Into the New Year

2019 was the end of a lot of things in my life, which means 2020 can only become a beginning. I had 5 goals at the end of 2018, and of those 5, I think I managed to accomplish most of them. Getting back to writing was the great failure, but I did continue querying, get back to exercising, get more comfortable in my role as a Co-Head of Operations, and sort out the housing situation.

I did query the novel hard — more than 50 queries sent. Now the time comes to end that process. If someone chooses to pick up the book, I would be MORE THAN THRILLED, but I gave it its shot and now I need to move forward. Write the next one, begin again. If a single book that failed to gain traction was the end of my willingness to work towards publishing, I would be a poor author indeed. Writing is always about failure and trying again. Every novel is better than the last, every character stronger, every quirky use of language more deliberate. Writing is a constant process of growth, and that includes abject failure to launch. It hurts, of course it does. But it’s part of the cycle and publishing wouldn’t mean anything to me if it came easily.

On the exercise front, 2019 is the year that I came to terms with the fact that now is the opportune moment to be real about my own health. After watching heart attacks and health scares throughout my family and friends, it’s impossible for me to blithely assume that I can live as long as I want to live and be healthy, and not do anything to help it along. It’s not about body shape or size — it’s about keeping my heart young and fit, my lungs strong, my tendons loose. It’s about putting in the work now that will pay off in twenty years when things start to weaken. I’ve never been good at exercise, but I very much want to have enough time to write all my stories and be with all the people I love, and so for those things I can get on the elliptical.

2019 is also the absolute last year that Sarah and I will ever want to own and live in a house. Holy CRAP is it nice living in a condo. Seriously. Snow falls and we don’t have to think about shoveling. Windstorms arrive and there’s no need to pick up sticks. It costs more, which is a whoooole other problem, but overall, the change from house to condo has been the right one and has worked out beautifully. Plus, being downtown is amazing and I don’t think I could go back to the suburbs or a small town again if I tried. The energy of life here is great, not just nature (though having the Mississippi out my window helps with that), but of people, of ambition, of dreams, of creativity, of community — it’s so much sharper here than it ever was anywhere else I’ve lived. I can breathe up here in the sky like I never did on the ground, literally and figuratively.

We lost things, though. We lost Maia. We lost others (not friends of ours, but friends of friends, and sometimes the mourning process happens to you even if you aren’t the one grieving). I lost a lot of time and stress to personal grief about people I love who were on the edge. I lost a kind of blind faith in certain organizations. We lost a fridge to a squeaky death.

And yet, I can’t define myself and my life by what I lose. I can only define it by what I gain.

I gained a new job this year, a new perspective on city living, a new daily view out the window. I gained confidence in being a Co-Head of Operations, and gained greater trust in my team. I gained more closeness with people I love. I gained perspective on writing and how that intersects with CONvergence (post for another day). I gained a new appreciation for public transit. I gained the ability to sleep at night without worrying about noises outside. I gained the ability to run a lot farther and faster on the elliptical. I gained new music and new art on my walls and new shows/movies to watch and consider and new books to enjoy. I gained a new kitten.

This is Tadashi, adopted the weekend after Christmas at 7 months old. Because everybody needs a pause for kitties!

His current favorite pastimes include “burying” toys in the gaps between couch cushions, getting held and pet, pouncing on toes under blankets, wrestling with Kiba, aggressively licking and being licked by Kiba, eating, finding out what the humans are eating, trying to eat what the humans are eating, bonelessly napping, and purring while sleeping on feet.

So. Cute.

Anyway.

There will always be more loss and failure and disappointment on the horizon, and usually not very far off, either. Death and grief happen because life is invariably fatal, no matter how much you love someone. The world doesn’t always give you the gift you ask for, and there isn’t always a fair or soothing reason why. Bad shit happens. People disappear. Hoped for dreams fail miserably. Future paths dry up and leave you stranded.

But, for me, I can’t measure my life by those. Life is dark and light, black and gold, wrapped around one another like twin vines. Growth comes in the contrast, in the places where they meet, in the glow of like crashing against unlike. And if I spent all my time looking at everything that didn’t go my way, looking at only one side of the coin, I would miss out on so much joy. I would miss out on so much laughter. I would miss out on so much hope.

