To Move, or not to Move? My Eternal Question.

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Welcome to our home.

When we got married about two-and-a-half years ago, Alex and I moved into a 450-square-foot apartment in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Northwest Washington, DC.

It’s the original tiny house and lacks a dishwasher, garbage disposal, washer/dryer, and central air. We’ve dealt with three bed bug infestations, the first just weeks before our wedding. Most mornings we wake up at 6:15 AM to our neighbor’s dog barking, or her owner shouting at her even more loudly to stop barking. Our kitchen is home to a breed of (thankfully) small cockroaches.

During the first walkthrough, our landlord explained that the scuffed hardwood floors would be refinished before we moved in. On moving day we discovered that they been covered with matte-finish deck paint, which is impossible to keep clean.

Shortly after moving into the building we complained to management about a foul odor in the hallway. After it persisted for several weeks I went on a sniffing mission to discover the source… a festering pile of poop (from an animal, we hope?) in a stairwell.

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A snowy day in 2016.

So, why have we stayed? I ask myself this question every few months and search frantically on Craigslist for a new home. But after two and a half years, we still haven’t moved. My patient coworkers have listened to me rant on and on about this question, which reflects how much I think about it, which is a lot.

Here are the positives: since moving into building, two other couples we’re friends with have joined us, one right next door. We assemble for impromptu nightcaps, water each others’ plants while we’re on vacation, share clothes, tools, and more, and watched all of the Presidential debates together. Though weeks go by, sometimes, without getting together, its always good to know they’re there. And, they keep extra sets of our keys, which is helpful because I lock myself out… often.

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Our picnic was rained out so we improvised inside.

Our building is three blocks from the metro and two from the grocery store. While yes, we still do drive to the grocery store sometimes (too much to carry!)… the proximity is helpful for forgotten items, cravings, snow days, and simply saving time.

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My window box herb garden in the beginning of summer 2016.

While our windows are north-facing, there’s enough sunlight to sustain my herb garden, which is currently thriving for the third year in a row.

Alex and I have a lot of hobbies, and hobbies come with supplies. My sewing machine and collection of fabric are tucked in my closet and under the couch, respectively. Our camping equipment lives in a milk crate in the entryway closet and our sleeping bags are perched high in the bedroom closet. Alex’s bartending supplies are on display in the living room. Our bedroom is home to four (!) musical instruments. Our books are stacked on custom-built shelves in the hallway. We’ve found places for all of the things we most enjoy having, and the limitation of space has kept us from consuming things we don’t truly need.

And, importantly, our rent is below market rate. Far below market rate, actually, which makes the opportunity cost of moving very high. Rent control is a blessing for the conscious, but a curse if you’re just using it to save up and move up.

Because moving is a lot of work, and the opportunity cost is high, my list of musts for another home is long. I want all of the conveniences: a dishwasher, garbage disposal, washer/dryer and central air, and I also want hardwood floors, lots of light, outdoor space (or deep windowsills, at least), more closet space. But one-bedroom apartments with these features cost about $700-$900 more per month than what we’re paying now. This is what I mean by opportunity cost: it’s high.

Last weekend, we looked at a giant one-bedroom apartment a block from where we live now. It had all of the conveniences, but the floors were bad. We were on the fence about it for several days. At one point I said to Alex “what if we move there and then something even better comes along?” He responded: “It won’t if you stop looking at Craigslist.”

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It took nearly an entire Saturday to attach these shelves to our plaster walls (thanks Alex!).

I am so restless sometimes, even when life is good. I’m spending my time well, I think, but my phone tells me what else I could be doing, where else I could be, what else I could own. In an interview on the Freakonomics podcast, actor, comedian, and astute social critic Aziz Ansari shared that he once found himself browsing Google for information about what toothbrush to buy. Stepping back and realizing how unnecessary this was, he joked “I’ve never heard anyone say ‘You know how he died? He chose the wrong toothbrush!'” Via the internet, we have access to more information than ever before. But is it helpful? I have a strong desire to make a home, but I can’t decide where. There are too many options. My wheels are spinning.

This spring I took it upon myself to sow flower seeds in the planters in front of our building. The planters had been filled with just dirt and garbage for as long as we’d lived there. So I didn’t know how to feel when, just as my seeds were sending up promising green shoots, I came home to discover them uprooted and replaced by an ornamental tree surrounded by struggling annuals. I suppose my landlord finally took it upon himself to beautify our stoop. It was bittersweet.

Below us, in the same 450 square feet, lives a family of four: a mom, dad, 5 year old girl and 16 year old boy. So, sometimes I feel that my desire to move comes from a feeling of entitlement. I don’t need more. My home is enough.

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Cozy times on the couch in my cozy little home (before the built-in shelves).

But let me know if you hear of any affordable one-bedroom apartments that fit my description…

 

The Collection’s Listen to the River was Worth the Wait

The first time I heard The Collection’s music, I thought my heart was going to explode. I’m always listening for lyrics, but it wasn’t David Wimbish’s earnest songwriting that resonated with me, it was the image of him turning his group of talented musician-friends into an orchestra.

