Out of sight and mind

I don’t like neighbors. At least not the ones I currently have. They are nosy and intrusive and encamped around me like an invading army.

I firmly believe the best kind of neighbor is one who is out of sight and out of mind. That may sound silly to those of you who live in subdivisions and apartment buildings, but when I discovered this place its main appeal was the privacy. I loved that the nearest house was almost out of sight, and I reveled in the fact that I didn’t have to worry about how I looked when I went out to work in the yard or who would see me if I peed off the back porch.

Things have certainly changed.

Over the past year, a new house has sprung up just across the field beside us, and because our house sits at an angle to the road, the front of our house faces the back porch of the new house. And the neighbor seems to spend more time on the porch than she does inside her home. And the chair she sits in conveniently points in our direction.

Last week, another couple started getting things ready to put a home practically in our backyard. Even though they own several acres, they have chosen to place their new house as close to our property line as possible, with a 600 ft. driveway leading from the main road.

Because of where they are placing their home, we are losing pretty much all of our remaining privacy. Our back patio will now be plainly visible from their front windows, and it feels like I am back in the same situation I was in when we lived in a subdivision.

As if adding insult to injury, they had the gall to ask if we would mind cutting down five mature pine trees so they could have their new electric line run across our property instead of on theirs. (We said we minded.)

All of this is why I am so relieved we were able to find a very gorgeous, very private piece of property. The lot is much larger than the one we have now, and it is almost completely surrounded by mature woods. We intend to place our home in the center of the acreage so that we never have to worry about neighbors being anywhere close to us.

And I’ll be able to pee off the back porch as often as I want.

Just passing through

In just a few days we will have been living in this house for an entire year. Time flies. There have been so many nights that I’ve laid in bed asking myself if moving was the right decision, but when I get up the next morning and glance out the window at the gorgeous surroundings, I know things are just as they should be.

This house felt very foreign to me a year ago. Signing the papers and getting the keys didn’t erase the decades of memories that you could literally feel when you stepped through the door. Months later, the 70’s wallpaper and pink carpet are gone, but I can still feel Bessie’s presence while caring for the flowers that she planted everywhere in the yard. I have a sense of seeking her approval as I move sprouting bulbs to more convenient locations – always hoping that she understands my respect for the living things she nurtured so many years ago.

While living at my last home, one of my neighbors passed away unexpectedly after surgery. His daughter moved into the vacant house shortly after, and it wasn’t long before she walked over one evening to offer me a pair of her dad’s rubber boots. I tried them on and they fit perfectly. I always think of him when I put them on, and I like getting the opportunity to “walk a mile in another man’s shoes.” I often wear them while working in the yard here, and I can’t help but think about how I’m wearing Hayden’s shoes while tending to Bessie’s flowers. We are all connected, aren’t we?

We used to sing a song in church when I was a kid that said, “This world is not my home; I’m just a’passing through.” As bad as I hate to admit it, this house is just a temporary dwelling place. Just like Bessie, I’ll be leaving it one day soon. I can only hope that a little bit of my spirit will still linger in the springtime flowers and the blooming trees, and that the next person who calls this place home will love and enjoy it as much as I have.

Comfort zone

I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I’d never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.
– from a poem titled “My Comfort Zone,” author unknown

Change is never easy, however, I would be hard pressed to point out times in my life when I’ve taken a risk and not been rewarded in the long run. Knowing that still doesn’t make those first few steps any easier. In fact, the older I get, the harder it is to make potentially life-altering decisions.

comfort_zoneWe are currently in the process of buying another home. Moving was the last thing on my mind a couple of months ago, but I apparently got the fever after looking at the house I discussed in an earlier post. I discovered one that looked much more promising on a realtor’s webpage, figured it would be worth a drive-by, and promptly fell in love.

I couldn’t wait to tell Honey about it, and he also really liked it. Although it is only two and a half miles off the highway, it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. It sits on over 4.5 acres, has no close neighbors, and there’s even an old-fashioned red barn! I would be living the same distance from work, but we would be a bit closer to the city where we drive for church and leisure.

Although this house won’t require near as much remodeling as the first house we looked at, it will need quite a bit of updating. We love the floor plan, but the interior is still sporting a 1970’s look – complete with pink tile in the bathroom and floral print wallpaper in the kitchen. Nothing we can’t correct with enough time, money, and willpower.

As excited as I am about the possibilities, it feels a little bittersweet knowing that we would be leaving our wonderful neighbors. Even though Mrs. J no longer lives alone, I was terribly anxious about breaking the news to her. We procrastinated as long as we could, but we wanted to make sure that we told her before our current home was listed and a “For Sale” sign went up in the front yard. We told her Monday evening, and she took the news surprisingly well. We assured her that we would only be 5 minutes away and available anytime she needs us.

