous game of kickball in the backyard. It was like I could sense the Lord showing me that he was already at work.
2) Another personality hurtle I know I will have to clear to make this vision a success is my need for a clean house. Honestly, this one gives me heart palpations. NOT because my house is always clean-oh no! NOT HARDLY!!! But because I NEVER invite anyone inside our home unless I have spent at least 1/2 a day cleaning it; otherwise people might see that I am not a “perfect homemaker.” But this plan has all sorts of people in our home at all hours of the day and night so I know there is no way I can keep up that facade.
Ya know…. I use to think “hospitality” was my spiritual gift because I LOVED having people over for dinner but based on the paragraph above I think I am more gifted at “entertaining” then truly practicing hospitality. Do you know the difference? Entertaining focuses on making the host look good while hospitality puts all the focus and attention on the guest. When someone leaves the home of someone who is a good entertainer they can often feel inadequate or envious. But when you have been in a home of someone who has the gift of hospitality you leave feeling welcomed, served, and loved. That is what I desperately want for myself and this home…. and a housekeeper, yeah that would be nice too (I’m only human).
3) The last fear that threatened to choke out my dedication to the plan was my fear of not following through. I mean, I know myself pretty well; so trust me when I tell you that while I am FULL (practically bursting) with great ideas and awesome intentions, only a handful of these ideas ever make it to fruition. I mean, HELLO, remember my New Year’s Resolution fetish?!?! Out of the 60+ I make every year MAYBE 3 will take. And then there is my front porch. I am haunted by all the good intentions that went unrealized with my porch. I TRUELY (with all my heart) believed if I put a front porch on sister I would be a better neighbor. I even fantasized about neighborhood sing-alongs and morning bible studies around the porch table. But did I ever slow down long enough to invite one neighbor over for the last 5 years??? Nope! So what makes me think I will fulfill the mission at Carl Stuart?!?! I mean let’s face it, I could have just as easily viewed my current home as my mission field for the last 9 years…. but I didn’t. This terrifies me. So because of this, my prayer for the 1.5 months it took to close was “Lord, please do NOT let this house become just another renovation. If You know we will not use this home to bring YOU glory, please do NOT allow the sale to go through.” This is also the main reasons I wanted to share this vision with you- I am hoping you will hold me accountable and perhaps join me in praying that this home will be a place that God will use to do a mighty work. I’m trusting that He will because we successfully closed on April 20th.
In addition to the ministry plans, we have for this home, I, of course, have a plan for its renovation. In fact, knowing the stigma that this location carries we are renovating for the long haul just in case we are unable to resale in the future. We are making sure the renovation meets our needs for many years and stages of life.
Stay tuned throughout the summer for alternating updates between this project and our Oliver Street New Construction. Thanks so much for letting me stray from the norm on this blog and share a little bit of my heart.
And if you want an opportunity to join us on the mission field…. believe it or not, there is ANOTHER house that shares our proximity to the schools and the epic carline and It’s FOR SALE!! Wink Wink
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Here is a link to its listing.
From the picture above you can see we were FULLY prepared and budgeted to replace every interior pier and beam and pour new footings inside the house AND we knew we would need to replace some crumbling brick on the perimeter skirt with block BUT what we were NOT prepared for was when our concrete friend starting sticking his metal rod deep into the ground around the entire perimeter of the house and discovered that this home had NO (none, zero, nada, not 1) concrete footing under the entire house. WHAT?!>? How can that be? How has the house stood for the last 90 years on wet dirt? I mean even a 4-year-old knows wise men build their house upon the rocks, therefore their house stand firm BUT foolish men build their house upon the sand and eventually that house goes splat! There’s even hand gestures to prove it! (if anyone needs help with this illustration, here is a youtube link to help you out https://youtu.be/cZlirVKALJ0)
Guys, I felt sucker punched. I just stood there frozen in complete shock as Rory and the concrete man continued talking. I finally came to when I heard Rory say “we just need to demolish and start over” What?!?! Nooooo!!!! We CAN’T demolish and start over! I mean, our storybook tagline is “we give old homes a new story thru renovation and design” NOT we build NEW homes! But even as I argued, I knew that it was just not financially feasible, responsible, or even safe to try to lift this 90-year-old home with its creaky bones to pour perimeter footings under her. Nor would it be even remotely ok to continue the renovation knowing it was not sitting on a firm foundation. So really we had no other options.
