Tag Archives: community

Temporary Spaces

Once upon a time, I grew up on a corner lot in Cincinnati, in a four-bedroom, 2.5-bath house that my parents bought before I was born and still live in now. Did I mention that it also has a two-car garage and a finished basement? And a yard? I didn’t know for those many years of living at home pre-college ┬áthat all of those things were taken-for-granted luxuries until my own process of house-hunting with Husband got started in these past few weeks.

In college, living in the same dorm room or sorority house room for nine months is not a big deal, because everyone on campus does that. My senior year, I actually moved in and moved out every quarter — moved in prior to fall quarter, moved out before winter quarter because I was studying abroad, and moved back in before spring. Then moved again in the summer for grad school. Not a fun process, but what is packing up one room — and only one room — of stuff? Not a big deal.

As a Bay Area apartment renter upon entering the real world, I was lucky enough to have lovely, long stints in only two locations over the course of seven years — three and four years, respectively. Those lengths of time sound like eons compared to the living “sprints” of college.

What I hadn’t truly prepared myself for, upon moving up here to AK, was living out of boxes for more than a year. Not bueno. Before Husband left last March to get started with his job, we started packing. And I kept packing up our apartment after he left, all the way up until June, when I finally left too. Our boxes and cars were shipped up… and at this point I have zero clue — in spite of my meticulous labeling — what is inside some of the boxes. I’m not even sure where all of our boxes are! Some at his parents’ house, some in storage, some with us at our current house-sitting gig. It is unsettling, at best. It makes me wish that packing up and moving were as easy as dealing with Barbie’s home and office module (you know, the one with the Murphy bed and the desk that also folded up into the wall).

My sister had this when we were kids and I LOVED playing with it.

What is difficult is this sense of living temporarily, like we’re never really settling into a space because it doesn’t belong to us. It’s one thing to charge forward in life and career, but there is a sense of stability in having one home, one place that feels safe and sacred and… regular, for lack of a better term. Like even when all of the craziness of a day or a boss is inside your head, going home is an escape from that. Right now, being half in and half out of a combination of boxes, baskets, and suitcases is consistently disconcerting.

I am sure, as with all things in life, that “this too shall pass,” and it won’t be an eternity until we have a place of our own. And at the same time, I am a wee bit anxious to find a home that will anchor us a bit more securely to our life here. I need that in a physical way — I miss some of our furniture and all of our art. But I also need it an emotional sense, because living in temporary spaces makes it seem like we can just pick up and leave at any time, so I keep looking in the rearview mirror and wondering, even while I am happy with Husband and the possibilities of our life here. For me, part of living somewhere is investing in the community, and that is so much easier to do when I know I’m going to be around for a bit, like not just for a few months here and there.

I also think that both of us (Husband and I) are excited about this “grown-up” endeavor of buying a house. Not to say that we are rushing into anything, because God knows we have seen some absolutely terrible properties, but it certainly feels like a solid, logical next step in our married life together. We started on the process of building our relationship many years ago, and building up the life of a home together is something we have been looking forward to since we moved up here. In fact it was a motivating factor in deciding to move, because we knew we could afford a real house with a yard up here (as opposed to renting forever in the Bay Area, probably, short of winning the lottery).

For now we are enjoying the house hunting process, and every time we walk into the front door of another place, I know we are trying to picture ourselves plus our dog plus future kiddos inside. That’s a good feeling, one that will get us through living in these temporary spaces and places.

All You Need Is…

Today is Valentine’s Day Eve, if you will, and I am preparing myself for delighting in many more homemade heart-shaped cookies.. They started arriving last week and there were some in the staff lounge today, and I imagine there will be more tomorrow to share. As a married lady, I am happy to say that this is not a big “holiday” for us, because we’d have far bigger issues if we didn’t express how much we love each other more than annually. (And if you happen to be someone who is currently measuring the health of your relationship by what happens tomorrow, then I am worried for you.) I will be giving Husband a Valentine card, of course, because my preferred form of love-giving in the form of a present is through writing.

But back to Valentine’s Day Eve. Today I spent my afternoon in two different classes, where both of the teachers at different times had told me that their classes are needing a renewal of community. One teacher said recently that her students requested more “bonding time,” and the other teacher said that her kiddos are getting to a point where they get visibly disappointed if they don’t end up pairing with one of their so-called “best friends” in the class.

In both classes we warmed up with some improv exercises and some sharing in partners, but in the end I got the most traction with talking about the Golden Rule. I will forever remember my mom saying things like, “You know, I may not go to church, but I follow the Golden Rule.” (She is what I heard a priest call a Chreaster — a regular major religious holiday-going Catholic.) I asked the kiddos if they had heard of it — they had, thankfully — and we wrote out a few forms of it on the board. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I explained that every major world religion has a form of this rule at the heart of their teaching, and then I asked the questions: Does this rule say you have to be best friends with everybody? Does this rule say that you have to like every single person you meet every single second of the day? What does it mean?

They cut to the chase right away: Be kind to others if you want them to be kind to you. Don’t be surprised if people are mean to you if you say mean things. Ah, yes. All we need is a little more community love, right? They each wrote the one thing they will try to do to be a better community member on a Post-it note before I left, saying things like “I will not laugh when ____ talks” and “I will try to work hard with my partner even when I wish my partner was someone else.” Gotta love kids for being honest. And I hope that today gave them some food for thought. It’s not easy to follow the Golden Rule, especially with people who work so hard at being Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers and take it out on other people. Or, in the land of middle school, it’s hard to follow the Golden Rule when the novelty of cliques is starting to become a reality in the classroom. So I’m hoping that they’re going to work on it, though I know they won’t fix it in a day. But on this Valentine’s Day Eve, I thought it was more than appropriate to focus on a different kind of love than the kind that we associate with a heart-shaped box of chocolates and teddy bears. I was reminded too that I am not exempt from this rule, either. Working in a community isn’t the same as having a strong feeling of community, and we can all certainly afford to plug into that feeling of connectedness with each other.