neighbors without borders

When this happens in your backyard you might consider a few things. Like, how good is my homeowners insurance? Or, how did I not hear this thing fall? Or, how lucky am I that gravity had the tree fall away from the house and not onto it?

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We had a macroburst two weekends ago that involved 100 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain. The neighborhood looks like a hurricane passed through–I’ve never experienced anything like it.

This is an inconvenience largely because we have dogs and our neighbors have dogs, and because it’s a giant mess. (And it’s a million degrees out, and I’m super pregnant, those conditions heighten any disturbance). But this is a joke compared to problems that exist in other parts of the world–or hell–in other parts of Phoenix. But while incredibly annoying, knocking down walls makes for a great social experiment.

It dawned on me today how different life would be without so many walls. What would it be like if we didn’t live in such modular, segmented ways that separate us–literally and figuratively–from those around us? How exactly did we become so reliant on the idea of privacy?

Chances are it would be weird if things were different. I mean, I’d definitely have to dress more appropriately when I let the dogs out in the morning, and there’s always the off chance your neighbors are creepers, or have ugly yards you don’t want to stare at, or run a frat house. But it also might be kind of cool to have a more open sense of community. Lots of cultures live more communally than Americans, and I think that’s neat. Although in these cases it’s often families that live interchangeably, not strangers who happened to prefer the same zip code as you.

At any rate, in the week since our wall was demolished, we’ve gotten to know more neighbors than we did over the past year, and it feels nice to get better acquainted with the people that reside 15 feet from you.

All day at work I sit in an enclosed office. My house is (well, was) surrounded by a six-foot wall. I’m an introvert, so this doesn’t displease me, but I also thrive in social settings and often wish I sat in an open bullpen with coworkers instead of in my own stall. And that I had neighbors dropping by to say hello rather than just waving from behind closed car windows.

The wall should be resurrected by the end of the week, but it’s temporary hiatus has had unexpected perks.

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things that make me happy

1. Nesting. Jim put the entire nursery together as a surprise. And by that I mean he stayed up til 5 a.m. one night painting, hanging art and curtains and assembling furniture. I had everything ready but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, and love that his input and thinking created the layout.

2. Endorphins. The guy who scans me in at the gym and always says encouraging things about working out while pregnant. And working out while pregnant makes me feel less round.

3. Cleanliness. Just got our carpets cleaned. It’s the next best thing to new floors and it feels like the whole house had a spa day.

4. Poop. When I called a friend in a crabby mood this week she told me a story about poop to completely distract and entertain me.

5. Thinking in new ways. This article was captivating and made me reevaluate some of the ways I think.

6. Smartphones. For all the bad things we attribute to an addiction to technology, I love how it allows me to stay connected with so many people that are important to me.

7. Take out. Tonight it’s Oregano’s. All the joy of eating out and I can wear pajamas.

8. Anniversaries. Jim proposed four years ago today.

9. Decluttering. I’ve sold a ton of stuff through craigslist and Swip Swap lately and have had surprisingly pleasant experiences. I’m always fascinated by the people who want my stuff and the process feels like community recycling.

10. Drunk History. Watch it. Trust me.

birthday thoughts

This was the first year there was nothing I wanted. No gifts, no trinkets, no party. I just wanted to relax and spend the day with Jim. We ran errands and ate well and saw a movie and it was perfect. It’s an affirmation that you’re married to the right person when spending the morning of your birthday at tile and granite stores is still entertaining.

Our kitchen remodel is underway. Our cabinets are installed and look great, and counter tops and a new sink and lighting are next. We haven’t had a functional place to eat or prepare food for a week, and likely won’t for another few. We have a fridge and a stove but that’s it for now–indoor camping at its best. But the other night I really wanted to eat pasta. So I boiled water, made pasta and then had to wash my dishes in the front yard with a hose. We’re those neighbors I guess–the quasi-Amish trashy ones.

Preparing to have a baby means learning about all kinds of new things…breast pumps and diaper rash and daycare and more. But also things like life insurance, educational trusts and wills. It isn’t fun to think about and spend money on this type of grown-up preparation, but I’m thankful to have people helping me learn and guiding me through the process at the right time. And fortunately, once it’s done, it can be mostly out of mind for the foreseeable future.

There are these birds that have decided to make their home in the trees in front of our house and they are the LOUDEST species on the planet. These are some kind of crazy tropical squawker birds that could wake the dead. I can’t blame them for settling here, it’s a lovely neighborhood, but they are prohibiting sleep. Every morning it sounds like The Jungle Book meets the Hunger Games outside our windows.