I’m not going to lie. This realization felt like a failure. I felt we were tasked with the job to save this house and we had to admit defeat. But if I’m being really honest, what hurt the most was my pride. I can’t tell you how many subcontractors had visited the site and volunteered their opinion that we should just tear the place down. This is a common sentiment shared by visitors at the majority of our prerenovation projects and it used to hurt my feelings and make me doubt our ability to do the work but after so many projects under our belt, I now just smile and thank them for their opinions while I think to myself “you just wait and see buddy, You just WAIT AND SEE.” (Again, not proud of this arrogance, but feel obligated to confess it to you.) So thinking about all the “I told you so’s” that would be coming my way, caused a bad case of humble pie induced indigestion.
Plus on top of all that, I am terrified of new construction! I have been told by a number of real builders that new construction is easier than remodels BUT I know that my strength is in being able to look at something and figure out a way to make it better NOT making something great the first time around! So let it be known. This is NOT an announcement that SBH is branching out into new construction. I have already told myself I am NOT allowed to like it. This is just a very special circumstance. The only thing that makes me feel better about this new construction is that it will be based on the floorplan we already had drafted for the old house.
So, after finally accepting the inevitable, I made the first of my “hard phone calls” to the future homeowners.
Guys, let me pause right here to tell you “hard phone calls” are no joke! It is like the worst! I get physically ill when I have to make one of these phone calls to the homeowners and I have the easiest, nicest, most understanding home owners on the planet! I can’t even watch Chip and Jo make the phone calls anymore without getting sick.
I think I led with “you are under no obligation to go forward with the purchase of this property” before I went on to explain that we would no longer be able to provide them with a brand new fully renovated 90-year-old home, but rather all we could offer was a replica in the form of new construction. They took the news like champs and let me know they were still all in!
With that phone call behind me, the next hurdle I had to jump was with the historic commission. I had no idea if I would even be able to present the plan now that it had turned into a new construction project. But by this point the clock had ticked past the city’s quitting time so I would have to wait until Monday to find that out…..
Over the weekend I crunched out what I thought would be a worst case scenario budget to present to the future homeowners to show them a side by side comparison of the original renovation budget vs the new construction budget. I did this to make doubly sure they still had no reservations about going forward with the project before I “hopefully” presented the plan to the historic commission….and again they said to march on.
SIDE NOTE: This “worst case scenario” budget would later come back to haunt me when I actually started getting subcontractor and material bids and realized I had no idea how much lumber costs had increased nor what a new slab foundation would cost. Holy Moley! These shocks to the budget resulted in at least 2 more “hard phone calls” to the homeowners which taught me 3 things:
- Going over budget with someone else’s money feels a trillion times worse than when it is your own money at risk.
- In the future, I am going to take my worst case scenario budget and at least double it before I present it to homeowners.
- I am working with the sweetest, most understanding, gracious future homeowners on the planet. Instead of getting upset with me, they actually tried to make me feel better and have on multiple occasions been such a great source of encouragement. And despite the fact that I have given them multiple opportunities to back out they continue to remain excited about this project.
First thing Monday morning I called the City to get an appointment with the City Planner to find out if I could go ahead and present my proposal for new construction at that night’s historic hearing or if I would have to reapply and wait until the following month’s meeting. Praise the Lord, he said I could go ahead and present that night since I was planning on building back the same structure in my proposal. Then, that night, although they too were sad to see an old home demolished, the historic commission voted unanimously in favor of our project! Yippee we were FINALLY ready to get this project started!…… or so we thought…
The next day I filed my application for demolition and while there I casually mentioned I would be picking up my building permit the second the house came tumbeling down because I was BEYOND ready to get going on it. That is when the next bomb was dropped. I was told because the project was no longer a remodel but new construction, we would have to have a “licensed contractor” over the project.
