You ever think about building a house? I did, especially when I saw a house that had some of, or all the features I thought the perfect house should have. I would turn to whoever was sitting beside me at the time and say, that’s going to be mine when I win the million. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for what I already had but I believe that it’s always nice to dream.
Fast forward to September of 2016 and it started to look like that dream might become a reality. My husband, Gary was forced into retirement by the company he’d been with for almost thirty years and we couldn’t afford to stay where we were. Gary and I had both been married to other people before we got together, and we’d had pretty nasty divorces. Needless to say, we were both starting over from scratch and we had a pretty hefty mortgage. Add the fact that I’m on disability into the equation and we knew we had to make some serious changes.
At first, we built an apartment in the basement of our little house on Safari Road in Millgrove, Ontario. We thought that the rental income would help to cover our expenses so that we could continue living there. The trouble was, we didn’t take into consideration what having a stranger living in our house would do to my mental state. Especially when I couldn’t control who they brought into the house, or the fact that they weren’t as diligent with locking the front door as me.
Leaving the door unlocked one time probably wouldn’t have been a big deal for me to get over. I probably would have gone through two, maybe three weeks of steadily checking to see if it was locked and then slowly tapered off until I wasn’t checking at all. It’s how I’ve become accustomed to dealing with my triggers, but just as I was starting to get comfortable, I would find the door unlocked - again.
It was awful and as the first month stretched into the second, I found myself getting less and less sleep.
Around the end of the second month of having a tenant, Gary’s part-time/full-time job slowed right down, and we decided it was time to stop struggling with everything and put the house up for sale. It was a difficult choice because we knew we’d have to move out of the city in order to afford another house, but for us, it was inevitable.
Some people said we could move into an apartment but living in an apartment is not an option for us and never will be. First of all, I’m way too afraid of people to live in an apartment building. I barely leave my house now and I know that the thought of not being able to get out my front door, or to my car without meeting up with at least one person would be detrimental to my mental health. Not to mention that Gary didn’t want to live in an apartment either, especially during his retirement years. He’s a tinkerer and not having a place to tinker or grow a garden would make his retirement years miserable and that’s just not what life is about.
So, we told our family and friends what we were up against and even though they were upset about it, we set about looking for a house. In the beginning, we looked fairly close to where our kids and their families lived, but we couldn’t find what we were looking for, so we expanded our perimeter by two to three hours and went North instead of southwest.
We looked for months and couldn’t find anything we could afford, and that was when we started talking about building our own home. We knew it would be hard, especially because of our ages, but after crunching the numbers, we decided it was our best option.
The next step was to find a piece of property and we were pretty specific about what we wanted and that was at least five acres, with as few neighbours as possible. We also wanted enough space to have a forty by forty vegetable garden, as well as enough area to build an outbuilding for Gary to tinker and build things in.
You would think it would be difficult to find, but it wasn’t long before we found the perfect spot. It’s ten-acres; seven acres of which are protected by the conservation authority, so there’s no possibility of anyone ever building behind us. Furthermore, the property to the right of us is also protected by the conservation authority, so we’ll only have one neighbour …and because of the size of our property, there will be just over two hundred feet of bush in between us and them. So, it’s perfect!
Since we found our little slice of heaven, it feels like life has been a whirlwind! It’s been so busy! I’ve been in charge of all the building materials and making sure that everything is here when we need it; not a minute early or a minute late. It’s a new build so there is nowhere to store material but if we don’t have it here when the guys need it, we’re having to cut the work days short, and the warm weather isn’t here long.
Then there’s the organizing of the cement truck for the footings and the pumper truck to pump the cement where it needs to be. Let me tell you, I almost lost it with these guys because they were absolute jerks! The driver of the pumper truck had a blowout and wasn’t able to make it to our place until 5:00 pm - on a Friday! He seemed to be okay with it, but the guy loading the cement on the conveyor belt was less than amused and kept letting the belt go dry. This, in turn, made the cement shoot out of the hose in chunks which made Gary’s job extremely hard.
Then there were the roof trusses, which are a structural framework of timbers that are designed to bridge the space above your living space as well as provide support for your roof. We ordered them in June and we still didn’t have the trusses the beginning of September. The company we ordered them claimed they were having issues with some of their machinery, as well as some staffing issues, but we needed to have our trusses to move forward – it was imperative.
The house we’re building is built on cinder blocks and has a crawl space instead of a basement, which means the insulation has to go in the floor instead of in the walls. Once the floor is down, it has to be covered so that it doesn’t get wet, and without roof trusses, it was going to be difficult to move forward without damaging thousands and thousands of dollars of work.
Gary and I discussed the dilemma we were having with the manufacturer of the trusses and we felt that Gary should step in. Luckily once Gary read the supplier the riot act, they were able to build our trusses and get them to us the next day!
Last but not least there was the company that delivered the cinder blocks…
I don’t know if you know much about cinder blocks, but they weigh about thirty pounds each and they’re quite large. We needed just under a thousand of them; nine hundred and ninety-two of them, and Gary figured he could move three at a time in the wheelbarrow. I worked it out and he would have to make three hundred and thirty trips. Each of those trips was walking approximately one hundred feet and I’m thinking it would have taken days.
I couldn’t see Gary doing that because not only would it be exhausting, we didn’t have the time. So, I negotiated a lift truck into the quote the company gave me so that the blocks could be placed around the foundation instead of at the bottom of our driveway.
When the driver showed up with the blocks, there was no lift truck and you’re not going to believe what I did next. I called the company and told them to take their blocks back to where they came from!! Gary was standing beside the driver when the driver’s boss called him and said that the customer was on the phone demanding they take the blocks back. The driver turned to Gary with an astonished look on his face and said your wife is telling my boss you don’t want the blocks.
Gary told the guy to hang on and came to find me because the Davina he knows is non-confrontational and he just couldn’t believe that I had said that to anyone especially a stranger. When he found me, I had this cheeky grin on my face and I told him that is was all straightened out and the lift truck would be arriving to move the cinder blocks within the hour.
I still have that cheeky grin on my face lol! It’s like I’ve grown a set of gonads since we moved up here and I feel different but in a good way. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I feel stronger and a lot more confident. Sure, I’m still afraid of my own shadow, but I feel like there’s been a positive change in my life. More importantly, I’m starting to believe that I can live a fulfilling life despite the fact that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will always be waiting in the shadows to try and de-rail my dreams.
Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.