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thoughts on pulling up stakes: one year later

April 12th, 2011

So, just about a year ago we put our house on the market on a Monday. By Friday, we got an offer and that was that. Sold to a young couple from Oakland who were picky and fussy and kept bitching about this and that. Yeah, that’s precious. Have fun, kids. Maybe you should start a blog? Call it “This Old House is 100 and Fussy as Hell Just Like Us.” Put a bird on it, it’ll be fine.

The decision to sell came after years of… this and that. Go read the archives under “School Politics,” “Pets, Stupid” and “Remodelling” if you’re interested in trippin’ down Wacky Family Memory Lane.

We found a new house, it had just gone on the market that day. Made an offer, snapped it up, off we went. (Now I’m thinking we didn’t move far enough away — working on the next ten-year plan and am thinking out of state, or country, even. Really fucking sick of the rain. But it is sooooooo nice to be closer to Steve’s work.) We moved over Easter weekend and our son’s birthday, and everything for the last year has honestly been one big blur. April to April, and I realize I haven’t written much about what the transition has been like, how things are for us. Geez, I have about four readers now (hi, lovies!) so this is more of a diary entry than a blog entry, ha.

Good, is how things are. Good and good. Yeah, people drive like maniacs on the west side, but it’s “car culture” that is more L.A. than crazy-ass North Portland, so that’s alright. They mostly stop for pedestrians in cross walks. They mostly follow the rules, good enough.

Culture shock? Little to none for Steve and the kids; a whole lot for me. I’ve never really been around middle-class and upper-middle class people in my life, it was lower middle-class and poor people up until now. I have friends from grade school, high school, college, various jobs, The Internet, neighbors… so there is no shortage of socializing, if I want it. I’ve made good friends over the years, I am blessed.

I do miss my old world, but you know? I never fit in with a lot of ’em. A number of our friends had moved away, and even the ones who were still in town? Good luck finding time to see each other, especially with everyone at different schools, with different schedules, different sports teams. None of us on our block and the blocks surrounding us went to the same schools. My daughter had one buddy down the street she went to school with, that was about it.

My son is supposed to be writing an essay for school: “Tell about an experience you had visiting Portland.” I told him to write about the SWAT teams and the sharp-shooters who wouldn’t let us go home cuz there was a bad guy in our driveway, and about the pitbulls and the drunk neighbors who used to play YAHTZEE!!!!!!!!! all night long and… yeah. Portland! Wow! Portland is rilly rilly fun and put a bird on it, why doncha? Right away!

When we went to a birthday party (years ago), and all the grandparents were my age, and were making drug references that ha! ha! they were so sure that the kids weren’t getting. Yeah… that didn’t work for me. Grade school, high school, fights and messes and people burning their houses down for the insurance money and almost killing their kids in the process, and having to learn how to drive when you were 11 or 12 because if your parents were drunk, or the dad you babysat for wanted to drive you home and he was loaded, you did not want those people driving you around, fucking give me the keys and I’ll drive. “I know how! It’s OK, give me the keys. Thanks.” That was my neighborhood, growing up. Put a bird on it!

People bragging about their guns, their fucking stupid dogs and their stupid dog parks (“He is like my child!”), their wildass, tattooed, branded and pierced lifestyles. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, how avant garde you are.

Then there’s the truly harsh stuff. The desperation that comes with poverty. The neighbors who don’t look out for each other. The sadness of realizing that no matter how much time and money we threw at the neighborhood public schools, it wasn’t going to help. All of the work we did. All of the money we raised, grants we wrote for playgrounds and everything else. Whatever.

There are a whole lot of well-to-do families in the Portland Public Schools district who count on the “generosity” (ha. a bitter, bitter ha.) of the poor kids to finance their kids’ education. Cuz if you only have so much to spread around, well. They think they deserve it all and they just fucking take it. Take it and run and say mean, crappy things like, Sucks to be you, doesn’t it, poor people? Here is what I say to them: Backstabbers.

It’s different out here, in the suburbs, miles and miles from where I grew up, from where my son spent his first eight years and my daughter spent her first ten.

It’s equitable, for the most part. The schools do their funding differently — the rich parents can’t all get together and “buy” a music teacher (or any other teacher, for that matter) cuz then… you would have the haves and the have-nots, and the rich schools would have all the goodies. Hear that, PDX? So it’s sauce for the goose/sauce for the gander, so to speak.

It’s ethnic (Oregon, overall, is white as hell, so that’s not saying much, in any part of the state), but it is diverse. There are 90 different languages spoken out here. That is a trip to me.

As far as the flora and fauna… It’s nature preserves and greenspaces and rec centers that are clean and up-to-date because people pay their taxes to keep ’em that way. And signs that say NO DOGS and when I see those signs I say, Ah, good.

So to people from that part of town who ask (snotty, always snotty), “Don’t you miss the diversity?” i say, It’s more diverse out here than in my old neighborhood.

“Oh, the ‘burbs, your nice little bubble…” (that’s another comment I hear, from time to time.) It’s not a bubble. You take your demons and your dreams wherever you go, don’t you? My writing, my kids, my lover, my gardening, my nightmares, my fears, my tears and sweat — those are with me for the rest of my life. (“You can run/but you can’t hide.” — anon.)

Radiated Japan, the wars in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq… the embarrassment and shame I feel as an American, knowing that we’re spending billions on bombs and rockets, and cutting billions on education spending and healthcare, food stamps, pre-natal care, Planned Parenthood and… everything. Our priorities are all fucked up in this country.

