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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Quick Carl Stuart Update

Happy Summer! We officially kicked off construction at Oliver mid-May and things have been rolling ever since. We ended this week with insulation so that means next week we will be ready for drywall!

Meanwhile...... back at Carl Stuart, crickets are chirping and tumbleweed just blew across the scene. Yep, that construction site looks like a ghost town. We started off strong with demolition and had the place pretty much gutted before school let out, but then the project came to a screeching halt. Just when I thought I was catching on to this construction business I go and ask a silly question at the permit office that ends up getting my permits yanked.
Now that sounds a little more dramatic than it was. It wasn't like I was in trouble, it's just that my question triggered the city to ask for more drawings before they were comfortable signing off on the project. Unfortunately, my hand-drafted drawings did not cut it so that meant more time with Bob the draftsman. Between Bob's camping expeditions and our trip to DC to support Colby at the National History Day competition, it took 3 weeks to revise the plans and get them resubmitted to the city- But I'm happy to report that as of 2pm Friday we have our permits back in hand and will be hopefully moving forward with the renovation by the end of next week.  

Here is what the house has looked like for the past month: (I've included the pre-demolition pictures as a reference point)

View from the front door: (Was soooo excited to find hardwood under that carpet, unfortunately, it stopped past the carpet.)

Dining Room: 

Kitchen with wall torn down that separated kitchen from master bath:

This view shows the wall down in the living room so you can see into the master bedroom and vice versa:

Behind the dining room and living room wall you can see into the 2 bedrooms:

And here is what she looks like if you drive by:

We took the bricks off the section of the home that is going 2 stories but tried to save as many bricks as we could so we could reuse them during the renovation. You see that pile of bricks? 

That pile represents pure misery. When we first started I had a goal of rescuing 100 bricks a day. By rescuing I mean finding whole bricks amongst the rubble piles of broken bricks and chiseling off the mortar from around the brick and inside the brick holes. Can I just tell ya? I now have a better understanding of what it felt like to be an Israelite trapped under Egyptian rule with a seemingly impossible brick quota to meet during the pre-plague years. On more than one occasion I caught myself singing:

Pharaoh, Pharaoh
Oh baby! Let my people go! HUH!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

After about a week chiseling away at the bricks in the hot sun by myself, I recruited the rest of the family to help. With the family by my side, we looked and felt like members of a chain gang.  I used the opportunity to encourage the boys to flee a life of crime and to stay in school. I also tried to convince the boys they would have such a sense of pride every time they walked up to our home and saw the bricks they had worked so hard to salvage..... I don't think they bought it. 
As of right now we have saved about 800 bricks. By my calculations, we need close to 1500 to patch repositioned doors and windows.... not going to lie, that deficit makes me want to cry.  

In other news, Sister has been under contract for a few weeks and is set to close on Aug 3rd. Obviously, the new crib will not be ready by then so we will be moving into a rental during the interim.  Had REALLY hoped to be move-in ready by the end of September but now I'm just hoping the house will be done by Christmas.

Hope to have a more positive Carl Stuart report for you next time. In the meantime, stay cool and enjoy your summer!

Monday, May 21, 2018

New Home- part 2

Part 2

Last time we talked, I announced we had just purchased a new family home against the advice of... well, pretty much everyone. But then in true storybook fashion, I left you on a cliffhanger by not telling you where the house is or why our friends felt so strongly against the location or why we chose to go forward despite the probable future resale suicide. Well, hang no longer, part 2 will answer all these questions and more.

So let's dive in. Starting with location: Our new address is....


(I invite everyone to live in a world where you think your announcements require a drumroll)

2759 Carl Stuart Road!!!!

Ok....So, why did this address cause so much concern among our friends?  Let me zoom out to show you the neighborhood:

To our right, you can see Marguerite Vann Elementary. And to our left, behind a thin tree and brush line, we have... Carl Stuart Middle School.

Here is a bird's eye view of the property courtesy of AR County data.

