Yesterday was a day of issues and challenges. Two to be precise. Two challenges that I had no idea I was going to come home to. Both require lots of energy and some decisionmaking. After 24 hours of fretting and feeling sorry for myself, for us, it was time for action. Action, in some cases, is a number of phone calls, messages left and then patient waiting. So a measure of frustration gets added to the mix, but I posted on Facebook and also on my neighborhood listserv about the appropriate issues and the response from neighbors and friends has been so supportive. And I really needed that. A hazard of living alone, no one to vent to or commiserate with. Online friends are not the answer to all the hard situations of the world but it felt good to keep one eye on Facebook responses as I started cutting down my beloved garden.
Anyway, to back up.
The terrace gardens
I came home from traveling to discover that someone had filed a complaint about the garden that I’ve made on the terrace between the sidewalk and the street in front of my house. There was an inspection and I am in violation of at least four regulations that I had no previous knowledge of. I know that lack of knowledge is not an excuse but boy, I had not the slightly idea of the question to ask!
I was not home during the period after the inspection during which I should have gotten my garden into compliance and now face a hefty fine. I will, of course, comply and take down as much as my garden as necessary, although it saddens me a great deal that someone would complain to the city without first letting me know. I have lived in the neighborhood for 9 years, took over the care of the terrace garden from the previous owners and have worked lovingly on it. The official complaint hit me hard. I was close to tears for hours after I read it which made me realize how attached I was to the work and the results. Even now, sitting on my deck I look at those garden beds and take delight in them.
I’ve been reading about lack of attachment as Buddhists describe it and I was not particularly interested in working on this . . . what? Vice? But I guess the Universe is serving it up.
I posted some of what I wrote above on the neighborhood listserv and many, many neighbors responded and replied. People who know my garden complimented it, others gave me advice about fighting city hall, others told of similar situations and their frustrations. A few agreed that my garden violated regulations.
I am in violation of four regulations. The directions for compliance are:
1. Trim or remove all planting over the height of 24 inches within 10 feet of the driveway.
2. Trim or remove all planting . . . No planting shall be maintained above 8 inches within 24 inches of the back of the curb.
3. Trim or remove all plantings . . . No plantings shall be maintained on the terrace in excess of 24 inches in height. No trees or bushes can be planted on the terrace without prior approval.
4. Trim or remove all plantings on the property so as not to obstruct the public sidewalk. Maintain a minimum clearance over public sidewalk to a height of 7 feet. (This is actually my neighbor’s tree.)
Plantings over 24″ is a tough one. At least 2/3, possibly more, of my plants are over 24″. I have hosta taller that that. If I take out all the offending plants, I’ll not have much garden left. After a day and night of fretting and wondering, I’ve decided to dismantle my terrace garden beds completely and replace them with grass. It will take months, actually through next spring as I will have to move bulbs.
I talked to the inspector this morning and he was somewhat helpful in explaining my violations. Unfortunately, I understood them pretty well. He offered no relief including from the 24” rule. Because the notice of violation was issued when I wasn’t home and my two weeks to remedy the situation also passed when we were not home, a citation has been sent to the court. There is no taking it back. When I am notified, I may be able to appear and give my “excuse” for noncompliance. No guarantees of the fine being released but I’ll deal with that when the court notice comes.
He asked me whether anyone was taking care of my house while I was gone, as if, what? I have friends making sure the house was fine but they don’t open my mail. And even if they did open mail, what could they have done? Perhaps notify the city. That is much more than I’ve ever asked for. Much more than I think appropriate to ask for.
Back to the garden. Bottom line is that I don’t want to garden with an eye to whether someone can find violations and call city hall. That feels too vulnerable. I also don’t want to garden with a ruler or needing to ask permission to plant a bush or checking a list of approved plants (I don’t know if there is a list of approved plants). I don’t dispute the need for regulation or safe neighborhoods. For me, this is not worth fighting city hall or complying for a short time until the spot light is off my property. If terrace gardens can be violation worthy so easily, I will not have one.
Julia and I went out this morning and started cutting. I’m trimming back perennials to get into height compliance and then later in the fall, I’ll either move them to the back garden or find new homes for them. I hated the cutting. Yes, I am attached to the plants themselves, to the work I’ve put into these garden beds and to the delight that it brings me. I teared up over and over thinking of how these beds will be grass next year by this time. A few years ago, I changed one of the terrace beds into grass. The bed was beneath a tree that seemed to sap all the moisture from the soil. I had planted over and over trying out plants that I thought might survive. They never did well, and finally, I gave up. Even that, even though I had the rest of my terrace garden to work on, made me sad. This is devastating.
But it is just a garden bed. I have the foundation beds and my back yard beds. I’m not putting in concrete.
Change is just what is. There is no holding back the river or the complainer. The milk has been split. When I told the inspector that I had been living and gardening here for 9 years and no one had complained before. And also, that there are terrace gardens within a few feet of mine that could be considered with these same violations, he simply said that no one had complained about them.
A hard lesson in fairness for me.
The other big change to come home to yesterday was the realization that Julia would no longer be working with Integrated Development Services (IDS). Julia has been receiving services from IDS for 8 years, first doing intensive, in-home therapy, and more recently coming to the clinic two or three times a week. This has been a big part of Julia’s life which has remained stable through school transitions and family upheaval. Last week, we returned from traveling to discover that Julia’s therapy plan has been put on an indefinite “hold,” that is she has no therapists and no plan as to when she would get off “hold.”
Before we went away, the plan was that Julia would return to therapy three times a week beginning on Friday, August 12, and at no time was I informed that this plan had changed. I found out that her treatment plan was “on hold” because her sessions were canceled on Friday and Monday. Each on the day it was scheduled. On Monday morning, I insisted on finding out what the schedule for the rest of August looked like. After a number of emails and a phone call, Julia’s Senior Team Manager, Monika Urena, told me she is leaving IDS, there is no replacement for her and no one to hand her case load to. So, Julia cannot continue with therapy for the time being. She could not give me a date when Julia could begin therapy again, when her caseload would be handed over to someone else, or when her position would be filled.
I was and am mystified that so-called autism experts could imagine that this is an ok way for a kid on the spectrum who has a long relationship with IDS to abruptly stop or suspend therapy with no idea of when it will begin again. Monika did not really want to tell me what she did and she offered me absolutely no transition. I was struck speechless for a little while. How could they do that?
And of course, I don’t think this has anything to do with Monika or Julia’s Senior Therapist, Megan. I expect it comes from administration which may demonstrate how new ownership of IDS is concerned about its clients. If it comes from either Monika or Megan, I am even more mystified. Someone offered that IDS may be more interested in serving young children and I take no issue with that. There is much more money to be made serving children who received 30 hours a week of therapy instead of 6-9 like Julia does right now. However, cutting a family off with notice or discussion is wrong.
Julia returned from our travels looking forward to returning to IDS and seeing her therapists and clinic friends. How do you tell a kid who does not have friends that there probably would be no more IDS for her? How could therapists just leave it to a parent to break the news without transition or warning?
Both Julia and I are pretty strong and resilient. We’ve weathered worse. I know that. I wish we did not have to be this strong, wish that these last weeks of summer before the beginning of a new school year could have been gentle and calm and nurturing. That is what I had carefully planned to come home to. It infuriates me that Julia is stressed in this way. Eighth grade will have enough challenges. And there are so many other projects that could be accomplished instead of destroying garden beds and scrambling for therapy.
But after all my whining and complaining about change, it is still here.
And so, we begin . . .