If You're not First, You Might as well be Last

by Lucy Farmer September 10, 2017

If You're not First, You Might as well be Last

You know how you tell your kids that coming in second is GREAT! You should be so proud of what you've accomplished! As a child, we always heard, If you're not first you might as well be last. That's what coming in second felt like on HGTV Beach Flip

If I've seen you in person, you know this story. I see people all the time that watched the show. Side note: It aired July and August of 2015. Those people I've seen in person? They loved it! They couldn't believe we didn't win. Or those few people that thought we DID win! Oh, those are fun. Then we have to go through the embarrassing part of losing all over again. 

Daphney and I packed up our suitcases in February of 2015 and flew to Gulf Shores, Alabama leaving our husbands and children to fend for themselves for 6 and a half weeks. We didn't have any idea what we were getting into. We had renovated houses before, well, told contractors what to do, but it couldn't' be that hard, could it? I knew how to use a saw and we knew how to paint to update a room. We were experts at picking out pretty furniture and accessories. It couldn't be that hard. 

We had no idea who our competition was. Would it be other amazing designers? Would we be competing against other all women teams? We would see glimpses of the other contestants in the hallways of the hotel and go back to our rooms guessing who they were and what they did. 

We started the show with a bang; we won the Master Bedroom Challenge. We were the only ones who finished and we finished long before the others. The kitchen challenge was next and was a doozy! There was walls to be knocked down and tile to be ripped up and refrigerators that had to be taken down stairs. It was a lot of work and we wanted our kitchen to stand out from the rest. We added a beautiful dark grey backsplash, a reclaimed wood counter top, added wood to the ceiling and bright red pendant lighting that crowned the perfect kitchen. Josh called it magazine worthy! He said we really had a knack for the wow factor. We lost. It was devastating honestly, we tried to keep our heads up, but we didn't understand. We thought maybe it was because we won the last challenge. We can't win them all. I don't know if I'll ever get over losing the Kitchen Challenge. 

The other rooms were fine, we created more wow factors and continued to lose. We started wearing down and missing our families. We only got to speak to them on the phone for a few minutes each night and my kids were usually already in bed. It was hard and we were determined to push through and make it to the end. At the half way point we were ahead of everyone and felt good about the rest of the challenges. 

We believed we had an edge on everyone else because we were from Alabama, we knew Gulf Shores and we knew people that vacationed in Gulf Shores. A lot of people! When they decided to make one of the bedrooms an office, we were floored? No one needs an office in Gulf Shores. The first thing you look at when renting a place at the beach is how many bedrooms are there? We want to sleep as many as we can! Daphney has 7 kids for goodness sake! There is no reason to bring in a desk. But, that was the challenge and we had to play along. Our Whale Bed, yes, it deserves capital letters, was controversial. First I cut it out the wrong way, so I had a giant whale. Then I had to recut it and the opening was probably a little too large, but we only had a day and a half to finish this room and there was a lot of carpentry work and paint that had to get done, so we stuck it up there and I loved it! Shane built us a tiny closet and we found a futon that could go underneath, so we still had room for 3 people to sleep in here. We knew the home owner would love that! We layered rugs and had a big basket for toys, it turned out to be fantastic! The judges hated it. They ripped it to shreds and we lost the challenge. We were running out of money and running out of time. The Bathroom Challenge was up next and it was going to wipe our checking account OUT! We had to go big or go home. So, we went big. 

There was a bathroom upstairs that was really big for two bedrooms. We had the contractor come in and make sure we could add another toilet and add a shower so that it would become two bathrooms. It was going to be a ton of work and with the money we had left, we spent it on tile and labor. We hired the tile guys to help us put the tub and shower surrounds up and we laid the floors. There was one night we stayed the houses until 3am. It was probably the worst night of our time there. We had gotten in trouble for using a power screwdriver the night before and really got reprimanded. It was a huge dent in our drive to get things done and we wasted a lot of time thinking about throwing in the towel and going home. Y'all we missed our families! It was so hard. We obviously decided to stick it out. I mean, we had $50,000 to win! We couldn't go home with our tails tucked between our legs as quitters!! So, we powered through, had to come up with more money to get our tile laid in a herringbone pattern in the master bath and I think we had less than a $1,000 by the end of the challenge and we had two more to do! 

