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.
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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!
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- Arizona, Celebrate!
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.
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Oysters, kayaking, cycling, ice cream on Bainbridge Island, lots of walking and staring into that gorgeous man’s baby blues. A lovely adventure!
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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
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- Arizona, Celebrate!