Thursday, January 26, 2012

Desperate Dreams

We were never really the corner lot type.

When Hubby and I started looking for a place together, we looked for something small and near the beach. Once we learned that even a cardboard box near the beach was out of our price range, we switched to small and "with personality." Our first home was a small townhouse with cedar beam ceilings, a loft, and tons of character. We gutted it, made it our own, and loved it. We planned out our lives together: cheap cars, small house, big life.

This worked out really well until we decided we wanted a second baby. It had already been challenging to fit the three of us and all of our stuff into the tiny spaces of the townhouse: Hubby's racing bikes (note the plural) were often stored in the dining room; his rappeling gear and our camping equipment hung in the baby closet; the baby's playpen was more often a storage container than an actual area for Ben to play; and our kayak was stored in a relative's garage. There was absolutely no way we were going to be able to add another person to this adorable little box with character.

So we started to look for our first real Grown-up House. Due to some really crazy and serendipitous circumstances, we were able to buy our dearest friend's house from her ex-husband...the same house where we had taken our first photo together as a couple, the same house where we had celebrated our graduate degrees at a dinner party hosted by our friend, the same house we had seeked refuge in when we needed advice and our friend's guidance. The house was outdated and her ex had not really kept up with it after she moved out; we could not even consider living in it until we gutted the whole place. But it was way bigger than we ever dreamed we could afford and had a pool and a two-car-garage and was on a corner lot and had such special meaning to us from our early years of dating. So we swapped our Big Life plan for the Big House version and told ourselves it was still Our Dream--just a different one.

It wasn't that we wanted a fancy home. Anyone who knows us can tell you we are not fancy people. We just wanted the most we could get in a time when South Florida real estate was at its most ridiculous peak. And we figured if we were going to give up our big trips and our big outings and get ourselves into a massive mortgage, it may as well be for a place that held some meaning for us (a pool and an extra room didn't hurt, either).

Fast forward 4 1/2 years.

The inside of our home, although not fully furnished yet (if ever), was airy and modern and inviting. The backyard was our Key West-themed tropical paradise. We had put it all into this house: money we had and money we didn't; time gutting it all and time replacing felt as if we had sold our souls in order to have The House. But despite our efforts, we still had not finished it. And as we sat at the sparkly granite bar counter of our sparkly remodeled kitchen in our sparkly spacious house, lists of bills and notes of pending projects confronted us, and we couldn't see how we could ever complete the rest. We had left the biggest and most overwhelming project for last: the front yard was a disaster and an embarrassment. Between the mortgage payments, the preschool payments, the debt we had gotten into because of the house repairs, we just didn't see how we were ever going to be able to come up for air.

For the first time, we considered the possibility of letting go of the house. We were tired of the mortgage payment. We were tired of pulling up to a house that looked like it had been abandoned. We were tired of giving up weekends away so that we could have a paved driveway. Facing the possibility of selling the house, I was overcome with emotion. I became unreasonably petulant: why couldn't I have it all? The house and the life we wanted (even if it had to be toned down a bit)? We began to wonder if maybe we had made the wrong decision.

This conversation took place in July.

A month later, Hubby applied us for "Desperate Landscapes," one of his favorite DIY network TV shows. The show does complete (and often over-the-top) facelifts to front yards that are the laughing stock of the neighborhood. And although we certainly qualified, the cynic in me didn't think we had a chance. So...I scoffed. I poked fun. I complained when I had to help with the application process. I even went so far as to declare to Hubby: "Okay, here's the plan: if we get picked for the TV show it will be a sign that we did the right thing with this house and we stay." Yeah, right.

We got the news that we had been selected the week after Thanksgiving. Hubby suggested that from now on, I just listen to him.

Hmmm. He might have a point.

Last Thursday, at 6:45 in the morning, the first of many trucks arrived at our home. By 8:00 am, we had three camera crews, a catering tent, a full production studio tent, the host of the show, 25 workers, and 10 of our nearest and dearest (who took days off from work, shuffled their children and responsibilites, and did what they had to in order to be there for us). By 4:00 pm, our front yard had had a $30,000 make-over.

Thanks to Hubby's optimistic nature, our friends and family, the DIY network, and perhaps a little of that What-are-the-chances-kind-of-luck, our house was suddenly finished. As I looked around, I wondered how the heck circumstances changed so drastically (and sort of weird-ly) in such a short period of time? It was as if the Universe had paid us back for our hard work.

In addition to all of this, right around Christmas time our mechanic (of all people!) told us about a new refinancing loophole. Hubby chased that tidbit like a maniac. We closed on that the week before the TV shoot. Somehow, we went from a mortage we could barely afford on a house that looked like a construction site to a monthly payment with breathing room and the nicest house on the block.

I'm not really sure how all of this happened. In less than 6 months, we've gone from total doubt and frustration to freedom. I am a big believer of the Universe, Karma, God, whatever, and I'd love to chalk it up to that. But really, I know that plenty of hard working, good people are stuck in houses they can't afford (or losing houses they can't afford), and are not waiting for a TV crew to show up and landscape. I understand how lucky we are right now. I am just sort of still in a daze...incredibly grateful that Hubby insisted on taking a chance, that the producer liked us enough to pick us out of 100's of applicants, that I had a boatload of friends and family members who dropped everything to dig holes and shovel dirt, that now when we make our mortgage payment we can actually truly afford it, and that somehow, suddenly, we no longer feel "desperate" about swapping a Big Life for a Big House.

P.S. I will post an update when I have the air date of the show....we are not allowed to post any before/after shots until then! So these are some of  the "durings"!

Being a star is such hard we are filming the moment when the show's host, Jason, reveals the suprise plan.

And this is only a sampling of the people on our front lawn!

Between camera crews, catering (!), producers, helpful friends, trucks, dumpsters, equipment, they took up half our block and then some!

The producers' tent
Jason Cameron (the show's host), ME!, Tracy (producer & overall kick-ass person), Hubby


  1. So happy that everything worked out...It's hard sometimes to make dreams something that you can afford and be comfortable in. Sometimes you just have to step outside the box to really see a way out or through. I can't wait to see the show!

  2. You just gave me a whole lot of hope that just maybe my life might get better before I know it! Congratulations and looking forward to seeing the show!!

  3. OMG, how fantastic!! Loved the way you wrote this Liz, I could really "feel" the whole history....and SO glad that you had a happy ending!!! I love makeover shows!!! I haven't heard of this one - but how cute is Jason Cameron ;)

    Cannot wait to see photos of the finished yard!!! Good for you :) XX

  4. Yay! I'm so happy for you. It's nice to hear a story with a happy ending (especially these days).

  5. I just discovered your blog, but I am so happy for you!!! Enjoy your yard and your house, WTG to your husband

  6. This is awesome! cant wait to hear about the air date!

  7. So COOL! I LOVE everything about this.

  8. That is wonderful - I love that sometimes karma does lead to good things

    Can't wait to see the before / after photos

  9. I love the blog update and love seeing the pictures!!! You guys deserve it!

  10. WAY cool! I am so excited to see the after shots!

  11. Hi Liz!! It's Daisy (Mrs. V) you have an air date for the show?? Anxiously awaiting!! LOL


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