While living ON the campus of two schools might not be conventional, it was NOT our scholastic neighbors that caused our friends concern. No, 100% of the concerned remarks were ALL in regards to the parent carline that evidently rallies outside my future front door every morning and afternoon during student drop off and pick up times. As a parent of 2 former Julia Lee Moore Elementary and 1 Simon Middle School graduates I have not personally experienced this carline, but based on the reactions of my experienced friends, it must be quite traumatic. Apparently, we will be held hostage in our home every day during the hours of 7:30am-9am and again from 2pm-4pm when Carl Stuart Road converts from a 2-way street to a 1-way conveyor belt of parents lined up on both sides of the street to transfer their learned passengers back and forth from car and school and school and car.

And even if your end goal is not to deliver or retrieve a student, if you find yourself on Carl Stuart Road during the aforementioned hours you will be forced to ride the belt to the front of the line until you have reached the freedom of Salem Road....or so I have heard.
We were wisely advised to witness the carline at least once before signing on the dotted line to adopt 2759 as our own..... but I never seemed to find a good day to go willingly subject myself to traffic, so we did not heed this advice. Plus I knew once Rory was sold on my vision for the property no amount of cars were going to deter him from the plan (especially since his work hours will conveniently protect him from ever personally experiencing "the line").

Since closing, I have purposely tried to shield myself from seeing the line-up because I do not want any feelings of dread or regret to cloud the renovation ahead. Therefore, I purposely do not arrive at the job site until after the morning tardy bell has rung and I flee the house like the storm is approaching tilted towers at the first site of a parked car in the afternoon. Luckily, we will complete the bulk of the project during the summer break when Carl Stuart Road will pretty much be abandoned...at least on my side of the street. I'm hoping by the time we experience our first Carl Stuart carline we will be so in love with our house and fully immersed in the mission of the property that we will view each carload as a blessing and an opportunity rather than a curse..... anyway that is the story I keep telling myself.

So what is this vision/mission I keep referring to? Well, for you to fully understand I feel I need to give you some background information:

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.

Fast forward to bedtime on the day Rory and I first toured 2759 Carl Stuart with the seller. I climbed into bed fully expecting to be entertained all night with thoughts of decor and floor-plans as is customary after I tour any home; but instead, my thoughts raced with ideas on how we might use this home because of its location. The following paragraph will walk you thru the highlight reel of my thoughts that night. I am adding in punctuation for your benefit but as you get deeper into the narrative just know that my thoughts picked up momentum to a pace that would not support even a comma, much less a period in real life. Exclamation points will be used to show excitement, but again, try not to pause too long while reading to get the full effect. If anything, an exclamation point should be a signal to pick up the pace. Ok, you ready?? Let's do it:

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?

The next morning as I shared bits and pieces of my late night revelation with Rory (I have learned he does best with my ideas in small doses) I really had no doubt he would love the idea based on our Monday evening conversations driving home from Perspectives and the fact that Rory has such a heart for kids. Rory was poured into by one of his friend's family growing up and he has always had a desire to do the same for other kids. He has used sports as an avenue to do this by coaching pretty much every sport our boys have ever participated in. He and his coaching buddy, David Tapp, approached each team they coached as an opportunity to better their young athletes in both the skills of the game and in life. Each athlete was taught the importance of having H.E.A.R.T. Being Humble both on and off the field, Giving their best Effort in the game, in the classroom, in their chores etc. Having a good Attitude, Being Respectful to their coaches, parents, referees, teachers, etc. And finally to be a good Teammate. But our oldest son decided sports wasn't his thang early in life and our youngest is quickly advancing out of Rory's coaching ability so this outlet for investing in kids lives is nearing an end for Rory and I know this has been hard for him. So when I shared that this house would be a strategic location to be hang-out central he was all in. When I told him how I thought this could be our "mission field" to launch the gospel to our neighbors and the nations.... let's just say no amount of traffic would sway him from this house. While each warning planted a seed of doubt in my heart, it became fuel for Rory. To him, the location challenge of this house became like Noah's Arc or David's slingshot....something laughed at by man but something God could use to show his Glory.