Summer in Arizona is winter to most of the country. The weather is crippling and oppressive. It’s unpleasant to be outdoors and all activity shifts to places where there are pools or air conditioning. I always tend to think I’d rather deal with our summers than Chicago winters, but right now I’m teetering somewhere in the middle, while melting.

I am feeling very happy and fortunate to celebrate another birthday. Life is good, aging is a privilege and today was a poignant reminder of how much the small things are the really important ones.

 

 

 

 

 

When the bright side isn’t so bright.

In a roundabout conversation with my doctor this morning, she shared she was widowed. Prior to hearing this, I had kind of written her off as one of those women--you know–the ones who just happen to have it all…great career, a few kids, doting husband, etc. I stupidly categorize people like this in my head, glamorizing their entire existence, only to learn my assumptions were completely off base.

I felt like crap for pre-judging her and couldn’t begin to wrap my head around what she’d been through. She summed it up in a matter-of-fact way, remarking: “You just can’t plan your life, you know?”

This struck me–hard–because I spend a lot of time doing just that. Planning…worrying…planning some more.

From weekly activities to finances and career goals, I tend to default to over planning things. I want everything to always be ok and my rationale is that worrying will ensure this. I mean, I might as well obsess over things that will probably never happen, because that seems like a logical way to prevent them. Sigh.

This incidental reminder came at a perfect time, when a lot of people in my life are going through particularly hard times. Different people in different situations, each rough and overwhelming in its own right. I’ve been thinking through it all and it’s troubling. Sometimes it’s really hard to find a bright side or spark of light in the storm, and sometimes there isn’t one. When the bright side isn’t so bright, we just have to stumble along in the darkness until the sun comes up again.

There’s nothing comforting about this realization, it’s just another lesson in growing up. That the tough times we go through will shape us and strengthen us, and ultimately serve to highlight the better, easy times.

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Excuse me, this torch is kind of heavy.

It’s strange to realize you’ve reached a point in life that used to be a distant vision. To hit an milestone or experience that you can remember imagining in earlier years as someday.

It’s natural to reflect on these moments during significant events–weddings, graduations, meaningful purchases–but there are so many other, smaller signs that are just as poignant. Things like role reversals…how we interact and advise our friends and parents, even the conversations with people who work for us. These moments create bizarre reflections on how far we’ve come and everything that’s changed over time.

I readily seek the advice of others, sometimes to a damning extent, but there are only a select few individuals who always have my ear. These are people I’m thankful for everyday because, at least in my opinion, they know everything. My encyclopedias of life advice.

This week, one of my encyclopedias came to me upset and in need of advice; suddenly roles were flipped. I was acutely aware of the irony of the situation as it occurred, and the weight of the proverbial torch being passed for a moment. It was a pretty heavy torch, but grasping onto it even momentarily was a welcome weight. Despite the negative feelings that prompted the exchange, I ultimately gained a sense of confidence in my own abilities to reciprocate advice and serve as a trusted confidante.

Until you’re forced to take on the tasks that always seemed impossible, you’ll never gain the satisfaction of knowing what you can achieve. Life pushes us out of the nest with moments like these, giving us a chance to stand, awkwardly, on our own two feet.

The art of reflection is a gift and a type of meditation. The more we learn to reflect not just on our current experiences but also how they relate to past experiences, the greater the opportunity to stay mindful of the present and confident in the future.

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You’re leaving corporate America to teach sky diving?

One of the best parts of getting older is letting go of the feelings of inferiority that sometimes plague younger years. There are lots of things I’ve always admired in other people and wished I could embrace, but it just never happened.

People who book travel plans on a whim, spontaneously move across the country or have a hidden penchant for tai chi and French cooking. Friends who take jobs with huge pay cuts to do something new, or quit awful ones without first figuring out COBRA payments.

There’s a lot to be gained through admiration of others, but in excess, comparison becomes the thief of joy. Getting older has helped me find a greater appreciation for others’ unique lifestyles, but also freed me from the jealousy I used to associate with my own lack of these things. Every year seems to bring increased comfort in my own skin and less senseless comparison.

What’s that? You’re leaving corporate America to teach sky diving? Sweet. Your passion is pretty badass, but I would lose my mind if I made that kind of choice.

The real irony is that for all the time we spend comparing ourselves to others, we neglect to realize our own awesomeness. While we’re longing to be more [fill in the blank], people around us are silently wishing for the things we take for granted about ourselves and our lives.

Truth is no one’s perfect or has it all, despite how it might seem on Facebook, which is why we gain so much from having all kinds of people in our lives.

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