My sister, Suzanne

Laurie, Suzanne, me and Ryan (2010)

Earlier today, I learned that my sister Suzanne died in her apartment a few days ago.  Even though there will be an autopsy, I am confident that it will confirm that her body just gave up on her after decades of abuse from alcohol addiction.

She was only 55.

Suzanne was once a vibrant and happy person.  She was a talented artist, a strong saleswoman, and a passionate collector of gorgeous size 5 shoes.  Ten years her junior, she was a part of my life from the day I was born.  For most of life’s major events (weddings, graduations, and holidays), we were together.

I think I was too young (or maybe too busy) to notice when she became an addict.  As my life became fuller, hers seemed to be falling apart.  She had her heart broken in an early marriage, and fell in love time and again with new men who didn’t live up to her expectations, yet lingered in her life.  Despite the fact that she would have been a great mother, she never had any children of her own, and I think a little part of brightness dimmed with each passing year.  Her once successful career fell apart, in part to bad timing, but mostly because of bad decisions.

The last time I saw her in person was at a roadside hotel the morning after my father’s funeral.  That was more than six years ago.  The day before, she was abandoned by her boyfriend outside the funeral home just a few minutes before we said good-bye to my father.   She was drunk and disheveled and by the time we finished the service and got to the wake, I had reached my limit.  We put her in a cab and sent her off to a hotel.  She left her glasses behind and so I brought them to her the next day.

At that point, my sister had been in and out of rehabilitation centers on an irregular cycle.   Compared to other members of my family, the time and expense I had invested in trying to help her get clean was negligible, but I saw what she did to others in our family.  For that reason, I did not give her many chances to come back into my life.

And I never really forgave her for that day.

In recent years, we texted a few times, but most of the time, her phone was not operational.  I sent a Christmas picture and she called to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. But that was it. My other sisters would hear a bit of information about her and share it when we all gathered. It was mostly bad news. Abusive relationships. Debilitating health issues. Lost jobs. You get the picture.

Today, I am conflicted about how to grieve.  The woman I knew and loved died in many ways years ago, but the finality of her death is like a punch in the gut. I am filled with regret. Regret that my children will never know her.  Regret that I didn’t try to help her more. Regret that the most of the world will never really know how lovely of a person she was, how much fun she could be, how much she cared about others.  For obvious reasons, we often only see the addict.  We choose to live with them and their addiction. Until we choose not to.

I don’t feel like I deserve to cry, but I do believe she deserves to be mourned.

Suzanne Bloch McCroby was my sister and she was a good person.

She will be missed.

2018: Change is good.

Happy new year to you and yours!

Another year, another year-in-review post.

Dorothy: We moved into our new home in Springfield and it is better than I expected.  There are still projects to be done, but our new house suits us well – and I am still loving our pink front door.

We are well on our way to having a functional garage, with only the siding and paint remaining to complete the outside. While the interior won’t be finished for a while, Josh and the boys have already started to use the space for storage…and a few heated ping-pong tournaments.  In 2019, we are planning a final backyard addition with a new pool!

Work: I started a new job at Mayo Clinic in January after nearly 11 years with Fidelity Investments.  Our public affairs department managed the public roll out of not one, but TWO new CEO announcements and the release of a Ken Burns documentary about Mayo in the fall, in addition to the grand opening of a new cancer and neurology facility and countless newsworthy discoveries and patient stories.

And in addition to my Florida responsibilities,  I was even offered the chance to accompany our CEO-elect to London in December to support his presentations at the US Embassy and the British-American Business Council.  It was wonderful to see London at Christmastime!

Josh is constantly busy with the construction of the garage (he is the homeowner GC for the job), but he has still found time to take on a few new home improvement clients. His 2019 is shaping up to look very different thought, as he is planning a BIG announcement of a new business!  (Stay tuned for more details!)