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).

That is why I absolutely LOVED that Rory chose to host my party at our new home. NEVER in a million years would I have EVER hosted a party in a reno zone. I mean the place was filthy and dusty from sheetrock debris, all the cabinetry had been removed, and insulation was falling out of the ceilings and yet my friends and family were all gathered in this imperfect space and it was absolutely PERFECT.

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.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Our New Home- Part 1

Today is my birthday.... well I should say, "when I started writing this blog post it was my birthday." If this post goes like all the rest, I will be well into my 40th year of life before I finish it and hit publish.  But anyways, I tell you this because last night Rory, with the help of some of the best friends a girl could have, threw me a surprise party in our future home. It was so sweet and could not have been a more perfect way to kick off this next chapter of my life and home.

Cake Cred to Patty Cakes. Is it not the cutest!?!  Look at that little carhart hat and SBH t-shirt.💓

"Wait?!! What?!?!" you say.

Yes, it's true.... I am 40 YEARS OLD! Hard for me to believe too..... Huh? What's that you're saying? Oh..., that's not the part that surprised you? Oh!!! You want to know about our future home.

Well ok, but I'm going to need to take you back several months to get you caught up. so let's get started.....

Last year, after the dust had settled from the sell of Caldwell, and I had brain space to process that we had actually really attempted to sell our beloved home, the idea of moving started to sink in, and it kinda got me excited. You see we have lived inside the walls of Sister for the last 9 years, which is a long time for the Thompsons. Prior to this home, the longest we had lived in a home was 4 years and the shortest was 7 months. Our past moves had been motivated by a need for more space and/or an itch for a new project. But with Sister, we have had all the space we need and thanks to the birth of Storybook Homes my project cup overflowith, so thoughts of moving had not crossed our minds.... until it became part of our back-up plan to stay financially afloat during the Caldwell renovation. (If your new to the blog, you can read about that plan here.)

Once the idea of moving was rooted in my head I pitched the idea to the family. On an excitement scale of 1 to 10 here is how my family ranked on the thought of moving:
Colby- 2,
Cohen - 9
Rory- 5
Me- 9.999
So with an above neutral average I took that as a sign to officially begin our house hunt. To help elevate all excitement levels and to live out my House Hunters fantasies I took an inventory of everyone's wish list for the new house.

⬜ Within biking distance to school and friends.
⬜ Workspace for Colby's Creations
⬜ Mancave (excuse me while I try not to roll my eyes)

⬜ Carl Stuart school district because that is where the majority of his friends from sports and church will be going
⬜ Basketball goal (inside room and/or outside)
⬜ Mancave (I'm not even going to try to hold back an eye roll...he's 10 years old!)

⬜ Tiny House - "we just need to get rid of a ton of "junk" (aka all Niki's seasonal decor and stock pile of home goods) and live simply" 
⬜ next breath... "I need my own personal office, a personal storage room for all my hunting/camping gear, a large garage with NOTHING but cars in it." (quotes from Rory)
⬜ New construction (shot to my heart)
⬜ Land for a horse and donkey 
⬜ and of course (say it with me....) A mancave.

⬜ Must be a fixer upper! The uglier the better
⬜ Must be cheap! I want a large budget to work with
⬜ Want enough land for a shop- I'm tired of driving across town to get to my tools
⬜ Close to Kroger! Once you have lived within a mile of Kroger, you can't go back!

So with my House Hunter wish list, I started the hunt! At first, I stuck with the traditional routes of finding a home: realtor, zillow.com, realtor.com, and drove the city looking for sale signs. But after a few months of coming up dry, I expanded my search to homes NOT currently on the market. That's right, no home was safe from me trying to purchase it. If it met a large chunk of my family's wish list, I would AR County data the property to find out the name of the unsuspecting home owner, then I would use my sleuthing skills to track the owner down on FB, and last I would send them a message asking if they would consider selling me their house. While waiting for the owner to respond back I would draw out a dream floor plan based on the perimeter footprint provided by AR County data, and I would daydream about how I would decorate and furnish it. Not creepy at all! Surprisingly, not one person was willing to sell me their house*

* If you were one of the people I approached about buying your home, I promise I am harmless. But should you ever decide to renovate, I have a plan already drawn out and a full Pinterest board I'd be happy to share. 

