Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Neighbor knock-knock-knocking on heaven's door. Err... our floor

 Since we have so much catching up to do, I want to rewind to a few months ago to October/November (2011). I deleted most of my "Debbie Downer" posts a while ago, so unless you have been reading for a while (or are a dear friend) you probably don't know about our neighbor issues. (Please enjoy this picture of Little Miss' 1st haircut as a visual of how cute my kids are as you read this, And, of course, the boy being adorably silly!)

Quick summary: we live on the 3rd floor of a building (Top Floor Family...get it?), meaning of course that we live above someone else.  I've lived here on and off for 10 years in the same unit and we purchased it over 5 years ago and changed the thin carpets to beautiful bamboo floating floors (you have to have a ton of padding underneath to be approved by the HOA to have wood floors).  I have never, ever had a problem with anyone.  But that all changed when we had our oldest and he started to crawl.  The young (30's), single woman who owns the unit below us was not a fan of the noise our baby was making.  By the time he could walk, and I was pregnant again, she started banging on the ceiling.  Only when he walked, or dropped a toy, or even *gasp* colored in his coloring book on the floor.  She couldn't care less about if I walked, our dogs ran (we had two at the time), listened to music, or watched a movie.  It was only centered around the budding toddler, and it was between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm.  He was not allowed to run, jump, or walk on his heels-only his toes. In the TWO years that followed it got progressively worse as our daughter was born and began to move, even after I talked to her, wrote her notes, etc trying to see what was up.  We started complaining to the HOA and after two years they decided to hold a meeting.  SO let's start there:

After years of her banging (violently banging) on our floor, her ceiling The Hubbs and I submitted an offer through the HOA.  We told her that if it would help her noise sensitivity and have us all live in peace she could install carpet in our unit at her expense.  We loved our floors.  They were beautiful and made a small space appear larger and less apartment-y.  But I was crying all the time, stressed out of my gourd, and honestly fearful of my families safety around her.  I was yelling at the kids for walking too much, talking too loud, or playing too much.  Crazy!  They should not be punished for being kids.  But me-being-me I did not want to make more noise to upset her and did not want things to escalate to dangerous places.  We never, ever, not even once banged back. And believe me, that took every fiber of my being to not do so.  I frequently had to drop on my knees and pray for what to do and to pray for our neighbor (who is a professed Christian).  We were prepared to just throw in our chips, amass a huge amount of debt and sell our condo for way below what's owed, because that is what it's worth on our lovely economy, and rent a house somewhere , ANYWHERE so that our family won't suffer anymore.

Anywhoo... they ended up fining her after seeing that we've done everything we can and having some 3rd party people who've heard the banging talk to them.  Our neighbor was furious.  She asked that an emergency meeting be held with the HOA and the council (or whatever you call it) about...get ready... our excessive noise.  What the what??  I, of course, was panicking.  What if they tell us our family is too loud?  What if they tell us we have to change our flooring?  How are we going to afford that?  What if they agree with her and she feels okay in banging more?  What if what if what if?????  And even though I could never hear it through my spirit of fear, my family and friends were saying, what if they tell her to stop?  What if they tell her you're in the right?  What if it all works out?

The meeting came, unexpected witnesses were there, it was very long and uncomfortable.  She denied having ever banged more than once, two years ago.  Witnesses came to say they had heard it as recently as that week.  She we signed up for the "condo lifestyle" and should not allow noise on the weekends before 10 so people can sleep.  She said she has emotional distress and can't work well because of us.  She also said she's never home to hear any noise (to try to say it was impossible for it to be her banging), while in the same breath saying the noise of our kids dropping things or walking is unbearable.  I was so blessed by the Lord because I was so calm and even-toned and my emotions didn't take me over.  The Hubbs was visibly upset at the things she was saying and was pretty upset. She was literally shaking with anger. Her sister was there to say she and her children had spent the night once and were woken up at 8:00am on a Saturday because of the kids playing and that it was inappropriate.  The council, all elderly men living in 1st floor units, are what some might initially describe as a stereotypical "crotchety" demeanor.  I thought for sure they were going to say "those dang kids" or something.  But do you know what I heard? 

