An Open Letter to Hope Hicks

I was walking out of a meeting when I glanced at an article on my phone claiming you had defended Rob Porter’s character in light of abuse allegations. Not knowing the full story, or honestly even who you were, my stomach sank.  I was immediately reminded of the years I spent trying to help my ex-husband escape the consequences of his former fiancees’ abuse claims, which had led to several criminal charges I believed couldn’t have possibly been true.  He had told me about the relationships, and the women’s’ psychosis, and came across as the perfect victim.  Continue Reading


I had just separated from my husband who was a closet alcoholic. I was reconnecting with a girlfriend of mine just looking for a social life after years of an unhappy marriage. My friend brought 2 male friends both of whom I thought were into her. A few weeks later she and I are out again and he’s joined us. I thought he was handsome but we were all just going out as friends. He was conversational and genuinely interested in what I had to say. He was charming and rugged in ways my soon to be ex-husband wasn’t. It was attention I hadn’t had in a long time; possibly never. I was hooked and we started dating. After only two weeks he told me he was going to marry me someday.

Red Flags

I don’t remember when I first thought our relationship was odd. I know after a few months I wasn’t happy with the way this relationship was going. He would ask about my day but it was more than was it good or bad. It was who did you talk to? What did you talk about? At some point the questions about people I didn’t even know started. He was convinced that I had a relationship with a man I’d never met and wouldn’t listen when I tried to state the facts. He would accuse me of lying to protect the unknown guy, to protect myself, to protect him. All the time he told me that if I just told the truth (which I had been the whole time) things would be perfect and we could be happy. I remember crying, screaming into the phone that I’d never met this person. I also remember lying and making up a story that corroborated the things he thought because I just wanted us to be happy. He’d promised after all.

He moved on to having me keep my Bluetooth on while I was talking with people, mostly men, while he listened in over the phone. He would direct me to move closer because he couldn’t hear. Tell me what to say, questions to ask and so on.

I also don’t remember whose idea it was but we broke up for the first time after that. My friends told me that I was better off. That he was mental. That I deserved better. He would continue to call asking if I was ready to tell him the truth. Then he had a major health scare and we got back together. There was no resolution of the imaginary relationship it just became a background issue he’d bring up occasionally. He moved on to having me keep my Bluetooth on while I was talking with people, mostly men, while he listened in over the phone. He would direct me to move closer because he couldn’t hear. Tell me what to say, questions to ask and so on.  After that I withdrew from friends altogether. I didn’t want to hear them telling me I was crazy for staying with him. More so I didn’t want to hear him accuse me of doing things he didn’t approve of behind his back. I stopped talking about my work day because he would ask about all the male names I would mention no matter how benign. God forbid I eat lunch in the work cafe and a man join me. He would say that I didn’t know all the people he knows and that he had ways of finding things out. That was the first time he made me text male friends and ask leading questions baiting them to expose the misconduct he was sure I was guilty of. After that didn’t produce his desired results he simply told me to hand over my cell phone and write down all the app passwords. When I dared question him he said, “well if you don’t have anything to hide then why won’t you do it?” So, I did.

That was the first time he made me text male friends and ask leading questions baiting them to expose the misconduct he was sure I was guilty of. After that didn’t produce his desired results he simply told me to hand over my cell phone and write down all the app passwords. When I dared question him he said, “well if you don’t have anything to hide then why won’t you do it?” So, I did.

He then posted leading statements to all my social feeds and texted male contacts baiting them. I remember a few of those friends asking me if everything was alright after getting an odd text from me. I told them to please not say anything to anyone but if it happens again just reply with something mundane. That last part was because one of them didn’t use text and never replied. Of course, that meant that he was protecting me and we were both guilty of whatever made up scenario was playing in his mind at the time. After that he told me that I should go home and think about what I’d done and call when I was ready to confess.

This behavior continued for a while then seemed to just vanish. He stopped asking about everything, questioning me daily. Looking back, it’s because I kept to myself. I wouldn’t make eye contact in the hallways and I stayed at my desk all day. When I wasn’t with him, if I actually went anywhere, I would check in on every social media platform and post verifying photos. He’d taught me that last one after randomly calling asking what I was doing and then saying send me a pic. Why would he want a photo of my daughter and my Mom out window shopping with me? “Oh, because I do. Just humor me” he would say. Right, he wanted to verify my story; that I was where I said I was.