In the middle of 2019, I had a lot of stress and despair and fear, and at points I was low and scared and sad and nothing in the world seemed beautiful. And looking ahead to 2020, it doesn’t mean those feelings won’t come back, or won’t find new life in new crises. But today I can let things end with peace. Today I can look back at all that was lost and gained, and I can see the wheel turning in all those changes. Life doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would, for good or ill. Death cycles to renewal, failure to growth, despair to relief and hope.

Life is a cycle, not a circle. It is a spiral, winding ever upwards. Even when you pass over what you’ve walked before, you aren’t in the exact same place. You’re up a level. You’ve come farther, even when the stairs are familiar.

And for all the pain and sorrow and grief, there are joyful, amazing, soul-affirming things too. 2019 has ended, and so much with it. I look forward to every new beginning 2020 will bring.

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New writing project

The blog posts in December will be short (and will dry up in the last couple of weeks) because I’m really trying to focus my creative energy on writing a new novel. It’s original, urban fantasy, but with absolutely no vampires or werewolves. I’m taking a new look at what’s possible, at the monsters in our midst. Vampires and werewolves grew out of historical fears about disease from dead bodies, wolves in the woods, etc. Humans are always afraid of the dark places where danger lurks. A millennia ago, those places were the forests and mountains, deep and dark and filled with risk and the unknown. Now those places are the cracks and corners in our cities, the abandoned buildings, the maintenance shafts, the closed-off areas. So that’s where I’m finding my monsters.

If you have ideas of either a place that’s a crack in the city in which something might lurk, or something odd that might choose to live out of the light of day, get in touch with me. I’m compiling a list.

Or, alternatively, if you have an eye on any place in Minneapolis or St Paul that would be great for a scene, let me know. I’m setting the whole story here in the Twin Cities, so I need more places to play!

I’ve got a playlist for this novel on YouTube, but the true theme that inspired me and keeps me focused is this:

If you want the rest of the playlist, let me know and I’ll send you the link.

In the meantime, welcome to December! Hopefully by the time I welcome you to January, this novel’s initial draft will be finished. That’s the goal.

Let’s see how I do.

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Heroes, Misfits, and Rebels

The Rebel Girls concert went so, so well, and people were in tears at times as we talked about the women and girls who have changed and are changing the world. From Harriet Tubman to Malala, from Abigail Adams to Greta Thunberg, we sang and spoke about women’s courage, women’s choices, women’s actions, and the changes that came from them. Me, too, thinking not only of the figures of history that paved the way for me, but the people in my own life who changed my own little world.

As Ann Reed says in her song “Heroes:”

“One life can tell the tale,
That if you make the effort, you cannot fail.
By your life you tell me it can be done,
By your life’s the courage to carry on.
Heroes appear like a friend
To clear a path or light a flame.
As time goes, you find you depend
On your heroes to show you the way.”

It’s also true that we are what we pretend to be. Want to have more courage, or charisma, or to live boldly? It doesn’t happen because you wish for it — it happens because you pretend for it, and eventually it becomes truth. By the same method, the people we see as our heroes become our blueprint for ourselves. The people we revere, we respect, we cling to, they are the mold we set for ourselves.

All of my heroes are rebels.

As part of a getting-to-know-you exercise with my Operations team, one of the questions I’ve added to our list is “What fictional character(s) best represents you?”

For myself, I have to choose 4. It *just so happens* they align nicely to the elements.

Air = Leonardo of the TMNT. This is where my leadership happens, grounded in the ability to just keep going, to lift the burdens of others, to be first one in and last out, to bleed for the protection of those I call my own. This is the peace of mind I seek, the insight, the stillness of meditation and the reverence for honor. But it’s also the unexpectedness of me being silly after I’ve been staid and solid too long. It’s the ability to see through a situation and find a path home.

Fire = Li Syaoran from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. This is the burning intensity of my ability to dedicate myself to a course of action and follow it to the end, NO MATTER WHAT. This is my loyalty, my devotion, my love. It’s also my courage, burning with the power of a lightning strike, to fight and fight and fight and never let the darkness of doubt win. It’s my ability to accept failure and stand back up and try again. It’s also my ability to take the hardest road, knowing it will hurt, but being willing to defer my own ease for the sake of what lies at the end of the path.