"That sounds like kids being kids.  We live in a family community, not an adult-only community.  Their floors were installed to our specifications.  This is all happening during the day, when you say you aren't home.  We can check your installation to see if maybe it is inadequate, but that is all we can do for you."  I was relieved.  A wave of relief crashed all over me and I thought this was all over.

It wasn't.

Our neighbor was so mad, so upset that she was not the victor that she did something that I can't even imagine someone doing.  She found out what the Hubbs does for a living (law enforcement) and called to file a complaint saying he was harassing her and illegally investigating her.  She even threw around the word emotional distress.  That may not seem like a big deal, but it's huge.  Something like this could have gotten him fired and unable to find another job in law enforcement.  He is our only source of income so this would have left our family without money for food or a roof over our families head. Not to mention the defaming of his character!  God bless that everything my Hubbs does at work is documented on their computer.  They track everything (and I mean everything) their employees do.  If he had searched her name, driven to her work, looked up her license plate, address, etc, it would be there for all to see when it's researched.  Well, he is one of those black-and-white guy.  He doesn't believe in living in grey, it's either right or wrong and he stays in the right. Follows the rules to a T.  Makes him a very serious individual, but a very respectable one.  It took all of 5 minutes for them to find him innocent.  She was even still on the phone when they told her so. I'm so glad my husband doesn't read my blog because he would be so embarrassed by this...when he got home from work he erupted in tears.  Tears.  He is the strong, silent type (well, not so silent at home) and not ever the person you would think would break down.  He  knew he was in the right, he even went out of his way over those two years to never talk to the neighbor in case she would try to sue for harassment once she finds out what he does (happens a lot in that industry, unfortunately) and the hearing was the first time they had ever talked or been face to face.  It had to always be me before. 

Needless to say that relief was gone and my anxiety was through the roof.  Who would try to strip someone of their livelihood, risk an uncertain future for two little children, all for "revenge" for not getting her way?  I called a very kind friend who prayed with me over the phone and I felt immediate relief. She also gave me some advice on comforting my husband at this time that sort of shocked me as I'd never heard that before, and I'd heard it all.  No shame, but I won't repeat it :).  God had closed every door and window we tried to escape out of to leave this home.  He wants us here, at this time moving is just not an option.  So we ripped up our floors, put in super-de-dooper thick carpet and padding and decided we cannot let her actions bring down the kids.  We'll give our burden of this to the Lord, still not make excessive noise, and be kind to her if we see her (although not talk to her; attorney advice).  We've let the kids play, be kids, and have fun.  We've relinquished this whole thing from the neighbor to the house to the debt to where we live to the Lord- took it off our shoulders and I have never felt so much relief.  It's like a whole new world.  I can still tell that she does not like the kids' playing even after changing the floors.  She blasts her music or TV now and shouts at the top of her lungs.  But our places are built so well (concrete between floors) that we can just hear the faintest of noise and it doesn't bother us.  She's just hurting herself.  But after all of this , our familial relationship has never been better and we've never felt so settled in our home.  And I had no idea how much our other neighbors thought of us.  So many of them have rallied around us in support, some of whom we had never even talked to before.  Who knew?  This is definitely an instance of God refining us through the fire.  We had to go through years of uncertainty. hating where we live, fear for our children and selves (which sounds so petty for the situation, but was very real while living it), and lashing out at each other since we couldn't at her.  And because of it we're better people.

Moral of the story:  Once you stop focusing on what is going wrong in your life and see light through the stress and pain there is clarity and hope.  You just have to keep you eyes on Him and not on our own paper-cuts.

Who knows?  Maybe we are meant to be here as a witness to "the" neighbor.  Maybe through all of this she'll be saved.  Or maybe a neighbor?  OR... who knows!  But a plan is definitely in place.  I don't know what the future holds or when/if we'll be allowed to leave, but we'll take it a day at a time.  Oh, and this also means all my mommy friends are going to have to start doing play dates over here.  It's small, it's up some stairs, but it's our home.

Okay that's today's update.  Wednesday Word is (finally) back tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to hear that there is peace in your heart, friend! I forgot to ask how this all was going post carpet installation, but I can see that God is so faithful to bring us through the fire refined :) You're a blessing in my life and I would LOVE to come over for a playdate!! We'll make some pretend food in your kitchen, it doesn't have to be gluten free. HA!