When we were together everything was about him and what he wanted. From food choices to movies to intimacy. I wasn’t asked what I wanted to do because he wasn’t interested. So, I started to suggest only things I knew he would like. Maybe that would make him happy and then he’d love me and we’d be happy like he promised. Anything he suggested I would do. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, it was always what he wanted because “if you would only listen to me things would be so much better.”


I stayed in this relationship for 6 years. In that time, I think I can count the number of times he told me he loved me on one hand. I would tell him I loved him often but he didn’t reciprocate. He said I had to earn it and he just couldn’t trust me.

I remember we were on the phone once arguing over some imagined things I’d done when my daughter asked to speak with him. After asking him if it was ok, I gave her the phone and she states in a matter of fact tone “Don’t be mean to my Mama!” then hands the phone back to me. That should have been a wakeup call but instead I apologized to him for her. She was right and I was apologizing. Thank God, I raised her to be stronger than I was.

After crying after every visit with him asking myself why I was doing this time and time again but yet going back hoping that this time it would be better; I finally started mentally preparing myself to end it once and for all. I take great pride in knowing I actually said the words “I want to break up with you” to him. I didn’t think I had that strength after all his tearing me down.

Words of Wisdom

If I could tell myself anything it would be to always listen to your gut. If it seems bad you can leave. Nothing is holding you in that situation except you. You don’t have to prove that you’re right. You can just let them think what they will and walk away knowing you made the right choice for you.

No matter your circumstances help is out there. If something feels wrong it probably is. At the very least you can take a step back and reevaluate. A loving relationship shouldn’t make you cry, unless it’s tears of joy.

Life Today

I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with a great guy for 2 years now. He knows about my past and though he forgets from time to time there are instances where he catches me in old habits. At that time, he takes my hand looks me in the eye and says “I’m not him. You don’t have to do that.” I have the freedom to not tell him where I am every moment of everyday and it’s not held against me.

I’ve been in therapy for a while now and it’s helping. Unfortunately, after years of un-reciprocated “I love you’s” I can’t quite bring myself to say those words to my current boyfriend. Though I feel it I can’t seem to make the words come out of my mouth. I can only hope he knows by my actions. Even my kids say that they hope we never break up. However, in the unfortunate event that we do, I know I’ll be ok. I have learned to trust my instincts and care for myself first. Not putting another person over my own needs.

I want a partner to enjoy life with, not a man to serve.

Rae is available for questions via the form below.  Illustrations depicting this hero are the artist’s interpretation, and any likeness to any real person is purely coincidental.  

Contact Rae


Walls are up!

This is exciting.  Sheetrock went up, and painting will begin this weekend, with cabinet installation on Monday.   I wanted to take a moment to share some photos of the new walls, as well as the details that I have been selecting along the way, which I have yet to post.  I promised I would not do any more “before and after” shots until it was done, but I think it will help to see a few of the spaces in their original form, just to give you, dear reader, an idea of how much the layout has changed, and how much cleaner everything is.

  • The laundry room before had a staircase leading upstairs, and no access to the other side of the house.


My 203K Loan Process and Lessons Learned

Welcome back!  Wine ready?  This is where it gets real…real challenging.

My offer was accepted on June 23, 2016, with an anticipated closing date of September 2.  The sales price was $90,000, with $5,000 toward closing, and a well installation of about $4,800 to be paid by the seller.  I made a $1,000 deposit with the offer, which is held is escrow (a safe account) until closing.  At closing, this deposit gets rolled into your closing sheet.  My estimated costs for repairs, per the feasibility study was about $80,000, which included the repairs as well as a 15% contingency reserve for anything unforeseen that may come up during repairs.

At this point, it is time to assemble your team.  This team consists of your agent, your 203k consultant, your contractor, and your bank.  The fun part about this team (sarcasm implied) is that you are very much in the middle of it.  In my case, my bank, consultant, and contractor were all recommended by each other, so I thought I was pretty safe when it came to communication.  NOT THE CASE.  Before I get into managing this dysfunctional family, let’s take a closer look at how to select these key players.

