The Waste of a Perfectly Good Little Old Lady

Be a force for good.

If I make it to the age of 72, if I’m in relatively good health and if I have the good fortune to be able to retire, I hope I’m doing something with that amazing extra time. I hope I’m using myself as a force for good. I hope I’m volunteering for a few hours a week, and/or keeping up with my little free library and/or mentoring someone and/or cultivating a healthy organic garden. Something positive, no matter how small.

I believe that everyone makes some type of impact on this world. Only you can decide what kind of an impact you will make. There’s a wide spectrum that can range somewhere between dedicating every waking hour to some form of service, or, at the opposite extreme, being a completely toxic waste of space that everyone secretly wishes would hurry up and die already. (Harsh, but true.) I’d like to fall on the more positive end of that spectrum, but I doubt I’ll be too radical. I’m not Mother Teresa. Even in my 50’s I do cherish my spare time and my naps. But I hope that if I’m capable of acting at all, I’m able to be an asset, not act like a despicable liability.

Here’s what I will not do, under any circumstances. I will not cause my neighbors to fear for their lives, as Jan Myers, 72, of Shoreline, Washington has done. According to this article, she has been charged with one count of malicious harassment, but in essence she has made the life of one of her Vietnamese-American neighbors a living hell.

Apparently this toxic woman has been hurling racial slurs at her neighbor for years, but recently it escalated into actual threats. She started driving her car up and down the road, yelling for her neighbor to come out, calling her names, and saying that she (the neighbor) wasn’t going to live very long. Myers, of course, is denying everything, but that contradicts the multiple cell phone videos that her neighbor showed the police.

I feel so sorry for her neighbor. No one should be made to feel unsafe in one’s own home. It should be a sanctuary. It should be the one place where you can count on feeling secure, unjudged, and completely yourself.

I wish I knew who that neighbor was so that I could go over and befriend her, take her flowers or cookies or something, and let her know that not everyone feels the way Myers does. I’d exchange contact information with her, and tell her that if that evil old bat threatens her again, just call me and I’ll come over and stand by her side, and that my home would always be a safe place to come to as well. I hope that if her other neighbors see what is going on, they have done so. We all need to take care of one another.

If you haven’t learned how to be a decent human being by age 72, you are wasting your gift of longevity. If all you can do is hate, and make the people around you be afraid and miserable, you are doing nothing but taking up space in this world and making it a much worse place. Is that really the hill you want to die on? I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy at any time in life, but especially not in my later years. I want to make those years golden, not sh** brown.

Just sayin’.

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An Introvert Throws a Party

Now that I’m a homeowner, I decided to have a housewarming party, for many reasons. First of all, it would give me the incentive to actually unpack. Second, this is a very close-knit community, and I really want to become a part of that. This would give my neighbors a chance to get to know me. And it would be a delightful mix of old friends and new, coming together to make my house a home. I really like that concept.

No, it wasn’t a cheap plea for gifts, although some people did bring some thoughtful and lovely ones. But it was a potluck, and I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

I am a classic introvert, and I haven’t thrown a party in at least a decade for good reason. The planning and preparation stressed me out. Who to invite? Who won’t show up? I need to clean x, y, and z. How will my dog Quagmire behave? I need plates, cups, chairs, condiments…

The party was to start at 6:30. No one showed up for the first 25 minutes. This gave me plenty of time to try not to freak out. “Nobody loooooves me!” It also gave me time to think about all the people that I invited who told me they weren’t coming. They love me enough to not stand me up, but not so much that they’d actually come. “Ouch! Stop that!”

In the end, 15 people came, and it was a wonderful time. Well… except for the Quagmire incident.

I needn’t have worried about how he would behave. He showed his ass from the very start. The first person who had the nerve to enter the house without his permission got attacked.

I was mortified. There was blood and peroxide and band aids and apologies. But the attack-ee was a lot more gracious than I would have been in similar circumstances.

Quagmire’s piss-poor behavior gave the party an awkward start. And he spent the rest of the evening in time out in the bedroom, barking his fool head off. (Had I known no one would see that room, I wouldn’t have bothered to clean it.)

But if you overlook the initial crisis in confidence and the canine violence, a lot of friends from various parts of my life came together and made new connections. The time flew by. The food was good. And apparently I’m not going to get sued. I’d consider that a success.

But introvert that I am, people suck the life out of me. So even though I had a great time, I was really glad when it was over. I slept for 10 hours straight that night.

So, that’s me done with the party obligations for at least another decade. Whew. There’s a load off.


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Chez Nothin’ to Steal Here

I’m thrilled to say that no one has ever broken into my house. There are several reasons for this. First, of course, is the loyal presence of my ever-vigilant barking dogs. I have this theory that thieves are lazy and paranoid, so if they’re going to rob someone, they’d much rather go next door to the house that has no noisy and potentially vicious pets.

Second, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I can rely on my white privilege. I’ve never lived in the ‘hood. Granted, I’m usually right next door to it, but aside from the drug dealer two doors down, I have good neighbors who watch out for each other, and none of us are particularly desperate. In that way, I’ve been lucky.

