Sharing Walls and Moving House

Loverpants and my story is well-documented. We met as Resident Advisors in college. Sharing Walls, aka Building Community was the nexus of our romantic relationship. It is all we have ever known. Even when we have purchased a home, we have shared walls with other condo association tenants. We have lived in the country, in the city, and we have always had people living either above or below us.

It is not the life I thought I wanted, but it’s the life that I would not trade.

Our two children have only ever known this life. They came home from the hospital to a beehive of activity. We actively feared that if we employed the Ferber-method, we’d have some explaining to do to our neighbors. (We promise! We’re not neglecting them by letting them cry! We’re just trying to get more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time! Fingers crossed, hey? {Insert maniacally hopeful eyebrows raised in pleading hope that this works}).
We have experienced all the benefits and the drawbacks of living in close community with people whose blood we do not share which have included: feeling like a constant disruption; dealing with near-constant disruption; getting contact high from the weed being smoked downstairs; sharing holiday gatherings; never truly feeling alone; being able to call upon built-in babysitters; having an extended family.

In fact, we just moved to live at a boarding academy. We are off-campus now until housing opens on campus. We may live here for the rest of our careers, sharing walls with sweaty teenage boys. For us, the expense of living at a boarding academy is second to none. We have all the access to a city, take many of our meals in the school dining hall, and get to enjoy close proximity to brilliant people. Also, we have no house payment. Kerchingaling.

When we were searching for our temporary housing, though, we relied on beaucoup online resources since we were not able to fly to prospect apartments. That’s right, we had to ferret out housing from afar and hope that it would be as described.

We used all of the usual online resources to browse apartments online and even benefited from the new venture of Cara Concierge who put boots on the ground when we couldn’t otherwise be there. We couldn’t have landed in a better place, with better landlords and better location. Most of all, we’re glad to share walls once again with non-family. We may not be the HGTV poster family, but we’re grateful for our grown-up life that makes us feel like young RAs.

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Required Reading: What Made Maddy Run

I haven’t visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and seen where she and her family hid in the annex until the Gestapo found them. I have, however, imagined many times what it was like for her father to return to that place and find her diary. I understand if you visit the house, you will watch a television clip of Otto Frank saying how surprised he was to finally read Anne’s “deep thoughts, the seriousness, especially the self-criticism.” I am always so amazed at the honesty, the humility it must have taken this loving father who had lived in the closest of proximity that any parent could imagine to occupy with his or her teenager for years to say, “My conclusion is…that most parents don’t know –really–their children.”

Madison Holleran kept an Anne Frank quotation in her inspiration log on her MacBook. This is what journalist Kate Fagan found after Holleran committed suicide and Holleran’s family gave Fagan the laptop. Fagan first reported on Holleran’s tragic death in an excellent feature, “Split Image” on espnW. Fagan has expanded the piece into a book, What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen that I believe should be required reading for anyone living in 2017.

I think this book is so important because Maddy is every kid who has ever put pressure on himself or herself to not just do well but to be excellent in order to make her parents proud. This passage by Fagan resonated with me:

Those lucky enough to grow up envisioning college start hearing about the building blocks of a college resume (the boxes that need checking, the optics that need preserving) from the moment they enter high school, and sometimes even sooner. Too often, kids are herded into commitments and activities that are born not of passion but of obligation. These obligations can continue for years because stopping is not seen as a possibility. Those who do stop risk being perceived as lacking fortitude to push through when the going gets tough.

I was Maddy to the nth degree, working two jobs in high school while pulling a 4.0, leading every imaginable service club, and crushing it with the extra-curriculars. The chief difference is that I slid into my depression/anxiety valley in which I stopped eating and menstruating and generally wanting to be alive well before I left for college. My parents helped me to get the extra support I needed. I believe my story could have been Maddy’s story had I not already been in therapy by the time I left for school.

The other chief difference is that Maddy came of age on social media. Fagan does a first-rate job of explaining the paradox of overconnection and undercommunication. Although we are in touch with one another all day, few of us are engaged in face-to-face communication with each other, or hearing the deep, heaving sigh on the phone. We are constantly decoding what is uttered between the emoji. Fagan’s indictment of this 24/7 texting, posting culture is accurate and she concedes that she has admittedly perpetuated it at times.

What Made Maddy Run is part communication scholarship, part journalism, and part mental health exposition. It is a book that comes alongside a grieving family and asks them to share what they knew then and what they know now. It is not a parenting guide for how to launch a teen into a safe Instagram filter. It is not a playbook for suicide prevention. It is simply a necessary book that has made me feel less alone, not only as one who battles generalized anxiety/depression, but as one who is shepherding kids through uncharted territory. Like every parent who has gone before me, I’m just trying not to be in the dark.

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Starbucks Red Cups and Choosing the Good Portion

As November 1st has become synonymous with Red Cup Season for vapid people who have embarrassingly frivolous priorities such as being the first person to show-and-tell a paper cup to the people who live in their phone, HAPPY NOVEMBER 1ST, FAM!

Okay but for real, I enjoy the advent of the Sixbucks festive cup almost as much as I like someone else, especially a barista (they’re always named Brad, aren’t they?) making me a chai almond latte.

This morning, I noticed the new mug warmer gripper thing said, “GIVE GOOD.” The grammarian in me paused for the flash of a moment. Don’t you mean, “Give well”? But then I understood the sentiments. Don’t just give well. Give the good, be a good giver, give the thing that is hard but oh-so-good to give.

It reminded me of the story of when Jesus visited Mary and Martha in their home. Martha, as we know, was fussing and Swiffering and freaking out that the popcorn burned again even though she knew not to press the auto-popcorn button on the microwave (why is it always wrong?). But Mary, Mary just chilled in her Snuggie and offered Jesus a Capri Sun and asked how his day was going. She hung on his every word.

And Jesus said Mary chose the “good portion.”

In fact, when you read the account in Luke Ch. 10, Jesus told Martha to knock off that martyr crap and to take a break. He specifically told her to stop spazzing because “few things are needed—or indeed only one.” Of course, we know by the light of the year 2017 that Jesus was talking about himself as that one Needful Thing. Martha was cleaning the dickens out of her house when she had the Savior sitting right there on her sofa.

It reminded me of the frantic gifting season upon us. As a creative entrepreneur, I have to ramp up my production and I already feel behind. I go on Instagram and see the feeds of every other Etsy shop owner and I start to sweat. It’s like they’ve all gotten their Red Cups and I’m still trying to download the Starbucks app. They’re already listing holiday items and I’m still circling the aisles at Michael’s wondering if I have a coupon to get both the glue sticks and the paint markers. Gah!

But that’s just some Martha wheel-spinning. She’d be the one queuing up the Pinterest projects because she felt she needed to make the holidays spectacular. Whereas Mary found the best presents of God’s presence.

In this way, we can choose to Give Good by first choosing the Good for ourselves. As we embark on a season of inevitable consumption, I know we all try to do our best to avoid register rage and parking jackassery. Yet, choosing to avoid is not always an option or even advisable, especially where holidays are concerned. Hashtag I live with a therapist. Trust.

So I resolve to Give Good, Seek Good, Pray Good. I know this is possible not in total resistance to the season of consumption but in carrying the goodness and light of the season, right in front of me, like a Red Cup warming my hands and reminding my heart to Give Good.

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