Because I let myself become emotionally attached to each home I approached, each rejection took a toll on my spirit and I was beginning to get really discouraged. Then one cold morning in February, on an early morning run, I ran across a FSBO (For Sale by Owner) sign. Now, you should know, that I am the most oblivious runner (and driver) on the planet. You could come within 1 inch of running me over and I won't notice but I can spot a FSBO sign a mile away!

What is crazy about this particular property, was that I had literally been running past this house since my college cross-country days (20+ years) and I had NEVER noticed its existence before. I snapped a picture of the phone number and then I waited and watched the seconds tick by for 2 hours until it was an acceptable hour to call the number on the sign. No answer. I left a voicemail, then a text, then another voicemail just for good measure. Finally at 2pm that afternoon I got a call back from the owner and we set up an appointment to see the property later that afternoon. While on the phone she warned me that the house was very dated and would need some work... I tried to play it cool but inwardly I was doing backflips.... "dated and needs work" are 2 of the most important qualities I look for in a home!

My parents were in town visiting, so my Mom and Rory went with me to look at the house. The house was dated but minus the stained carpet it was very clean by storybook home standards (in other words, it didn't stink). I tell you what.... instead of just describing it, I'll take you on a quick tour of what we saw:

When we stepped inside the front door we walked directly into the carpeted living room.

Here is another picture of the Living Room.

The living room is open to the dining area...

and kitchen.

Here is a close up of the kitchen.

Off the dining area there is a powder bath

Then down the hall...

are 2 bedrooms

and a full bathroom

Then back thru the dining area and the kitchen we found the master suite which was obviously a enclosed garage conversion

Stats: a little over 1800 sq. feet, 3 bed, 2.5 bath on 0.41 acres. And to help orient you a little better, here is a rough floor-plan of current house:

What do you think? Could it be the Thompson's DREAM HOME!?!?! As far as the Thompson Family wish list: it met all of the location requirements, but the current floor-plan checked off very few of the space requests. For me, this was part of its charm. I knew I would LOVE the challenge of rearranging the walls to meet my family's demands desires.

Rory has stressed to me the importance of keeping a poker face when looking at a house, so without giving any of my excitement away I let the owner know that we would discuss and get back to her in a couple of days. Problem was Rory was leaving on a mission trip the next day so I knew if he hadn't had an immediate attraction to the house, it would be a whole week before I would even get a chance to launch my persuasion tactics on him. And in the world of real estate, we might not even have a house to discuss in a week. So the second we were out of ear shot of the owner I tried to get a read on how he liked the house. His response was, "Crunch some numbers and see if you can make it work." Yep, he gives me the same real estate poker face that he gives home owners. I think he feels he has to keep things detached and neutral to help balance out my immediate obsession and passion for every home I tour.

So the second I got home, I sketched out a rough floor plan that would satisfy almost all my family's wish list (minus the horse and donkey) and then made a speculative budget for how much money it would cost to bring the vision to life. The renovation total plus the owner's asking price equalled a number just outside our target price range. I presented the numbers to Rory that night before we went to bed along with my rough sketch of what I was thinking the end product would look like. After looking things over he liked it enough to give me his blessing to make a long shot offer that the owner was not likely to accept but would land us nicely in our price point comfort zone.

