the simple minded suburbanite

What if Your Mary was Right?

Mary is one of my dearest friends, yet she drives me bat shit!  Mostly because Mary is just a little anti.  Anti-neighborhood girls, anti-too-much-wine, anti-spontenaiety, anti-anyone-else’s idea-of-good-time.  But, she’s not anti-social.  She plans outings with our small, but close-knit group of friends.  She hosts family events, invites me to work out at her gym, etc.  All on HER terms, yes, but she is a dedicated and loyal friend.

A few years back, I had my main girls-the ones I could lean on, confide in, be stupid with, which included Mary.  They were and are my “sister-friends” as I’ve heard Mya Angelou refer to her closets women friends.  But, I also had other women friends.  The ones who sat on any given deck on any given Friday (or Tuesday for that matter), drinking lots of wine while our kids played.  The ones who planned the autumn girls weekend, which quickly expanded into another spring girls weekend.  The ones who handed out flourescent-green shots in test tubes to the adults alongside the Snickers for the kids.  My fun friends.

At first, Mary marveled at how I could float in and out of so many social circles.  It seemed fun.  She decided to try it herself but it wasn’t long before Mary couldn’t take it.  It just didn’t suit her and she soon took to calling me before stopping in, verifying, “There’s nobody else there?”  She’d cruise by, intending to stop in only if there were no other beige minivans or black suburbans parked in my drive way.  She’d make a point to say to me, “Don’t invite anyone else” whenever we planned a lunch or a bonfire in the backyard.  She only wanted to spend time with people who “filled her up” she said.  And it pissed me off.

None of my other friends forced me to such separateness.  No other friends were this difficult.  It strained our relationship a bit,a lot even, I admit.

But just the other day, Mary and I’s mutual friend and I turned to each other on the street during a lovely spring walk, “What if Mary was right?” we both chimed and laughed so hard I nearly dislodged my leopard-print underwear from my crack.  We had just finished a conversation, gossip really, about how many of our neighbors were truly falling apart.  How many of these people are the ones who were “the popular ones”, wives who are smaller than their children, husbands who have purchased the new Porsche, kids who have played on the city team since age 5.  The beach houses, the parties, the facials, it all! How emptiness had caught up to many of them.  How life had imposed its magnificent force.  Bankruptcy, personality disorders, pain-killer addictions, anorexia.  All so, seemingly, suddenly.  Seemingly to the rest of us because, they didn’t really let anyone truly know them.  Never let the smile leave their Zap-whitened teeth.  Never let anyone in their house if the housekeeper hadn’t just been there, and then only into the foyer…or the back deck.

I’m not feeling superior here.  I’ve had my problems and you’ve had yours.  But as I’ve gone through life, I’ve begun to realize that I have a need to TRULY connect to people.  That it’s not enough to talk about knockout roses and jeggings.  That if I don’t start applying my ideals of voluntary simplicity to the relationships I chose in my life, I will have no room to nurture the truly meaningful ones, including the one with myself.  It has been time to de-clutter.  Time to line my shelves with a few, well-placed works of art.  Still, I can make room for a blizzard of Halloween decor, or a barf-fest of fresh pine boughs on the right occasion.  But, these need to go back in the basement, it’s crazy to have them hanging around every day of every year.  Pine boughs drop their needles if left up too long.  The spooky skeleton don’t look so spooky if you start hanging your backpack and soccer shorts from his tibia.  But a fine work of art, a treasured piece of pottery, a gorgeous tapestry, they can stop me in my shoes, they can force a small gasp on any given Tuesday or Friday afternoon.  They fill me up all of the time.

So, maybe my Mary was right. My unique work of art.  That sister-bitch!


The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
November 20, 2010, 4:48 pm
Filed under: budget, burbs, culture, suburb, suburbanite, volntary simplicity

My father helps his neighbor mow his yard.  His neighobor prunes my father’s trees.  My mother tutors my old highschool friend’s daughter.  He brings her fresh eggs from his farm.  Bartering.  Sharing.  Helping each other out.  It is nearly non existent in the burbs.  My husband and I mull twenty minutes or so before asking our neighbor to borrow his pressure washer or help us move a sofa from upstairs to down. 