My Rodan + Fields business is plugging along with many loyal clients and a small team of consultants, many of whom have been with me for more than 6 years.  It goes without saying that R+F has been good to us and while I don’t post about it as much as I used to on Facebook, I am still actively engaged in growing it, taking advantage of a new line of derma-cosmetics that has intrigued folks who were happy with their daily skincare regimens.  I hope you’ll let me know if you ever have interest in knowing more about it.

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School: Owen is excelling in school, even taking Algebra I in his 8th grade year.  Both Matthew and Ben are also thriving at GRASP Academy.  It is hard to believe that we have had the boys at the same school for 5 consecutive years.  “School choice” means we are looking at a variety of options for middle and high school, but I know wherever the boys go, they’ll be ready for the change thanks to the hard work and support of the staff of GRASP.

As for the rest of 2018, we had some real highlights: an open house party in April, winning Spring and Fall soccer seasons with great teams for all 3 kiddos, trips to New England over the summer and St. Simons Island in the fall, laser tag and paintball birthday parties, and the delight of an above ground swimming pool in the backyard for months on end.

I was able to join my Mom and sister in Hilton Head for our 6th annual girls weekend, and was lucky to catch Hamilton on stage in Chicago during a conference for work!

We also suffered some tough losses this year, namely the passing of two beloved pets, Motor, after 15 wonderful years, and Tilly, after an all-together too brief 9 months with our family.  They each brought love, comfort and giggles into our lives, and along with Dash, they’ll be sorely missed.


We trekked to Minnesota for a last minute winter vacation and thus, have capped our year by making good on a 4-year old promise to introduce the fellas to snow.  Upon arrival, we caught a light dusting that resulted in squeals of delight!  Later this week, we head further north to try our our luck with snow sports before heading home.  These Florida boys are loving the change of temperature and scenery.

As for 2019, the #HappyChappies are planning several trips to see more of the USA and a summer Maguire family reunion to see more of our widely dispersed clan.

There is so much to be happy about and it is a joy to share some of our journey with you. May your year ahead be filled with good people and happy memories in the making.

With love,

Jennifer and the Happy Chappies







My dad, John, loved dogs.  It didn’t matter if they were big or small, long haired or short, loud or squeaky, he greeted them with the same enthusiasm that he may have used for me and my sisters when we were little. He got down on the dog’s level.  He cooed at them and petted them, even if it was only for a minute as he walked by them on the street.

In my youth, we had one dog who lived way beyond her reasonable years and she was his constant companion.  Buddie, with an “ie” because she was a girl dog ,was black and short legged and great at fetch. When she died, a little part of my Dad died too.   There were other dogs, and even a few cats, that came along, but none ever came close to Buddie.  I am 100% confident that she was waiting for my Dad in heaven when he got there in June, 2013.

My dad met never met Dash.  We found this Cocker Spaniel/Golden mutt online through a pet rescue 3 months after he was born in early 2014 and we brought him home to be our family dog.  Dash had kinky fur on his ears and slept at the foot of Owen’s bed every night most of his life.  But then, only 3 and a half years after we brought Dash home, he suddenly died. The vet said brain aneurysm.  Completely random.  Nothing we could have done.

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In early 2018, we decided to look for a puppy again.  It was a risk with a new house and a smaller yard and knowing that pets come the possibility of heartbreak if they get lost or hurt, but we knew we had room in our hearts to love another dog.

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And with the death of Motor, our beloved family cat, after a long, happy and lazy 15 year life, our house would be SO quiet and lonely with out a fur baby to love on, so I started to search in earnest.

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Enter Tilly: a half beagle/half lab (we think) mutt with giant black eyes and the biggest floppy ears.  She was born Christmas week and we brought her home 8 weeks later in late February of this year.  She grew…and grew…and grew.  And with each week, we knew she was the best addition to the Chapman family.  She is 50 pounds of energy and a warm, soulful gaze that could melt an iceberg.

A few weeks ago, we thought Tilly had injured herself.  Her gums were bleeding and the vet said she likely had an infection in her mouth from a wound.  After removing three teeth, he sent her home with a bag full of medicines and cone of shame.