Water = Lacus Clyne from Gundam SEED (Destiny). In utter contrast to the previous, this is where I am soft and warm. This is love and emotion and gentleness and patience. This is the wisdom to know when to listen. But it’s also a steely strength of its own — not to fight, but to endure and resist. To sing the song of peace against the storm. To hold up others in their own battles, providing a safe refuge for them between the fires. To heal what is broken.

Earth = Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel from the MCU. Stubbornness. Not the burning refusal to be defeated as Syaoran, but the part that chuckles at failure and says, “huh, that was cute” and tries again. The ability to grow from something damaged, something incomplete, and embrace what lies within. The confidence to be grounded, steady, with an even temperment in the face of stress and a joke in the face of danger. This is also probably where my own independence streak lives, not doing the work or facing the troubles for someone else or for any high ideal, but because I am Defiance and hear me roar.

They are all rebels and troublemakers, every one of them. Leo, who lives under the honor of his family still lives his own life by his choice, in spite of the human society and enemies that hunt him. Syaoran…well, to avoid spoilers, let’s just say the dude is willing to challenge everything, even the makeup of spacetime itself, if he has to — and he cannot and will not apologize for doing what he must for the person he loves. Lacus is literally a rebel, joining a faction that takes no sides but the side of humanity and peace in the midst of a war and inciting people to follow her. Carol finds that she is on the wrong side of a war and leaps to at the chance to finally free herself from her constraints and claim a new place for herself.

They aren’t my heroes, per se, because my actual heroes are all real flesh-and-blood people who inspire me to live in this world with its rules and find ways to break them. But they are rebels who get to the heart of who I want to be. The rebel I want to be.

I came upon this quote while reading a fanfic sometime in the last couple of weeks, and I emailed it to myself so I would remember to post it at some point:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Rob Siltanen

Now, I know that this is a quote that came out of a marketing meeting and was used to sell Apple products. I know that. But it doesn’t make the point less relevant just because it was invented purely to sell computery things trading on the reputation of a CEO.

Truth is truth wherever you find it, from a fortune cookie to a line scrawled on the sidewalk.

And the truth is? I’m a misfit and a rebel. I have been since I was 3 years old. My earliest memory is from when I was about 4, and I crept away from the backyard into the woods, because I wasn’t supposed to go there, but it was alive and interesting and I wanted to see what the world looked like on the other side of the hill. I can remember being 6 and getting in trouble in kindergarten for not wanting to play house or dolls — I wanted to build a fort under a table and pretend to be a family of dogs taking shelter from the storm.

I’ve never been what anyone wanted of me, and I’ve never done things the way others did. And I’ve never been sorry about it, either.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to change the world per this quote above, and I’m certainly no genius. I’m not even a hero, and my name won’t ever be sung alongside the names in Ann Reed’s song.

But I’m okay with that.

Sometimes, being a rebel means living quietly in a manner which is solely yours, no one else’s. The world is full of quiet rebels, donating money to causes, marching in protests, playing the game of capitalism, and yet their spirits fight every day from their homes and cars and dreams. To be a rebel doesn’t mean one must be famous to make a difference. And any difference, no matter how small, counts towards the greater whole.

Maybe I’m not the rebel who will push the human race forward. But you better believe I’ll be right beside her starting to walk and backing her up.

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Rebel Girls are Never One Thing

This week is concert week for the TCWC. Which also means I have limited spoons this week and I need to conserve them. So I’m giving myself permission to write a short blog.

This concert’s theme is “Rebel Girls” and all the songs are about powerful women through history and today, from Abigail Adams advocating for women to have the right to vote in the Articles of Confederation to Malala and Greta Thunberg. Encore’s doing “Warrior” about finding the courage to step up and speak, and Elizabeth Alexander’s “What’s Keeping You From Singing?” which is about women helping each other find joy.

Another of the songs is “Never One Thing” by May Erlewine. The choir sings it with a lot of spirit. A lot of the women in the choir have been rebels themselves, and I love seeing them rejoice in owning that power. And I love sharing that feeling of “I will not be pinned down or pigeon-holed” because I am right there with them. There will be a lot of grinning and rocking out on this one.

And, of course, my favorite is the song inspired by the Charlotte Tall Mountain poem I posted not long ago. There isn’t a good video for it, unfortunately. That’s the one that’s going to dig into my heart and set me free.

