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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Culture Shock at a HOA Meeting

 I went to the HOA meeting last night with a notebook of paper, a pen and my favorite chicken book tucked under my arm. Wore a nondescript outfit, left my nose ring in and a smile on my face.And there I stood ....waiting.....waiting...and waiting.Nothing happened,no questions,no clam patience needed as I answered a bazaar question,no inward chuckle over someones craze over chickens,nope, nothing but standing there.That was before the meeting started and then the culture shock hit.
  I know I live in the suburbs.I know the a majority of the people in the suburbs lean to the right or are firmly planted to the right side.I know that my family and I stick out and don't quiet fit in.We have lived here for almost 11 years now,I really know these things.I have been snubbed so many times at this point in time I just roll my eyes and walk away,I don't have time for judgmental people any more.I am of an age where I am so comfortable with who I am as a human that crummy behavior reminds me of high school.And who wants to play that game?
  It's become easy for me to roll my eyes and walk away because I know home is a good place and the neighborhood I live in gives me a sort of protection from the rest of the suburban culture.I have some of the best neighbors with whom we have been able to make a true community with..
   It has not always been so.When we first moved here our neighborhood was a biker neighborhood.A neighborhood where the cops came in 3 and 4 cars even if the call was about a barking dog.It was a pocket of small run down houses where blue collar families lived and made the best of it.Shortly after moving here the neighborhood turned a sharp corner.The bikers mostly moved out and frankly I wish they had not.Once they were gone our cars were pilfered and bikes left on porches went missing.Growing up my parents always said "If you are ever broken down on the side of a road,flag down a biker for help.They will always stop where as the guy with the nice car and clothes will keep going." Our old biker neighbors never turned you down when you asked for a hand.Now like I said we have good neighbors who have replaced the bikers so things are still good.These days our neighborhood is filling up with young families who were looking for a starter home.The houses are looking better,the crime rate is low and life is mellow.All without a HOA telling us how to go about things.Thank goodness.
 I really can't explain the culture shock I faced last night,it was strange.I know HOA's are out there and people willingly buy into those neighborhoods and find some sort of security in them.But WOW! All of those rules,HOA permits and boxes you have to live within.The rules are so tight there is no room for a family to have an emergency.So what if your spouse is in the hospital dieing of some horrid thing which means your lawn has gone uncut,you must keep your grass cut or be fined $17 a day for it.There was a whole discussion about if you had a red sofa on your porch.No can do,so what you like it,it's not allowed.The neighborhood must look a certain way and no other way.There are lists of what you can and can not plant and where. Green options are frowned upon.Craziness!
  I must confess I freaked out,called Chance and had him pick me up early,I just couldn't take it.I spoke to my friend working so hard to get chickens into the HOA ,she understood.I wish I had stayed because there was a glimmer of triumph later in the meeting.
  My friend Carrie who has worked and worked with the HOA over this chicken issue had decided that she had done enough talking and it was time to walk her talk,she ran for one of the openings on the HOA's board along with a couple of other progressively minded neighbors. In order to see real changes in the HOA they would need for all three of them to win and they did! Now their work can really get started to change bylaws that were written in the late 1940's.I must be fair here,at one point one of the board members did say that it was time to take a closer look at the bylaws.That when the laws were first written no one had any idea that some of the changes wanted would even be possible. And I add to that,I agree,no one knew where we would be environmentally or the technologies we would have come 2010.
  At this point in time the chickens are still on hold.Carrie is working on getting 500 signatures on a petition just so next spring a formal vote can be done about wither or not to allow the chickens.That's politics for ya,things move at a snails pace but the work is starting to make big changes in the suburban landscape of life. I am glad,it is about time.
 The interesting thing about all of this for me is the future.I have lived amongst these families for awhile now.The boys went to or still do go to school with the children of these families.Many of these families have shunned us all because of where and how we choose to live.This really stank for a long time and I worried about the impact it would have on the boys but I was worrying for nothing.I think because through it all Chance and I have stood our ground and stayed true to who we are, the boys have learned to be the amazing kids they are.True friends look at your insides not your outsides because that's where everything that counts lives.Chance and I have manged to weather this storm and gather around us a small community of families who understand the the true meaning of friendship.It has not been easy.I have had to learn not to shut people out for the same reasons people have shut us out.I have learned to give people an opportunity because you just never know what's hiding underneath it all.Maybe you will meet a lady who wants chickens so badly she is willing to walk her talk,knock on doors and hold her ground.
  Sometimes I am a bit bitter over it all. Few have taken the time to understand us, I am not asking that we always see eye to eye but I am asking here for others to find a common ground we can relate to each other with..Few have taken the time to learn the reasons why we live how and where we do.Few know that part of the reason as to why we do not live the typical suburban life is because we carry a huge amount of medical debit and the sorrows of it.Finally few understand that how we live is a moral stance,just like anyone's life it is a matter of what each of us finds to be the moral way to live,for better or worse that is what life is.
 So the future? We have already seen changes all around us and I am sure more are coming.In the mean time we as a family will be here at Hrafinstaad,our suburban homestead living as we see fit, always watching for opportunity. Opportunities to make new friends, learn new things,grow and lead by example.Hopefully our quiet kind of leadership will catch on and things will continue to change for the better.


  1. If you can't tell, passing judgment on others is a huge peeve of mine.

  2. I'm so lucky to know you and Chance! Knowing people like you two makes is that much easier to make a stand and make some changes. Thanks for being you!

  3. I'm not a fan of nose rings on adults myself, but I'd never shun you because of it.

    Being a mainstream corporate type, I always get crazy looks from people who don't know me when I tell them that I ripped out my front yard and converted it to garden space, and they really go crazy ( especially my philly friends ) when I tell them I make my own bacon, salame, and proscuitto...

    But all that being said, I'd rather live with neighbors like you, than in a homogenous housing development that told me how to fly my flag or what kind of flowers I could plant in my yard.

    It's the differences that make things interesting :)

    Rock on.