Abby’s Diary | How a House is Built!

Early in 2017 my husband Juan and I made the decision to remodel our 1958 rancher on San Juan Drive in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. After having it listed for sale for several months only to be given lot value offers and the imminent threat of a bulldozer, and not finding any other house that could compete with our view in the back, we decided to take this project on and see if we could create our dream home, in a location that because of its proximity to the beach, on a street with the same name as Juan, could be a special legacy to leave to our children and future grandchildren to enjoy for many years to come. Step one than of house building is to make the decision to lay the foundation to be built out of love, and desire to make memories by sharing, treasuring, and enjoying it with friends and family for a lifetime. It’s what makes a house a home.

Next we spoke with several builders about what some of the design changes might entail that would update the look, but keep the style integrity by utilizing the space more practically, brightening up the interior, making the pool usable, and giving us an open concept kitchen and living area to rival any of HGTV’s best, all within the set budget of X dollars. Everyone laughed, said it couldn’t be done,(they were right) and that bulldozing would be easier and cheaper except that we couldn’t find a bank or a finance method that would allow us to do a full do over, so we took what we could get, at the lowest interest rate time in history, crossed our fingers, signed with a great local builder and hoped for the best. So step two then is be willing to take chances to get what you really want and worry about the rest later.

Juan and I will be married twenty-nine years in March and together we have owned seven homes. On average we move every 4.1 years. We were itchy to do something since we had already been there over five years. Even with that many moves you’d be surprised how much crap, had to be de-cluttered, sold, put in storage, or moved to our two bedroom rental for work to commence. I was shocked when we had an estate sale what people were willing to buy. I guess it is true that “one women’s junk, is another woman’s treasure.” People bought everything in sight even things nailed to the wall. What once was a wardrobe that was spaced out over three closets in two rooms has now been consolidated into one closet I share with Juan in the condo. It helps that I lost a lot of weight and either donated or sold a ton of clothing and shoes. We even gave away our kitchen, bar, and built in desk and shelves and anything else Habitat for Humanity could use to be repurposed in someone else’s home since we had done a small re-model when we moved in. Step three then is if you haven’t seen it, worn it, used it, missed it, thought about it, or forgot you had it in the first place you probably don’t need to keep it anymore. Simplify and let go. Move forward. Don’t look back! Shockingly the hardest things for me to let go of was all my work related treasures, binders, books that had defined me for so long. It’s not like at fifty eight someone was going to come recruit me again and even if they did everything is electronic not paper in binders anymore.

And so here we are a year later and we are still six months from being ready to move in. What has taken so long? Permitting, architectural review, inspections, hurricanes, miscommunication, shortage of subs, design changes, etc… etc… The bottom line is I am now the self-appointed forewoman in charge of getting this project done and done right! I hold people accountable but kill them with kindness and fresh baked goods. In just 6-8 weeks the topic of the drive by neighbors went from “What in the world are they doing with that house?” to “I like what they are doing with that house!” The builder, the subs, and the vendors, all know I’m checking on the progress daily and we have bank deadlines to meet. Step Four: Be kind, be patient, be flexible, but remember to be the boss, hold people accountable, and ensure that they deliver not just a finished product but a product that everyone can be proud of.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug (celebrity priest Grace Before Meals, and chef competitor against Bobby Flay) is coming to our parish on January 28th for a parish cook-off and I have asked him to stop by and Bless our home in whatever phase it may be in at that time. His brother is married to my sister. He promised not to preach to long when he did the Blessing but I told him he could talk as long as he felt he necessary to ask for God’s blessing to get it done soon, get it done right, have us live long, healthy, and happy lives there, and most importantly help us to figure out a way to pay for the part where we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. I believe miracles do happen especially this year in Jacksonville. Go Jags! Obviously step five is having faith In God and in yourself that a way will always be provided when you believe and put your faith in God.

In summary the five steps to how a house is built are:

  1. Lay a solid foundation of love

  2. Don’t be afraid to take chances

  3. Simplify and “let it go”

  4. Hold people accountable but be kind, be flexible, but be the boss

  5. Always have faith and trust that you will find your way.

In the demolition phase the crew uncovered a time capsule with the front page of The Florida Times Union from March 13, 1958, a small copy of the New Testament, and a driver’s handbook. Our friends will remember those but our kids do everything on-line now. We plan to put that back, along with a 60 year old updated time-capsule on March 13, 2018. Maybe God will watch over our house at least another 60 more years.

When it’s completed and you come for a visit later this year look for the sign that says “Casa con la Palma Doblado”. House of the Bent Palm! The one in front of the house bends perfectly to maximize the view.

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