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The Results Are In!

Thank you all so much for answering my survey I posted a few days ago. I was looking for insight from my wonderful blog readers on what types of stories I write here on “Fortyteen Candles” that you all find the most interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. Without a doubt, according to the results from my survey, the most interesting stories to you all are 1. Stories about living in suburbia and my neighbors (heh heh heh….) and 2. Stories about my experiences as a nurse.

Honestly, when I started this blog I KNEW it would be a great place for me to vent my frustrations about living in a cookie cutter town full of uninteresting people who like to form cliques and one up each other materialistically or child achievementally. Thank you all for confirming my belief that this is a very entertaining subject that is best suited to scathing sarcasm with a twist of sheer joy. My neighbors continue to drive me insane, and I’ll have more stories soon as our Halloween Trick or Treating interactions have awakened my muse and gotten her to work on some urgent therapeutic writing.

Something my survey pointed out that really surprised me was your interest in my work and experiences as a nurse. Nursing is something I went into in response to a strong desire I have to help and take care of other people. This is something that is just programmed into me and I don’t see it objectively. I never think what I do is anything above and beyond what humans should do for each other every day, or would do if they were in a situation to do so, therefore I never think it would be interesting or entertaining in any way for others to read about.

The interactions I have with my patients, families and co-workers are on an emotional, philosophical, moral and spiritual level at times. I don’t know how these translate into print, but my general impression since they evoke “feelings” is that they would be dull and non action-packed. Translation = “dull” writing-wise. However, the comments I’ve received on my stories about nursing, as well as on this survey, have really opened my eyes to the value of sharing these experiences with others. It is important for others to know that in this world of increasing depersonalization there are still people out there who care, and will always care, for others in need. I have taken these comments very seriously and it has given me a lot to think about as I organize my next big writing project.

So, since it is hard for me to only focus on one project at a time, I’ve started sorting in my mind two separate writing projects….one for suburbia and the neighbors who drive me insane, and one for my experiences as a nurse. I really appreciate the time you all took to give me your feedback. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again!

 

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A Haiku For You

A Haiku For You

In the cul-de-sac
I sit alone and wonder
Where did I go wrong?
                                    – Fortyteen Candles

Cul-de-Sac Dreams

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What is it about cul-de-sacs that create a real estate frenzy? Whenever you see a house that is listed on a cul-de-sac it receives its own special billing. “Colossal Cape Cod on a Cul-De-Sac!” Well, I live on a cul-de-sac and I will tell you a secret. It’s really a dead end.

Viewing a typical cul-de-sac from the top you can see they are designed to trap anything that floats by. Cars, pets, people, ice cream trucks. Perhaps you went out for a stroll one night and before you knew it you were swept away in the adorable architecture of the houses, the absence of traffic, the quaint name of the street or the idea that you are living on your own private island. This might be true initially. This is the lure of the suburbs.

After a while, and once you’ve seen the subdivision planning, you realize that cul-de-sacs are really a way to squeeze more houses in where they don’t belong. They are the creation of a mad genius. Cul-de-sac houses are crammed together so tight that it makes me claustrophobic looking at it from way far away in an aerial photograph. They are a modern solution for using up every available scrap of land – no matter how oddly shaped – to create more tax revenue. Yes, I’m sure this is true. Who else would want to have their house facing six or so other houses head on? Or dedicate their lives to living on a lot that is shaped like an exhausted pizza slice? This is serious.

Even going out to get the mail, or unloading your car, can cause undue stress if you aren’t dressed to the nines. Heaven help you if you stumble or drop something. You are on stage and the critics are taking notes. Or at least that is what you might be doing to them if you have a few minutes to peer out the window as you backtrack in your mind to figure out why the hell you are living here.

Walking along a cul-de-sac is a lot like the way some people live their lives. They go in a circle. Distracted by the view and not realizing it is repeating itself. This could also be similar to the carrot on a stick. Round and round they go, becoming dizzy and tired. No longer having the energy to break free from the circle to find an escape route.

After a while of living on a cul-de-sac you start comparing your life with a tide pool that has trapped various forms of aquatic life. You and your neighbors are growing together in an aquarium. If there is harmony then it is a beautiful microcosm of society. But, if your neighbors are snooty, or like sports too much, then it can become a stage for dysfunction to play out. Every house faces each other. There is no room or tolerance for sub par landscaping, poor home maintenance or garish roofing choices. If you want to go with the flow than you will do what everyone else does and hope to slip under the radar unnoticed until you are someday ready for the nursing home.

