The Country Ranch House: Part Five of My Own Fixer Uppers

Our rental house was undesirable plus it was on a busy road. We wanted to  find another house of our own again however, having gone through several job changes and moves, we were hesitant.  My husband lost his father that spring.  Soon after, I discovered that I was pregnant with our second child.  Ken’s job was looking more promising, so we decided to look for a permanent home in the area.

With the help of a realtor, we decided upon a 3 bedroom, 1 and 1/2 bath brick ranch in a moderately priced neighborhood. It was outdated so we knew we  would have to do some work to it. There was no garage or car port but there was a big yard. There was lots of paneling in the house and some hardwood floors. The bedrooms were small but adequate. The house still had the 80’s  feel with country themed wallpaper in the kitchen and cornflower blue trim throughout. The carpeting in the bedrooms was also country blue.

We got to work making changes right away.  We painted the baby’s room first in a neutral yellow.  We put in a new sink and pretty cabbage rose printed wallpaper in the main bath.  We had a shower installed in our bathroom enlarging the space  by taking the closet space and converting it into a full bathroom. We had to build a new closet in the bedroom which made it smaller.  Having a larger master bath took priority, we decided, over the size of the bedroom.

My father helped us by painting the maple cabinets white in the kitchen. We installed a new stove and removed louvered shutters from the windows. We put in new country blue laminate countertops to match the existing color scheme. The linoleum floors still had a “brick-look” pattern and were dark but otherwise the space was quite updated and  much brighter.

We planted some foundation plantings and trees. We built a swing set in the back yard. We attached a child-sized swing for our daughter and a baby swing for our son.

We did all this work over the course of several years.  While in this house, my husband made a career change and trained to become a real estate appraiser. He finally found what he was meant to do and started his own company.

Some years after moving from this house, we learned there was a fire started when a warm grill was stored in the outside hot water heater room beside the back kitchen door.   A large portion of the house on that side  of the house was burned and had to be rebuilt.



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The Pond House: Part Four of My Own Fixer Uppers

When my husband lost his job for the second time, we were pretty low.  Fortunately, he was able to interview for another job right away. It was another government job in the upstate of South Carolina. He was offered the job so we had to move quickly.  We had to settle for a rental house for a while.  As in Georgia, we learned that the part of town that was more desirable was near medical facilities so we looked for a house near the hospital in town.

When we looked at rental houses, we only found one we could afford on the north end of town. Because we were visiting on a weekend, we were unable to get inside so we parked in the driveway and peaked in the windows. It was a brick ranch with a carport. It was too dark to get much of an idea what the inside looked like. We had to make a quick decision to take it and placed a deposit on it for the rental agency to hold it for us.

The move was set. We moved the week of our daughter’s third birthday which was the third week in December. As with all our previous moves, we packed up a U-Haul it truck and moved ourselves. We were hopeful this time that our relocation was going to stick and that our little family could finally put down some roots.

On moving day, the weather suddenly turned very cold. It was the coldest day on record for the area in a long time. Our family met us at the “new” house to help us move in.  We were surprised once we got in the house and could finally see the interior.  The shag carpeting throughout the living room was ugly and very green. The cabinets in the kitchen were dark as was the matching paneling in the adjoining eat-in area. This made the back part of the house feel very closed in and cave-like.  I was overwhelmed wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

The house was unheated as we discovered that the gas had not yet been turned on. I tried heating the house by turning on the stove and opening the oven door. After moving most of the essentials into the house, we decided it was too cold for my parents and daughter to stay so we told them to take her home with them while we settled in and tried to make do for the first night. Fortunately, they lived close by.

I tried not to cry and got myself busy trying to set things up in the kitchen so at least we could have a place to eat. I suddenly found the silver lining on what seemed like a very dark cloud. There was a window over the kitchen sink which looked out into a large fenced in backyard. Beyond the back yard I caught a glimpse of a nice sized lake where ducks were peacefully drifting along the surface of the water. I knew that my daughter and I would enjoy taking walks with our dog to the lake to feed the ducks and that she would have fun playing in the backyard which was equipped with a swing set.



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The Spooky House: Part Three of My Own Fixer Uppers

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.




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The Hill House In The Cove: Part Two of My Own Fixer Uppers

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. 

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My Own Fixer Uppers

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.



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Magnolia Reflections


My husband and I recently took a wonderful trip to Texas. We stayed in Austin so were conveniently located between Waco and San Antonio. I have been a fan of the very popular Fixer Upper show since its inception. Sadly, the show has come to an end. What a coincidence that we visited the Waco area the same week that the last episode was aired. We didn’t plan it that way. We just wanted to visit Texas before the weather got too hot.

On day one we made our trek to Waco.  Driving downtown, it is easy to spot the silos in the distance. The town is not very big, so it is easy to maneuver your way around until you reach the Magnolia Market complex.  We parked several blocks away to avoid paying a parking fee in lots adjacent to the complex.  As we approached the buildings, we could see a long line of people already wrapping their way around the outside of the bakery. It was still early, not even 11 am on a Thursday morning. We decided to walk around first, then plan our course of action.

The store looked crowded but I knew it was a must see on our visit.  The garden in the back of the complex beckoned so I decided to  check it out first. There were raised beds configured in quadrants inside a fenced garden outside the Seed and Supply store. Roses, tulips and snapdragons were some of the flowers planted in groupings throughout the garden. Herbs were intermingled amongst the flowers.  On one side was a lovely white flower garden.