1. Choosing your bank

Your lender is critical to your 203k process, because they are giving you the money.  Your bank, though, also needs to be well versed in the 203k process.  If not (and sometimes, even if they are) you will need to also understand the process to make sure key events are happening within the required time limits.  For example, you will have a timeframe by which you need to secure mortgage commitment.  This means the date by which your entire loan needs to go through the underwriting process.  The underwriting process for a 203k loan includes much more than just providing evidence about your ability to pay, but also on the home’s ability to appraise for the cost of the purchase+repairs.

Look for signs of responsiveness.  In my case, the processor working on my loan, while sweet, was often distracted, and the company as a whole seemed to always be behind working on other loans that were taking precedence over mine.  It always seemed like they were working right up to the deadline on everything, and often required extending my deadlines (such as my closing and mortgage commitment date).  As the summer passed, my agent and I would go weeks without hearing from my processor or her supervisors, despite several attempts to connect.  When September rolled around, and we still did not have a mortgage commitment, I ended up calling customer service in California to complain (something I hate doing), and continued to call this number to expedite processing until I finally closed.  Only then did we discover that absolutely nothing had been done on my loan.  I closed on November 14th, over 2 months from the original closing date, and 5 months from the date my offer was accepted.

Many larger banks do not deal with 203k loans, because the process is more complicated.  You can read horror stories and success stories from all sorts of companies and large institutions who provide this product.  Based on my experience, most of the communication issues should be manageable as long as you (the buyer) understand what the process and timelines should look like, and stay on top of everyone.  I will go into this timeline later, including a task list for each party involved in your transaction.

2. Find a Contractor

Your contractor is important, also obviously, because he or she will be the one managing the physical renovation of the home.  A few things you may want to consider are:

How is their work?

I visited the property my contractor was working on before he started my project.  I was impressed with the quality of work, and the fact that his employees knew what they were doing and seemed to be on task.  He also gave me some examples of what his clients were looking for, and the suggestions that he made in response to their requests.  I thought that fact that he was able to identify issues I would not have considered from a design standpoint really helpful.

As questions about the types of materials the company uses, how many days they work, and how many projects they work on at a time.  You don’t want to be second fiddle, and you definitely do not want to be waiting on someone else paying your contractor so they have a decent liquidity position to begin (or continue) work on your home.

What is their price?

Be wary of lowball bids as much as you are wary of overpriced bids.  A good rule of thumb is to give the contractors you are considering your specification of repairs (drafted by the consultant based on the feasibility study), with the consultant’s estimates blanked out.  Let your contractors specify what the work will cost.  Some contractors will give you an estimate based on the entire job, which can be scary if you have a huge project.  You want to be on common ground about each part of the project.  For example, if you are remodeling the kitchen, you want to know the budget for flooring, countertops, and cabinets. When you pick your contractor, he or she will need to complete the bid sheet, which is based exactly on the specification of repairs, so this is a good time to get an exact idea of what the job will cost.

I interviewed a few contractors before making my decision.  One contractor was from a larger company, and came by dressed up like a salesman…everything was overpriced, and he was giving me grief over not preferring to have top of the line cabinets installed at an ungodly price.

How do you feel with them?  Do they share your vision?

Contractors tend to be good visionaries, and they should be able to see the complexity of the job you want to do.  The contractor I chose really “got” my vision, even when I haphazardly tried to explain how I wanted the back mudroom to flow into the kitchen, and how I wanted to salvage as much of the charm of the house as possible.  He spoke directly to me, as a client, and offered suggestions based on what I wanted and his expertise.  He seemed as excited about the project as I was.

The salesman contractor, by contrast turned me off almost immediately, and not just because his prices were high.  I walked through with my boyfriend, and my female agent, and the entire time the contractor was talking to him as if he were purchasing the property.  The contractor even referred to me as “the boss” when discussing the design elements.  Luckily, Anthony is great and replied with a smile and a simple “this is her baby.  I have nothing to do with it!”.  The contractor replied that he was confused when it said the owner was Frances.  smh…..

3. Set your timeline and develop a contact (and task) list

You might seem like a micromanager, but trust me, this needs to happen.