Some cul-de-sac folks elect themselves to set an example for the rest of the dead end residents. In their world, if they could be king for a day, here is what they would do: They would wash their brand new SUV in the middle of their front yard, with flood lights on it, while cranking bland eighties hair band music as loud as their stereo would allow. And they would be singing along and taking periodic air guitar breaks. In actuality, they truck in expensive landscaping services every week. The landscapers must be sure and to cut their grass as loudly and thoroughly as possible. Once the lawn is completely mowed they then turn the mower on a 90 degree angle and repeat mowing again over the whole lawn once more.

Furthermore, any new home renovations are always done loudly starting at 7:00 a.m. sharp. Preferably with as many machines and tools and contractors that can be involved as possible. No sense skimping here. It’s almost like a play is being staged called, “The Life and Times of a Cul-De-Sac Dynasty.” I say “Dynasty” because these residents grow their cul-de-sac roots deep. Wish on as many four-leaf shamrocks as you can find, but they will never move. As long as their home can weather the passage of time, plan on their name being on that adorably painted mailbox for a thousand years.

The best way to cope with cul-de-sac life is to go big or go home. If you live here then you are already home, so your next option is to go big. By that I mean be true to yourself. If you want to paint your front door yellow then do so! If you want to turn your front yard into a pile of red rocks and red dirt as your salute to the Mars landing then do it. Just do it well and have pride in your individuality. You might just find other neighbors will start showing their true selves as well. But maybe not –  it depends where you live and who your neighbors are. Well, you can at least always hope it might happen someday. And just like in the end of any great movie, the underdog wins when you are finally recognized and hailed as the real Hero of the Dead End.

You Know the Neighbors I’m Talking About, Volume One: The Social Climbers

If you live in a “neighborhood” then chances are good you have neighbors. This is the first in a series of essays I’m dedicating to the wide variety of neighbors you’ve had the good luck to know, live near and/or become. So now, without further adu, I give you…”Volume One: The Social Climbers.”

Neighbors are very different when you buy a home compared with when you rent. Rental properties have a sense of indifference between the people who live next door to each other. People move in and move out all the time. You never know who will stay or who will leave, or who will move in afterwards. There is little personal investment in forming relationships because you are on an easy breezy one-year lease…not a heavy-duty thirty-year mortgage. When you own your own home it is imperative that you know who lives near you at all times for many reasons: safety, property value, friendships, gossip fodder.

The Social Climbers are a unique type of neighbor. Where some people hope to move in and relax into their surroundings, the Social Climbers have an agenda. Here is the agenda: move in, rise to the top of the food chain, take over the neighborhood. In fact, I’ve seen this happen enough times in my near decade of subdivisionism that I consider myself an expert in this area.

The Social Climber scenario always happens the same way. A house that is for sale on your street has a “SOLD” sign appear in the front yard one day. The neighbors all dream of the perfect people who will move in next. Or at least they all secretly wish “I hope someone normal finally moves in.”

Next, the moving van drops off the new neighbors and from all appearance they seem like good, friendly folk. Happy to know everyone, they wave “hello” and knock on a different door each day for a cup of sugar. Or a recommendation for a pet sitting service. Or to obtain or pass on gossip. Then one day, you notice the new neighbors are waving knowingly at every random car that drives by. You now suspect they know the inner workings of most of the families on your street. They are in with the in crowd.

But where does it end? The Neighborhood Planning Committee. Within a year of moving in, The Social Climbers are now President of the Neighborhood Summer Barbeque Group. And Co-Chief of the Street Wide Garage Sale. People now seek them out to ask for opinions on community fencing requirements or to pass on tidbits overheard on the local police scanner.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Social Climbers have arrived. The Social Climbers are now like the high school prom king and queen of the middle-aged set. Everyone rushes out to wave at them as they drive by in their state-of-the-art family sized vehicle. Everyone wants to give them a cup of sugar.

So, where does it all end? Well, in today’s world everyone wants the fame they’re due. No, I mean the fame that’s rightfully theirs. So when the next house that’s for sale on your street suddenly has a “SOLD” sign appear in its front yard, don’t be surprised if there is a knock at your door. Or a hearty hand waving as you drive by. Because the next neighbors who move in just might set up a turf war with the established neighborhood Social Climbers. And rest assured, the Neighborhood Summer Barbeque will certainly be one to remember.

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