Plus, we get to sing a version of Ann Reed’s “Heroes” which is just…if you don’t know it, go hear it. Truly. And feel that litany of names and know that every one of them helped build the world brighter for all of us.

Really, this whole concert is about women’s courage, and about Defiance. It is about changing the world, laughing, never backing down. It is about refusing to be defined by expectations and doing the thing that needs doing.

It’s going to be a good one, especially if I can keep from tearing up every other song. Either way, I’m going to be in my element.

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Nothing to Prove

I spent the long weekend catching up on sleep, playing an impromptu game of volleyball with about a third of my Operations leadership, and continuing to turn the condo into home. I also started swimming again, and I’m up to 500+m of swimming in a session, which is a good start.

Which also means I’m very tired and my brain is all over the place.

Therefore, I just leave you with this. I love this song, and what it stands for, and everybody who contributed to it.

And also — the Doubleclicks are coming to CONvergence 2019! So if you want to see them live, be in Minneapolis in July!

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The Hero’s Journey

“so walk your path in your own shoes
send off what you stand to lose
cause you can let it be
or let your destiny
become the one you choose”

These lyrics are by my dear friend and acquired sister Beth. They come from the first track of her newest album, The Hero’s Journey.

And now I’m going to tell you why this album is FUCKING EPIC and you need it in your life.

The concept of the hero’s journey as written by Joseph Campbell was the original inspiration when Beth began on this journey of her own more than a decade ago. It’s a structure more than a trope, a monomyth that underpins so many, many,many stories in our culture. You can tell the story of Jesus, Ahab, Jane Eyre, Frodo, the last unicorn, Spock, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, and a gazillion others under this model. Roughly, it’s been illustrated this way (thanks Wikipedia):

It’s a natural subject for an album, especially for someone so deeply embedded in music and filk culture as my friend Beth. But Beth’s perspective is always unique and I find it no less so this time than I have on any other song project.

(Look here for Beth’s rewrite of Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” No, seriously. And look at the lyrics. When you finish laughing your ass off, you’ll thank me.)

I’ve known Beth for more than a decade as well. We started as friends of friends — I was pulled into her group by a then-roommate who was regularly at her place for roleplaying on Sundays. Before long, I became a fixture at their table, and those Sundays were my escape from everything. Then I became a player in Beth’s game, and there was pretty much no going back from there. The people at Beth’s table became my friends, and ultimately many of them became family.

Sarah and I had tried doing music in the cities a tiny bit before we met Beth, including one hilariously disastrous Christian music competition (spoiler alert: being married kinda played against us). But we really didn’t know anybody, didn’t know where to perform, didn’t have any contacts or anything. One night, though, Sarah came up with me and we jammed with our guitars with Beth for a while, and she thought we might have something worth sharing. Not long after, we played our first gig at a bar.

(The only people who showed up were our friends and Beth’s band. But that was our biggest audience outside of a dorm room so we were more than pleased.)

For a few years, Sarah and I did some light gigging around the Twin Cities. We didn’t really seek it out for ourselves — but if Beth was performing with her band somewhere, a lot of times we could sign up to open for them. It was fun. Her bandmates are fantastic, and as often as not, they’d end up on stage with us jumping in to back us up.

Then, in 2010, Beth was performing at CONvergence but her usual backup singer couldn’t be there and she asked me to step in. Singing with the full band was amazing, but I got a lot more that night than a neat experience rocking out with Beth and the Player Characters. That was the night I spent at my first CONvergence, and when I crawled home at 3am, I woke Sarah up to tell her that I had just discovered our community and we needed to go to it the following year.

So, really, everything that’s come since then for me and CONvergence can be traced back to Beth.

In 2012, Beth and Dave (her producer, engineer, and originator of all the weird guitar noises) helped Sarah and I put together a 4-track album of our own. We only ever sold about 5 copies, but the experience was great for us regardless. And it meant we were a lot more prepared when we started performing at CONvergence ourselves.

But all the while, as Sarah and I figured out our style, and what sort of performance schedule worked for us, and what songs we could share versus which ones we kept for ourselves, Beth was working her way through this album.