That goes with me wherever I go, it haunts me. Yeah, maybe Canada, next, if they’ll have us.

My daughter left a school, started a new school, graduated from that school and started middle school. My son left one school and started at a new one. I left the school I was working at, started at a new school, started grad school, quit both. That has been a lot of upheaval and again, harder for me than for the kids.

“Flexibility is a lifeskill!” — anon.

I need to focus on the writing, the kids, Steve. We are liking it. I have my own library now; he and Wacky Girl share a music studio.

The kids both love their new schools (Steve and I do, too), they’re happy. They have music, band, art, friends whose houses they can walk to, bowling, pizza, sushi and the mall, movies and starry, starry nights, choruses of frogs… all kinds of stuff. Lego Robotics and swimming lessons and hikes where we look for mink and beavers and deer — and see them. We’ve seen deer on our street, how crazy is that? (We’re not far from the woods, any direction we go.) My daughter has started skiing and my husband has taken it up again. They love it.

Everyone out here is really, really, really into sports. Maybe it’s cuz Nike has such a big presence, who knows. We’re into hockey, swimming and nature walks, that’s about it. Ducks or Beavers, Ducks or Beavers? We’ve been asked that, I dunno, twenty times a week since we got here.

OK, Beavers it is. My son’s teacher is over the moon about it, YES!!

“It’s a different world/from where you come from…” is the song most likely to be running through my head, on any given day. I miss my friends, I miss my family, but I don’t miss all the bullshit. I don’t miss so-called friends stabbing us in the back and leaving snotty messages on the blogs, on other websites, on e-mail and voicemail. Someone actually left us a message once (the person wanted a favor, was the funny?? part), saying, You seem like the kind of Republicans who would…

Whatever. I mean, WTF? I’m Socialist, do you not get that? Marxist Feminist, thanks. But… whatever.

So. How is it out here?

Walking home from school with my son about a half hour ago, we saw a hawk, swooping and gliding and putting on a show, just for us.

It’s good.

How’s it with you?


  1. Ralphie says

    Oh, that was so good…but the ‘burbs do drive Ma nuts. They just do. The saying goes: “Wherever you go, THERE YOU ARE!!!!” Ma remembers that when she thinks the grass is greener elsewhere…

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  2. Wacky Mommy says

    thanks, Ralphie :) (one of my only eastside friends who comes to visit, ha!!)

    yeah, demons and dreams, i know just exactly what you mean.

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  3. The Other Laura says

    Wow, just wow. Honey, when you get going, you really roll.

    I’m glad you’re happy and healthy and have grass and frogs and deer and a school you can walk to (swoon).

    I’m glad you’re writing and I’m glad your kids like their schools. I’m glad Steve is playing music.

    We are good. Frank’s at the part of the semester where he stops speaking and only grunts and scowls but it is almost over. I spent the morning listening to Max’s principal talk about how awesome Max is. And I am now, apparently, a hair model. (And I started 2 new poems this week.)

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  4. Wacky Mommy says

    TOL, Steve keeps telling me, Roll with it! So I am? That is cool, thank you.

    Re: grunting and scowling. It is a demeanor profs, coaches and teachers have to adopt or die, apparently. (Just watched ALL of the fifth — and last — season of Friday Night Lights on DVD in a three-day blitz. The scowling and growling made me both long to be back in a school and feel INCREDIBLE RELIEF that i’m not.) (OK, i volunteer now at both kids’ schools, but that is different.)

    Max *is* awesome, his middle name should be “Mr. Awesome,” I’m glad people are noticing. And your hair is awesome, too!! I would say it ties with your writing for awesome-ness. BIG smooches, nancy

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  5. Steve R. says

    Seriously, it’s like Northern Ireland out here, but instead of “Catholic or Protestant” you must be either beaver or duck.

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  6. Wacky Mommy says

    i’ve taken to shouting BEAVER! at people before they even SAY ANYTHING which feels just a little weird. But it’s what they’re all waiting for. Last week I had a conversation with a neighbor and her two kids and it consisted of this, in its entirety:

    kid 1: Beaverorduck?

    me: BEAVER!

    mom (shaking her head): No!

    kid 2 (smiles and shakes her head, tut-tuts a little)

    The End

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  7. Steve says

    Yeah, living in BEAVERTON and rooting for the BEAVERS is like one big Beavis and Butthead routine. Huh huh. Huh.

    So I say: Go Hawkeyes!

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  8. Steve Buel says

    What!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Beavers???????!!!!

    April 12th, 2011 | #

  9. Steve says

    Oh, and here are some snapshots of a recent nature walk.

    April 13th, 2011 | #

  10. Vixen says

    We are alive, right? We did survive this last year? Didn’t we?

    I seem to have lost some flexibility. Think I need to take up yoga. Life yoga.

    April 13th, 2011 | #

  11. LIB says

    I’m glad you are happy in the ‘burbs. As one of your ‘four readers’:), I’m glad to hear about your life. Steve’s short commute time is good–maybe that’s why he has his muse back. AND, now YOU have your muse back, too!

    April 14th, 2011 | #

  12. Nan says

    Lovely pictures Steve! And I am so happy your move have been good. “Wherever you go, there you are” indeed. Us too. Both our families moved wisely.

    April 15th, 2011 | #

  13. Steve R. says

    Thanks Nan!

    April 15th, 2011 | #

  14. wacky cousin says

    Beavers? For serious?


    Also, the Burbs, they are not so terrible.

    April 18th, 2011 | #

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