Once again, we were the only ones to finish. Winning this challenge felt like losing because Josh didn't say one good thing about our bathrooms and then we won. It felt like he HAD to give it to us. I loved our bathrooms, don't get me wrong. I think we deserved to win, but we had little to no confidence at this point and were talking each other down off the balcony each night. The prize for this challenge was $5,000, it put us so far in the lead, we didn't think anyone could catch us. We had a few days of being able to go back in and fix things in the other rooms that we didn't finish. It was nice and the only room we had work in was the guest bedroom. We had taken on a little bit more than we could do in a couple of days and we spent most of our fixing time in that room. The judges continued to take stabs at our ego and couldn't believe we didn't hire professional painters to come in and repaint the entire house. It was weird really. Our paint actually looked great compared to the other houses. The judges said they just didn't understand why we wouldn't spend the money when we had so much. It was exhausting. 

The outdoor challenge was fun because we did have a lot of money. We built tables and doors, builtin benches and a swing, added a grill, a fire pit and an outdoor shower! We had so much fun and the contractors loved us. They would help us do things when we were clueless. We even had a pergola built over the patio. It completely changed the look of the outdoor space and created another living area. Just one more amazing room for the renters to use! The judges raved about what we did and commended us for how well everything looked and what we did to change this space. It wasn't up to them anymore. The local panel would come in and determine the new value of each house and who ever brought the value up by the biggest percentage would win the grand prize. We were done. 

I remember standing outside the house and Jill asking us how we felt at the end of that day and Daphney and I cried. We were more exhausted than we had ever been and when we turned around and looked at that house and all we had accomplished in the last six weeks, it was overwhelming. It was gorgeous and we had done that! We had transformed this house from a 1970's beach house to a 2015 beach house. It WAS magazine worthy. It deserved to win, we deserved to win. Our greatest accomplishment was pushing through all the hard work and being there for each other to finish and show our friends and families that it was worth us being gone. We HAD TO WIN. 

We came in second. I was happy for Martha and Alex, I really was. I knew that they were so excited and that they would leave the show and get engaged and married and we would watch their life unfold. We all became such good friends. We truly love each other and to this day, wish them all the best. It was hard to even figure out what we felt. How could we be disappointed when we had accomplished something that was almost impossible?  How could we be mad that we didn't win when we loved Martha and Alex? We were so close to amazing. So close we could actually touch it and yet, we lost. We had to come home and wait to tell our friends and family. They all just knew we won. They came over each week to watch with us and were ready to film the big announcement that we had won. We lost. 

By the time the show aired, we were fine with losing. We had time to adjust. It was hard and it's been two years since the show. It's hard finding the good while you're in the middle of the bad. It's hard to find gratitude in being tired and losing. Looking back on that time, I can remember how bad my back hurt and how swollen my hands were. But, I also remember the friends I made and the beautiful house we created. I remember realizing that I can accomplish anything and my kids and husband can survive without me for 6 weeks. I'm the mom that left her family, but brought back accomplishment and confidence and a drive to be successful. I hope my daughter and son see that they can accomplish anything, that they can go out on their own and be who they want to be.

I see all the ways I learned from that experience and how it's lead me to be who I am today and where I will continue to grow because of it.

I hope you can look for gratitude in the hard times and know that God is there with you and if you will lean on Him, He will get you through to where you want to be. 

I've been reading one of my dear friends, Karianne Woods, new book, So Close to Amazing. She tells story after story of taking the leap to do big things and coming across obstacles and wearing red lipstick. She's funny and bright and takes on challenges along the way. She'll teach you a DIY project at the end of each chapter and show you that you can do it, too. She makes me feel AMAZING. I'm so proud of her and honored that she asked me to read her new book. I hope you will too. You won't regret it! You can order it here and find more of her stories here





Lucy Farmer
Lucy Farmer

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