Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tree What We Did Together

Day 9

For the past two months, my family has been in a public battle with the city and the zoning board to save a recently constructed tree house.  The house wraps the largest tree in our yard.  The tree sits behind our existing back yard fence. 

A knowledgeable neighbor well-versed in zoning jargon called to complain.  According to newer zoning laws, the city considers this tree to be in our front yard.  Zoning laws forbid the building of yard structures in any front yard lot.   

The city told us of the anonymous complaint they received and instructed us to remove the house.  My Mamma Bear came out.  I may have even growled. 

We circulated a petition.  We took photos.  We wrote our appeal.  We waited.

In the meantime, we played in that tree house as if we were going to lose it.  We hosted a sleep over.  We designed an entire birthday party around it.  Partygoers at “Camp Finny” even ate cake in the tree house!  If the city forced us to take an ax to it, we vowed to enjoy every minute it was in our yard. 

Then came last night.  The zoning board meeting I’d dreaded for two months. 

I tried to distract myself with cleaning.  Everything.  I painted the inside of the garage for goodness sake.  It’s never looked so sparkly and organized since we’ve lived in this house.  I think we could stick a bed in it and call it a guest room!

Even in all my frenzy, I worried.  Nothing makes me more anxious than not knowing.  How would the kids react if we lost?  How would we tell them?  What would we do with all this wood?   

While here I am writing a blog about my acts of random kindness, I have to pause and write instead of the kindness of others. 

Last night I was overwhelmed by the kindness of neighbors and friends who wrote letters, attended the meeting and spoke up to city officials to help us.  I’m not forgetting all you who sent good thoughts our way either.  Thank you!! 

One special standout to all the superstars was Mrs. Joanne Gluck, 84, who lives four houses up from us.  We became friends the summer of her heart surgery.  She walked each morning and afternoon as part of her rehabilitation.  My house became her turn-around point.  Every morning and afternoon, my boys and I would greet her in the yard and talk with her until she’d caught her breath and felt rested enough to manage the walk home. 

She was a dynamo at the zoning board.  A spitfire of a lady who in my opinion helped push the board to vote in our favor. 

When the final vote came after an hour of testimony and discussion, I burst into tears.  I couldn’t imagine telling my kids that we lost. 

One board member commented specifically on Mrs. Gluck’s support and how wonderful it was to see different generations living together and making up a community.  My husband and I witnessed the very best of community last night. 

I’m a firm believer in karma.  Be good and good things happen.  Be a nasty, noisy neighbor who calls to complain about three little boys’ tree house and … well, you get the point. 

Karma isn’t only about good things happening to you.  If you have good karma, you see the good.  You’re more aware.  You sit up and take notice and the world is an overall nicer place to live.

So raise your glass to good karma, kindness, great friends and neighbors and happy hour in our tree house some Friday night soon! 


  1. Ashley,
    I can't tell you how happy I am to read this blog! I hope Mrs. Gluck gets a peek from the tree house, should she so desire. Your neighborhood worked together, and, what, 4 generations are delighted. Maybe town council can even meet up there! And best of all, your boys have a tree house!
    Deb Dunkle, Cleveland

  2. This is why I cannot leave the neighborhood. Thanks for making this so crystal clear.

  3. Needed to hear something positive today. Read this blog and tears came to my eyes. So thrilled that your family gets to play in such a fabulous place you built together and so many fabulous memories enjoying that space to come. This blog made my day! CONGRATS ELLIS FAMILY!

  4. What a great story! So glad you'll continue to have a wonderful meeting place in that tree house of yours (especially for your boys!).

  5. Have liked all of your posts, but love this one.