Beth’s songs always seem to speak to a part of myself that I don’t always remember to listen for. She does things with music that would never occur to me. (Dave calls it the “key of Beth” and Sarah and I have to agree. It’s that thing where a level of mastery means you can break all the rules; Beth just does it naturally. It’s amazing.) She can hear combinations, melody lines, arrangements that my brain just can’t grasp. But she also writes lyrics that are so strong, so beautifully crafted. What she does putting language together to create meaning always leaves me in awe.

Like the hero in her album, Beth’s made her choice to walk this journey, but she does not come to it empty-handed. She’s not the plucky hero who has nothing going for her but a quip and dumb luck. She embarked on this journey well-supplied with talent and experience and allies and clarity in her eyes.

As an author, the hero’s journey is an important motif — knowing it, knowing when to invoke it, knowing when NOT to invoke it, these all help me create narrative. But I use it as a tool. I don’t think I could have done what Beth did here. She didn’t just tell a story. She turned the journey into an emotional one.

Not without help — the Player Characters really outdid themselves on this album. I will never get tired of listening to what they can create when they unleash their massive talents.

But anyway.

I’ll admit it. I am more often than I am happy with thoroughly intimidated by Beth and what she can do as a musician. Her style, her skill, her raw talent, her lyrics, her drive — there’s really no part of me that feels I could ever do what she does even remotely as well. But then Beth invites me to sing on her album, and all my feelings go WOOOOOOSH.

Sarah and I both sang on this one. We’ve sung on others, too, but this one was so much more. It was a project that was close to Beth’s heart and soul, and it was a project we watched eagerly when Dave gave us access to the files, because we could feel what it was becoming. The chance to be a part of this journey, well. There was no way we wouldn’t happily sign on to be a couple of side characters for a few steps of the quest.

You’ll hear us singing backup in a few places, but the ones that had the greatest impact are the Crossing the First / Crossing the Return Threshold songs. They’re some of the finest and most well-crafted pagan invocations of the elements and directions I’ve heard put down, and we got to be part of them. Sarah sings for Fire, and I sing for Earth. And when I think about standing in the studio next to Sarah and Beth, putting these verses together, I am humbled by the trust Beth put in me to sing this all-important set of tracks with her.

There is nothing easy or simple about letting someone else into what you hold dear and giving them the chance to ruin it. And I wouldn’t ruin it, if I could help it. But there was always the possibility that what I would contribute would not be right, would not be enough, would not fit. (Between Sarah and I, I am the one who is super lousy at harmonizing, and I have to really, really work at it to get something respectable together.) But Beth didn’t worry about that. She trusted me, and she invited me into her heart to get this project done.

Besides the music — and, believe me, the music is enough ALL ON ITS OWN — there is also some absolutely, positively stunning art. The artist made art for all 17 of the songs. They’re very difficult to describe. But they…I mean, they just LOOK like how the songs sound.

Talk about fanart. That is just the ULTIMATE in fanart.

So. Now that I’ve gushed at length about Beth, and her art.

Why did I want to put this in today’s blog?

Well, first. Because the album is out, and I have one, and I love it, and you will love it!

Second, because wayyyy back when I began blogging in the first place, I had always intended to spotlight people who were making things, people who deserved an extra boost of attention. Not that I have a wildly robust readership here, honestly. But if I have a thing, I share it, regardless of how big or awesome it is. I have this small blog, and this small audience, and if that’s all I can offer to a person who has been friend and sister and supporter and source of wisdom and kindness and help, well, then that’s what I’m going to do!

But third?

Last week I wrote about my own writing and inspiration, about the relationship between me and those who contribute to my creative process.

Beth is one of the most supportive people in my life when it comes to my own art. She has always helped Sarah and I with music, has believed in us, has offered us opportunities to perform or grow or learn. But she also can understand my investment in fanfic, can ask me about writing and genuinely care how I feel about it. We approach writing differently, but she has never been far from my list of trusted people I could talk to about stories.

What people do on AO3 with comments, on Twitter/Tumblr with fanart, Beth has done for me in person for the better part of a decade.

I don’t talk about my friends, my family, my Clan very often. Many or most of them are private, and I try to respect that. I don’t give many real names, nor links to ways to reach them. (Sarah is different; she’s always up on YouTube with me.) But promoting Beth, spreading her music and her message and her talent as far as I can is not an invasion or an unwelcome peek into her life on the interwebz. I have her enthusiastic consent to make known to however-many people read this thing how awesome she is and how you should buy her CDs.