Here are the things that need to happen when you are under contract:

  1. The specification of repairs needs to be completed.  Your mortgage company should contact the consultant with the closing information, but do not expect them to.  Go ahead and do it yourself.  Contact your consultant and let them know you are ready to move forward.  They will formalize the specification of repairs, and you will pay them the balance of the consulting fee (mine was $600). This is the first part of how I screwed myself.  My specification of repairs was never officially completed until after my contractor made his bid (which consisted of a new lines on a piece of paper faxed to the mortgage company).  Not good.
  2.   Get an appraisal.  Once the SOR is completed, the appraiser (HUD’s appraiser, not your own) will determine an “after” value of the home, based on the updates you are making.  This ensures that the bank’s investment in your loan is a good one, and you will not be cleared for underwriting without it.  Because my appraisal was done last minute (the bank never ordered it), they found out just before closing that the well needed to be included in the specification of repairs.  The seller graciously agreed to lower the price of the house by the cost of the well, so I could include this piece in my repairs.
  3. Clear any underwriting conditions, and make sure your loan actually makes it to underwriting!  I had to keep asking why I hadn’t received underwriting conditions, and it turned out they never ordered the appraisal.  Again, make sure these things are happening.  There is no room for delay.  Underwriting conditions might be things like outstanding debt, proof of current address, tax documentation, etc.
  4. Along the way, make sure the numbers, and your name are absolutely consistent.  They had a lot of issues with my address (9 Main Street) because it was listed differently in the listing than on the township records.  The official address was 9 Main Street Harrisonville, NJ.  NOT Mullica Hill, NOT Main St., NOT 9 N. Main Street…

If you can get through this, you should be clear to close!  Before closing, your mortgage company should give you a closing disclosure, outlining all the liquid funds you will need to close your loan.  It will also tell you what your estimated monthly payment will be, along with a breakdown of closing costs.

Closing costs will include things like property taxes, mortgage insurance (if required), land surveys, title fees, title insurance, and a variety of other charges that you will not understand right away. Your agent and lender will be able to help you navigate this document, and ensure that you are being charged appropriately.  I caught a few issues on my closing disclosure, including fees I had already paid.

Close Your Loan!

This part is exciting, and actually much more anti-climatic than you would expect if you have never been to a closing before.  You and the seller (sometimes) will both sit at a table and sign a ton of paperwork, and then you are handed the keys.  That’s it!  This is also when they fun starts. Renovation!  Join me next time to go over the renovation process, and how draws are released over the course of the reno project.


My 203K Loan Process and Lessons Learned

Hello!!  Since my big old farmhouse is finally a few weeks from being officially move-in ready, I thought it would be a good time to outline what the past year has looked like with regard to the acquisition and renovation process.  I went with a Full 203k loan, so I will be focusing on this gem of a mortgage product ; )

What is a 203k Loan?

The “203k loan” is actually backed by an insurance product developed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) back in the 60s.  It was authorized in Section 203(k) of the National Housing Act, and the insurance this section provides allows lenders to lend under the conditions outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  We have come to know mortgages backed by this insurance as 203k loans, or rehab loans.

203k loans come in two flavors, if you will.  If the home being mortgaged required repairs of under $35,000, the process is streamlined, and overall the rehabilitation is a pretty painless process.  For more extensive repairs and rehabilitation, a full 203k is required, and this is what I will be outlining for you.  Both loans provide homeowners the opportunity to purchase less desireable homes, or homes in need of some TLC, that are not otherwise not eligible for other rehabilitation options (like Fannie Mae owned properties eligible for HomePath loans).

For more on the technicalities, I would recommend visiting the HUD website at:–df

1. Getting Started

The first 3 steps tend to happen all at once, but you may find you already have an agent, already have financing, or already have a home picked out.  In any case, proceed as necessary!

Get Pre-Approved

Most websites will advise that you get pre-approval before you start shopping for a home at all.  I would recommend this as well, if for no other reason that to see what you might qualify for.  You might be surprised at how much you could actually qualify for, so this is an important step. Along with your pre-approval, it is also smart to think about what you would be comfortable paying.   In my case, for example, I was comfortable with my $1,900 rent payment, but not happy I was spending it on rent.  While I qualified for much more, I stayed within the parameters I set for myself, and found an amazing property : )

A few things to remember – you do not have to obtain your mortgage through the company that pre-approves you, and typically the pre-approval is contingent upon you finding a home, providing evidence of income, etc.  Don’t waste time trying to find the perfect lender right away, but do start shopping around, talking to lenders about their process, familiarity with 203k and other mortgage products.  More on this later : )

In my case, I knew what I could afford, but was casually browsing when I stumbled upon my future home.  In my experience in real estate, this is typically the case with most homebuyers today.