Now normally after I am first introduced to a house, I will spend a blissful but sleepless night laying in bed trying to keep up with my racing mind as visions of floor-plans and light fixtures dance in my head. But that night, my normal house thoughts took a detour from the cosmetics of the home, and instead I could't stop thinking about how the house might function. The more I thought about how we might use this house the more excited and convinced I was that this property was destined to be our next home. The next morning as I drove Rory to the church to leave for his mission trip, I shared just a little of my vision for the property with him. He didn't say much (again with the poker face) but I could see the wheels start to spin in his head, and once again he blessed the decision to submit our agreed upon offer with the owner, but added that he would be praying over it and encouraged me to do the same.

The next day, I met the owner back at the property to submit our offer. Before I gave her our offer I accidentally told her about all the plans I had for the place. I mean I went on and ON and ON which totally broke Every Last Rule Rory has ever tried to teach me about real estate negotiations. I kept thinking "Niki, STOP TALKING" but I couldn't help it...remember Rory was out of the country so besides the brief conversation we had had on our 6 minute drive to church I had been all alone with my thoughts for over 48 hours so it all just came pouring out at the feet of the seller. So by the time I actually gave her our offer, she pretty much knew we had all but moved into the place. Despite this, she did not outwardly laugh at my offer, but rather she said she loved the vision I had for the property and that she would think about our offer and get back to me.  

The next day, while waiting to hear back from the seller, I started spreading the news among my friends that I thought I had found us a house! Everyone was excited about the news until I revealed where the house was located. At this point, in EVERY conversation, the excitement plummeted and the talk turned to warnings against purchasing the property. Not one person thought it would be a good idea. (Well, I take that back, ONE friend was on board but this friend is as sweet as honey and I'm not sure she is capable of saying anything negative.) But seriously, EVERYONE else I told about the house basically said we would be crazy to purchase this property because of its location. In fact, I had so many negative reactions I was almost relieved when the seller called with a counter offer that was well outside our comfort zone. 

That night, when Rory called from Belize, I let him know about the counter offer, and I also communicated all the negative feedback I had received from our friends. I was fully prepared for him to tell me we just needed to walk away, but instead he asked "Do you think you could adjust the design to make the counter offer work within our budget?" At this point we must have entered the twilight zone because while Rory was trying to make this house work for us, I heard myself argue, "I just don't think this house makes good financial sense for us." THIS folks, has NEVER happened in our marriage. It was a complete role reversal. But instead of being swayed by the warnings of our well meaning friends or by my completely out-of-character prudent financial concerns Rory simply reminded me of the vision I had shared with him about the place and suggested that I not be so quick to reject the offer but rather to continue to pray about it until he got home and we could sit down and look at the numbers together. 

Three days later, after continuing to listen to wise counsel from those familiar with the area, I called the seller to let her know I just didn't think we could make the counter offer work. I did let her know that Rory and I would discuss further when he got home, but I did not want her to hold the house for us.  At this, she offered to drop the price a little more. Now putting us just slightly out of our target range.

That night, I called Rory to tell him that I had tried to walk away because I just did not have a peace about the location, but that she dropped the price to $X amount. As soon as I said the number, Rory said "do it." I was like, "what?!?!" He said, I want you to call her back and tell her we will take it. To which I, fully embracing my new role as the voice of financial reason in our marriage, responded "Let's just continue to pray about it until you get home and then we can sit down and really discuss. If the house is supposed to be ours, it will still be there" (although after listening to the onslaught of warnings against the house all week, I wasn't too nervous the house would be swept up by another buyer before Rory and I had time to have a looooong conversation).


I will share with you how Rory confirmed that this house was to be part of our family's story as well as my vision for the space in part 2 of this blog. 

But because I already spoiled the ending with my opening paragraph I will let you know we went under contract the day after Rory got home from his mission trip and officially made this house our own on April 20th.

Do you recognize this house? Do you know why our friends might have been a little concerned about its location? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Oliver Update

Warning: It's a long one, you might want to bookmark this chapter and come back when you have plenty of time to read or if you're having trouble sleeping some night. 

Exciting times are on the horizon for Storybook Homes this Spring and Summer, and I can't wait to tell you all about it; but before I can get to all that, I feel I need to spend some time updating you on Oliver. Remember Oliver?