I know now that he was only looking for the most likely of solutions, and so I guess getting mad that he was wrong is futile.

Tilly didn’t have an infection.  She has cancer.  She has a big gnarly tumor growing in her nose and mouth at a pace that is staggering.  We can literally see it grow over night, protruding from her snout, pushing against her eye and blocking one side of her nose.

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Our Christmas cards, ordered early for a change, note proudly that we added Tilly to our family this year  It is completely preposterous that before I get them mailed out to our friends and family that she’ll be gone.   It is impossible to reconcile that we have to endure the death of a 3rd pet in less than 1.5 years.  It is devastating that we are going to have to tell our boys that Tilly will go join Motor and Dash in heaven.

And yet, we will.

If there is anything I am able to find solace in it is that when Tilly crosses the rainbow bridge in the next few days, maybe my Dad will greet her with an enthusiastic pat on the head, and throw her a ball or two.  She can cuddle up with Buddie and the two other Chapman fur babies and rest in peace.

Good girl, Tilly dog.  You are a good girl.



2017: The #YearofResortLiving, #Meet and #JensQuestions

One year ago, I could not have imagined how 2017 would play out, but I knew it would be different.

This is from my blog post on December 31, 2016.

I know that the year ahead will bring even more change. We are going to have to decide where to live after our year of resort living ends.  We want to travel and expose our kids to new places, new people, new cultures and new food.  We want to get a handle on our finances.  We want to grow our Rodan + Fields business.  I’d really like to get my body back.

It all feels very grown up.

And that is good.

For me, the year ahead is filled with wide open possibility. I know that when it is behind me, things will look very differently than they do now.

Boy, oh boy, did I know what I was talking about or what?

For the first few months of 2017, we embraced our year in the 1300 SF apartment and scoured the city looking for a place to call home.

And then we found it. (Her. #Dorothy)


We did expose our kids to new places, new people, new cultures and new food, thanks in large part to a terrific opportunity at my job. #Dublin


(Although I never blogged about our trips to Texas and Ireland , I did post some pics.  If you want to check them out, my Instagram account has plenty.)


We did focus on our finances and my Rodan + Fields business, and both are in much better shape.  (And my eyelashes are on point! #Lashboost)

And as for my body… well, 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.  (I mean, who actually loses weight when at a resort anyhow? As I wrote about the other day, in 2018, that number on the scale is going down – literally and figuratively! #GoalsSquad)

In addition to all of that, 2017 brought wonderful ways to connect through #Meet and #JensQuestions.

#Meet /  #MeetJax was a networking experiment that went full tilt in January.  I introduced nearly 225 people for hundreds of coffees over many months. and through it all, new relationships and friendships were made and one person even a new job found!  However, in September, I realized that the time it takes to manage the scheduling (or rescheduling) was just too much for me.  For the time being, #Meet / #MeetJax is on hiatus as a regular thing – although I hope I still can connect folks on an ad-hoc basis.

#JensQuestions: Since the summer of 2016, I have also asked hundreds of questions every Monday through Friday (excluding holidays!) about everything from your favorite condiment choices to your preference for pumpkin spice to more serious inquiries about bravery, fear and dreams.  #JensQuestions has been a terrific way to learn about friends near and far.  However, in 2018, I am also taking a break from a daily question to make room for new pursuits. (See weight loss above.)

In the coming weeks, they’ll be new neighbors to meet, new noises to learn and new rooms to get settled in.  We’ll have new routes to school and work, and we’ll be shopping for groceries and dropping the dry-cleaning in new locations.  I want to start new habits, and try new recipes – and wear clothes that seem like new since it will have been a long time since I could fit into them!

Most of all, we hope to have new visitors, the family and friends who have been rooting for us on this crazy journey through the  #yearofresortliving #YearAndaHalfofResortLiving.

Until then, may your new year’s celebration be lively, may you return home safe and may your 2018 be the best year yet.

