Monday, January 31, 2011

Why are you doing this REALLY?

Sometimes there is a higher purpose behind what you do, and it's important to always keep an eye on that. Here's what I mean:

Jini is a single mom of two, living in Marin County, north of San Francisco. She makes a bare bones living as a therapist, and on the side, she fixes houses to sell, which supplements her income. She does a house every few years -- after all, it's not her main work, and she has a teenager and a pre-teen to raise.

She sold a house about a year ago, made some money, moved herself and the kids into a comfortable 3 bedroom rental until she could find another fixer. That took about 6 months, and then it took a few months to negotiate the agreement (short sale, the bank dragged its feet) and close.

The house, originally a vacation cottage, is tiny (2 small bedrooms and 1 bath) and so old that it doesn't have central heat, not to mention insulation. It's also missing many of the comforts she's used to, like closets, a dishwasher and two full baths.

She immediately knew what to do with this house -- besides the obvious heat and insulation, it needed an addition to function well -- a master bedroom with its own bath, which could sit over the newly enlarged kitchen/family room. She figured she could pay a contractor to do the major construction while she lived in the rental, then move in and do the interior finish and other renovations while living in the house, which, while unpleasant and inconvenient, would save paying rent and carrying costs on the house simultaneously, which she could ill afford.

She didn't count on the fact that in the hills of Marin, your neighbors can stop an addition if they don't like it. They may actually prefer something falling down ("character") to something a little bigger and newer. And of course, this is what happened. ONE neighbor decided that, after asking Jini for all sort of (expensive) concessions on size and siting and materials, to which she reluctantly agreed, he still wasn't satisfied. He filed an 11th hour complaint at the planning board, which torpedoed her approvals. Thus a drawn out fight at the planning board loomed ahead.

Even worse, she was going to have to move into the tiny house with the 'evil' (her word) neighbor. She envisioned this as literally moving into the lions's den, with danger all around -- constantly. She dreaded moving into this house. Her dread was so intense that she'd barely begun packing, despite the fact that she was scheduled to move in three days.

As we talked, I pointed out that she probably wouldn't see her neighbor all that much. Even if they were going in and out of their houses at the same time, which probably wouldn't happen very often, their driveways were situated so that they couldn't actually see each other. And there was only the one 'evil' neighbor. Others were pretty cooperative.

As I 'looked at' the situation for Jini, I saw her having a big housewarming party -- to which she could invite ALL the neighbors, as well as her friends and family. It looked to me like this would not only create community in her new location but also like this would eventually create some sort of healing both for her and the neighbor who'd objected to the addition. It looked like there were many spiritual lessons in the situation -- for her, her kids and her neighbor.

Jini agreed with my assessment, and because she saw the spiritual purpose behind moving into the lions' den, she began to see the possibilities. She could use the garage to store all the things that wouldn't fit in the tiny house. She could use some rugs that wouldn't fit on the floors as insulation by tacking them up on the insides of the exterior walls. She could buy some freestanding wardrobes to replace the missing closets. She could make friends with enough neighbors that eventually she'd find a way to the obstructionist neighbor's heart.

And with renewed energy, she began packing.

3 comments:

randy said...

What was the result?

Anonymous said...

Hi Holli
Sad story,are you going to follow the story?.
It will surely be interesting to see what happens in the "hood".

Anonymous said...

This conversation just happened last week, so aside from getting her 'in action', I am waiting to find out, as well. Will let you know -- though I expect it will be months before I hear anything. (This is from Hollis -- am having trouble accessing my account, so am publishing as 'anonymous'.)