A healthy home for disabled family
Our family is the kind of family that tends to either inspire people, or annoy them because of how cute we are. BigJ- and L- (best friends that met the first day of college) have been together for over 20 years, against a variety of odds that all too commonly prove more than relationships can withstand -- things such as L-'s physical disabilities, the neurological disabilities of our now-13 year old son LittleJ-, and the financial stress that our family has always been under because of medical debts, despite how hard BigJ- works to support us. Individually, we strive to defy the odds, as well.
BigJ- works full time as a manager, does the majority of the household-related tasks, is an actively devoted husband and father (as well as friend and community member), is stuck with all the extra responsibilities of being the only non-disabled member of our family....and yet considers himself increadibly lucky and blessed, and also the one with the easiest load to bear. L- is regularly told that she must be making him up.
L-, who lives with chronic pain and fatigue from her medical conditions and can no longer formally teach, functions full-time as a special needs Mom, but also puts in all the work she can on the side as a disability educator and advocate, abuse counselor, writer, artist, and as-opportunities-arise human, animal and environmentally-based charity volunteer. No one, medical specialists included, 'knows how she does it'.
LittleJ- survived extreme prematurity complicated by a blood disorder at birth, despite his parents being told, "Don't get attached. You can't expect this child to survive." (His Mom and Dad weren't any better at meeting those expectations than he was!) Although now physically healthy, those early medical experiences left him with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a highly complex and pervasive case of Sensory Processing Disorder, the symptoms of both of those exacerbated by Seasonal Affective Disorder, and an as-yet-unspecified neuro-muscular disorder. You might say he lives to defy stereotypes. He's a high honors student while mainstreamed in a GenEd curriculum, a five-time award-winning photographer, and he's the kind of kid that stands up for OTHERS against bullies. In a lot of ways, he's the kind of 'inspiration porn' viral video you never see, but should.
Our family has always rented, but now we need to buy that house we have always dreamed of making a home of our own. Financially, circumstantially -- and even when it comes down to that long-awaited plan to adopt shelter and rescue animals -- we have to take this step both to give ourselves more security and stability, and to allow ourselves more freedom to thrive. The trick of it all is that circumstances have put us into the position of needing to buy a house after paying off enough medical debt to repair our credit, but before we've had time to rebuild much savings. Finding a place near BigJ-'s work, L-'s doctors and a good enough school program for 'twice exceptional' LittleJ-, within budget, that is going to meet our family's needs....is challenging, let alone when forced to start making decisions during real estate's 'off' season and a seller's market to boot. (That particular glitch in timing was created by the time limit parameters of the first time home buyer program the bank that prequalified us for a home loan, offered, eaten into by significant delays in when the same program actually had any of their required classes running.) We need a house that meets certain architectural requirements in relation to L-'s degenerating mobility impairments, and which also has enough room for all of LittleJ-'s therapy gear and the kind of sensory environment that he needs to be able to function well enough to keep growing into his potential.
Having more money to work with opens up more options for us when looking at available houses. It means the possibility of being able to do more to renovate a property we are considering, allowing us to safely close on a house within our time limits and still know we can make the house what we need it to be. It makes it possible to 'put more down' in an offer we make on a house we really want, making it more likely the current owner will choose our bid. It makes it easier, after closing on a house, to have some overlap time between still living in our rental and moving into the house, so that we can prepare for and make that transition with less health-hazardous stress. Even if everything falls into place, having some extra money means we could do more to make our new household healthier for us. We could replace more lights with fake-sunlight bulbs for LittleJ-, consider a tub with hydrotherapy jets for LittleJ- and L-, a new mattress for BigJ- and L- to replace their nearly 30yr old one, etc.
The time is now! Home-ownership is considered by financial advisors to be the more fiscally thrifty and reliable option for us, vs. renting in our area, and might eventually lead to our family being able to invest more in health interventions that would support our being able to thrive. (L- likes to call it, "Unhandicapping the disabled life.") We don't want to get into a pattern of buying and selling to keep 'trading up' as our situation improves, however. The goal is to avoid having to move again for as long as possible, to provide stability for LittleJ-. In fact, along with the ability to make a property wheelchair-accessible (that's an issue of when, not if, for L-), another long-term consideration is whether a property has a large enough lot space to potentially build an adjoining apartment for LittleJ-, should he go through a phase of life when he is capable of living semi-independently, and that ends up being the best option for him to do so. So, I guess you could say that the 'When' is both right now, and moving indefinitely into our future.
BigJ- and L- only have until July to close on a house.
If you are willing, donations send through PayPal as a friends-and-family style payment would go even further than donations sent through this GoFundMe page, because then nothing would be lost to processing fees. Our PayPal account is linked with the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. If we recieve any donations in that manner, I will be unable to alter the goal-tracker here, but I will update elsewhere with the grateful information. We can also provide a mailing address for checks, if need be.
