As we enter a new year, it seems only fitting that I give you an update/wrap-up of 2014. First, you may remember that one of my goals for ‘14 was to create a home office to act as MommyEnnui headquarters in a corner of our downstairs living room. I dove head first into research and organization, dreaming up big plans for the space.
That was until a broken pipe flooded half of the downstairs and put the project on hold for months. Instead, I spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy dealing with the insurance company, water remediation company, contractors, painters, carpet installers, etc., etc. Throughout this process, I learned two very valuable lessons: 1) construction or renovation takes at least three times longer to complete than you expect it will; and 2) contractors are the flakiest, least reliable people you’ll ever deal with.
In light of these discoveries, it’s all the more miraculous that I now have a lovely, almost-finished, fairly well-functioning home office. I’ve included before-and-after photos in an attempt to convince myself that all the time and effort were worth it. In addition to creating the office space, we replaced all the carpeting and repainted all the rooms on the lower level so everything is fresh and new. I even managed to pick out all the paint colors in just a few days. This was quite a feat as, you may remember, it took Ad Man and I almost two years to decide on a paint color for our bedroom.
I just need to hang some shelves, organize my supplies and find a new place for all the crap Ad Man and the kids generally pile on my desk, and I’ll officially be done-done. I don’t love the ugly IKEA table I’m currently using as a desk but it’ll work for the near future. If anyone sees a fabulous mid-century desk on Craig’s List or eBay that costs virtually nothing, let me know and I’ll be your best friend.
In the meantime, we’ll be funneling our money into putting in a gate to enclose Birdie’s Backyard Oasis and a privacy fence to block our view from the hideous, vacant house next door. Which brings me to my next big update. You may recall my mentioning the falling-down house neighboring ours that’s been empty since we moved in more than seven years ago. (Here’s my original post in case you missed it.) Well, shortly after that post, I wrote a letter about the house to the Director of the Atlanta Office of Code Enforcement, cc’ed a couple political bigwigs and attached pages of photographs of the offending structure. In addition, Ad Man and I gathered two pages of signatures from neighbors and I included those and the photographs with my letter. It was an impressive document if I might say so myself.
I got an almost immediate response from the director’s assistant (admittedly, not the most powerful person in the office). She acknowledged his receipt of my letter, told me that they’d assigned an officer to the case and that the property would be inspected in two weeks. Now that was the kind of action I was looking for! Unfortunately, that’s where things stalled.
I never saw an inspector at the house on the date the inspection was scheduled to take place, but I was in and out, so I couldn’t be sure whether it had occurred or not. Online records regarding the many past complaints regarding the house mysteriously disappeared and the assistant (who I determined would only answer my emails when I cc’ed her boss) was unsuccessful in tracking down the information though she assured me that she’d made numerous requests for info from the assigned officer.
Just as I was planning to take a trip downtown to speak to the Director personally, something strange happened. One day, I came home to find that a yard crew had spread craploads of mulch in the yard next door. Why the owner’s daughter (let’s call her Lindy) would spend money on mulch to “spruce up” a crumbling house was a mystery to me. The other neighbors and I chewed on a few theories, but it wasn’t until I received an email from Lindy that it became clear that the city had, indeed, served her with a notice of zoning violations.
In her email, Lindy had the gall to ask Ad Man and me if she could use our water and electricity so workers could powerwash the house and paint the trim (remember, the utilities next door have been turned off for seven years). She assured us that she’d reimburse us for all costs. Upon reading her email, my brain short circuited and exploded into a million tiny bits. After reassembling my scattered gray matter (with the help of a large glass of wine), I drafted the email excerpted below and sent it off to Lindy…
“…I fail to see what good painting the house and doing yet more band-aid repair work will do. Are you planning to put the house on the market or just appease the Office of Code Enforcement? [Ad Man] and I, and all the neighbors for that matter, are beyond fed up having a dangerous vacant building on our block…
Your inaction is the ultimate insult to the neighborhood which you’ve mentioned having such fond memories of growing up in. If you still have a vague plan to rebuild and move into the neighborhood yourself, I’m afraid you’ll find that the people of [our neighborhood] will be far from welcoming.
I’m sorry it has come to this, but I’m done being patient and understanding and attempting to deal with the situation in an amicable manner. I’d really rather my children not have memories of growing up with an abandoned house next door. I cannot help you with the water and power issue. [Ad Man] and I will not assist you in continuing to put lipstick on this rat-infested pig.”
I sent a copy of Lindy’s email and my response to the neighbors and one immediately texted me, “You kind of scare me and I like you even more for that.” Best compliment I’ve gotten all year! A few hours later, I heard back from Lindy…
“We will be recovering items from the house this Winter. We are in the process of getting bids now to tear it down in March – we will notify you of the specific date. There will only be a lot that we will maintain with a landscaping company until we sell it to a builder. In the meantime we are addressing the items on the City of Atlanta complaint.”
After reading the above message, I let out an evil cackle, steepled my hands together a’la Mr. Burns and exclaimed to no one in particular, “Victory is mine!” Of course, the owners have never been ones to follow through on promises, so I shall remain cautiously optimistic. Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to post photos of the demolition come spring…preferably not including an exodus of rats marching toward my house.
I must mention one other accomplishment I achieved in 2014 because it’s the thing of which I am most proud (short pause while I pat myself on the back). This year, I was successful in giving much less of a shit, as they say. In the past, just the thought of sending a pointedly harsh letter to anyone would have caused me to break out into hives. I’ve always avoided confrontation and hated having anyone not like me. As you can imagine, that trait often made my job as a litigation attorney a little tricky.
The thing that has changed most about me since entering my 40s, it’s that I care far less what people think of me and I’m OK with the fact that I can’t make everyone happy. I will write nasty emails when they are warranted. I will wear my pajamas in the front yard while taking the dog out to pee. I will run all over town doing errands with no makeup on. I will take away my daughter’s TV privileges when she’s being a pain-in-the-ass and I will not waver. I simply don’t give a shit…and it feels fantastic!
Happy 2015, y’all!