While writing this blog (and also working), I’ve had the album on repeat. And I finish writing it feeling like that first time I’ve stepped into a new situation, a new place, a new adventure, and I’m breathing in that new wind and looking up at the new sky, and I am ready to start walking.

She actually captured that feeling for me, that feeling of taking a journey, of stepping into one’s best and truest self, and thereby finding the way home.

“so I’ll depart for more adventures
but know they’re only for a while
though my journey goes on, I am anchored
I’ll come back knowing I am free

I am awake
I am awake
I am awake
I have always been awake.”

My journey as an author is my own. My journey as a musician is bound always to Sarah. But Beth has been there for all of it for a decade. And now that I get to experience her own version of that journey, feeling what she has felt and hearing her heart in her words, all I can do is grin and feel my own heart soaring in return.

I put a lot of music in this blog. Rarely does the music mean as much as this does.

Beth let me step on her journey for a bit, and I am the better for it.

Go listen to it, go buy it. You’ll be better, too.

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I’m From Minnesota

So, I’m still pretty wiped out after the concert this past weekend. Due to personal stresses, I ended up not singing in it at all — instead, I opted to fill in as stage manager, logistics master, and general get-shit-done-person behind the scenes. I always do a certain amount of that before concerts; now I just did them during as well. It wasn’t as mentally or emotionally satisfying as actually singing, but it also wasn’t as mentally or emotionally exhausting. However, it was AT LEAST as physically exhausting, so there we are.

Rather than ramble with half the energy to do an entry justice, however, I offer you this song. I came across it a little while ago and it makes me happy. Partially because it is SO TRUE. Every Minnesotan, born and/or raised, that I have made listen to this song agrees as to its accuracy. I’m a transplant, but I’ve been here almost two decades, and I can confirm that this is very much the Minnesotan experience.

Also, it makes me laugh.

The TCWC concert was all about home, and what home means to people. Home has been on my mind, too, as I move in and unpack and turn this condo into home. Home is also the people around me, like Sarah in the next room or a person who is some mix of dear friend, brother, and platonic life confidant sitting on the floor of my den. Home is not just brick walls and windows, but the society surrounding it, the people and culture, the rhythm of the land and streets and skies.

One home has recently changed, another never will. And the third is Minnesota, in all its weird and wonderful glory.

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Home

Well, the hiatus is over and we are finally home.

Shifting from a house to a condo has been an interesting process, with no few adjustments that came easier than expected. Honestly, it’s a relief not to have to think about picking up branches, pulling weeds, planting gardens. At this moment, I really only miss one particular space, and I’ve been too busy to think about it much. That space, of course, is my quiet, sacred space. It will end up being shared with the bedroom, and when I pull it together enough to set it up, it’ll probably be fine.

But otherwise? Dropping from ~2,000 square feet of space to 1,272 hasn’t felt like a great loss, really. Sarah and I never really needed to be spread out that much. We’re enjoying the open layout that lets us snark back and forth from kitchen to couch without having to bellow. Being downtown is hugely fun; already we’ve walked more than we ever did in the suburbs. Groceries, going out to eat, visiting people — it’s all an easy stroll instead of needing to drive (at least when it isn’t freezing!). We’re part of the world now, not just sitting in our individual cookie cutter house.

The condo is 12 floors up, which means we have a beautiful view. We face northeast, both the direction and the neighborhood, so we can see the place where the Mississippi curves from north-south to east-west when it hits downtown. Funnily enough, the view is also a perfect metaphor. We’re across the street from the top of the nearest building, so my windows are directly across from their big air conditioning thing. But I literally just need to look past the obvious in the foreground to a beautiful background. Every single person who has come over wanders out to our balcony, and they just stay there. They go out to “take a peek” and vanish for 5-10 minutes. It’s pretty fun to watch.

