Friday, October 26, 2012

The Brick House

{When I saw this sticker in the window, I told The Engineer it was a sign that this house and us were meant to be!}

Hey, hey! I never intended to step away for so long. I suppose that's often the way things are. We've been busy doing a lot of living. And I am thankful for that!

{Back Hall}

So...I thought I'd tell you the story of how we ended up here, in the Brick House. For about a million and one reasons we didn't take off to house hunt until March the 22nd. Which left us exactly 28 days to choose a house, haggle over the price, go through with an inspection, and close. Practically unheard of. And yet, it was the best we could swing. We're crazy like that. It's just how we roll. (wink, wink)

{left: hall closet/right: laundry}

Now, the night we arrived to house hunt, we drove past "the house" I just knew would be ours. It was 1:30 in the morning and my palms were sweating. I assured The Engineer we need look no further. This particular house was IT. It was a foreclosure I'd been watching carefully via the web. Our realtor had done some research, taken photos for me, etc. The bank had been hacking away at the price. I had no doubts. 

{guest bath}

And so the next morning our realtor picked us up. I'd told him the it house was the one I wanted to see first. We had roughly forty houses on our list and I was certain we'd choose the first one on the list. The it house. As we pulled away from the hotel, he told us the it house had gone under contract the afternoon before. It'd been less than twenty-four hours. I was crushed. Like, my heart sank kind of crushed. The Engineer was gentle and quick to remind me that God was protecting us from something, leading us to something better.

{guest bath - I suppose I could have closed the lid. My apologies. That was honestly just the color of the water. It had been flushed. I promise.}

And so we went on to look at the other thirty-nine or so houses on the list. We narrowed it down to four. Our number one pick being the brick house. Now, the brick house had been sitting empty and on the market for over two years. The little old lady who owned the brick house is in her nineties. She and her husband had purchased the home shortly after their close friends had "updated" it, back in the late fifties. And the little old lady and her husband, proudly, hadn't done a SINGLE THING to it, or so she claimed, since the day they moved in. And for the most part, I wholeheartedly believe her!

{master bath}

After all, why would they? Everything looked so good. The yard was beyond overgrown (multiple family members have told us there's no way we'll tame it without hiring a crew - we'll see). Creeping fig had taken over the back part of the house and was growing through the windows and into the house. Almost every window has massive rot and needs replacing. Several shutters have literally rotted and fallen off the house. The roof is over thirty years old. One ac unit is twenty-five years old, the other, thirty. The entire house needs to be replumbed. It also needs to be re-wired. (Both the plumbing and wiring are original.) The plaster walls are cracking and entire chunks have fallen off in a heap of dust and crumbles in several places. The hardwoods are in terrific shape for being under carpet for so long, but definitely need work (think - windows left open kind of water damage to the floors). The list goes on and on and on. 

{master bath-note the awesome sconces!}

And yet, despite all the work she needs, we were smitten. She sits on a beautiful street lined with old oaks. We just, well, we just fell hard. She had almost everything we'd listed on our "dream" list. And the potential...OH the potential!

{another angle of the master bath - again, note the overhead lights}

But her asking was more than would be wise. And so we made an offer. Betty, the little old lady who owned the place, countered, still much higher than we were comfortable with. We made a final offer. It was our "best" and she countered back, still higher than we felt would be wise. 

{the lovely master bedroom}

At that point, we'd lost several days. The clock was ticking. A friend made a brilliant suggestion..."write her a letter." And so I did. I hand painted my initials on the finest paper I had and spent an entire day putting my heart on paper, four pages total. I told her all about our little family and what we are "about." I told her what was bringing us to the area and why we were smitten with her house. I assured her we would love her house well and that we would fill it with life, once again. I literally spilled my heart on that paper, boldly, too. In closing, I asked her to please consider our offer. I enclosed photos of our family and our home, as well as a few drawings the children had done, and I packaged it all and held that package to my heart in the FedEx parking lot while I prayed. At five minutes to closing, I rushed in and overnighted the package to Betty.

{yet another angle of the master}

We waited three days and could wait no longer. Turns out Betty had received our letter, but wasn't comfortable with our offer. 

{rockin awesome kitchen!}

So we walked and made an offer on our second pick which would've been a grand home, just not exactly what we'd had in mind. The back yard was tiny and the laundry was in the basement, a basement akin to the basement in Silence of the Lambs (a movie I wish I'd never seen!). I realize I sound like a spoiled brat and there are lots of bigger things to be concerned with - I would've seriously had to gather all my courage to go down there alone. Not only was it incredibly creepy, but there was also an additional entrance from the outside. It was just super scary. Like, SUPER scary. A coat of paint might have helped things. It was bad enough The Engineer was scheming to move the laundry upstairs.