Pro tip – Don’t bug your realtor to show you multiple properties until you are sure you are ready to fall in love with a home ; ) Some agents will not work with clients who have not at least been pre-approved, and considering the time it takes to set up walk-throughs, schedule with sellers or the bank, this is completely responsible.  Pre-approvals are quick (1 day max.) and really give you an idea of what your limits are.

Find an Agent

A responsible agent will be able to tell you a few things that will be critical to your purchase and investment:

Is the house properly listed?

This is critical because you will essentially subtract the initial investment (how much you pay) and the repairs, from the appraised value.  The FHA process has guidelines that help protect you (more to come on that), but a good agent will also help you negotiate the best deal, much like a lawyer defends your best interests in court.

What could the potential resale value be if it were updated? (Read – What might your equity position look like/Is this worth it?)

Again, an agent who knows the neighborhood and surrounding areas will be able to tell you about school districts, things that affect value, and what kind of rehab you will need to do to bring it up to snuff with comparable properties.  Your contractors and FHA consultant will be able to create your dream home, and make sure its safe, but if you are trying to do a low-budget renovation in an uppity neighborhood, your home may never sell with laminate flooring or anything other than marble countertops.  Similarly, going overboard on renovations may put your home out of the market for potential buyers, and your appraisal will never be as high as the money you put into it.  There is definitely a ceiling in most neighborhoods, and this ceiling tends to be lower in areas where there are a lot of distressed properties.

How is the neighborhood?

You might find a cheap house, but is it really a place you want to call home?  Is it a place you want to raise kids?  Are there sufficient yoga studios and fresh produce markets? (Ok, that was my standard alongside school district ;)) If you are looking to flip, is it a place other people are willing to live?  Again, the neighborhood will contribute to your ceiling, and more importantly if you are living there, will have an impact on your quality of life.

When you are searching for an agent, find someone reliable who you trust.  My Realtor was recommended to me by someone who she represented on several transactions, and the first time we met at the huge scary property, she was as excited about the adventure as I was.  (If you are in the Southern New Jersey area, Gwen Mazzeo is the absolute BEST.  She stuck with me through the WHOLE convoluted process you are about to read, and I honestly do not think it would have ended so smoothly if she wasn’t representing me!)  A FULL 203k is not going to be a simple, 60 day closing in most cases, and hopefully this guide will help, but you NEED someone on your side who won’t give up.

Will the seller accept a 203k loan?

Sometimes this information is available online, but your agent will have more information than you about property details that may not be listed.  The MLS still contains a lot of information only available to agents.  For example, perhaps the seller mentioned foundation issues, or the home is being sold completely “as-is”.  In my case, there was a shared well on the property, and I was able to gather more information about that, the location of the updated septic, etc. by talking to my agent before we even visited.

Find a Property

I put this step last, of the three, even though it is typically first (I’m talking to you there, pro surfer at…..)  I admit that I found my house pretty much first too, but that did mean I had to hurry through the rest of the process (I fell in love at first sight).

You see a leaky ceiling, smelly cabinets, and a weird staircase…I see a future laundry room and extra prep space for DIY bath bombs! Did I mention 203k projects require a little imagination? is a good place to start, but if you know you want a fixer-upper, and you have an agent and pre-approval, you are in a much better position.  Bonus points if you already have a contractor in your arsenal, and gold stars if they are certified as an 203k consultant).

To bring, or not to bring, a consultant and contractor…

On your first walkthrough, unless you have a full crew ready to work with you, it is not necessary to bring an entourage.  You will have several visits with the home before the loan closes, so my advice is to walkthrough first with your agent, and use your judgement based on what you see.  Take pictures, and if you think it might be feasible, re-visit with your contractor or consultant.  203k consultants typically charge upfront to prepare a feasibility study, and I did not have mine completed until after my first walkthrough, and after I had a structural engineer do an inspection.  I will discuss this further in a bit.