With love and gratitude,

Jennifer and the Happy Chappies

PS – This is posted in loving memory to our dog, Dash.  Losing him was the worst thing about 2017, and we will be planting a tree in our new yard in his memory.  We miss you, Dashy-dash. 








What the health…

I hope you had a lovely holiday! We sure did. I can hardly believe that the year is nearly over and it will 2018 in a few days.

And while it is very cliche to do so, my new year will bring a renewed focus on the scale.

I have written about my weight in the past.  In fact, I drew a line in the sand 2 years ago, to move more, eat less, and get back into my clothes.

It isn’t a secret.  If you’ve see me in person, you know that hasn’t happened.  Between preparation and sale of our old home, the luxuries of resort living, the international travel plus renovation stress, I have managed to eat my way to a weight that I have only seen one other time.

I was 5 months pregnant.

Despite a daily green smoothie for the last month, I feel awful.

So here goes.

I am on a mission to get trim and fit in 2018 – a mission to not only work off the 20 pounds I have gained in the last 2 years, but to make my health a priority.

I am starting on January 1, and I have given myself until my next birthday (June 14th) to hit my goals. I am also dangling a pretty big carrot for myself, should (when!) I hit my targets…more on that later.

If you have big health or weigh loss goals for yourself in 2018, and you’d like to be a part of an accountability group with me for the next 6 months, let me know.  I am going to need some serious partners in this effort.  I learned during my Whole 30 experiences hangry is not my best emotion and friends and partners can keep me from derailing with things get tough.

If you see me, ask me how I am doing (the threat of a public failure is also a powerful motivator for me) and wish me luck!

~ Jennifer





It is happening!

The first floor framing has been done!

While the changes are more or less limited to the newer portions of the house, the whole house feels transformed.

Here are a few pictures and dimensions.

Kitchen: 15’6″ x 12’8″ 

Through that cased opening/door is the kitchen. (From this vantage point you’re looking across what will be the dining room.) The kitchen will have a center island, and several large windows to keep it nice and bright!

Master Bath: 11’8″ x 9’7″
Master Closet: 5’10” x 8’5″

The two pictures above are the hallway leading to the master bath, with the closet on the right and then the bath itself. The closet is larger than what we had in our last house. Considering that this is a historic home, as well as only 2200 ft.², it is also really cool to have a walk-in closet. 

The bathroom also feels large too. The door you see in the picture will be replaced by a window over the bath tub. 

Mudroom/casual dining: 11’5″ x 12’8″

This is the trickiest room in the house, besides the master bedroom. It’s the room behind the kitchen that will lead to the backyard, and will hold a powder room, laundry, and a small casual seating area. While I didn’t take any pics, I did confirm we can fit all of that in the space!

    That’s it for now! Off to the space planning websites, I go!

     As always, thanks for reading!

    ~ Jennifer

    Meetings, delays and details, oh my!

    Hey there, everyone!

    I feel like it has been ages since I blogged, but it has only been a week.

    A crazy, busy, fun, intense week!

    The number of things that have to get sorted out to take advantage of my international assignment is sizable.

    • Immigration applications
    • Tax implications in Ireland
    • Tax implications in the US
    • Housing in Ireland
    • Coverage for my work in the US
    • The scope of my Ireland work.
    • How to enroll in virtual education in the US while living abroad.  (Turns out, this is not going to happen.  The boys will be coming back to Jacksonville at the start of the school year, so that we don’t lose their spots at their school.  They’ll be traveling with me only for the first month.)

    We now know that we are going to be living in Dublin 8, near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The apartment is a 20 minute commute (against traffic) to my office, and near a ton of stores, restaurants and pubs.

    We had an amazing friend offer to take the dog for the month we are all gone (How amazing is that?!?), and my mom is going to take the fish tanks.  Josh’s dad is noodling coming for a visit while we are there and I hope we can make it happen.

    As for Dorothy…

    • I’d hoped to have pictures of our new roof, but the rain has kept the roofers away.
    • I had hoped to have pictures of the newly framed rooms, but we have had delays in getting the space laid out.
    • I had hoped to see the front of the house ripped off, but we haven’t got the permit approved.

