A friend called the other day to share a story about her teenage daughter and a group of mean girls. They were calling names, isolating, and otherwise being unkind — the trifecta of a teenage bully clique. I have yet to live a time of life more frustrating than those early teenage years. Everything seems like an injustice, you want nothing more than to be accepted (and popular), and your maddening hormones are in control.
I have a new theory for why we behave the way we do: each time we are treated unjustly or unkindly, a pebble forms in our gut. Those pebbles may turn into boulders if the injustice is appropriately sized — molestation, abuse, neglect. Or, the stones of many less significant unkindnesses may gather together — avalanching collectively later when another small jab cannot be added to the pile.
I had an interaction with a neighbor a few months back that left me upset. Nelson and I were outside on the patio, and the gate was cracked. He was resting at my feet when he heard other dogs in the courtyard. Before I could grab him, he quickly escaped and tried to join the dogs — which were on a leash and barely being controlled by a woman whose face was purple with rage. Within the next few minutes, I was upbraided for being a bad dog owner. She had a lot to say, and I stood there with my cheeks burning, muttering a few ugly things back her way. I returned Nelson to the patio, secured the lock and went to her doorstep to try to explain.
I said clearly, “You are my neighbor. I don’t want things to be like this. Please accept my apology. I’m sorry my dog was off leash.”
She responded less favorably.
For the next two months, I made a point of waving at her like a maniac and making sure she knew I wanted to say hello. She never responded and walked with her head down any time our paths crossed. I smirked, my pettiness bubbling to the surface.
A few weeks later, police detectives filled the parking lot and banged at her door. Neighbors, myself included, peeked through windows to see what commotion was happening in our otherwise quiet community. A few hours later, she had a rented moving van and was hauling as much of her stuff away as possible, leaving a trail of trash behind her. The orange sticker went up on her window soon after: EVICTED.
I never saw her or the dogs again. The home remained vacant until I moved a few weeks ago.
Another neighbor mentioned the woman had long suffered to care for her adult daughter and grandchildren. Her daughter was ill and was in and out of mental health treatment. The kids came and went on occasion, but the daughter and her kids were removed from the home by police at some point too.
The stones of pain and disappointment in this woman’s stomach always rumble. Her grief and her unhappiness is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I am not giving a pass to people who are unkind — those who flip you off in traffic, for example — but do think they are carrying around more sadness than I am.
There will always be difficult, angry and sad people — but the way we respond to them shows our emotional depth. We treat people the way we’ve been treated, until something inside us recognizes we have to do better. We have to treat others the way we want to be treated.
The answer to those pebbles, stones and boulders are justice, love and kindness.
Look, there is nothing great about moving during a heat wave in Phoenix. Nothing. The silver lining on this one is sweaty — a damp, humid, hot and quickly cranky perspective. There is nothing like working outside in 110-plus weather to make me want to cry. In a pool. With something frozen to drink in my hand.
At one point, I drove to Costco just to stand in the produce freezer. Seriously. I stood there among the two-pound plastic clam shells full of blueberries and spinach, soaking in the cool until the goosebumps on my arms rivaled cherry tomatoes. My teeth chattered. I skipped back to my car.
But here is the thing: precisely no one thinks I deserve a pity party for deciding to move in June in the desert. So, grab a cool drink, slap on some SPF 45 and rest in the shade — I’m am delivering the bit of good I’ve gathered from the last week.
1. Organizing. This is every organized person’s delight. I spent three hours on Sunday consolidating spices and singing along while I worked. (There were no blue birds singing along, but their joy was present.) Also, I made a gardening chart for the new owners of my Tempe home. They are gardeners, and I wanted to emphasize a few critical points: NO MIRACLE GROW. And, PLEASE WATER.
2. Minimizing. My realtor mentioned she was happy there wasn’t much clutter when listing the Tempe home. And while I’d love fall over patting myself on the back, there was still so, so much to give away to Goodwill. Do you read this minimalist blog? I am enjoying it, and learning to live with far less.
3. Prioritizing. There are items I own that I love, and I can’t precisely explain why. Milk glass, for example, holds a kitschy, country chic spot in my heart. And there are those items that I simply will not do without. My mom’s quilts are at the top of that list. I am loving matching linens to beds with freshly laundered quilts in this new home. (Everything is remarkably more colorful.)