On our first walkthrough, even though my agent had scheduled the appointment with the selling agent (who worked in her office), the current tenants of the property refused entry at first.  My agent had to call the seller’s agent, who contacted the seller, who contacted the tenants (again) to let us in.  The point being, you never really know what you might be walking into on the first (or subsequent) walkthroughs.  Be safe, and ALWAYS head out with an agent to walk a property, even if it looks vacant, or you couldn’t imagine how anyone could possibly be living there.  I’m pretty sure in our case it was a misunderstanding, but safety should always come first.

2. Hire a 203k Consultant

The next step is to find a 203k consultant you can trust.  Along with your agent and bank, the consultant is an important (not to mention required) player dedicated to your protection.  203k consultants are typically current or past contractors with experience in the field, who can make responsible estimates of the work your potential home needs.  The consultant charges a fee, that is set by HUD’s fee schedule (so they can’t rip you off), and the total fee is determined by the cost of repairs.  The initial cost is typically a few hundred dollars (mine was $300).  With this payment, the consultant will conduct a feasibility study.

What is a feasibility study?

The feasibility study is an extensive inspection of the property that estimates the cost of mandatory and desired repairs.  As he or she conducts the study, the consultant will take note of anything HUD will required to be done to bring the house up to code.  Once the feasibility study is turned into to official specification of repairs, these will be marked mandatory, and must be completed to the specifications outlined.  If there is additional work you would like to be done, the consultant will estimate the cost, and tag it as desired.  Once the study is complete, you will have a good idea of what the repairs should cost, and the bank will have security that the house will be brought up to code, thus ensuring resale value.

Make sure that the feasibility study includes everything you want done at the property.  When I walked through, I thought it was too early to think about things like layout, grade of flooring, etc.  You can generalize, but make sure the “big stuff” is included.  It is better to overestimate than under estimate.  After my study was completed, I had to remind my consultant to add in things like the heat service being transferred from oil to gas, and the kitchen being remodeled.  Once everything was accounted for, I had a better idea of the renovation cost and could think about the offer I wanted to make.

3. Make an Offer

Assuming you have your pre-approval ready to go, you can proceed with making an offer on this property.  Typically agents will recommend that you get a specific pre-approval for the offered purchase price of the property.  You never want to disclose your purchasing power to the seller or seller’s agent, since their on the other end of the deal.  Be aggressive but reasonable, considering what you know about the property.

Pro-tip: You may be able to renegotiate based on further inspections, and the appraisals and score of work that you will develop with the help of your 203k consultant.  The offer should be made based on what you know, and while you are technically under contract once the seller accepts, there are certain timelines written into your contract that protect you against unforeseen circumstances.

In my case, the home was listed at $111,000, and had been on the market for about 6 months.  We made an aggressive offer at $85,000, plus $5,000 in closing costs, considering the work that needed to be done (the feasibility study revealed more work than the listing outlined), and after the seller countered, we finally settled on a final price of around $90,000, with $5,000 toward closing.  This offer included that the seller would pay for the installation of a new well on the property before closing, and the contribution to closing costs would reduce my required liquid funds at closing.  The property currently shared a well with the home next door.

When the loan was in underwritting (more on that later), the FHA did not want to risk the seller not holding up his end of the bargain, and required that the well installation be included in my scope of work.  We renegotiated to reduce the cost of the house by $5,000, and I included the cost of the well installation in the scope of work.  I ended up buying the house for around $85,000.

Finding a Lender

The next section will begin discussing how to go about choosing a lender for your 203k renovation.  I went with the lender who offered me my pre-approval, but had I shopped around or understood the process, I may have been able to save a lot of time.  Grab a big  enormous glass of wine, and join me in the next post, where you will learn about how to manage the relationships between your lender, consultant, and contractor…

Living Joyfully

A friend of mine recently asked how I find time, energy, and motivation to do the things I do, and I tend to receive wonderful feedback about how the ways I choose to spend my time are inspirational or motivating.  This always makes me blush a lot, and while I am flattered, very basically these are just the things that bring ME joy.  I think the bigger takaway (and really the purpose of this blog) is that anyone can find the same kind of happiness, energy, and motivation, just by being honest with themselves about what brings them joy.  Continue Reading

Farmhouse Renovation Walkthrough VIDEO!

So last weekend I channeled my inner HGTV persona and put together a quick, 15 minute, video walking you through the farmhouse before sheetrock goes up soon!  I did not go over the storefront, barns, or exterior, but plan to do these later on.  I am so excited to get started on the myriad DIY projects that will add history and flavor to the house once the serious work is done, but for now I thought it would be a good idea to share the current state of the project.

To get you up to speed before the video, since January, the following major renovations have been completed:

  • Dual-zone HVAC system installed, providing heat and air to 3 stories of house.  I chose to go with the dual zone so I can control the temperature on both levels, and heat and cool with more efficiency.  Honestly, I plan to heat the downstairs in winter using the wood-burning fireplace, which puts out major heat (we’ve been using it all winter to keep the contractors warm!)  The zones will allow me to regulate the temperature in different areas based on the time of day, too, so hopefully this will save on energy.
  • Layout reconfigured – If you remember, I kind of referred to this as the “Banana Split Farmhouse”, because it was split down the middle into two awkward units.  While it served its purpose I’m sure, over the past 30 years or so since that renovation, I wanted this to be a single-family home.  SO, I tore down the paneling upstairs, revealing doorways to the bedrooms, and built a nice big hallway connecting the kitchen to the mudroom, extra bedroom/office, and bathroom.
  • Bathroom reframing – I had the guys install a 5′ shower in the downstairs bathroom, relocated the doorway, and widened it a bit to make it a big more spacious.  Upstairs, I had to create a master suite using the smaller of the two hall bathrooms, so I made that bathroom a bit bigger as well, and installed plumbing for a dual vanity and another 5′ shower.  In the final bathroom, no major changes to the layout were made, everything was just majorly gutted and a new tub was installed.
  • All new electric and plumbing was run throughout the house, bringing it up to code
  • Gas service was installed, so no more oil heat and air!  This will be way more energy efficient, and allows me to install a gas stove and dryer, which I prefer.
  • Electric boxes were reconfigured…this was a mess.  The house has 3 separate electric accounts for the 3 regions of the house.  Now, it only has 2 – one for the house, and one for the barn.
  • New roof!  You won’t see this in the video, yet 😉
  • Paint has been started.  It has been raining its but off this month, but that is March/April in the Mid-Atlantic.  I expect it to be fully painted soon, and the original shutters placed back on (with a new coat of white paint)
  • New windows installed in the sun room, and a new back door as well as a slider upstairs to the deck.

Soooo….although it still looks messy, a lot has been done already!  I hope you enjoy the video!



There is a huge campaign out right now from, an organization dedicated to helping college-aged young adults understand the warning signs of abuse.  The campaign is centered around identifying abusive behavior justified by love.

Using the excuse “Because I love you…”, abusive partners find a way to justify their irrational behavior to themselves and to their victims.  I was asked at a speaking event recently if I thought my ex-husband knew what he was doing, or if he really felt his behavior was justified. Continue Reading

Carpenter Markings

While the contractors had many of the walls ripped down to the original studs, I noticed something that perplexed, then excited me…roman numerals transcribed on the beams where joints met.

After doing some research, I found out that these are actually carpenter’s marks.  The purpose of the markings was to help the builder (who may not have been the initial architect or carpenter) assemble the joists the way they were intended to be assembled.  Before 20th century technology allowed for more consistent pre-fabrication through the use of more advanced tools, standard measurements, and precise methods of joining wood, all of the beams or “sticks” for the house had to be hand-cut, meaning each joint consisted of two puzzle pieces that fit only with each other (how romantic!).


The marks on the beams correspond with the joist where they were supposed to be matched.   Often, the numerals do not “match” in the sense that all of the beams are marked “VII” for example.  Instead, they are marked directionally.  Two beams that meet at a joint would be labeled mirror image from each other, such that a beam marked “XII” would match with “IIX”.  To complicate things, the cross beam might be labeled VI (as below), the top beam is marked IV, and the bottom beam is marked VI.  The idea is that if you split the numerals from the cross beam (VI), the bottom beam corresponds with the “V” and the top beam corresponds with the “I”. The two beams, top and bottom, marry at the “V”.  There just happens to be a beam in between, marked to specify which beams belong above and below it.

So it is no surprise why we moved toward carpentry standards!  Another point worth noting are the “tree nails” or wood pegs holding the beams in place.  These too would have needed to be chiseled and custom fit, since nails were not common in frame construction until the late 19th century.  Yikes!

