Chap 1: The fastest 35 miles I've ever driven

The first installment in the story of how Rosehaven Cottage came to be 9 years ago (click here for the "Introduction")

"How quickly can you drive up here?" I heard Hubby say excitedly when I picked up the telephone. His giddiness was evident.

"Where are you?" I asked.

"I'm standing in front of a house that Joan called me about. We didn't go in yet. But I'm peeking through the window of the living room. It has high ceilings, Honey! And hardwood floors! And there's already a white picket fence!"

I immediately went into action getting shoes on and grabbing my purse. I had a 35 mile drive to make on a weekday evening. And I had to make it as quickly as possible without getting pulled over by the highway patrol or getting into an accident. This would be tricky considering the time of day and rush-hour traffic. But I had to get there. Hubby was certain this was finally "our house".

We had been looking for a place to buy for almost six months. One of the first houses we looked at when we started our quest had been a listing we called on ourselves. The normal listing agent was on vacation, so the agent that would be showing us the property was filling in for him. That's when we met Joan. She was a first-time home buyers' dream. No nonsense, down-to-earth, and full of practicality, Joan helped us write an offer on that first home she showed us. The deal didn't fly. And for the next almost 6 months, Joan was our dutiful home-seeking agent. We wrote offer after offer in a market that was so hot it wasn't uncommon to have 5-10 competing offers going against us. Each time, our deals went sour. And because the market was so hot, we had no hope of getting into anything other than a townhome or condo without a yard. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

We had only been married two years. Shortly into our marriage, I started having severe health problems (to be diagnosed 7 years later as endometriosis). I had to stop working full-time which made Hubby the sole breadwinner in our home. My physical health problems began to be compounded by terrifying flashbacks I started having of childhood abuse I had experienced when I was so young that I had been able to block it out for decades. We were living in the town where I had been born and where the abuse had started. Despite a very supportive mother and siblings that lived close by, I was headed into the dark downward spiral caused by post-traumatic stress disorder. After much prayer, we had determined that we needed to move. We needed to go somewhere else within driving distance of Hubby's job that would be free of all triggers for me. And despite it being the worst time to try to buy, it was necessary.

And so the hunt for a new home, a new town, and a new life began.

Our agent, Joan, was privy to why our search was so important. And she took her role very seriously. That's why on that Thursday in late June 2000, I was driving like mad to get to a house that could potentially be "the one". Joan had been hunting the newly released listings that afternoon and saw a listing go up for a house that was in our price range. It wasn't a condo or a townhome. It was a house--with a yard. That was a miracle in and of itself. She had immediately called Hubby at work and because he was only 15 miles away, he went to see it first before calling me into action. That's why I was getting the giddy phone call as he peered into the living room window.

I drove that 35 miles in less than 25 minutes. It was as if all normal rush-hour traffic had been removed just for me. I hit every green light. I didn't have to speed... much.

When I pulled up in front of the little house, I knew why Hubby had made the call. It was truly our house. Yes, the sun-baked clay soil was covered with dry sunburned weeds. But it had the white picket fence I had always dreamed of having. And it had a yard! I peeked in the living room to see what Hubby had described. Yes. He had been right. It was just what we had been looking for.

Joan managed to get the key and let us in so we could look around inside. The poor little house was in such a state of disrepair and neglect. The hardwood floors had dry crumbling patches old urine-soaked carpet-padding sticking to it. The tub in the bathroom was so nightmarish I wouldn't have set one bare toe in it. Someone had taken a circular saw to the hardwood floors in the hallway to remove water damage and had replaced it with triangles of particle board but hadn't fixed the pipe that was leaking. So the particle board was water damaged. And the dark cave of a kitchen had a sink that couldn't drain. The bedrooms were dingy and appeared to have cracking plaster on the walls. One had 1960s era acoustic tiles stuck to the ceiling. A dark room off the eat-in kitchen was paneled floor to ceiling in fake wood paneling. Even the stairway was encased in the fake paneling.