{some rockin' low upper cabs...}

House number two wasn't officially on the market. We'd heard through the grapevine that the owners wanted to sell. At the time, they were using it for storage. And so we made our offer. They countered much higher than their original asking price and gave us a list of things they would not do (like making repairs). So we walked. We liked the house, but not that much. 

{so rockin' low, in fact, our coffee maker will not fit atop the counters}

I nearly burst into tears when our realtor called with the news about house number two. The Engineer and I had pretty much ruled out the other two choices. We liked them, but we didn't love them. And we wanted to buy something we loved. We hunted for rentals. No one will rent to a family with a great dane and a rotweiler mix. We were getting desperate. I wondered if The Engineer would go on alone.

Now, Betty had told her realtor, who told our realtor, that she very much wanted our family to have the house, but given her need for long term care, she felt it was too risky to agree to our offer. We felt it was too risky to go any higher, given the condition of the house. It was at this point that our realtor suggested we make one more offer, that we go a tad higher, take a little "risk" and ask Betty to take a little "risk" with us. 

{entry hall}

We did. And she did. And we came to an agreement. And y'all, in twenty days - did you hear me? TWENTY DAYS from the day we came to terms with Betty, we met at the lawyer's office in our finest and left with the key to the brick house in hand.

{living room}

We bee-lined for our new house, changed clothes hurriedly, and let the work begin! We ripped out all the carpet, except what was in the master and spent the rest of the evening pulling out carpet tacks/nails. I thoroughly sprayed the inside and outside with our beloved Demon WP. 

{dining room}

We swept the leaves and debris out of the house. We signed insurance papers and met with a plumber and locksmith. It was wonderfully exhausting!


And now here we are, nearly six months have passed. I didn't expect my emotions to be what they've been. At first I loved the house. It seemed perfect. And then I hated the house and just wanted to go "home," to our old house, and I was heartbroken that our old house still hadn't sold. I would look at pictures and cry. And our new house...well, there were just so many frustrating things, mostly about the kitchen. I was ungrateful. I was angry at the difficulty change had brought...things like the fact that our coffee maker won't fit on the kitchen counter because the upper cabinets are hung too low. Nor will our mixer fit. It's a juggling act or requires an extension cord because of the odd placement of the outlets. The oven has two temperatures: hot, hot, hot or off. Stuff that's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. It's just incredibly inconvenient on a daily basis.

{note the built-ins}

It was an ugly season. And a hard season. It seemed everyone we met would say, "Do you just love your new house?" And I'm just not good at faking. I tried not to sound like a brat, but I know I did. I'd say something like, "We are very thankful for the Lord's provision." Or, "I just really miss my old house. I know this one will grow on me." Or, "All I do is compare this house to our old house, which was to me, perfect. It was our "forever" house." I mean, seriously, it was bad ugly.

{heading upstairs...and note the attic fan! We LOOOOVE the attic fan!}

Back to our old home, there were a lot of "close calls." Several times it almost sold. At one point someone had put in an offer with the intent to chop it into apartments to rent. That broke my heart and I was so happy when that offer was rejected.

{guest/Little Man's bathroom-which is a tub only bathroom}

And then one day The Engineer got an email from a friend.

{Note the quirky little storage cabinet above the tub.}

This friend shared that he and his wife were thinking about making an offer on the house and did we have any thoughts? My heart leaped within me. Literally. I was so excited! I wrote a small novel sharing many of the reasons we so loved that house and how perfectly it had served our family.

{Little Man's bedroom. The first time I walked into this room I nearly had a heart attack. I thought the birds in the birdcage light fixture were real and had, ahem, expired.}

And guess what? They ended up buying it! I cannot tell you how happy that made me and the freedom I felt knowing a precious young couple would be moving in, making it theirs! That they would be making their own memories there and their children would be filling the house with life. We loved that house. I'll always love that house. And I am SO HAPPY someone so precious bought it. They are exactly what we'd prayed for. Thank You, Lord!

{The guest room, which has become the room for Little Bit's "rest time" and Sister's late night "read-a-thons."}

I really was dumbstruck by the effect knowing our old house sat empty had on my heart. I know we're just talking about houses, but man, this was personal! It's a big deal! It's where we do life. It's the place we seek shelter, both physically and emotionally. It's not just a house, it's a home. And that home was dear to us. Its walls hold so many memories...of bringing babies home from the hospital and coming home from the the hospital without babies, of telling The Engineer and then our families we were pregnant so many times! Of birthdays and anniversaries, of the hardest season yet of our marriage. That house holds the memories of my parents' last visit married and so many Christmases and Thanksgivings. Of tears and laughter and heartache and joy. The walls of that kitchen hold the memories of SO MANY dance parties. Dinners with friends. Late nights of talking and laughing and fighting and praying. Homes really are precious. They are a gift from the Lord.

{Another shot of the guest room. We are rockin' those blue minis.}

And so knowing sweet friends (who had actually eaten with us in the dining room of our old house!) were moving in and making it theirs - y'all, it lifted my heart. I am SO thankful!