We’re all too busy.  Can’t you afford to hire it done?  We’ve got our own things to take care of. 


Came across this blog post about a book about sharing, bartering, etc.  It’s on the rise.  Wonder how long before it reaches my burb. Check it out.

The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

My question to you, “What do you have that you could share?  Childcare? Music for a party?  Handyman skills?  Help write a resume?  Paint a room?”  What?

Today I am Simply…
August 10, 2010, 12:44 pm
Filed under: burbs, culture, parenting, suburb, suburban, voluntary simplicity

Today I am simply……

  • Drinking coffee
  • Waking my birthday boy with biscuits and gravy
  • Starting what I planned
  • Missing my boys
  • Writing a bit
  • Shopping a bit
  • Reading a bit
  • Cleaning a little bit
  • Showing up where I need to show up

…Today I am simply passing through my day, doing what needs to be done, loving those who love to be loved, clearing my brain, and living without the pressure of living it to the fullest.  Today I am simply living.

And that’s more than enough.

If You Ever Had Enough…
June 14, 2010, 12:30 pm
Filed under: authenticity, budget, burbs, culture, parenting, suburban, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity

Check out this cool post on anniegirl.  What do you think?

Sunny Day
January 14, 2010, 7:35 pm
Filed under: authenticity, burbs, culture, parenting, suburb, voluntary simplicity | Tags: , ,

A friend of mine who reads my blog suggested that I may want to also include things I love about the suburbs.  It’s true.  There are reasons why people flock to them.  There are reasons why my husband and I chose the burbs as opposed to a small town or urban environment.

I was reminded of a few of those reasons yesterday, our first warm sunny day in weeks.

Yesterday was a good day and totally on target with my personal challenge to live more authentically and simplicly in the midst of the nuttiness.

The day started well with my youngest sleeping about an hour past when I take the older two to the bus, thus leaving me a quiet house.  I started with a simple meditation, a cup of tea, and a good book before the phone rang, as it almost always certainly does around 8am.  It’s a good ring of the phone, almost always one of two friends chimming in to say, “Good morning!  What are you doing today?”  And then we make our plans.  “I’ll take Johnny for you after preschool so you can clean your closets.  Or, can I drop Stevie off about an hour before preschool so I can get into work early?  Or, ooo, you’re headed over to the mall to take back the baby gift you never sent and is now too small…I’ll tag along and try on a pair of jeans and maybe even squeeze in a quick lunch!”

In the suburbs, I have an extremely strong support system of mothers, friends, some of whom work, some of whom don’t, but all of whom understand the value of family and the work it takes to “raise ’em right” no matter what your definition of “right” might be.  It’s a community.  We help each other out and there is always someone to call.

So, my morning chat, an actual shower, and I roused my little boy and his moppy curls from my bed where he slept perpendicular across.  Hugs and kisses.  Hugs and kisses.  And off to school, first picking up Johnny, sending them both off with a kiss, and a drive through hot tea and low-fat muffin for me as I did head off to the mall to exchange that baby gift now that it was probably too small.  And a birthday present for my handsome husband.  A set of three wire candlesticks that I’ve had my eye on for months, now marked down.  Ring ’em up.  Do I dare start trying on jeans?  Naa.  Too fat. Head home instead to put the candlesticks on top of the hutch in my dining room.  Perfect!  What happiness a pretty set of wire candlesticks brings to a home.  A home rounding out to reflect our family’s sense of peace, love, and individuality.  Then off to pick up my little guy before 12:30.

A special treat for him, since he’s been begging…”We NEVER go to McDonald’s!” Oh hell, why not?  We order through the drive through and park down by the river for a fast-food picnic.

In the suburbs everything is very convenient.  With this I can find whisps of solitude, adventure, hustle, and yes, even culture.  I can have a balanced day every day if I choose to because of the soundbites of opportunity around here.