What?!?! You see, as a renovator of old houses we do not have to be licensed contractors as long as we only work on homes we own, but apparently, the same rules do not apply with new construction. The rules state that you can only self-contract on new construction if you plan to owner occupy the completed home. This, of course, was brand new news to me. So at this point I had a decision to make, I could either hire a licensed contractor who would allow me to still be the project manager or I could put on my big girl panties and get that license myself- which was already on my long-term goal list I just thought it would be waaaaay in the future when I had more experience and was more confident and ready to branch out from our flipping model to work with clients. But what the heck, I decided to go for it.
The next day I filled out the application and had it in the mail in time to meet the next licensure board meeting. All that was left to do on my part was to take the contractor licensing test. The test was open book and every man I talked to who had taken the test before assured me they did not even crack the book before they sat down to take the test. Well, that is not how this chick rolls. If there was going to be a test, I was going to study for it. I didn’t make a 4.0 GPA in college by winging it folks. (Yes, my 4.0 GPA is completely irrelevant to the story but gee whiz I worked hard for those grades and NOT ONE time have I ever been asked my GPA on a job interview, so when the opportunity presents itself I try to work it into everyday conversations just so I don’t feel it was all for nothing.) Anyways, the week before my test I accompanied Rory on a business meeting in Las Vegas and while he was in meetings I sat in the hotel room and read that book from cover to cover. And guess what?!?! I still needed to use my book for 95% of the questions. But I did make an A (not that anyone at the permit office will ask me about my grade when I go to pull the building permit).
So at this point, I am just waiting for the licensing board to approve me, to be ready to roll. Assuming they do, I’d appreciate it if you would keep the fact that I am a real life Licensed General Contractor to yourself. Just not ready to advertise that…. although I do plan to get my Carhart hat, tool belt, and maybe some overalls monogrammed with G.C. to wear at the job site- you know, just to gain the respect of the other subs on the project.
But in the meantime, while I wait for my license, this happened…
Moment of Silence for Oliver, please.
Thanks. And a big Thank You to the sweet neighbor who sent us this footage because it happened so fast I missed it.
2 days, a broken water line, and a stuck tree truck later this is how she sits…. just waiting for her building permit….
So now you’re updated!
But before I sign off on this forever long blog post, I want to get your take on an idea I had. Because this project is spoken for and our very patient future homeowners will be anxious to move in the second we wrap this project up, I will not be hosting an open house at the conclusion of this project. Which means no dramatic reveal. So in light of this, I’m playing with the idea of letting Colby do a weekly video recap on what happens each week at the project since he will be out of school pretty soon for summer break. He has been trying to get me to do a SBH YouTube channel for over a year, and I keep telling him “no one watches YouTube” but he insists people do. So anyways, I think this would be a good project to try it out on. What do you think? Do you click on video’s when they show up on FB or Instagram?
Just to test it out… here is a video Colby made shortly after we purchased Oliver. You can tell by the twinkle in my eye and the excitement in my voice, I was completely ignorant of the impending doom awaiting this little duplex when this video was shot.
Our Donaghey project is just about to wrap up if this darn rain would stay away long enough to finish up the exterior. Rain or Shine WE WILL host it’s open house Sunday, March 11th, so mark your calendars… in pencil. With that date looming so close I think it’s time to tell you a little story.
Healer, broken halo
Fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, Holy Water
Secret keeper, fortune teller,
Technicolor river wild
Baby girl, woman, child
You are going to see this hardworking trait found in the layout of this home. This house is less than 1400 sq feet but it’s open floor plan make it feel much larger.
|During Demo when walls were knocked down to join the kitchen, dining, and living space into one open living area.|
Plus this little home is quite efficient with very little wasted space, each area has a specific task and is used well.
You will also see this trait in the kitchen island. I purposely chose a commercial grade stainless steel kitchen cart vs a traditional cabinet style island for it’s “hard-working” versatility and functionality.
Our common friend, Angie Elrod, said this when I asked her to describe Sherry: