House under construction MM Construction Workers House under construction

Dig Deep the Fence Posts. Dig Deep the Steel Pillars. Dig Deep Within Myself.

(Are We Even Going to Get There?)

Gary and I have run out of money for building the house.

Our bank loan carried us through the framing and roofing of our two-story corner house - all 4900 square feet of it (1873 of that square footage makes up the carport, tool shed, covered walkway and upstairs covered balcony).

We've come this far because we've done almost all the framing ourselves. Why? We didn't want to owe the bank a lot of money. And we thought, "How hard could it be?" (Were we really that naive?) The bank wouldn't provide a construction loan unless we used one of their approved builders. We didn't want to do that, so we took a smaller remodeling loan. This forced hands-on approach enabled us to frame our house for about $50 a square foot. Builders quoted us over $200 a square foot to use them.

The demolished 1600 square foot octogenarian house I'd been living in for 15 years is a distant, fond memory.

Through two long brutal summers and shorter frigid winter months, we've spent every weekend out on the site measuring, cutting, leveling and nailing in place frames, walls, windows and doors. Afterwards it's my job to clean the site, picking up nails and wood and sweeping debris off the concrete floors that we'll eventually polish. It's my 15-year-old son's job to cut the lawn (with a weed eater) and pick up the trash. And it's Gary's job to figure out how the hell to accomplish the next building task.

I have been asking, “Are we there yet?” Now, I'm staying awake at night fretting, "Are we even going to get there?"

Don't get me wrong, it's been a thrill seeing it all come together. But having the house exposed to the elements has plagued us. And working towards the financial and time goal of closing it in is how we've spent our time since first meeting with the architect in April 2015.

During this long 4 year venture, time has marched on.

When we started, Tucker was a tween in middle school. He's a teenage tenth grader in high school now. We've moved twice (so Tucker could walk to both schools). Thomas, Gary's son, was in college wondering what he'd do after graduation. He's now working as a promising designer. We've witnessed countless homes around us being built, finished and sold with families NOW LIVING IN THEM! Gary is more than halfway through his alimony payments. He's had four different jobs and my production company is now in its third year.


Can we finish framing the house ourselves or should we hire someone with more experience? Should the two of us continue working on holidays and weekends, slowly moving the project forward or spend the money we have left to speed things up? If we have to sign another apartment lease, how can we afford to finish the house? ARE WE EVER GOING TO GET THERE?

The shininess is gone and in its place moved in the harsh reality of what it takes, how long it takes, building a house by ourselves in our spare time. Nightmares, fear, anxiety and doubt have crept into my life. They follow me around like a rabid animal, nipping at my heels, nestling beside me in bed. They nuzzle closely, waking me up when I've finally fallen asleep.

We've thought many times about giving up. Even turned down three offers by someone wanting to buy the land that the house sits on (figuring they'd knock down what we've built to build two four-story million dollar townhouses) Doubt has had time to seep in over the last few years.


We decided to hire an experienced framer seven months ago to finish the last 25%. Carlos could work all week with an assistant (first Guillermo, later Sergio). This moved things forward, slowly - first, he had to go back and fix some of the work we had done - leveling roof trusses that weren't and moving walls that were off plumb. He built a staircase according to the architectural plans, only to find that Gary bumped his head going up. So it was re-figured, torn down and re-built again.

With the last remaining cash, we paid the roofers to lay down the TPO (a single ply roofing membrane) and Frank, the plumber, to finish his work so it could pass inspection. And with that, there wasn't a penny left in the cookie jar (if only we had a kitchen to put a cookie jar in).

The house now stands as a sentinel, watching over the empty spaces. The concrete floor awaits polishing, the 7 skylights still need to be bought and placed in Carlos' carefully constructed frames, the AC and heating units must be purchased and the electrician hired to do his part. These are just a few of the things on our to-do list.

All of this must wait until we save enough money to pay the trades one by one. I don't know how long this will take. This unknown causes much consternation. Once content to go with the flow (especially when I was working at the site, helping to move things forward), I am now restless and anxious. I've got one foot in the life of a perpetual renter and the other in the life of a home-building dreamer.


I have settled into my life as it has become. But I haven't "settled". I will see this aspiration through fruitian. So that means I'll keep driving my 14 year-old dented, scratched and corroded car. Gary will keep wearing his ratty t-shirts. And Tucker will continue eating beans and rice as a main course, not as a side dish.

This isn't where I thought we'd be when 4 years ago Gary and I poured over architectural plans and I started building vision boards and filling up journals with pictures of bathtubs, fixtures and sinks. Those idle musings have been replaced with ambitious realities. While building the house, we built a new mindset - one that could withstand the test of time, that won't cower with each nagging doubt and financial fear.

For as long as this thing takes, together we'll joyfully live the life we've made and savor this journey we're on until we can pack up all our belongings one last time in some distant unknown future and finally settle into the little house that could.