My husband and I love designing and building homes. We built our first home shortly after we moved to Idaho. We didn’t have a lot of money or very many kids (at the time), but we knew what kind of house we wanted to build.
We picked a small town outside of Boise (mostly because the price was right and because we wanted a lot of space to raise our kids). We found some land up a canyon with a small creek bubbling along the front, and started working on the plans. It was three miles up a winding dirt road, there weren’t any neighbors and very little water, but it was perfect for us.
Our budget was tight, so we did all of the landscaping ourselves. It was a labor of love and a lot of sweat. Every tree, every blade of grass, each an every heavy retaining wall block we placed, made our home more beautiful and special to us. After eight years of weeding, watering, and planting, we transformed the barren hillside into our very own estate.
It was the perfect house for us, until our little number seven came along. It took my husband a few months to convince me, that if we moved, we could build something even better for our family.
So we started over. We spent a few months looking and finally settled on a lot on the opposite end of town. We had a view of the mountains and the Payette River and there was plenty of room for our rapidly growing kiddos to run around.
We planned, we stressed, we picked out molding, and met with contractors. We were there daily, to watch the building process and to make changes (which, I’m sure our builder loved!).
It was exhausting, exciting and wonderful. It was going to be the perfect house for our family. We had space, plenty of bathrooms, a great kitchen and a pool. We could even play a game of baseball on the front lawn.
*Side note- Playing a game of baseball with my kids was not as picture perfect as it sounds… the game always ended with someone being made fun of, or treated unfairly, which resulted in crying and then running into the house. This was followed by several minutes of the offending sibling begging the offended sibling to rejoin the game, so we could have an official winner.
It was our perfect house, for almost five years.
Until one day, it wasn’t.
It wasn’t perfect for our kids. As they got older, it got harder and harder to live 25 minutes outside of town. We felt trapped by the limited opportunities for them. We tried to make the best of it because we still loved everything about our home, but it just wasn’t right. It wasn’t right for my husbands job, it wasn’t right for my gay son, it wasn’t right for my kids education. It hurt to much to stay in a town where we had been so involved in our previous religion. We all needed a change.
We put our home on the market and started looking at homes in town. Nothing was as good as what we knew we could build, so we looked for lots. It took a few months, but we found a great space in nice subdivision. It was covered in trees and was near the river. It was going to be our new perfect house.
We bought the lot and contacted our builder. We had the plans done and submitted to the neighborhood’s design review committee by November. We were sure that any day they would give us the okay and we would break ground and start our new home.
But that didn’t happen. The design review committee (who happened to be headed by the neighbor on the left, and the neighbor across the street from our lot), did not approve our plans. So we did what they asked.
We made changes, a lot of changes. We moved the house forward, we turned it to the side, we changed the look of the front, we moved the side wall, we moved the placement of our pool, we took out the front flagpole, we changed our landscaping, we met with other neighbors to discuss their concerns, we met with the committee to walk the lot and discuss the placement, we emailed, we called, we begged, we pleaded, we were mean, we were nice…we were exhausted.
Every week our kids, our friends and our family would ask us if we had begun construction on our home. Every week we had to say no. Every week, from November to July.
On several occasions, we thought we were going to start building. We would hear from someone on the committee that things were looking good, “just one more change and you can start.” And then, after waiting a few weeks, we would get a response requesting more changes. We found out, after six months of back and forth, that if the committee didn’t respond to our latest revision within thirty days, then our plans would be automatically approved. As day thirty approached our excitement grew.
At exactly 11:57 pm on day 29, we received an email from the committee asking for more changes.
I couldn’t do it any longer. I told my husband that I wanted to throw in the towel and sell the lot. He agreed that it was time to give up the fight and move on.
When we sold our lot, I thought all of the pain and mistreatment from the building review committee was finally behind us. Then my husband received a phone call. A woman who joined the committee a few months prior, decided to tell us what really happened…
In March, the committee asked that my husband and I meet with them on the lot to discuss the most current round of changes. We were going on a date right after the meeting, so I was dressed up.
*Side note- Have I mentioned that I love to dress up? I love to wear skirts, heels, make-up, all of it. Every once in a while, I love to feel feminine, sexy and beautiful. It’s nice to not be mom all of the time and to wear shoes that I would never wear if I was doing the laundry, or making dinner, or cleaning up vomit.
Anyway, I was in a skirt and heels and a cute top. I don’t remember exactly what I was wearing, but I’m sure it was not what the committee was expecting to see.
Our friend told us that after we left the meeting, they decided that they were not going to let us build in their subdivision. They did not want people that dressed like me, to be their neighbor. I’m not sure if my “inappropriate clothing” was the singular act that convinced the committee to fight us, or if it was the potential noise of seven kids swimming in the backyard, or the fact that we were no longer Mormon…but they had made up their minds. They had an entire file on our family full of pictures and information…aerial photos of our past homes, all my past marathon statistics…anything about us that was available on the internet. I’m not sure what was in that file that was so damning to us…but we weren’t what they wanted.
Why wouldn’t they want us?
I know that I shouldn’t care and just let it go, but I still care what others think of me.
I know that I should be grateful that we didn’t end up building a home in a place where we would have been judged and hated, but it was going to be the perfect spot.
I know that a house is just a place to live, and that it’s the love that you share inside of that house that really matters.
I know that our family will eventually find another home that will be perfect for us.
I know that some people are just mean, and that I shouldn’t let it bother me.
I know all of this, because this is what people keep telling me. The problem is, knowing all of this does not make it hurt any less.
It hurts to know that I prevented our family from building our perfect home.
It hurts to know that people don’t like me and my family.
It hurts to be discriminated against