    Dorothy is a bit lighter, as we removed damaged wood, old insulation in the attic and any remaining ceilings in the house.  The dumpster has been delivered and we are ready to start putting her back together, at least on the inside.

    I have picked most of the finishes for the house, including oil-rubbed bronze faucets and white subway tile for the baths, as well as white quartz counters and gray cabinets for the kitchen. (Still no decision on exterior paint colors, though.)

    We met Jim and George, the two guys who bought the 1900’s Greek Revival house next to ours.  It has not been occupied in 20 years!  They just drove cross-country from Seattle to take on their complete renovation. We are going to head over the house on Sunday to hopefully take pictures of the new framing and meet our new neighbors.  What a difference it will be to our little part of Springfield in the coming months!

    There is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks.  (I haven’t even begun to consider the quick trips to Raleigh, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth that all take place before we leave in July.)  From getting rain gear to setting up my international cell phone plan, the list of details keeps getting longer, but it will be SO worth it.

    Thanks for reading.






    I renamed this blog Mid-life Reno because Josh and I had just taken the plunge on renovating a totally gutted, 113-year old home. And we were both in our early 40’s. Straightforward, right?

    As far as major life events were concerned, we assumed that the renovation of Dorothy, and the subsequent transition from resort living to Springfield, would be big enough. As of March, we thought we knew how the rest of 2017 would look.

    We were wrong.

    It turns out that Dorothy was Chapter 1.  The plot twist comes in Chapter 2: Off to Dublin!

    Yes, THAT Dublin.  It began with a conversation with my Big Big Boss during his visit to Jacksonville this past Spring.  Professional development is a big priority at my firm (thank goodness).  However, when I mentioned my aspiration to work internationally, I never figured it would materialize into anything.

    Fast forward to May, when I learned that my company offers a Global Rotation Program (GRP).  It’s an opportunity for associates to partner with teams worldwide, and also a proving ground for more global work in the future.  My bosses nominated me.

    I had been told not to get my hopes up.  Only a dozen or so people get picked for each session and nominees are not only from the US, but China, India, and Ireland. But then…

    I got an email. 

    “Congratulations!  You have been chosen to do a GRP rotation in 2017 in Dublin, Ireland.”

    Professionally, the timing is uncanny.  It is wedged between the down slope of my volunteer season and the ramp up of the legislative season.  Although there are things I will miss, my boss and colleagues have assured me the world will not end and that they can pitch in to support me.   How amazing is that!?

    For now, we are scrambling to get paperwork, housing and travel plans in order.  Josh and the boys will be going with me for at least the first month, and we hope to leave in mid-July.  I will be back no more than 89 days after I leave.  (Eighty-nine days is the maximum amount of time that I can stay without special dispensation from the government.)  My sleepless nights have quickly shifted from decisions about paint colors and door knobs to pet sitting (anyone want to try out a really cute dog or a low-maintenance cat for a month? Seriously.) and rainy weather attire, not to mention the pressure of being flown to another continent to prove your professional worth.

    It is all every exciting and somewhat scary.

    The house is still progressing, although I admit my attention has been totally diverted for the last few days.  I have much to share about Dorothy’s progress, and I hope to get a chance to write more soon.

    I know that this is a once in a lifetime chance to experience another culture as a resident, to test my skills as a professional and to spend time examining where the second half of this amazing life takes me, especially if I end up being on my own for the second 2/3rds of the rotation.

    My mid-life reno just got more personal. And I couldn’t be more excited.

    As always, thanks for reading.

    ~ Jennifer







    Our fresh faced gal

    We have new elevations showing the front exterior of Dorothy!

    Since last I wrote, there have been a few developments at the new house. The most exciting of these is surely this.

    This is what Dorothy looks like now.  (Actually, that’s not true.  I have not taken a photo of the 15 paint colors we tested on her front façade…but I digress.)


    And this is what she’ll look like before the year is out.


