Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Pursuit of Passion

Pursuit is a funny word. 

So I think I've talked about why I blog before--I love writing and sometimes I just have to write about something I'm thinking about. Writing in my journal is great for my private thoughts, but if I didn't blog about my more public thoughts I would miss out on the vague thrill that comes when I realize someone, somewhere, is reading what I've written. I am an author!

Lately I have been drawn to the idea of creating a blog for our neighborhood. I have all sorts of posts and ideas floating around that need to be written. My first main question is should it be anonymous or should it have my name and picture? If anonymous, I could be more honest about things such as crazy people at neighborhood meetings, but then it might be hard for people to contact me with neighborhood information they want to see on my blog. Also something to consider with going public is that it doesn't take much to propel a person to minor-celebrity status here in Provo. People would know who I was. (Again, good thing?) 

In any case, I want to do this blog because I feel there's really a need for it, whereas my current blog just fulfills my need to write and the needs of bored people to read something interesting to keep their brain from shriveling. I feel like I could influence a whole neighborhood and provide a forum to make real life change happen, and that's a cool thing. I hope this blog may have changed the way some people think about life, but that's much harder to quantify than a blog that boosts the turnout to neighborhood meetings by 50 percent.  

I'll write here on my blog when I just can't keep things to myself but I wanted to mention the current project on my mind...I'll post a link when it's ready! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Chance Meeting

It was serendipitous: I had decided at the last minute to drive by the library Friday night and drop off some books when I saw a sign on the corner: Neighborhood Meeting at the Library, Sat 9:30 a.m. The babysitting stars aligned and off I trotted the next morning, curious about what we were meeting about. Now, in my experience, 50 percent of meetings are a waste of time. They're just so long, you know? If only people could say what needs to be said and move any case, I figured I could just leave if it got too boring.
Fortunately, from the opening minutes it promised to be an interesting meeting. The neighborhood chair (who apparently annoys people with his Luddite tendencies) started by introducing the fresh-faced BYU student who had called the meeting to discuss a proposed development. An indignant lady near the front immediately hijacked the meeting. "This is a neighborhood meeting! There's so much we need to discuss! Crosswalks! Etc!" The neighborhood chair tried to explain that it was a neighborhood meeting in that the meeting affected the neighborhood, but that the meeting did not belong to the neighborhood, it belonged to the BYU student who had paid for the room and for the advertising for the meeting. They went back and forth on this point for some time while the BYU student stood awkwardly at the front of the room and I sat with glee in the back of the room. Awkwardness and infighting? Excellent start.
The BYU student was eventually granted the right to talk at his meeting and he gave a little presentation about a four-plex he wanted to build on an empty lot around the corner from our house for single families. I could tell he was nervous...and rightly so. People don't go to a neighborhood meeting early on a Saturday morning unless they are really passionate about what happens in the neighborhood. I liked the guy though. He was a newly-married construction management major that won some money in a Dr. Pepper football throw-off contest and wanted to build something with it. (I could tell he felt silly about this and originally described it as a vague scholarship thing. I think he was pleasantly surprised when we all thought it was fun how he won it.) I could have warned him though about what this crowd would like and not like about his proposed plans. (Population density: bad, Green space: good. House design mixing old and new: bad, financing in place, good.)
After his short presentation he opened the floor to comments. Hands popped up all over the room, because basically, if you were there, you wanted to comment. The comments ranged from dumb ("You should build a single family home!") to thoughtful ("How is this being financed?") with a pinch of crazy thrown in.
Actual exchange:
Person A:You can't stop progress!
Person B: Do you own a house in the neighborhood?
Person A: Yes.
Person B: Do you have any rentals?
Person A: Yes, I have one over in Mapleton.
Person B: Ha! Well there you go! (With note of triumph in voice for ferreting out evil landlord)
At this point in the meeting I was definitely feeling superior for owning a historic home, living right by the proposed development, and not having renters. (Although the brunt of this group's wrath is really reserved for absentee landlords.) I knew this group would like me.
For some reason, I was really nervous when I finally got to put my two cents in, but I think my comment (speech?) went over well. I warmed up the room by stating that I owned a 100 year old house a block away and had three kids. (Home-owner-with-family brownie points.) Then I speechified about how no one was ever going to put a single home on the lot, because the land was too expensive to justify that, and that a well-thought-out development would increase the property values better than an abandoned lot. I seconded earlier suggestions for two parking spots per unit rather than three, more yard, and a historic look to the outside based on the jewels of the neighborhood rather than the old/new architecture which sounds good but pleases no one. (Cheers and cries of "Bravo!" Or maybe that was only in my mind.)
I felt comfortable talking about property/land values and design issues, but I am still pretty ignorant of the zoning issues and how you keep single students from taking over a family development, so I let other people speak to those concerns. I felt awesome though. The comments after me were very affirming of what I said and the two ladies sitting next to me* both started furiously writing their contact info down for me and asked me to join the neighborhood Facebook group. I felt so popular.
The BYU student promised to change things per our suggestions (looking at the Facebook group he has already started on that) and I left energized and full of ideas. Walk the boundaries of our neighborhood and become familiar with businesses and blocks in it! Start a blog about things I like in our neighborhood! Become Neighborhood Chair 2015! It's just fun to be involved in something bigger than yourself, something that makes you feel part of a community. I felt listened to, and like I was able to use my talents for shaping discussions and leadership, and that I Am Still A Person away from my kids and husband. I go in fear of becoming a boring individual, especially since as a homemaker it's easy to get lost in the constant demands of family and stop developing your interests and passions.
 Plus, I was reminded of one of the main reasons why we moved to this area of town. I like that it has a sense of place and a cohesive neighborhood. The meeting was a fun chance to meet some fellow citizens and see what living in this neighborhood can involve!
*It turns out they are on a Steering Committee. I wasn't aware a neighborhood could be steered. Did they make this up? I joined the Facebook page and saw a call for action to join the Walkability Committee...apparently I have much to learn about committees.