A leisurely walk with my youngest who I challenge to hop to the next tree, then skip past the rock, then gallop to the next little bridge.  “This is so great, Mommy!” he laughs and I do too as he finds little shells embedded in the sand on the river bank.  One for older brother, one for middle brother, Mommy, Daddy, and even our old dog but, no, not the guniea pigs, they might eat them.  The air is fresh.  The park is safe and clean and we smile and say, “hello,” to nearly everyone we pass, mostly retirees out for a little stroll.

Then it’s bus time, homework time and the younger boys scatter across the back yards to play with friends while I take my oldest to guitar.  He’s practicing for the school talent show and his guitar teacher says he has never taught a ten-year-old who is quite as talented as my oldest boy.  (Brag!  Brag!  It’s my right!).  My oldest is sullen on the way to guitar, I try asking him about a friend he is having trouble with at school.  He’s chatty on the way back, telling me all about school and his dreams of being a professional guitarist and architect and maybe even building concert halls and stadiums.  We rock out to a few tunes, me singing at the top of my lungs to PJ Harvey’s “Seether”.  He asking, “What’s a seether?”  Dunno.

The suburbs is full of opportunities.  The businesses support families and children and no matter what your cup of tea, you can usually find it here or pretty close to here.  I know it is because people pay money, sometimes big money, for these opportunities for their kids and themselves, but that being said, so what?  People here do value exploration and learning and development of yourself.

At  home, my middle boy helps me peel tomatillos for our dinner dish and tells me about his first day in a new class and how much he loves it and how he can’t wait to tell daddy and how he wishes there were more football games on right now, but they’re only on on the weekends now because college is over and the pros are in playoffs and it occurs to me that I am really raising a southerner!  An early dinner with the boys and then off for PJs. 

Hubby comes home.  Terrible day.  I warm his dinner, pour him a glass of wine and listen while I sip tea, a bit late for my writing group, but realizing that he is feeling down, real down.  He fininshes and changes into some sweats and readies the basement while he awaits the other boyscout volunteer to arrive and test out the track for the Pine Wood Derby.

I am so thankful that I had such a restful day so that I could have patience for all who needed my patience this afternoon.  I am grateful, I have this opportunity, realizing many women do not. 

I threaten the children within inches of their lives to stay in bed and not bother daddy and his guest while I am out for writing group.  They nod.  I tuck them in with a kiss and a stern look for my youngest who does not look entirely convinced that I mean business.

And I’m off.  A night of stimulating conversation, challenges put forth, goal setting, and encouragement.  Who says that writing is a solitary endeavor.  A few politics. A few philosophical points of view.  We are all very different, these women and I, on the surface, at least.  But we have two obvious bonds, writing and the burbs.  And these commonalities led us to discover other commonalities, further differences, and friendship.

Suburbanites, despite my slants in previous posts, are not entirely from all one canvas.  Sometimes you have to push yourself to seek others out, but they are there.  And they are looking for you too.

I fall into bed, after contemplating catching up with some work correspondence, next to my husband who is still awake.  He never truly sleeps until I get home. I know this so I do my best to get home at a decent hour.  I kiss him good night, my youngest crawls into bed and I think, Thank you, God, for this day.  Tomorrow may not be the same.  Tomorrow my be fraught with stress and too much to do and some negativity.  But I know enough to know that when I am blessed with a sunny day, I had better say,

Thank you.

Thank you, Sunny Day in the suburbs!

What is a simple-minded suburbanite?
October 12, 2009, 2:35 pm
Filed under: burbs, culture, suburbs, voluntary simplicity | Tags: , ,

I live in the suburbs.  There, I said it.  Never thought I would.  Glad I do, most of the time.  It’s hard, though, to keep my head about myself, stay authentic and true, and keep focused on what is important.  Not money, not my home, not the brand of shoes on my feet.  But, the simple things.  Family, home, environment, humanity, creativity, authenticity.  I’m amazed, every day of how many people here struggle with these things or simply, don’t really care about these things, or even fight against these ideas.  This is my quest to stay on track.  This is me reminding myself to avoid simple-mindedness as in “not so smart” or “part of the heard”, but stay on the path of simple minded as in valuing simplicity.

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