“I found a piece of property for us. The only catch is we have to make an all-cash offer on it tomorrow,” my husband explained to me as I sat in our rental home over eight months pregnant at the height of the pandemic. He wanted to throw our entire life savings into a property so far out in the country it would take me an hour to get to the nearest Trader Joe’s. I, surprisingly, was open to it. The house sits on two acres of land less than three minutes away from my in-laws’ 67-acre wedding venue and home. Rentals in the area are in high demand, the price was right. What could we have to lose? Due to the pandemic, our calendars had been wiped clean. My husband’s job in natural grocery sales ceased having him travel for trade shows. I am a full-time photographer; I had no weddings, our daughter was on her way. This fixer-upper project was moving breathing air in our lungs during a time when the world held its breath. We made the offer and were first-time homeowners of a cabin with a bad foundation and rickety walls two facetime calls and two weeks later.
As a person who has lived the past 15 years unstopping making plans, I now find myself mentally trying to bat them away as they come whizzing at me like fast pitched balls. I love my people, and I love an excellent last-minute adventure. It’s easy to say yes to everything. The pandemic invited me to become a person I never had in my adult life allowed myself to be—a person who could truly live in a forced state of presence. The first six months, I woke up on the couch of my MOLs with a co-sleeping nursing infant, greeting our wildly energetic three-year-old daughter to take on the day. I would care for both girls all day at someone else’s house and place of business for the next 12 hours and pitch in with design where I could on the new house. Josh got back home at 8 pm, dirty and tired physically and mentally from building and planning each day. We were both burning the candle and never blowing it out.
This lack of change in a routine could be depressing and redundant, and it was at many times, but I also found it refreshingly simplifying! Our home project became a justified passion, and spending the year with our two children all sleeping in one bedroom at my in-law’s house became a purposeful call. “We can do all hard things for a short amount of time,” I would tell myself anytime it seemed crazed banal, or exhausting. (Which was several times a day every day). I was tired, covered in breastmilk, and dirty by 5 pm- ready to stop parenting and be alone. I was still on duty for 3 hours after that. At the same time, I couldn’t help but be inspired to design something worth putting this much of my energy in. My heart was whole, knowing that one day I would miss these days with my babies at my ankles. As the seasons changed, the “new house” eventually came to look and feel like “our house.” This period fixing up this house was the first time I had ever felt like a home was ours in our 16 years as a couple.
Josh is the true hero in all of this. It is almost unreal to sit in this home as I write these words and understand that he built these walls back up, raised these beams over my head, all things he learned over stressful late nights on YouTube day by day. When the folks at Magnolia Network asked us to be a part of their new show “First Time Fixer,” they asked innocently, “Josh.. it seems like you know what you are doing already? This show’s objective is to empower the person who might not know what to do and teach them that there are many ways of approaching this kind of thing.” He laughed, completely caught off guard; the late-night arguments with my over-indulgent design choices and his sleeplessness tossing and turning over every decision didn’t translate to the strangers over the phone. His attention to detail and perfection make him scrutinize and do everything right the first time. Attempting to do this for an entire house renovation is nothing short of the hardest thing I imagine he has ever done. He had to take on days and decisions before he was ready because every day was coming, and the seasons were marching on.
With the show rolling out this week it feels like the soft close of a chapter of outlives that has been written. I find it important to stop and reflect on where you have gone and what you have left behind you as you continue on. I couldn’t have been more excited to be a part of a television show for Magnolia because I find the people behind their network to have a high and honorable cause. Their programming and ethos inspires me daily to be a more whole version of myself. It’s rare these days to see media whose sole intention is to lift people up, up, up and the heart of it shows as plain as day. I hope you enjoy watching our episode and the journey we took to build our first home. You can stream it on Discovery+ by downloading the app or doing a free trial. The show is called “First Time Fixer” and we are the 4th episode.