    When we purchased the house, we were able to take advantage of the Certificate of Appropriateness that was secured by the sellers which gives us the approval from the historic planning commission to restore many of the features of the house to their original design.

    The biggest change will be ripping off the first floor front wall so we’ll have a front porch again.


    Yay, for porches!

    We will also remove the asbestos shingles on the second story of the house, and restore the wood lap siding.  We’ll build a new porch rail and reinstall all three of the columns.  Finally, we’ll build a new wider staircase that will be great for sittin’ and chattin’ and what not.

    Our design was submitted to the City this week along with our applications for permits. Now, we wait for approval.

    That’s it for now.  Hope you have a great weekend!

    As always, thanks for reading.

    ~ Jennifer

    How are we going to pay for all of this? (A 203K loan story.)

    Looking at Dorothy, you might be wondering how we are going to pay for the repairs and upgrades.  I was wondering the same thing when we toured the bare bones for the first time.  Having used mostly cash to do our last renovation, it seemed impossible to self-finance such a big project.

    Then our realtor told us about the 203K loan, also known as a “renovation loan.”

    What is a 203K loan?

    A 203K loan is a specialized renovation or construction loan, offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It is available to both buyers and refinancing households, and combines the traditional “home improvement” loan with a standard FHA mortgage, allowing homeowners to borrow their renovation costs.

    Unlike a regular mortgage which bases the loan amount on the current appraisal of the home, a 203K loan is calculated on the appraised value of the home or condo at the conclusion of the renovation.

    There are two types of 203K loans.

    The Standard 203(k) and the “Limited” also known as a Streamline 203k.

    The Standard 203(k) Mortgage is used for major remodeling, repairs and structural changes with a minimum repair cost of $5,000.  A 203(k) Consultant is required.  Consultants work to oversee the process and assist with communication between the lender, the borrower (us) and the general contractor.

    The Limited 203(k) may be used for cosmetic improvements, appliances and minor remodeling. The total rehabilitation cost must not exceed $35,000 and there is no minimum rehabilitation cost.  No consultants are required for this type.

    How is it like a regular mortgage?

    A 203k Loan still requires credit approval and proof of reliable income, similar to any other regular home loan,  And like most loans, you’ll need money down, but the requirement is fairly low.  At the time we contracted for Dorothy, our down payment requirement was 3.5% of the final loan amount.

    However, there are some restrictions that are different.

    • With the Standard 203(k), you must use a validated general contractor to manage the improvements and renovations. However, the buyer gets to select his/her own general contractor to use.
    • If you use the standard 3.5% down payment, you will have to carry Private Mortgage Insurance for the life of the loan, regardless of the loan to value ratio.  You could choose to refinance out of PMI in the future, but generally there are refinance costs associated with that. If you put 10% down payment then the  PMI can be removed in 11 years.
    • You’ll have to cover the costs of the loan consultant. However, all renovation costs are rolled into the loan since they are part of the “cost of renovation”.
    • You are required to do the work outlined in the scope of work that the appraisal was based on.  In other words, you need to be 100% confident that you want to do everything you get the funding to do unless something unforeseen causes a change.
    • You are required to fund a contingency budget above and beyond the scope of work.  If you don’t use it, it gets credited back to the principal balance of the loan.  This shortens the life of your loan, but doesn’t affect the payment.

    You can learn more about it on the HUD website.

    Our story.

    For Dorothy, we secured a Standard 203K home loan.  We purchased the home as-is for $76,000 and we expect to invest more than $144,000 to fix her up.  Our lender required a 15% contingency (since the utilities were not active), bringing the total to about $240,000.  (The final number was adjusted for closing costs and our down payment, but you get the drift.)  Hopefully, we’ll be able to avoid using the whole contingency, since we are not expecting much in the way of surprises with the house already being gutted to the studs.

    Our appraisal came in at $251,600, so away we went!

    As we move along in the process, we’ll share more about this kind of financing works for us.  So far, the process has been painless!

    As always, thanks for reading!

    ~ Jennifer