Back in February, I put out an ALL-CALL looking for a homeowner for this gem. And Guess What?!?! Despite the scary pictures and being greeted by this in person:

We had multiple families interested in the place and ended up shaking hands with the first couple we met. Crazy, huh?!? You know what is even crazier??? We truly thought finding a prerenovation buyer was going to be the biggest challenge of the project! Boy were we wrong.... (blatant foreshadowing folks... read on)

The couple adopting Oliver could not be more perfect. If you have spent any time on twostorysister, you are familiar with my slight control issues. Because of this, I have been VERY apprehensive to leave the flipping model to work with homeowners because this would require me to put someone else's wishes and priorities over my own (I get it, I get it... their money, their house). Gosh, that looks awful in writing....not proud of this personality trait, however "honest" is another trait from which I suffer so I have this need to share EVERYTHING with you or I feel like I'm lying. 

Anyways...the couple we are working with understand and respect my need for control and are really trying to let me take the lead. But here is the cool thing, they have contributed some really great ideas too! For example, at our first meeting when I presented my hand-drafted plan, they suggested in lieu of the soaker tub we incorporate a larger "doorless" shower. I LOVED that idea! My dream shower is doorless too and I had only put the soaker tub in to satisfy the masses so I was totally on board with this change.

We also moved some closets around to create a doorway to the backyard. Easy Peasy. And they wanted to add a 2 car carport to the plan. After we reviewed the proposed floorplan, I pitched the story idea behind the house design and provided a few inspiration pics to let them see how this might play out in terms of color and overall feel. Here are 3 of the pics I showed them:

I'm afraid this last one might have scared them a little, but you see HE was the essence of the story. For some reason, this house had always conjured up images of Ken and Barbie, specifically Ken and Barbie in Tennis wear. 

This was going to play out in the cutest vintage preppy craftsman. I even had vintage tennis rackets stashed away for staging. However, upon sharing the inspiration pics I learned that she was not a fan of green and was nervous to try out some of my other color ideas. I'll admit I panicked for a second because I could feel my story slipping away and I was terrified to attempt this project without a story as my guide. But then something happened.... before I left that meeting she graciously took me on a tour of their beautiful home and pointed out some of her favorite furniture pieces that she would like to see incorporated into the design of the house. During that tour it became clear how perfect her favorite things would fit into the space we had just reviewed and I realized that I would not have to navigate this renovation without a story after all.... the new homeowners ARE THE STORY! Their wishes and ideas would form the new story of this house!


I know this seems like an obvious answer to most of you, but it was a real "ah-ha" moment for me. I'm sure this story will evolve throughout the construction process as I get the privilege of working alongside this couple but at this stage of the game, I can reveal that the home has moved from whimsical preppy to a slightly more traditional timeless cottage. It's going to be great!

(Don't worry, I'm sure Ken and Barbie will resurface on a future project.)

With the plans approved and a clearer direction for the design of the house, the next step was to submit the plans to the historic commission for approval of the carport. This process delayed the project for about a month but during that month I worked with a real-life draftsman to draw up official plans for the renovation. Guys, I wish I had time to tell you about Bob the draftsman, he is a hoot and when we don't want to kill each other we have a real good time BUT this blog is already turning into a novel and I haven't even gotten to the drama so Bob will have to be revisited on another day. 

Fast forward to the Friday before the Monday Historic meeting.  Rory and I scheduled a meeting with our concrete man and framer to discuss the best approach to repair/replace the foundation so we could be ready to roll the second the historic commission blessed our plans and we could pick up our building permit.

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:

  1. Going over budget with someone else's money feels a trillion times worse than when it is your own money at risk.
  2. In the future, I am going to take my worst case scenario budget and at least double it before I present it to homeowners.
  3. 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.
Ok, back to the story. 

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.

Woo Hoo! Thanks for hanging with me to the bitter end of this loooong blog. You're dismissed! Until next time....