Hello Friends and welcome! My name is Dena and if you already know me, then you know I am a DIY addict…and not ashamed to admit it! LOL!
It started when I was young, very young, like maybe 8 or 9. I can remember my mom sketching out blueprints for what seemed like years. My parents at the time were renting a home and they dreamed of owning their own home. With 6 children (and living on a pastor’s salary) the only way that dream could happen would be if they built a home themselves. So, that’s just what they did! My grandparents had given them a few acres of the family farm. My mom’s brothers, who happened to be, a contractor, a plumber, an electrician, an excavator, and a woodworker pitched in to help them build their home. I was 10 at the time. I remember spending so many days on the job site. I was totally enthralled with the whole construction process. I have a very vivid memory of helping my grandmother hang the closet doors in the bedrooms. It was SO exciting because we were almost finished and could move in!!!!
By the time I was 15, a few more members were added to the family and they needed to add on. I was old enough that year to help out more. I remember getting up on the roof a lot! I really had no clue that most people don’t build their own homes DIY. I grew up with it so, to me it was normal! The family home looks very different today, due to 2 major additions (a must after 6 additional children came along). YES, yes, I have 11 brothers and sisters. I was the kids in school, who would be doodling …. except I wasn’t drawing comics or what have you. I was drawing HOUSE PLANS!!!
When I got married, at the age of 20, I already had blueprints that I had drawn up for what I thought our house would look like…..knowing that someday, my husband and I would build our own home. These weren’t just any house plans. Our house would have 2 staircases in the foyer! I dreamed of the “Perfect” home! However, being right out of college, and with baby #1 here, we needed a house, not a dream house, just a house. So we bought a “fixer-upper” and that’s what started us on our journey!
We spent the next 15 years building my husband’s career and raising our 2 kids. This meant being relocated many, many times. Each time we moved we bought a new “fixer-upper and totally renovated it, top to bottom, all DIY. It was hard work, my friend, but I loved it! Everything about renovating just fits me. I love taking something not so nice and with a moderate amount of money and a LOT of elbow grease, turn it into a home that just about anyone would be happy to live in! It’s amazing what you can do to transform any home into a showstopper if you work at it!
I laugh when I remember back to times when we’d have friends over to see our “new” home and the looks on their faces said it all…”What were you thinking?” And I’d think, just wait, you’ll see!
So fast forward all these years and there we were, living in yet another town and state. In our 11th home. We had worked on this home for 4 years and we were finishing up some final things on this remodel. We still had flooring to lay and one more bath to update. We lived in a desirable area, excellent school district, min from work, school, shopping, and my husband’s career was doing better than ever. He was, however, up for another big promotion that would require moving away …..AGAIN. It also meant starting over again, new schools, new friends, new fixer upper and at that point we just were honest with ourselves. We asked ourselves the tough questions…..were we really up for another move across the country, did we really want to move schools again, did we really have the stamina to renovate (in our spare time) another home? And when we were honest….we all knew what we wanted. We all wanted to go HOME…..back home, to our hometown, where our families live, where our home church is…..where we belong. We were all homesick and were willing to sacrifice a lot to make our dream of moving home a reality.
That decision began an 18-month journey! That choice meant all kinds of major sacrifices. My husband accepted a job close to “home” and moved quickly (and he was able to stay with family). I stayed back and our kids finished out the school year. I needed to finish all renovations that were not yet completed and put our home on the market…..I had a few months to pull this off! My husband traveled the 16-hour round trip each weekend to help me with renovations that I couldn’t do alone, like replacing windows and siding. We were able to pull it off and get the house listed. To our surprise, it sold in 48 hours …..for more than our asking price (that’s a whole post in itself)! When the house sold, the kids and I joined my husband, and we were all back in our hometown! We made the right choice!
You guys, it was incredibly hard to take a risk like this. We spent years dedicating ourselves to becoming “stable” and once we finally were “stable”…..we chose to give it all up for what mattered more….what mattered most….being close to family. Life is what you make of it. Yes, it was a major risk, my husband quitting his DREAM job (that he was doing incredibly well at) to take a job with a much more modest salary. Moving home meant no longer affording private school and starting to homeschool our two kids. It meant we would have to build a house all ourselves…..we couldn’t afford to build a house unless we did everything ourselves. We simply couldn’t afford to pay for labor…just the materials would be costly enough.
This Cottage is the ultimate DIY project! I designed it and we literally built nearly every square inch of this place! We acted as our own contractors, pulled permits, did the footings, all the framing, plumbing, insulation, electrical, HVAC, windows, doors, roofing, siding, concrete countertops, drywall, shiplap, flooring, painting, trim work, built the cabinets and shelves for the kitchen and bathroom…you name it, we did it. And by “we” I am referring to myself and my husband! We also have to give credit to all our wonderful family members who all pitched in every time we asked for help (like the day we set the trusses) and many times they helped even when we didn’t ask!!! Did I mention that our families are ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE?!?!? I spent every waking minute at the house working for a full year. My husband also worked in it every minute that he wasn’t at his day job! He is by far the hardest working man around…just saying!!!
For 17 years, each time we finished working on the home that we lived in, we would move out. This time, we finished our house and got to move IN! We moved in at Fletcher Creek Cottage, Mid September of 2017. We’ve been here for a little over a year! It has been like a dream! One of the things we had done (while in the framing stage) is we wrote scripture verses all over the walls and over each window and door. I can’t tell you how many of our guests have told me that our cottage has an overwhelming peace to it! I totally agree! God is so GOOD!
Looking back, we never could have done this without the help and support of our families. We gave it all up to chase our dream of living close to family…and our families pulled through for us (time and time again) to help us make this happen!
I wanted to write this post as my first post because I want you all to know that LIFE really IS what YOU make it!!!! It really is. It is SO HARD to go for it sometimes… trust me, I know. I get it. I had to remind myself of this many times while building this house. It wasn’t easy you guys! Going for your dreams (and working hard enough to make it happen) absolutely take a TON of courage and is no way an easy thing to do. Sometimes it will even test every fiber of your being…but guys, IT IS so, so WORTH IT!!!
I am in a state of continual gratitude since moving into the cottage! Its funny how everything seems a little sweeter and the days seem a little brighter when you see a dream come to fruition! SO more than anything, I hope this post really encourages you! I hope it encourages you to persevere!! I promise you won’t be sorry you did!
I love your home and your story. Do you happen to have a drawing of the inside layout? We are looking to downsize to 1000 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and loft space….and wondered what that might look like. Thank you for sharing your story! I love reading your posts!