A clean-up crew had been sent through the house to remove all the rubbish and debris from the former resident. Even with that, there were still vestiges of dirt and nastiness throughout the whole house.

And yet, Hubby and I were beaming from ear-to-ear. Through the dirt, grime, and rust we could hear the house calling to us ever-so-quietly that it was meant to be loved, and we were meant to love it. It sounds horribly corny to say that, but it's true. An inner voice kept telling us individually that we were walking through our future home.

Without hesitation, we went from the house to Joan's office to write an offer. We offered over asking price to ensure we would beat out other offers. We knew of at least one competing offer even though it had only been listed for a few short hours. We didn't know if there would be others that would come in as well. It was around 9 pm when we submitted the offer by fax. We would have to wait it out overnight to hear back from the seller's agent in the morning.

That night, we slept restlessly. We hoped and hoped that the seller would be drawn to our offer beyond any others. We knew we had to have that house.

The following morning a couple of hours before noon, we got the call from Joan. Our offer had been accepted over the other offer! We were officially in escrow! We would have our little house!

And that's when the adventure began.

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  1. That is the true meaning of a 'fixer upper'.

    I'm glad you got it.

  2. You were definitely looking at that house through "rose" colored glasses! I look forward to hearing more!

  3. This is a very touchy post - thanks for sharing. I believe, that houses do call us when wants to be closer :)

  4. I got goosebumps just reading this! We tried two years ago to buy a house that could have been your house's twin but as it was a probate house, we were told that the judge involved in the sale wouldn't even look at our offer.

  5. Wow, you really have made that house your home. Impressive.

  6. Can't wait to see after photos!

  7. Somehow when you find the right house you just know it. So glad you found the house of your dreams...with the white fence too.

  8. Oh my gawd, you had me thinking that you were moving! After all the work you've done on your place.

    I was right there with you as you made the mad dash to the house. I've driven in the Bay area and I KNOW what rush hour traffic can be like. Your angels were definitely on duty clearing a path for you. It makes me smile and my skin gets all tingly when I read what you've written about hearing the house whispering to you. To see its potential in all that decay is a gift I don't possess.

    Joan truly does seem like a dream agent. It's so very cool to see how God aligns things so magnificently, yet subtly when we've gotten clear on what it is we want.

    Based on my current situation, I still have some work to do in that department...

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about your adventures!


  9. I'm so glad that you are sharing the beginning of Rosehaven Cottage with us. It sounds a lot like our first home. We had a big hole in the bathroom floor and much remodeling to be done.

  10. Hi Cindy!

    Wow, what a story! I'm really looking forward to seeing after pics too! It seems like it was definitely meant to be.

    We might be moving again soon but we are at the very basics right now. I haven't written about it on my blog yet but since you are the only one visiting my blog, I thought I may as well tell you now. As time goes by and with each step we take, I'll be sharing it on my blog. There is, however, an explanation as to where I had disappeared to, on my blog. I've missed seeing what you have been up to and by the looks of things, I have a LOT to catch up on!

    Good to see you again, hugs from Meg and cats xxx

  11. Such a touching post. Thank you for sharing this very personal story. The true meaning of making a house a home. -Jackie

  12. Very touching story..... thanks for sharing it.... And I could see how staying in a place that special could inspire you to so many good things in life: photography, flower arrangements, and all. Good luck for all your endeavors!

    Nice blog, will come back often! :-)


  13. Hi! Come visit me...I left a gift on my blog for you. I hope it brings a smile to your face!
    ~ Karrita

  14. What a nice story. When you find the right house you just feel it, no matter how much lipstick it needs. I can't wait for future installments.

  15. Hey Cindy nothing like a nice cozy home sweet home, lol, beautiful place you two found. Anna :)

  16. Now I fully understand why Rosehaven cottage is so important to you. Thank you for sharing this very personal and moving story Cindy.

    After reading this all I feel the need to give you a hug so ((HUG))


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