Thursday, December 22, 2011

Neighbors (part I)

We have the most amazing neighbors you could ever imagine. I know, I know. You didn't realize we'd found a place? Well, we did! It's wonderful and you will hear all about it later. First, I have to tell you about our neighbors.

J&E are the couple on the East side of us. They are in their early-thirties. Educated but not pretentious. J teaches and manages land for wildlife preserve nearby.  E? She works from home as a consultant (full-time no less!) doing important social and environmental sustainability work.They are outgoing. Kind enough to lend us a shovel during our dreaded Snowpocalypse.* Have tons of friends coming and going all of the time. Married for the same length of time as Mr. Bee and I. Expecting their first child in a few months. Did I mention E is social? She can carry on a non-awkward conversation with some of the most awkward people I know (Mr. Bee and myself!)

And they compost. I'm sure they do. I think they might also be vegan. Or at least eat lentils on a regular basis. Like I said, they are a-mazing. Yes, I just hyphenated that word. Our neighbors are that great that their existence warrants the use of unconventional punctuation. I might be a little obsessed with them right now, but how could I not be? They've got the future that we are working toward!

*A crazy snow event that may or may not wreak destruction worthy of the term "apocalypse."
day one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gray Houses

We've been seriously house hunting for 6 months now. And when I say house hunting, I really mean dream chasing.

First there was the fixer upper with barely developed but beautiful land. A private driveway off a gravel road and acres of soft grasses and tall trees. We envisioned years of work--on both the house and the land--but a peaceful, quiet existance.

(It was snatched up by an investor, with less time and more money. I imagine w'll see it flipped and back on the market soon enough.)

Then there was the farm house. Solid, no frills house with pastures and barns and places for pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep and horses (not that we want horses). It was like one of those packets of sea monkeys I had as a kid, where all you have to do is add water--only all this place needed was the livestock. We would be homesteading in no time.

(The day we put in an offer, the owners got into a car accident and took it off the market.)

Within a few weeks we found another house. I couldn't believe our good fortune. We dubbed this one "the mansion." It was by far the nicest (and most expensive) house we looked at. Giant kitchen, perfect pantry, electric pastures, a beautiful chicken coop and wrap around deck. High-class country living. And acres of forest to trail blaze.

(A few weeks out from closing, we learned that the house was one of oh-maybe-twenty-houses-in-the-whole-city that wasn't covered by emergency services. As in, they don't necessarily come when you call 9-1-1 because you don't pay taxes. We rescinded our offer.)

Even though the houses share some similarities (read: land in the middle of nowhere) they are all so different! Our realtor even commented on it, which sent me into a self-conscious spiral and eventual acknowledgement that she was correct. The funny thing is, I feel like we could have been happy in any of them.
Let's get this straight: I like things black or white. You know: right & wrong, good & bad. I love it when there is an optimal choice to be had and, let's face it, when the "perfect" decision is readily available. I feel unsettled knowing that there are multiple life trajectories in which I could envision myself thriving.
I know I "shouldn't." I know that life's beauty is in the subtle complexities of gray. There are ups & downs, risks & benefits, pros & cons--a hundred colloquialisms to describe the dissatisfying reality that very few things are ever solidly black or solidly white. So what does it mean? What happens if there is no one "right" choice? If there isn't a perfect choice, then I can't have the risk-free thrill of making it.

My logic and OCD prevent me from leaving the equation unfinished. If I string these two thoughts together it means there are any number of imperfect scenarios in which I can be happy. 

Imperfect = happy?

I guess I have some contemplating to do.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Raw Chicken, French Braids and Tennis Shoes

Let’s rewind. It’s summer 2009, and I've spent the last five minutes staring at the grocery bag I just brought home. The thick paper of the Whole Foods bag begs me to keep the cold plastic wrapped flesh and carcass safe in its confines. Deep breaths. I look around. Cutting board? Check. Really big knife I’ve never used before? Check. Rubber gloves? Check.

Somehow, I manage to hoist the chicken body onto the counter. It looks just like that: A chicken body. Without feathers. Or a head. Or wait? Did the guy at the meat counter say the head was inside? Maybe that was just the neck?

Remind me why I’m not a vegetarian? I ask. It was more of a meta-comment than anything else. But Mr. Bee begins to answer in his matter-of-fact every-question-requires-a-serious-thoughtful-answer sort of way that I really do appreciate. Most of the time.

Because you love bacon.

I sigh. He’s right. I do love bacon. And I don’t actually want to be a vegetarian. The chicken under my knife was raised at least somewhat humanely and I don’t mind the taste of the stuff once it’s cooked. Until now, I’ve always dumped in the saline filled, flash-frozen breasts straight into the crockpot or used tongs to place them (still frozen!) onto a cookie sheet to bake. But this, this fresh, floppy and juicy carcass on my counter top, felt like a whole other beast.

You don’t have to do this, Mrs. Bee. I can do it for you if you want.

Mr. Bee always deals with the meat. We pride ourselves on having a very egalitarian relationship and rarely conform to gender norms and roles without having seriously thought them over first. This one, was different though. I needed to be able to cut up the chicken. I needed to do it because I didn’t want to be dependent on Mr. Bee's availability for cooking dinner. I needed to do it so I could justify my meat eating. (There is a part of me that says if I can’t kill it and cook it, maybe I have no business eating it.) Plus, everyone knows that whole chickens are the most economical choice if you use the whole thing.

I needed to do it for myself.

Sometimes, you’ve spent so long listening to what everyone else wants you to be that you lose yourself. Other times, you work hard to be your “independent-self”, only to realize you’ve somehow squandered your authenticity in a well-meaning quest for originality. While rebellion might be the catalyst to find your own voice, it rarely leads to your true self. Or, if you are anything like me, you’ve you have spent your years whittling and refining the already narrowly defined “you.”

You know what I am talking about.

“That’s a great outfit, but I could never wear something like that. I’ve been wearing this same style for years—I wouldn’t recognize myself in anything else!”

“I love people who are artistic. I really have no talent at all. Have I tried before? Well, I don’t think you understand; I’m just not that kind of person.”

“Oh that’s okay, I’m not much of a [insert anything outside of your normal behavior here]. I’ll just watch.”

And handling raw meat, in particular, cutting up raw chicken, is one of those things that I “couldn’t” do. The capacity to rinse the smelly carcass, peel back that goosepimpled skin and cut out bits of slimy fat was something I considered myself born without. This notion was reinforced by Trader Joe’s individually frozen chicken cutlets and even family members who unintentionally critiqued my spastic cutting skills. It fundamentally contradicted who I was who I thought I was.

But not anymore. 

Things I “can’t” do by virtue of “who I am” but I am doing anyhow
5.  Go hiking
6. Start my own business—for real
7. Run
9. Host a family gathering, at my house
10. Become an integral part of a community