Once we started moving stuff into the condo, we immediately felt that we had come home. It was surprising to me how quickly we adjusted. Parking in the underground garage and riding an elevator became normal, even comfortable. It was going back to the house to clean it out that seemed strange. We walked the house on the last day and wondered why we ever thought we wanted or needed so much space, so much yard, so far away from the heart of the city. Really, I think a lot of it comes down to lifelong assumptions and expectations. The American Dream is still kind of the standard in the communities in which we were raised, and that means a house and yard kept immaculate at all times. That’s how you progress, right? You go to college, get married, buy a house and a dog or maybe have some kids, and you live in a good neighborhood where you can drive into the city sometimes for special occasions.

You don’t have to deconstruct that scenario very far to see the many implicit economic, social, and racial biases. (Also ecological impact of individual homesteads instead of more efficient communal living.) And we weren’t as knowledgeable about these things ten years ago, but we are now. And once you see the system, once you see the barriers raised to those who don’t have the same levels of privilege, well, I think you probably only have two options. You apologize for being part of the system, or you opt out of it. And Sarah and I have white privliege acting for us, but we’ve been on the wrong side of the privilege power dynamic, and we are always happier defying it.

But we didn’t just move to make a political statement. It’s just *better* for us here. The yard was a huge stressor for both of us, as well as various aspects of home maintenance. Being 12 stories up in the air with no yard to mow, no trees to trim, it lets us focus on other things. Having a built-in assumption of walking means more regular exercise as well as more time in the urban community. And there’s such a different experience looking out the window and just seeing the house across the street from looking out to see half of the city, the mighty Mississippi, and a humongous sky.

(It’s taken me 2 hours to write even this far, because I keep getting distracted staring out my own window. I think I could look at that river view for the rest of my days and never tire of it.)

The thing the house gave us wasn’t status or security like it gives to others. That’s not what we wanted. It did give us space to host our friends and family, but we just have to be a little creative and we can recreate that space just as well. This condo has places we can reserve to host parties bigger and more comfortably than we could at the house. (It also has an indoor pool, which I fully expect to make use of during some of those parties.) What the house gave us was a home base for the people who fill up our lives. And that is something that isn’t tied to an address in suburbia; it lives with all of us everywhere we live.

Which isn’t to say that we are sorry for the years we spent in that house. In our almost 9 years there, we loved that house. But it wasn’t the right fit anymore, and that’s neither bad nor anyone’s failing — things change, we change, the world changes, and priorities change. Add it all up, and the time had come for us to move.

Of course, living here will be far easier than *moving* here. Until Saturday, the room I am currently sitting in was wall-to-wall boxes. Storage won’t be a problem once we get it all organized, but in the meantime it’s a DISASTER. But we make some progress every day, and with everything we set into place, we’re more sure that this is where we belong.

It’s not that different to me from settling into Minnesota after being from New York. It’s a change, for sure. But the adjustment fits against my edges — not identically, but equally easily. Louise Fitzhugh wrote, “There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people.” (I think. It’s hard to be sure when my copy of Harriet the Spy is in a box somewhere. It’s close to that, anyway.) And, for me, there are right ways and wrong ways. This condo, this is the right way. The house was the right way too, for a long time. But now it would be wrong. The suburbs would be wrong.

Frankly? Anything that doesn’t give me this view of the Mississippi would be wrong.

This coming weekend is the TCWC spring concert and it’s theme, appropriately enough, is “home.” All the songs are about finding home, or losing it, or creating it, or not knowing where it is. And while the choir community has long been a home to me, this time when I sing those songs, I’m going to be thinking about my place halfway into the sky, with the river to the north and west, the sunset streaking across the balcony, and the room that was mostly boxes and is slowly growing itself into a den.

I have very much come home, once more.

(However, even if I have found my hallelujah, I sure can’t find anything else! Time to unpack more boxes!)

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Take these lies and make them true

Okay, so I’m more than a little swamped trying to deal with the house thing. As I ranted at length on Twitter, turning your house into a space that will sell to someone else means basically depersonalizing it to the extreme. Not only does it have to be scrubbed floor to ceiling, literally — I actually washed freaking walls this week — but it means the house has to take on what I call MAXIMUM CONFORMITY. No nerd pictures, few personal items. No clutter, even when that clutter is a representation of self.

Do we remember me talking about Defiance? About being myself no matter the cost?

I HATE THIS SOOOOO VERY MUCH, FOLKS.

But there’s also about 15 things I need to get done, like putting paint on my ceiling where it got spots from, you know, life. So I’m going to go do some of that.

I leave you with this, because why not?

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