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2:44 p.m. - 2012-03-08
NIMBY, okay, it IS in my backyard.

When I say the ex lived in my backyard I know it conjures a picture of a small fort/tent thing just a few steps outside the backdoor, but really if he weren't SUCH a slob we wouldn't even know he was on the place. The property is quite large. A triple builder's lot. All told it comes to over 2.5 acres. The house is set near the front bottom corner of the property and the yard slopes up and back and away. To the larger side there's trees, lots of trees, including a thick line of arborvitae, the same kind that used to be along the road-edge. Up behind the arborvitae is a long low building which at one time was a chicken barn. About 45' long the building is divided into three sections- a garage bay, a shelved storage section and the last has been converted into a one room, but very cute studio apartment. Smaller than Mary's but bigger than Rhoda's. (If you get the reference, you youngins won't.) The studio has a kitchenette set-up with a two-burner stove. a full sized fridge and a microwave, a nice bathroom with a sunken whirlpool tub, and in the middle section of the building there's a decent sized laundry room with a washer and dryer and a built-in folding table. All in all not a bad place for a single person to live. It's private and unless you're a hoarder like my ex there's plenty enough room to set things up quite nicely. Honestly if I were on my own I wouldn't mind living there myself. I've lived in apartments that were way worse, and having my own washer and dryer? Wicked good deal.

It's my hope that once we get the ex and his mess out of there I can get the place fixed up super cute and we can find a reliable tenant, at least until Wolf is old enough to want his 'own' place. If I could put up with my ex-husband living back there for seven years, it's for damn sure my grown-up son would be no trouble at all.

Orginally we wanted to have MIL move in back there after (God forbid, please not for a long time yet) FIL passed on and MIL was ready to sell her place. Seemed ideal. There's no stairs to deal with and even the yard back there is flat and smooth. It'd be private enough for her to feel autonomous, yet was close-by enough for us to keep an eye on her. There's room to put in a garden if she wanted. But...sigh...even though things have smoothed over on the surface there's no way MIL's moving in back there now. She can go live by Mick's sister, SIL's got a six bedroom house plus a fully kitted-out mother-in-law suite in the basement. MIL can spend her golden years driving her daughter crazy instead of us.

Besides the chicken barn there's other outbuildings. A wee one-car garage where Mick's '57 VW lives. There's what used to be a rooster's roost from when the place was a working chicken farm back in the day. The rooster house, which is on our side of the arborvitae from the big chicken barn building, was converted into an adorable playhouse by the previous owners. Their girls had a ton of fun in it, but Wolf never bothered with it and now, of course, he's far too old to want or need a playhouse. There's a very sturdy toolshed. Windowless, set on a concrete pad, the building's original use was as a ham radio shack. Despite being 102 years old the house has only had three owners- Marie who lived here her whole life, the Jenns who only lived here for seven years, and me. It was Marie's husband who was the ham radio guy. Then the last, but definitely cutest is the outhouse. It's got a weathervane on its silvered tin roof just like the main house, and is still a fully functional two-holer. Come the end of times at least we'll have a comfy place to do our business.

Now that I know it'll be mine for sure I've gone as goofy in love with the place as I was when we first bought it. Mick and I make lists of all the things we want to do to fix it back up and even improve on what's here. In the evenings we walk the property and point to trees that need pruning/removing, the paint that needs re-doing. We shift priorities around- this year the soffits, next year rebuild the front stoop, then this and then that, and hey, in 2017 why don't we repave the driveway? In my wildest flights of fancy I see a distant (but happy) future where the studio out back is expanded into the middle section of the chicken barn to give us a bit more elbow room and Mick and I living back there while Wolf and my future DIL and my grandchildren live in the main house. I can't think of anything for my old age I'd enjoy more. The whole point to fighting so tenanciously and hanging tough through all this bullshit was so my kid will ever and always have a place to live. For now it's MY house, but someday it'll be HIS house.

Maybe it's dopey to think that way. But this neighborhood inspires this kind of planning. Here in Mini-dunk the transient American lifestyle is nearly unheard of. Florence on the far side of my property moved into her place (bought from the original owners) as a newlywed and has lived there for over 60 years. Joe Barky on the near side? That was originally his grandparents' house, then his parents' and now he and his kids live there. Joe's never lived anywhere else. So why not think of this house in terms of generations? Marie lived here all her life. She and her husband survived the Depression working the chicken farm her parents started not long after buying the land and building this house in 1910. During the second world war Marie traveled the world for the government as a botanist, collecting samples and information on how to better the war effort with increased timber production, and after the war this property was her laboratory. Those are her trees out there in the yard.

The Jenns were just a blip. They never really got the hang of home ownership and mostly treated the place like a rental. When we bought the house the wallpaper and the flooring were Marie's. The nifty 50s kitchen was Marie's. The ancient oil furnace had gone in just after WWII. The Jenns' mark on the place was slight, the playhouse being their biggest change. When the ex and I bought this house we ripped out the ancient mechanicals, replaced them, installed central air, put in a new septic system, and generally updated everything to last at least another 50 years.

Then when the ex and I split up and everything was so muddled and unsure I hadn't really done anything except keep the place reasonably tidy and from falling to bits, but now I want to hike my leg all over it and make it wonderful again. To start again with the capital improvements, not to up the house's resale value but to up the quality of life. I ache to fix things before they become too far-gone. I want to insulate the attic better and install a tank-less water heater. I'm dying to finish the upstairs bathroom...FINALLY. Sheesh, the ex ripped out the funky 1940s but still functional bathroom, semi-installed the new fixtures then left it and all the piping downstairs exposed and everything half-finished because, gee, actually completing anything was never on the agenda, then of course after we split up he didn't do another goddamn thing to the place and there I was left high and dry without a working upstairs bathroom. Or a ceiling in my foyer. Or finished walls in the stairwell. Shithead.

But, heck, leaving LA holding the bag and still having the gall to whine and mope about how bad it is for him is the ex's modus operandi.

I love my house. I want the lives lived within it to be clean and happy and fully functional. At least as best as I can provide. I'm slowly but surely changing over from the ex's make-do view of things that staggered on half-assed until the next break-down or screw-up and then with no other option left having to deal with the mess, into making for myself and my family a GOOD life. A sane and orderly life where things work properly and when they don't they get fixed right away. A life where reason and smarts rule the day instead of bumping along from one crisis to the next.

Miss Steph and I were talking recently and she said something very wise about the delusions and deliberate blind eyes we turn so we can make our lives work. It's true, we all choose to ignore some things about our mates and our kids and our work/financial situations. Otherwise we'd all go crazy. It's akin to the way humans ignore the reality of death. We are all going to die. Plain truth. But we skitter past that knowledge and get on with things because to do otherwise is to see how pointless it all is. We're going to die sooner or later, so why bother? So it is with a bad relationship, we ignore the ugly truths because if we didn't we'd have to face how stupid and futile it is and then we'd HAVE to change things.

I'd like to think I'm not lying to myself quite so much anymore. I'm reasonably certain what I've got now is good. If nothing else Mick and I are complicit in our agreement as to what makes a good life. He and I want nearly the same things. We operate under the same priorities. He's a little less enthusiastic about doing up the house, but only because he's never been a homeowner before. As a grown person Mick's always lived in apartments. If something broke you called the super. Also his useless father never taught him a damn thing about anything. If MIL couldn't figure out how to fix something the labor was bought. Thus Mick has a willing heart but ZERO exerience or skill when it comes to any kind of craftsmanship and the idea of doing any renovations or repairs makes him leery. But we'll work it out okay.

At last we have something to work toward. A place to put our future.


Signing off from the home place, ~LA

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