{The girls's room.}

With that knowledge came a lightness I hadn't realized was missing. And now I am full on all about the brick house. My head is swimming with ideas. I'm rearranging often and always thinking and dreaming up a new scheme.

{The girls's bathroom.}

The Engineer and I have been doing some of that together, too. We're pretty sure we have a "long term" plan. Of course, before we can tackle anything "fun" we need to tend to the necessities, like a new roof, plumbing (our water is a brownish color - evidently that's very common for homes of this age in our area and is supposedly perfectly safe to drink. Suffice it to say, we're doing a lot of filtered water!), wiring, a new ac unit, etc., etc., etc.

{An upstairs closet...}

So basically, we are doing a lot of saving. And planning. And thinking. And dreaming. Because we are all about some Dave Ramsey and we will move forward on a cash only basis.

{Another upstairs closet...note the damage to the plaster. Plaster - ahhhh! Working with plaster will be a first for us. I've ripped it out, but never repaired any.}

And really, the timing couldn't be better because The Engineer has an extremely intense and difficult next few years at work. He's putting in long days and studying late into the night. Right now, there isn't time to invest in repairs and updates. At first this had me bummed.

{The "cellar."}

Now I am so thankful. Not only does that give us time to save, it's a nice season of rest from the pounding of nails and hauling of giant piles of debris. Plus, it's nice to live here and figure out what life in this new space looks like. 

{Nice, huh? Also in the "cellar."}

So here's to a new season in a new place. Here's to dreaming and planning and saving and discipline and patience as we wait to make those dreams a reality. Woop woop!

During the interim I'll be doing a little painting and a fair amount of yard work, but otherwise, saving our pennies and enjoying the business of living!


  1. Okay, this is awesome!! The LORD gave you a diamond in the rough...and some of it is not so rough...enjoy this journey!! And, enjoy planning and saving and dreaming...AND living!! Love you!

    Have a happy weekend!
    Camille XO

  2. Oh...and thank you for the update! I always enjoy them. :)

  3. LOVED this! The professor and I were hanging on every word and photo, being the house nerds that we are and all. Mostly, I loved what you wrote about houses being homes and the love and the living that fills them... that is what makes a home beautiful, and your's is!

    I'm so thankful for His grace and forgiveness when I'm ungrateful. At times I've had some of the very feelings you've had... after His giving us *exactly* what we dreamed of for so long.

    Now I'm thinking that I should share the story of house journey. Our sweet old lady was named Betty, too!

  4. I am new to your blog. This post was fascinating.... can't wait to follow what you do in the future....

  5. I am so glad you posted those pics, and I cannot wait to see your creativity come alive in the brick house! R is wearing one of Sister's outfits today. It made me miss you guys, but I know that the Lord will continue to do mighty things through your family no matter where his path leads you. Just wanted you to know that I was thinking of you today.

  6. You said peach :) and you were right. Woah! Also loving the blue and yellow mini-blinds. Can't wait to see how it transforms under your good taste. Hope things went well Thursday.


  7. Loved this! In so many ways. Love you!

  8. Hey Jennifer! Can you believe I've finally had a moment to check out your blog? Really, only a couple of posts but your home is just lovely and it will be fun to see what you do with all of your passion and talent. Glad to know you just a tad, and I did get to read about your sufferings and what rings in my mind is that "HE makes all things beautiful in His time" Thanks for living this out among so many.

  9. Great post. Can't wait to see how this house becomes YOUR home! I saw your former home on Joni's Blog and just loved it and see the wonderful possibilities in your "brick house". It truly has great bones. We have redone two homes and my motto during all the reno is that "clean" is good. The other will follow.

  10. “We liked them, but we didn't love them. And we wanted to buy something we loved.” Well, that’s a good rule to live by. If you love it, you’d be able to do almost everything to keep it and maintain its integrity. Anyway, good luck on your further home renovations, especially on replacing the roof. Be sure to find a good deal on your roofing materials. Consider choosing the materials that can render a good and lasting service for your home.

    Lakisha Autin

  11. Y'all are so WEIRD - and I mean that in the best way! We are weird too - and debt free :)

    This post encouraged me so much as we continually put off projects and struggle to know how much we want to do to this house and how long we want to stay.

  12. Oh...and thank you for the update! I always enjoy them. :)

  13. practically marvelous journal

  14. We are remodeling too!!! :) Jamie picked our house when he came to interview. I didn't even get to see it! But I knew if he loved it, I would. I was in NM, with a 6 day old baby when he found our house and it's been quite an adventure updating it. Sometimes I am embarrassed to have people over because I like things perfectly clean and decorated and all Pottery Barn. This house is so far from that, but every change we make brings us closer and I like the romantic notion of us having done it together :)

    P.S. My kitchen really, really sucks, but when its full of people laughing and eating, I don't mind it so much!

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