Reading over my last blog post, I am stunned by how drastically my life changed almost as soon as I hit "Publish." I was so focused on finding the bright spots and staying positive during a really traumatic life-changing events, that I didn't see what was coming at me. The long and short of it was that the divorce took a lot longer than I expected, got uglier than I expected, and forced me to move out of the Neglected Nest. I went into Survival Mode and made decisions for my daughter and me that felt best at the time. The house, the bills, my own well-being all sorta took a backseat. About two weeks after that post, after my life turned upside down in unimaginable ways, I moved out of the Neglected Nest and into a small apartment a few blocks away. It was a very dark time in my life, though I tried to continue seeing things in the same sunny way I did in that last blog post. Reality was much different....
Initially, I couldn't bear to go back to my house. I waiting a number of weeks after moving out before going back. Though my ex went over once or twice in the month after I moved out, Hurricane Irene dropped 3" of water in our basement and we didn't know for 2 weeks. Mold took up residence on the drywall and baseboards, and we lost many boxes of belongings (ironically, most were of old wedding memorabilia).
As I started getting more acquainted with my new life, I started contacting the invested agencies to let them know the house was vacant, although not abandoned. Our mortgage company hired a company called SafeGuard Properties to "secure" our property. From the start, our experience with them was bad. They broke into the house to change the locks without notifying us. They winterized the house, but not properly so the furnace was broken as was the tankless water heater. Though they put up a sign in/sign out sheet for anyone who entered, no one used it. Overwhelmed and feeling terribly overpowered, I caved to pressure from my ex to put the house up for sale "as is" and cried for 3 weeks straight. The day I signed the papers, I sat in my car afterward, watching the real estate agent sink her sign into my front yard, and I sobbed. I couldn't bare to go back into the house. My ex took over maintenance and "checking on things." A month later, I went back to start pulling out the rest of my boxes. I was shocked when I went in.
Someone had come into my home (of course, without signing in or out), rifled through boxes of my belongings, and painted over the mold that was evident on the drywall. Whoever had painted over the mold had used my packed up clothing! It
lay in paint-covers clumps on the basement floor. Long drips of paint
were dried on the windows and baseboards. Handprints and footprints were
on our furniture and other surfaces. It was a nightmare! They used our
paint, our brushes, our rollers, our buckets- but didn't clean up at
all! It was a huge violation. The cover-up also meant the realtor's license was in jeopardy for trying to "deceive buyers." We left it untouched and in plain sight so that potential buyers would
see what repairs needed to be done. It saved us from putting a
disclosure in the listing and scaring off appointments that may not find
it deal-breaking upon personal inspection.
Calls to SafeGuard and to the mortgage company were fruitless. By mid-February, I was burned out. I was living in an apartment that was neglected by the landlord (no hot water for 3 months, a bathtub that had 4" of standing water in it, broken washing machines that ruined my clothing, etc.). Moving to another apartment meant coming up with over $3k in deposit money. My frustration turned to fury. I didn't want to give up my home. I didn't want to live in shitty apartments when I owned a home I loved and labored on and wanted to raise my daughter in. So I fought. I got the mortgage company to work out lower payments that I could afford. I got my ex to agree to take the house off the market and basically walk away and let me take care of the house. And I got quotes from contractors to get the mold remediated, the plumbing and electrical work that needed to be done, the driveway repaired, and the kitchen updated (like it had been planned for 5 years!).
The first week in March, the house was taken off the market, and I finally began to feel like I was back in control of my life. But within a few days I discovered that the subcontractors hired by SafeGuard had broken into the house late one evening and stole anything of value. A newer dehumidifier, some kitchen appliances, an over-the-range microwave (for the new kitchen), an old Macbook, the newer lawn mower my Dad had gotten me as a housewarming gift, a hose to my washing machine, some tools, and who knows what else. I'm still discovering missing items. I filed a police report but was told it was very unlikely I'd ever see any of my things again. Nor would SafeGuard be prosecuted since none of the subcontractors had identifying clothing or advertising on their truck. It's been a devastating, unsettling situation that has only added insult to injury in the change of life events in the last year and a half.
But I marched forward. My Dad helped me demo the basement, change the locks, and start ripping out the flooring in the kitchen. I set a move-in date and changed my address with the post office. Two weeks and $2400 later, the mold was eradicated and my daughter and I were living in the Neglected Nest again. I cried every time a neighbor would welcome me back. My heart thumped extra hard when I would write my old familiar address. Pulling in the driveway gave me a rush. I'd been a refugee for 8 months and was finally able to resume my life.
Today, I started putting my kitchen back together. A renovation that has- so far- cost me $555 and a ton of sweat, tears, and frustration. But it's mine. And with the help of my Dad, I did it all myself. No husband, no contractor, just me. It's breathed new life back into this Neglected Nest. It's breathed fresh air into this neglected homeowner. But I think this house and I are exactly what each other needed: faith, love, and dedication.