My husband and I moved to Georgia for a city job with a zoning department. It was a meager salary but was enough to live on. We were thankful for work after a long season without it. We found a small rental house in a decent neighborhood where we felt our little family would be safe. It had a circular driveway and a nice front porch. The neighbor’s friendly cats liked to hang out and perch on the front window sills. This delighted our little daughter who loved animals. There was a large prickly cactus by the front curb. We remarked that we would have to avoid going near it for it was at eye-level for a small child. The house literally had no yard for our daughter and dog to play in but there was a nice-sized deck overlooking some woods. Our daughter was still small so we felt the deck had adequate room for a sand box or kiddie pool. Since she was still a toddler, that was all she would need.
One negative feature of the house was that the laundry room was outside the kitchen in a covered shed. I had to take trips back and forth through the back kitchen door to do laundry while trying to keep an eye on my daughter. I learned that to keep her safe, I had to leave her in her gated bedroom playing whenever she was out of my sight.
I began potty training her in this house. It was fairly successful when using M and M’s, or “MMM’s” as she called them, as bribery tactics. One time she got hold of a red crayon and began drawing a “picture” on the wallpaper in the bathroom before I could catch her.
We were living in this house when Hurricane Hugo came through the southeast. We had some rain and fairly strong winds during the storm. My husband and I were in the living room watching television when we heard a cracking sound then loud thud. We raced into our daughter’s room where she was sleeping and saw that a tree had fallen in the yard next to our house and had come within inches of her bedroom window. We were definitely grateful and astonished at God’s protection over us.
During that winter, we had another freak event of nature. It snowed in our area of Georgia which almost never happens. We had no snow shoes or boots for our daughter so we put plastic bags over her tennis shoes so she could walk around outside and enjoy the snow while it lasted.
When our house in North Carolina sold, we felt a financial burden lifted and began looking for another house of our own. We found a house in foreclosure near the affluent section of town. We got permission from the bank to go in and begin cleaning up the property before the sale went through. We had a strange feeling about this house because we were told someone had died in the house by suicide. It had been for sale for a long time as no one wanted to go near a house that was potentially haunted. We prayed over it as we began to haul away debris outside and clean its very dirty floors and carpets. Perhaps, we were desperate for a home of our own and were willing to overlook our misgivings. However, God had other plans for us. Before we signed the final papers, my husband found out that his job was going to be phased out…..again.
We moved to the central Carolinas when our daughter was six weeks old. We found a rental house which served little more for us than storage for all of our belongings. It was a split-foyer so we used the entire lower level for boxes that we never even bothered to unpack. We began a quest to find a new home right away. After much deliberation, we decided to build a house in a subdivision with a two-story one garage plan. We chose a sloping wooded lot above a creek at the end of a cul-de-sac which offered us more privacy in the backyard.
Being in a builder’s subdivision, there were a lot of things about the home that were predetermined. On the outside we got to choose the color of the siding, shutters and front door. On the inside, we got to choose the carpet, floors and light fixtures.The process was fairly stress-free and time went by quickly as we made one decision after another. By the time our daughter was six months old, our house was finally ready and we got to move in.
To place our personal stamp on the “hill” house, we did some minor things to it. One of these was some landscaping. We planted shrubs and trees in the front yard. Our decorating budget became drastically reduced, however, during that first year when my husband’s job was phased out. We managed to scrape together enough funds to finish off a small corner of the oversized garage for a home office. This gave my husband a private space to draw maps and sell real estate so that we could pay our bills for a while.
We ended up moving to northern Georgia for another job and sold the house. We did not make a profit on it. In fact, the economy was in a downturn. Though we considered renting it out, we finally accepted a low offer to keep from having to pay two house payments. We found out later that the people who bought the house after us, fenced in the back yard only to lose the fencing later during floodwaters in a heavy rainstorm.
In this house our daughter celebrated her first birthday. She had her first sugar rush with cake and ice cream. She took her first steps and spoke her first distinguishable word, “fluffla”or flower, in our front yard. She climbed out of her crib in the middle of the night, frightening us so much that we ended up putting her mattress on the floor. I locked myself out of the house one day while she was asleep in her crib and had to borrow a neighbor’s phone to call my husband to come home. She fell down the stairs here learning to climb them and cut her lip. She got her head stuck in the railings dividing the kitchen from the den. The house was memorable in many ways but mostly for milestones associated with our daughter’s first year of life.
After visiting Waco, Texas and the famous Magnolia Market, I have reflected on my own “fixer upper” experiences. Through the years, my husband and I have taken on a few real estate remodeling challenges.
As a child, I remember my parents fixing up two houses. My grandparents did the same. I guess when you don’t have a lot of money to buy your dream home, you make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. It takes a vision for what it can become. I have learned that this is the fun of home ownership.
Every home we have ever owned, has been a work in progress. We have scoured, stripped wallpaper, painted, and changed each place to improve it and put our own personal touches on it to make it ours.
In 1983, we owned our first home in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. It was a townhouse. I will call our first home “the blue barn house”. It had all the space that we needed for a starter home. There were three levels. Three tiny bedrooms and a bath were on the top floor. A kitchen, half-bath and living room were on the main floor. There was a walk-out basement on the lowest level. What was interesting and sold us was that the basement walked out to a fenced garden space with raised beds and a small barn-like storage building. We had the end unit next to a playground so had more gardening space along the side of the house. I ended up planting flowers in the back yard and vegetables along the side yard. Our laundry area was downstairs along with another half bath. The area was heated by a wood stove which made the space very cozy.
In the kitchen, the previous owners had put up some nice tile as a back splash along with real barn board along one wall. The style then was country so this lended itself well to the decorating trend of the time. All we needed to do was a little painting and decorating to make the house feel like home. We ended up painting the orange basement walls yellow. We had to live with the brown shag carpeting throughout the house. I made some cute rust colored curtains with ducks in the design in the kitchen to match my duck theme throughout the house. I stenciled a flower design along the ceiling of the bedroom walls and a rocking horse border in the baby’s room when I became pregnant with my daughter.
All our hard work paid off for when we listed our house for sale, after only three years of ownership, our house sold in three days.