This was a great find, and I’m so lucky the bathroom wall was molded so badly it resulted in the need to strip the plaster!


I first met my ex boyfriend around 2010 at a bar out with my friends. We were at a mutual friend’s birthday party. He said I looked “bored” and asked me if I wanted a beer and although I hate beer, I said yes. We talked all night and he asked me if I wanted to go on a date. The next day I picked him up (he didn’t have a car) and we went out. I ended up going to his house the next day and met his mom. We went on a few more dates but after I finally “gave in” – it ended up being a “booty call” kind of thing. He wasn’t a relationship person, but I was. I would answer his phone calls at times and other times I would ignore them. I remember one night we were hanging out and he asked me for a massage. I was giving him a massage and my ring rubbed him hard and he flipped out. At that time, I left and we didn’t speak for weeks. I saw him at a bar and he left because I was talking to a guy.

A few months later, we started seriously seeing each other. I was staying at his house often and meeting all of his family members (who are all fantastic). He asked me to be his girlfriend not long after and I agreed. It was probably a month later he told me he loved me and I was unable to say it at that time. Eventually I did.

Red Flags

One night we were dog sitting for his brother. We were laying in bed and got into an argument and he kicked me off the bed with his feet. I remember sitting there thinking “did that really happen?”  After that, the abuse continued and got worse. I was told daily that I only needed him, my family didn’t care about me, my friends were only my friends because they had “pity” on me, I’d never be anyone without him and no one would ever love me except for him. I was isolated from all of my family and friends. There were multiple times I would try to hang out with friends or go to a friends wedding and he would hide my keys. We didn’t hang out with anyone but his family or friends. I would go months and months without seeing or talking to my family. I was told daily that my clothing choices were horrible and nothing looked good on me. Along with the daily verbal abuse there was physical abuse. Almost daily he would get mad at me and slap me in the face over and over, kick me, punch me in my head, arms and legs, grab my neck, and push me off the bed.  He threw me into walls, held me down and call me a psycho because I hated being held down and so on. This happened almost daily. I would go to work crying as these things happened a lot, as early as 7am.

I was told daily that I only needed him, my family didn’t care about me, my friends were only my friends because they had “pity” on me, I’d never be anyone without him and no one would ever love me except for him. I was isolated from all of my family and friends.

I always kept it to myself initially. I would put cover up over the bruises on my face, neck and ears. I always had bruises on my body. One day he threw me to the floor and I had multiple cuts above my eye as a result. I went to work the next day and the doctor I worked for asked me what happened. I told her I had a run in with the dog. Later that day my co worker asked the same question and I told her the same answer. After she walked away, I sat there by myself crying”. “How could I ever let my life turn out like this?” “How could I every let someone physically and verbally abuse me, let alone on a daily basis?” This went on daily for 2 years as we lived together with his mom. He was also a very big drinker and had a bad temper when he drank. There were nights I’d be driving and he would grab the steering wheel and steer us into oncoming traffic or into a pole because he thought it was “funny”.


I watched Dr. Phil almost daily. He had a special on domestic abuse as his wife was launching a domestic abuse app and project. He listed what domestic abuse was. I sat there thinking “why did I think this was any different?” I thought he did it because he loved me. I started googling domestic abuse signs (which I had them all). I even downloaded Dr. Phil’s wife’s app as it allowed you to put an emergency number in. If you pushed the button, it would alert that emergency person that you were in trouble. I finally started seeking out friends at work who I could trust and told them what was going on. A co worker of mine also printed out domestic abuse hotlines for me. I finally realized I needed to get out of this. I sought out a counselor who advised me domestic abuse was out of her expertise and referred me to someone else. I ended up finding someone on my own and only went to her a few times before I realized what I needed to do. If I wanted to get out of it, I had to make him think it was his idea and not mine. I ended up making it so he “broke up” with me. I acted like I was devastated and left. I moved out shortly after.

Words of Wisdom

Never let anyone make you think you’re not good enough. Always know you are amazing because you are! Never lose your identity to someone else. I started doubting who I was without him. This is your life, live it for you!

My life today

I have been in two relationships since then. I am now happily married to my best friend and having my first baby. My husband and I have our own lives, and a life together. He supports me in everything and I support him. We are in a partnership. The best thing I ever did was leave that situation and you can too! Please feel free to contact me.