When The Collection toured their first full-length album, Ars Moriendi, the then thirteen-piece band wedged their van and trailer full of instruments into a DC parking space and covered every inch of the first floor of my house with sleeping bags. I don’t know how we had enough sheets and blankets for all of them. We have hosted many memorable shows in that house, but if I could go back in time to experience one of them again, it would be that night.

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That time I found myself in The Collection’s band photo and then on the cover of a Greensboro, NC arts magazine.

In a world in which it is more common to communicate via technology than face-to-face, Wimbish brings friends together to create music with him and spend weeks at a time in the confined space of a tour van. It’s really everyone’s fantasy at 23: “let’s all quit our jobs and tour the country together as band!” From what I observed while hosting The Collection, they did it with grace and great enjoyment, like a group of kids on a mission trip but without the need for chaperones. When asked how they were able to get along so well, it was clear that they shared deep love for each other. This made their music feel all the more real—the passion exuded in the music continued into their visibly grace-filled behavior toward each other.

While The Collection’s first EP drew primarily on biblical themes with poetic honesty and earnest hope, Ars Moriendi reflected on the untimely deaths of friends and carried heavy questions about salvation. Listen to the River was recorded after Wimbish “found his faith and courage left at the bottom of a spiritual well.” The album’s liner notes explain:

Listen To The River is the story of the rope that he used to climb out, one that’s strands were made of great spiritual writers, from Rumi and Kahlil Gibran to Herman Hesse and Lao Tse. The process that followed was a re-examination and reorientation of both his spirituality, and his marriage to member Mira Joy after mutually deciding to divorce last year, ultimately leading to an album created together, hoping to honor the past while accepting the present.

I can’t imagine the tension of going through a co-creation process with an ex-spouse. But The Collection’s music has always embraced tension, just listen to the introduction to Fever

“I was singing by the river, waiting for my troubles to be gone
and you were coming through the speakers, sliding down my ears and played their drums”

or The Art of Dying

“Death sits inside his office as we wait for the verdict
he speaks our fate with a nervous tick; do we get the cure or the sickness?
and when we die, what will it be – a graveyard grave, or a golden fleece?
And will we fight or will we flee?
Will you still have faith in me?”

And this, perhaps, is what tugs at my heart so strongly: to end a relationship and still be attached, be plagued with trouble yet feel close to God, to wonder about the afterlife after watching peers die. Wimbish writes challenging questions into his songs and chews on them with strings and woodwinds and perfectly timed percussion.

Listen to the River holds this tension too, but there’s evidence of some settling in. And the thirteen-piece band has been stripped down to seven, resulting in a meeker sound.

“There are so many people
They float like the lashes that fall from my eyes
I know between them, they believe everything
So I don’t have to be right” – So Many People

Now contending with the complexities of his mid-twenties and asking big questions about faith and existence, Wimbish continues to turn harsh realities and lack of certainty into honest, reflective songs. And he continues to involve a wide circle of musician-friends, resulting in a co-creation process that speaks more volumes of hope than lyrics ever can.

Squarespace for Meredith Flanagan Events

Am I going to get in trouble for posting on WordPress about building a Squarespace site?

My cousin, Meredith Flanagan, freelances as a wedding and special event planner in the Washington, DC, area and asked me to build a website for her business. She just needed some online real estate—a place for people to learn about her services and get in touch.

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I originally built the site on Weebly but found the templates and style to be a dated and inflexible. For photo-heavy sites, I really like superscrollorama formats and found that Squarespace had such templates in a variety of styles.

My first step in this project was to look at other wedding planners’ sites to see what kind of content they included and how it was displayed. Based on my comparison of these sites, I decided what text to include in Meredith’s site and wrote it. Next, I uploaded high-resolution photos of weddings Meredith has planned.

One challenge was deciding which voice to use. In my comparison of other wedding planners’ sites, I came across a Menu of Services and Contact Me form in first person and found them very inviting. If I did that too, though, I though it would be incongruous to have Meredith’s bio and business statement in third person. So, I made all of the text first person. Since Meredith Flanagan Events is a one-woman show, I think it works well.

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Squarespace for business comes with one Google Suite domain and Meredith is pleased to have a business email address and separate place to store her professional documents. Her new email address is hello@meredithflanaganevents.com. So cute!

River Whyless Embraces the Role of Musicians in Times Like These

River Whyless recently released a recording of their take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son and have been playing it (in pussy hats) on tour. I’ll admit that it strikes me as a bit contrived, but I do love the song. The visuals in the YouTube video are scenes from the Women’s March on Washington, which they attended.

 

On Repeat: Dream in Blue by The Stray Birds

I think I can thank the great folks algorithms at Spotify for introducing me to this song.

From their website:

All originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, The Stray Birds started as a duo of acoustic buskers in early 2010 when Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven met with their instruments, their voices, and their songs. It didn’t take much convincing to get bassist Charlie Muench on board, and with the addition of a third unique and powerful voice, the group began to define its captivating sound. Seven years, three original records, and some six hundred performances later, the band is best known today for its songwriting, its tight and forthcoming vocal harmony blend and its commitment to an impassioned delivery of original material, both on stage and in the studio.