The garden store was surprisingly not crowded. I found bins of t-shirts. I spied some with gardening sayings printed on them. I purchased a “Plant Lady” shirt. I chuckled to myself that they left off the “Crazy” part as most of us plant lovers are a little bit eccentric. Pots and interesting galvanized planters were displayed throughout the store. I also found an array of wonderfully herbal scented  candles. I knew I had to find items that I could easily pack in my luggage so  had to limit my purchases to small things or things that would not get broken if they were crunched.

It was still too early for lunch so we decided not to get any food from the marvelous array of food trucks. I had spied the Magnolia Table restaurant off the interstate so had hopes that we could later go there. We passed by the checkerboard patterned “greens.”  Black and white striped bean bag chairs provided seating. It was delightful to see children playing and families together having fun lounging or eating at tables.

We went into the crowded market store and soon realized there was a checkout line growing by the minute. My smart husband decided to stand in line while I tried to navigate the crowd.  I found a few souvenirs and treasures then took them back and forth to him until he couldn’t hold anymore. I did my best to take in the scenery and inventory of Joanna Gaines’ famous farmhouse style.  Her store had some wonderful, unique displays which inspired the decorator in me.  Among the displays that I most admired included shelving along one wall made from crates which housed moss-covered clay pots. She used clay pots in another area as ornaments hanging from the ceiling in varying lengths. There were wonderful collections of wooden candlesticks, as well as galvanized containers and pottery vessels for decorative or utilitarian use in the home. Meaningful scriptures or quotes were printed on metal signs and frameless works of art for wall display. Chip had his own “man” corner with hats, t-shirts and male-friendly accessories. I liked the shirts that read “Demo-day” and “Shiplap” but sadly have no one in the family who does renovation work that would appreciate them. I grabbed a couple Christmas decorations, t-towels and salt and pepper sets with the Magnolia emblem before heading for the check out. A kind lady took our picture together in front of the store then with bags in tow and smiling faces, we left the complex to explore more of Waco.

There are interesting places to visit in Waco near the Magnolia Market complex.  There is the Spice Village in an old restored warehouse.  It is another shoppers paradise with vendors of all different types of merchandise. There are good restaurants throughout town. We found one called The Olive Branch. It was the perfect spot for lunch as I found some delicious tomato bisque soup with a salad. My husband is typically happy anywhere that he can find a burger. Sadly, we never made it to the Magnolia Table. I heard that they do not presently take reservations and the wait to get in is several hours.

We scouted around downtown for some antique stores. I checked out a few then asked some local merchants where to find the hidden gems in the area connected to the Magnolia empire. On the way, we got lost. My husband turned around in a driveway only to find that “behold,” it was one of the homes that had been renovated on the show. It was the brick French Provincial house that was painted, had a tennis court and had an English style garden designed and created with boxwood shrubs and a fountain. We could not see  much of the house as there was a long, private driveway but I immediately identified the tennis court and took a photo before we quickly left the premises.

Other photos I took were of Harp Design Co. and the adjoining house where expert furniture maker “Clint”and his wife lived after it had been renovated for them. Their house is now a bed and breakfast. We also found and visited the original Magnolia store which is now a wholesale sale for discounted items. There was a tour bus escorting people around to these different sites but we decided to take our own personal tour.

We left Waco a different way than the way we came. We went near Crawford, where the Gaines family owns a farmhouse. I am told that they do not live there anymore to avoid being bombarded by tourists. The Bushes also have a ranch nearby. We did not explore that area but guess that their current residence is well-protected and concealed from prying eyes.




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Being A Servant

Matthew 23:11″ The greatest among you shall be your servant.”

Servanthood is becoming a rare commodity in our present “do-it-yourself” world.

I still remember when going to the store was a rather stress-free experience.  There were plenty of department store staff willing to help you find your item, find your size and  make sure you had a perfect fit. A transaction was not complete until the customer was fully satisfied.

Finding shoes was one challenge that sales persons helped make less frustrating. First, they measured feet with a sliding metal device. Then they searched the back room for the selected shoes. In Cinderella’s footman style, they kneeled to slip shoes on customers’ feet. They had to use extra care to avoid causing pain to their customers.  Sometimes a shoe horn was used to slip the shoes on. For children, they had to master the skill of assessing “room to grow” by mashing the end of the big toe allowing an inch of space from the shoe tip. I sometimes was embarrassed for shoe salespeople as they inevitably encountered customers with smelly or calloused feet that were not too appealing.

Finding a bra in the lingerie department was another ordeal that became fairly painless as salesladies made numerous trips back and forth from the dressing room to be sure a style was chosen  that properly fit chest measurements. They had to learn to be discreet and complimentary no matter the proportional challenges of the customers they assisted.

At gas stations,  attendants stood in line ready to pump gas, clean windshields and check fluid levels under hoods.  In addition, all states made it mandatory for vehicles to pass a maintenance test in order to be driven each year. It was uncommon to see cars broken down by the side of the road in those days because of the level of service every automobile owner received.

I have rarely received such extraordinary service in my current day shopping excursions or auto repair work. When I do, I am sure to let the salesperson or mechanic know of my appreciation. Servanthood is a quality in the service industry that is greatly missed.  However,  it is something that we all can make a conscious effort to try to exhibit to others at whatever station in life we find ourselves.


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