4. And of course — love! Why else would you move in June? Love, man! Lots and lots of love. But that is another post entirely.
Back to the unpacking. The “we’ve moved” cards have been ordered. If we regularly exchange letters, you’ll likely see one in your mailbox mid-July.
Hope you are well, friends!
Willie Nelson Mandela celebrates his four year adoption this week, and therefore his sixth birthday.
He continues his reign as the best dog ever:
Even his namesake agrees.
Happy birthday, buddy! Here is to the next great six years of adventures together.
Oysters, kayaking, cycling, ice cream on Bainbridge Island, lots of walking and staring into that gorgeous man’s baby blues. A lovely adventure!
So, my home is on the market, I’m shopping for a new car and roles and responsibilities at work are ever-changing. But more importantly — the thing I’m scared to even discuss in fear that just mentioning it may ruin it (VOLDEMORT) — a publishing company has expressed initial interest in my second novel.
I wrote it.
The world has not ended.
I’ve been talking about that a bit with friends and family and thought it was only fair to share here too. You, my dear blog internet friends far and wide, are the reason the first book did so well. (Have I thanked you for that lately? Thank you!) So, you should be among the first to know that the second may actually be available in your local bookstore. Or, if dreams come true — your local bookstore and library.
Things are busy over here. I’m not ignoring you or this space. I’ve had less I’ve wanted to share, which is entirely another post about maturation in the times of blogs. I also have more of a public role thanks to my job and don’t want my underwear hanging on the line for all the world to see. Figuratively. Literally, I’m still using my clothesline, which is awesome when it is 107 out because everything dries before your eyes.
So, friends. Hang in there with me. I am ever thankful for the many friendships I made through this site. And I’m looking forward to sharing more of the great details of all these new adventures soon.
Now, it is time to return to my new apparent favorite hobby in my 30s: peak of summer packing and moving. You would think two cross country moves, and a cross-state line move all in the last 4 years, of course all during summer months, would have made me a winter moving fan.
What it has taught me instead is life unfolds exactly as it is meant to.
Kelli, and a very petulant Willie Nelson Mandela
I was in northern, rural Arizona this week for work. A few photos:
Kristofferson Walker is a badass.
That Abalone cardigan is coming along nicely! With any luck, I will have it done for our trip to Seattle next month:
After, I am considering knitting this striped sweater from Purl Soho. How cute is that?
Remember that Kerrisha sweater? Well, my coworker Jane wanted one too — but a bit longer.
She’s going on a cruise soon to Alaska. (I think this little cardigan will be the perfect accessory for such an adventure!)
Fun story: I started a The purl clutching Badass Women’s Knitting Society at work. We meet once a week for lunch and I’ve taught about a dozen ladies how to knit. Jane, who knit many years previously but needed a reminder, is one of several who have quickly surpassed my abilities. She and others now share their complicated patterns and different techniques they’ve learned on YouTube and elsewhere.
Like gardening, knitting is one of those things that brings me together with others with who I may have nothing else in common. But we bond. We talk yarn and the perils of giving a handmade gift and we decompress during our work day. It has unexpectedly brought together a group of women I would have otherwise not gotten to know at work, and now I find myself looking forward to it every week.
Score one for community.
I’m trying to do the math on this latest knitting endeavor and am so thankful Sarah is helping me, being patient while I knit swatches and actually learn gauge. This sweater is going to fit, dang it. And I’m going to wear it in Seattle in three weeks! I need to get going. (And thanks to that link, now I’m wishing I was planning on doing it in stripes. How cute is that?)
In the meantime, I’ve been knitting beanies. They are mindless and I am enjoying using up the bits of leftover yarn from other projects. Because apparently I’m incapable of sitting still until the moment I fall asleep.
What projects are stretching you to learn new things?
We took the canoe out this weekend and the weather couldn’t have been lovelier. White, puffy clouds scattered across the blue sky, with Red Mountain towering in the distance. The mild temperatures were good for everyone — the tubers with their styrofoam coolers of beverages, the life stock — with wild horses and cattle coming down into the water to eat green grasses and algae, and the birds. We saw bald eagles, including one in flight, cardinals, black birds with red under their wings, herons and more.
It was so peaceful to paddle along, hearing the water trickle past the bow of the canoe, and see the fish below, swimming along. In some parts, the water was shallow enough to see electric green feather-like weeds growing around the rocks. It gave the river an otherworldly feel.