But the main reason I’ve been spared a criminal invasion, I think, is that a quick peek into any of my windows would tell all but the most idiotic of criminals that I don’t own anything worth stealing. Why would anyone risk jail time over mismatched furniture that I’ve mostly picked up off the street? And I don’t have a TV or a stereo system. Truth be told, I don’t even own a couch. Aside from sentimental value, I doubt I could get more than 150 bucks at a yard sale for every single thing I own. If you really crave my 30 year old, dented and rusty pots and pans, just ask me for them.

One thing I do find annoying, though, is that stuff gets snatched off my front porch all the time. I’m hesitant to get packages, because there’s a car that actually follows the Fed Ex truck and the USPS truck and the driver helps himself to whatever they leave behind. (The cops know about it. They’ve even been sent pictures of the vehicle, for all the good that has done.) I’ve also been relieved of an old rusty lawn chair and a plant stand. One time, in a self-defense for women class, they suggested we get some old beat up muddy work boots and put them on the front porch to create the illusion that a man was home. Well, I did that, and even the boots got stolen. Sheesh.

But for the most part, my humble abode screams, “Nothin’ to steal here. Move along.” In Florida, on more than one occasion, I was accused of being white trash, despite my college degrees. I’d like to be one of those people with matching furniture and some sense of interior design, but I seem to have been born of the utilitarian school of home décor. And that’s just the way I like it.


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Knocking on Neighbors’ Doors

Whenever I move into a new neighborhood, I always think that I should go and introduce myself to my neighbors. Unfortunately I never quite get around to it. I’ll usually get to know the people right next door (And I’m lucky in that I happen to have fantastic next door neighbors these days), but that’s about it. I will wave and smile at people as I drive past them on the street and leave it at that. I’m shy. I like my privacy. And if I’m honest, I’m rather lazy.

But recently I desperately needed my neighbors’ help. My dog ran away. After exhausting all other resources (more to come on that in a future blog entry), I was getting desperate. So I printed up a mini-flyer with my dog’s picture and my contact information, and I knocked on every single door on my street.

Sometimes people weren’t home, so I’d tape the flyer to their door handle and leave. Other times it was quite obvious that they were there, but they refused to come to the door. For Pete’s sake, I’m just a fat old lady. I don’t pose any threat. But they probably thought I was going to hand them a religious tract or something. Fine. I’d leave my flyer for them, too.

But about half the people did come to the door, and when I’d tell them my story, they’d express sympathy and say they’d keep an eye out. That was a great comfort to me. There are a lot of genuinely decent people on my street.

But what was most intriguing about the process was that I have a completely different view of my neighborhood now. First of all, it’s a lot more diverse than I realized. People pretty much keep to themselves. When I took this opportunity to talk to them, I was treated to a variety of accents and couplings and age groups and skin colors. That really delighted me.

And just by standing in their doorways, I was able to draw a great deal of conclusions. They may not be accurate, but they were fascinating. It seems that one family cares for an extremely disabled, wheelchair-bound man. Another couple has adopted or fosters a child of a different race. Love it! Another guy is obviously a very old and rather lonely bachelor. Some people are struggling financially. Others had well-appointed homes. Some had mellow households, others were ruled by chaos.

I came away from these encounters rather impressed with how many different ways there are to live life. I came away feeling like I was part of a larger community. Even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, I’m glad I took the time to knock on my neighbors’ doors.

(Oh, and by the way, my dog and I were reunited after two of the longest days of my life. Yay!)


Fence Talking

When the weather is nice here in Seattle, I kind of feel obligated to take advantage of it. I spend a lot more time in my back yard here than I ever did in Florida. What people don’t tell you about the Sunshine State is that the sunshine also comes with 100 percent humidity that presses down on you even at 3 am, as well as 3 inch long cockroaches, fire ants, snakes, and mosquitoes. Here in Seattle the climate, when it’s feeling cooperative, is like paradise.

Times like these, it’s excellent to have nice neighbors. It’s good to be able to fence talk with someone, but it’s a fine art. You have to remember that one’s home is one’s castle, and people do want a certain level of privacy. You don’t want to get all up in each other’s business, but it can be comforting to be able to exchange pleasantries, and feel as though there’s someone you can go to for jumper cables if your car battery dies.

It takes a bit of effort not to cross the line when fence talking. You want to know each other’s names, of course, and the names of each other’s pets. Pets, in fact, are a nice safe topic. You can talk about your dog’s antics and stay comfortably within the fence talk realm. The weather is a good subject, too. And perhaps what you plan to plant in your back yard. Cordial, but not intrusive, is what you’re aiming for. And when both parties know those rules, it can be a wonderful place to be indeed.

I can tell that there won’t be much fence talking with my neighbor on the other side. He always looks like he’s sucking on crab apples, and the few times I’ve attempted to say hello, he has responded with a grunt. This leaves me wondering if I’ve done something to irritate him, and it makes me quite uncomfortable. When I sit outside I tend to turn my back on his yard. I suppose stand-offish indifference beats outright hostility, but it does seem a bit of a shame, because some day it might be his turn to come asking for jumper cables. You just never know.

Neighbors greeting each other over fence

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