Why donate to us? I was going to leave this space mostly reserved for the words of our friends (to start being added once they realize we finally did this), since they have been encouraging us to crowdsource for help, for years, but then our kid was sick for almost a month and I fell so behind on everything that the collected quotables are lost deep in my InBox like buried treasure. That said, I will say....because being able to grow old in a house means something different when you KNOW a wheelchair is waiting for you, and won't even be waiting until you're all that old. (In fact I have one waiting, that already gets used occasionally.) Because being able to take better care of my health -- directly, by avoiding things like stairs that just degenerate my joints faster, and indirectly, by doing things like being able to pay for more bilateral lumbar spine nerve blocks because we're saving money not having to rent -- means I might be able to delay constant use of the chair for who knows how many extra years, and in the meantime my having improved health both now and later means that my husband and son can have improved health both now and later, as well. Because my son is the most amazing human I know, and who knows how much farther he could go if we had more freedom to support his thriving?! Because my husband has done everything humanly possible to take care of us, and has felt bad about it because without help, it sometimes just can't do 'enough'. Because we miss being able to be in the position to help others more, and this is part of how we get back there.
We have stubbornly resisted asking for help until now, although we hold nothing back in our gratitude, if any is offered.
Anything would help. Our family is available to answer any questions you might have, as long as our computer keeps working and we can access your questions to begin with. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. We've been struggling for so long to survive. We want so badly to have a home to truly LIVE in.
You really don't want me to write any more right now.
We'd have to ramp the doors, but we'd have room to do it. That's actually one of the very few functional (as opposed to just aesthetic) changes we'd want to be able to make relatively quickly. We'd also have to remove carpet from one area to expose the hardwood floor, remove carpet from one bedroom and lay down something resembling wood floor, fix one wobbly handrail, and...that might be it, or I might be forgetting something in the BrainFog. The house is in almost completely great shape, including some energy-efficient features like newer windows and a tankless water heater.
Other, less cosmetic renovations (not in order) to work towards would be:
Adding a fireplace to the living room (there's a good spot for it) because 1) we've always wanted one 2) happy joints 3) alternative heat source during power-outs in the winter
Slightly expanding the width of the ground-floor laundry alcove, so there was room for a stacked hamper shelf next to the stacked washer and dryer.
There's currently a third door to the back yard, in the wall of the master bedroom. It would be very useful to build a small add-on room there instead (whether or not THAT leads to a balcony/the yard), which we could use to replace the space we have here (but wouldn't otherwise have on there), that functions as a library.
It would also be useful to convert the attached garage (which has a storage loft) into our studio space, since there are only a few ramp-able steps into the garage, as opposed to needing to use the full staircase to get into the basement.
We could eventually convert part of the basement into a small guest room, and still have plenty of room for storage. We don't have a lot of yard space to spare, to expand OUT.
That might sound like a lot, but it's still a lot less than we'd be dealing with anywhere else we've looked at. And in the end, even given Jamie's 'Wizard Tower' a flight of stairs up and the basement a flight of stairs down, I'd end up with all the things I NEED to access constantly, on the ground floor.
We have a viewing tomorrow morning. This is a property our new Boss-Man agent found for us, so it should pass muster with the bank, and as long as we don't have to particularly go over their asking price to get the place we can afford it, as long as we can round up around $2,000 extra bucks to be able to put down a 20% down payment. We'd want to give it our own cosmetic spin, and there are a few functional changes we'd have to make, but this is not a place that NEEDS rehabbing, which is a good start. That said, this round of the game really comes down to what we think of the place when we see it, and if we think we can work with it.
It's a little smaller in finished square footage than we've got with our rental now, though not by a lot, and the property itself is about half the size, but how problematic that is would come down to how things are arranged. There's an attached garage and a basement we could eventually try finishing/converting.
It seems to tick most of the need boxes and some of the want boxes. For example, want-wise, it doesn't have a fireplace (though those can technically be added, depending on the arrangement), but it does already have central heat AND central air. Here we use window units, but I can't install them or uninstall them by myself, so there is always a period of time when Jamie and I get sick from the heat before we can get them in, and another period when we get sick from the drafts before we can get them out....not to mention how much bugs like coming through them. There are some wood floors and some carpeting, but there might be wood under the carpeting, we don't know yet. (Carpeting is a problem for James' Asthma, so we need to install some form of fake hardwood flooring anywhere there isn't the real stuff.) One of the full baths looks like it already has an accessible tub! There's an extra room and some storage space in an upstairs under the eves in a semi-converted attic, much like there was in the house we almost bought, so that would once again give back the idea of Jamie's wizard tower. Everything else (including laundry) is on the ground floor. We would need to ramp the doors, but we think it would be do-able. It's about 20min from here, but only about 5min from James' work instead of 15-20, and like here, it's pretty close to some useful places.
There are a lot of things we'd need to figure out, and I haven't talked with the Director of Special Ed for that system yet, but....this is the first place that both we AND our agent AND our bank has found promising in months, so... Mind you, our agent sent me five or six listings, and this was the only one I thought even had a chance, so....this really might be as it seems, and be our best shot at getting anything close to what we're looking for.
Send all the positive juju you can, please! And, y'know...if you've got any dollars to spare, that would be useful too. I was trying to pack a bit, today, and I went downstairs to grab something I knew would fit well in a space in a box, and then I had to wait 15 minutes before I could get back up the half-flight of stairs to actually pack it. Imagine how much more I might be able to get done if I didn't have to content with stairs constantly during each day!