the simple minded suburbanite

Summer Reading. Fahrenheit 451. IV
August 26, 2011, 8:00 am
Filed under: culture, suburb, suburban, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

“And number three:  the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”

How can we do better if we don’t take the time to understand, question, integrate?  How can we get to the core of what we value if we don’t take the time to question others’ values and clallenges?  How can we behave closer to who we want to be?


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?

On the Ball
August 23, 2010, 11:52 am
Filed under: budget, culture, suburb, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

Day 11 of waiting for my refrigerator to be repaired, a pricey model that is only 2 1/2 years old and thankfully under a purchased warranty. I’m saved only by the $300 model that I called into my possession 6 years ago when my other pricey model in my old house went out while that house was on the market.  The $300 model, no problem. 

Quickly on the heels of my refrigeration debaucle comes a brand new bike pump whose needle snapped off on first insertion into an old soccer ball and a set of “industrial” shelves that buckled while being assembled, obviously too shotty to hold the intended left-over paint cans in my garage.

Heirloom Design.  I’ve mentioned it before, but given my latest consumer events (I guess I shouldn’t complain, Sears sent me a whopping $25 gift card to spend in their store on more crap for my inconvience) I googled the Heirloom Design concept once again this morning.  I mean, I am sick, sick of being “pecked to death by ducks” as they say.  And the ducks, as I say, have found their way to bore through my wallet! I mean, WHY CAN’T PRODUCTS LAST? AND WHY THE HELL SHOULD REPAIRS COST SO MUCH THAT IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO BUY A NEW PRODUCT??!!  Anyone else out there hear me?  Anyone else being driven crazy by the constant financial and emotional toll, not to mention environmental consequences?  I mean, I feel like I couldn’t be frugal if I tried even harder than I am.  It doesn’t matter if I try to take care of my things, they’re crap.  It doesn’t matter if I fix and maintain them, with crazy exhorbitant “maintainence plans”, they’re all crap.  I mean, I’m trying to save for college, I’m trying to make my home liveable, I’m trying to invest in our future and I feel like all I ever do is spend money in ways that I’m feeling robbed, raped, invaded.

Okay.  I’m getting emotional.  I understand that hysterics doesn’t make good writing.  Deep breath.  So what can I do?  Try to educate myself to something better.  So I got online on my recycled computer, mind you, and once again googled “Heirloom Design”.  It’s a concept that promotes manufacturers to produce products that actually last, instead of promoting a “throw away culture” which we post WWII generations have become.

I found a great article with tons of links for the interested consume.  It explains many facets of Heirloom Design, starting with the expensive Rolex and Monteblanc route to quality products to closed loop manufacturing and non product products.  It makes me hopeful, or thoughtful, or perhaps just appeases me for the moment, but I think of my grandmother dutifully mending and hemming and realize, hey I haven’t picked up a needle thread for that purpose in eons.  I think of my father up under the car’s hood.  I leave that to Valvoline.  I think of my childhood neighbors swapping off services such as lawn mower fixing and roof leak patching.  None of this, trash and run to Home Depot.  Isn’t Home Depot supposed to be the do it yourself place?  So why do they carry a huge section of new appliances and products?  Because of people like me.

But people like me are getting fed up.  And the only answer to fed up is to get on the ball.  So, ball, stay put while I unwrap this new bicycle pump.

August 18, 2010, 12:03 pm
Filed under: authenticity, culture, suburb, voluntary simplicity

I celebrated a birthday this weekend.  A BIG one!  I honored my inner schizophrenic and donned a red feather broach and red heals and salsa danced the night away with many good friends, one of whom always seems so amazed whenever I get dressed up and don makeup.  “I just can’t get over how pretty you look!  I mean most days you look  like, whatever, but when you get dressed up you look so pretty!”

Now, I’m not tooting my horn (though at my age I have every right to).  Instead I, in my self critical way, of course focus on what she said about most days I look like “whatever”, insinuating plain, average, forgettable.  Her shock at the juxtaposition of “whatever” with the “wow” when I actually do myself up then started to set in with me.   And I got to thinking, maybe I am a little on the dual personality side, a little salsa with my mozart, a little red feather broach with my basic black dress, a little throw the “f” work in with a philosophical quote.

And so I struggle.  I struggle sometimes with finding inner calm and craving constant change.  I struggle with a simple home and the love of tiny collections.

I remember a week before my wedding when, by design, the only two people who had seen my wedding dress were my mom and myself.  I waited for my maid of honor to fly in from NY and I promptly tried the dress on for her at the final alteration.  As I emerged from the dressing room and cascaded to the surrounding mirrors, she grinned and said, “It just like you, totally schizophrenic!”  And it was, plain and simple in the front and tons of “stuff” going on in the back.  And I think that was what I loved about it, the element of surprise.  Just when you thought you had seen my wedding dress, I turned around and there was a big, “whoa!” I never would’ve guessed!

And my home is the same way.  I look around and think, “Where did all of this crap come from?”  Like some strange person went on a binge shop at TJ Maxx Homegoods and lined every inch of free space.  Just when I think I’ve garage saled everything I never loved, more seems to spring up from the corners, like those damn cupboard moths that come in organic whole wheat flour!

Many things come in the forms of gifts. Most thing comes from my crap toting mother (see past references).  And a few things come from an effort to warm up a room that I can’t afford to re-do with a little vase or throw pillow that I know damn well I won’t like by the time (if ever) I can finance an overhaul.

So, I walk that line.  One side of me keeps the other in check.  You can’t wear red feathers to scrub the toilet.  You can’t throw out the “f” bomb at a Jungian Society Meeting.  You can’t keep your house bare and express your own desires and creativityat the same time.  So, I guess I’ll just keep that little element of “whoa” as a welcomed surprised to others and especially to myself.  We all could use a little mullet in our lives: business in the front and party in the back.  Word.

A Simple Man
August 11, 2010, 11:27 am
Filed under: parenting, suburb, suburban, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity

“I can’t think of anything.” That’s what my then 8yo turn 9yo said when Grandma asked him what he wanted for his birthday.  He’s a simple guy.  He wears simple Tshirts.  He doesn’t get all flustered and dramatic.  He can delight in a rubber band.  He’s like his Dad, not like me who can fret over a rubber band for hours.  He loves good food, but his idea of a perfect birthday dinner is a cheese steak from Capozzi’s.  So, that’s how we celebrated his birthday yesterday.  His presents were laid out in colorful packages on the kitchen table.  He calmly unwrapped each…a science set, a model airplane, a launchable rocket ship, and a video game (which my oldest insisted his dear brother have; funny, it’s the same one he himself wants too).  No “big ticket” item.  No “if I don’t get what I asked for I’ll just wet my pants”.  Just a simple smiles, a few “cools”, thankyou’s, hugs, followed by cupcakes.  And when I tucked him in that night and asked him one of our routine questions for bedtime, “What made you happy today?” he answered, “The cheese steak.”  I love that simple little guy and I hope one day he finds someone who appreciates that fine quality in him too.  Happy ninth birthday, my sweet little dear.

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.

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