In the meantime, I’m sitting on pins and needles. I’m excited about the prospect of buying a fabulous piece of property, but I’m also apprehensive about the changes that are going to take place in our lives. Honey describes his feelings as “unsettled.” I’m sure we will both feel that way for a while, but trust that we will come to love and cherish the new home just as much as the one we have now.

Facebook has an application called “Gods Wants You to Know…” that I have seen several of my friends using. During the process of making the decision and negotiating all the details, I decided to try it out for the first time. This is what it said: “On this day, God wants you to know that all is well. All is going according to plan. Trust that there is a bigger picture. Trust that life is unfolding as it should.”

As cheesy as it sounds, somehow that made me feel better.

Right time, right place

One of the homes that I lived in with my parents when I was a teenager is on the market. Dad and I drove by it today on the way to my sister’s home, and I immediately began fantasizing about purchasing it, doing extensive remodeling, and turning it into our dream home.

The house is quite small, but sits on three acres of land in a rural location. I imagined how we’d add onto the existing structure, landscape, even dig a pond. I was so swept up in my fantasy that I was certain Honey would feel the same way.

After arriving home and telling him about my amazing discovery, we drove out for him to see it in person. Where I saw potential, he saw a mountain of debt. As we discussed the amount of work and money it would take to whip the property into shape, I realized that he was right.

I seem to have an emotional attachment to houses or neighborhoods where we lived while I was growing up. Maybe that is why I currently live in the house that’s only two doors down from the home my parents lived in when I was born. It was over eleven years ago that I discovered this house was for sale, and I couldn’t buy it fast enough! Perhaps my eagerness over the house we looked at today is more a testament to my sentimentality than anything else.

Sitting at home with my dreams dashed, I began to pout a little. Then the phone rang. The neighbor’s son was calling to ask if we could get his mom up off the floor. As familiar as this scenario has become, it never fails to elicit feelings of panic and dread. We scurried over to find her in the kitchen floor, wincing in pain with blood dripping from two open wounds.

We cleaned and bandaged her scrapes and helped her into the recliner – reassuring her and her son that they can call on us anytime they need help. That’s when I realized that we’re probably right where we need to be – at least for the time being. The dream house will just have to wait.

Boundaries

I took our neighbor to the emergency room yesterday evening – the second time in a month and both times from falling. The fall a few weeks ago required a CT scan and staples in her scalp. This tumble wasn’t as serious, but she has three cuts (one into muscle) and a very sore hip.

Neighbor lives with her son and I’ve discussed my feelings about him here before. While I don’t feel quite as negative about him as I did in the beginning, I do still have a problem with the way he talks to his mother. She has difficulty hearing, so he barks at her in a very loud, condescending tone. This behavior was in full force when we went over to get her off the floor and prepare her for the trip to the hospital.

Once we were alone, I asked her if she liked having him living with her. She thought a moment before saying, “It’s alright. I guess it’s just hard to live with someone when you’ve been used to living by yourself.”

One of the things that bothers me so badly is the feeling of helplessness that we have since Sonny moved in. She used to rely on us to help manage her decreasing mobility – by moving furniture around, performing chores that she shouldn’t attempt, etc. Now, the freedom to do those things just isn’t there.

To provide an example, the reason her arm was punctured this evening was because the handles on her kitchen cabinet doors are very old fashioned and have sharp edges protruding from each end. She said she literally had to lift her arm up off of the handle after falling. This is the second time over the last few months that she has fallen and cut herself on the kitchen cabinets.

After seeing the damage last night, I suggested the handles be replaced with something that has a rounded edge. If this had happened a couple of years ago, we would have taken this task on ourselves. Now, with Sonny around, the dynamics of our relationship have changed so much that all we can do is step back and hope he makes the right decisions to protect his mother from harm.

Subdivisions suck

Reason #1,648 why having close neighbors is a bad idea: the old lady that lives next door deciding to cut down the beautiful, well-shaped maple tree that borders your property and is the only source of shade for your backyard patio.

Granted, it could stand a trim to get rid of some of the broken branches that occured during the ice storm in January, but she had decided that it, like all the previous trees in her yard, is sending a squadron of roots to attack her foundation. This has been one of her “things” ever since I moved here ten years ago, and when she was in better physical condition, it wasn’t uncommon to find her chopping in the flower beds that surround her house while complaining about imaginary tree roots.

We have tried our best to convince her that this tree is healthy and unlikely to cause any damage to her home, especially given that it has survived a hurricane and an ice storm, but she is relentless. The tree comes down tomorrow.

I sometimes wonder if we’re wasting our time doing any home improvement to this house, due to the fact that neither of us are very happy with the neighborhood or the close proximity of the neighbors. I worry whether the alterations that we have made will result in any benefit when we do decide to sell, since it seems like most of the other houses in the subdivision have went downhill over the last few years. I look forward to the day when we can buy or build a home in a more rural setting, where we can have a little more privacy and aren’t so affected by those who live on either side of us.