One happy day in the Spring of 2007, HH and I bought a 1976 traditional house in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville. It was decorated in the style of “Early Ugly”, the previous owners having built the place 31 years prior, choosing decorator finishes that were all the rage in the 70’s (a green toilet, shag carpet, popcorn ceiling, foiled wallpaper and such.) Decor aside, it was on a half acre lot with Spanish moss-covered oak trees, and it was the perfect location for the next stage in our lives. We planned, as so many did in the early 2000’s, to renovate it, then host regular weekend parties, maybe grow our family in it, and then sell it a few years later for a hefty profit, a mere stepping stone to bigger and better real estate in the booming Florida market.
It is cliche to even say it, but my friends, life often doesn’t go as planned. One recession, one job eliminated, and two new babies later, we realized that we were going to live in this house for a long….long….long time.
About 2 years in, I asked HH what his favorite spot was in the backyard. He was puzzled until I explained that I was convinced we were going to die in this house and, should he go before me, I wanted to know where he’d like to be laid to rest. It was that bad.
In 2012, things started to look up. With the early success of my Rodan + Fields business and other strokes of good fortune, HH began the process of renovating our ugly home. Like most people who choose to renovate their home while they live in it, it goes incredibly slow and is horribly disruptive.
I went nearly 2 full years without kitchen counters, choosing to use discarded remnants of other people’s kitchen counters rested atop our cabinets until we could afford the Quartz we wanted. The wood flooring we laid in 2014 did not match the kind we laid in 2012, so it had to be done again. We never once had a car parked in the garage because it held tools, flooring, tile, grout, base boards, lighting fixtures, crown molding, faucets, and more, not to mention the stuff that comes with 3 babies/boys.
Even with the improvements, we were stuck. The house was all-consuming, leaving little time for family fun, no place for entertaining, and no extra money for anything.
Fast forward to this Spring, when the last bathroom had been gutted, tossing out mustard yellow tile and a Formica vanity to make way for a white subway surround and gorgeous modern double sinks.
When the last coat of paint dried, we realized the house was not only done, it was sell-able. And unless we wanted to re-do everything again (as realists, we know that with time comes a few broken windows, some school-age graffiti and general boy-life damage), we’d better hop to it.
So we sold it.
This was the house that my twins came home to, where two of my kids learned to walk and all three learned to ride a bike, where we held bouncy house birthday parties for Vader’s 3rd and 10th birthday (and my 40th!). It was the place where my marriage was tested and not only survived, but thrived.
This was also a house that weighed on us like a ton of bricks, that kept us up many late nights whether in heated discussions about what we could afford to do next or quietly working away, covered in dust/paint/caulk/dirt from demolition or sanding or whatever was the project of the month.
And now, another family will get to enjoy the fruit of that labor.
What lies ahead for the Chapman family is a total departure from the last 9 and a half years. We have swapped our 2500 SF traditional and big yard for a 1350 SF apartment with a screened-in porch that is one-third the size of a decent parking space.
I am psyched.
I have the declared the next 12 months as the #YearOfResortLiving. We will swim in the pool, workout in the gym, and play in the game room. We will spend less time working on the upkeep of our place and more time exploring our city and hanging out with friends. And if you took the time to read this all the way through, my friends, that means YOU. I may not have a guest room for weekend visits, but I do have a ridiculously strong desire to invite you over for a cold beer and a swim before the weather turns cool, or for a cookout in the fall using the shared grill and fire pit area.
Consider yourself invited – let’s do it soon.
Beyond that, who knows. HH and I have talked about so many possiblities and the fact that we have options is fun, all by itself. There is no hurry to get to a decision any time soon.
In the meantime, happy trails, Spanish Cove. If you need me, I will be by the pool.