Appreciating home

October flew by and I almost missed writing this post. One reason may be because I’m making some changes to my daily routine, with the biggest one being daily exercise. I credit/blame my new FitBit — it keeps me accountable, and I can’t fool myself into thinking that I’m more active than I actually am. As a result, I’m getting much more exercise than I used to, and I’m sleeping better too. All good things.

This month marks 16 years that I’ve lived in my current home, which is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere, including my childhood home. Like any long-term relationship, I’d been taking it for granted lately and even fell into the trap of thinking I’d be happier someplace else. Part of it may be because I met a new neighbor who moved to my building from a ritzier area and she clearly hates it here. I get it. Living in a high rise is not for everyone, especially coming from a big house with a yard.

Unfortunately, I let her attitude affect me and I even went as far as checking out a townhouse for sale in a more residential neighborhood. I didn’t even have to enter the townhouse (which felt cramped despite having 50% more square footage than my current place) to nix the whole idea. The area was too quiet, too removed from the downtown vibe I’m used to. The relief I felt when I returned to my little box in the sky wiped out all thoughts of moving.

The clincher was when a friend called that evening and asked if I wanted to watch the UofM-MSU game that was live-screening at a nearby movie theatre. How nearby? I got there in less than 10 minutes, on foot.

Sometimes I have to wander my town like a tourist to really appreciate where I live. My building is even next to a hotel! It’s an incredibly walkable town, and not just in the bars/restaurants/cute shops kind of way. The mixed use layout here means I can walk to a grocery store, two hardware stores, two drugstores, the library, several parks, the doctor’s office, the post office, the community theatre, city hall, an Amtrak station(!), even the auto mechanic. It’s so convenient to simply drop off my car for an oil change and walk back home. And if I ever feel lonely, all I have to do is step outside. There are always people around, and simply being among them makes me feel less alone.

No place is perfect, but it’s easy to let the search for perfect get in the way of appreciating the good, or even great. I’m now putting more TLC into my current living space and I already feel better. If I ever get that grass-is-greener urge again, I’ll visit a McMansion subdivision. That’ll creep me out for at least a year.

Walking on two wheels

Check out my new bike! It’s an Electra Loft 7i, built for comfort and practicality, not speed, which is exactly what I’ve wanted for many years. In the United States for way too long, bicycling was seen as a sport or something only kids did, not as a normal way to get from point A to point B. In an ideal world, I’d bike, walk, and take public transit everywhere (I spent the first two years of my working life using my car once a week only to get groceries). Unfortunately, since I now live in the birthplace of the mass-produced automobile, that’s not feasible. Yet.

My two-wheeled history

When I started biking as an adult, the only options were road bikes or mountain bikes, and as a 5′ 2′ short-waisted woman, choices were limited. On top of that, I reluctantly learned how to ride on the road with cars, but it took only one close call near Capitol Hill to send me back onto the nice, quiet multi-use paths, which were fine as long as I didn’t want to actually go anywhere.

When I moved back to Michigan, I rode very little except for a few times when I got my hands on a 1970s Schwinn and a 1940s British bike, both of which were the kind of sturdy, utilitarian bikes I longed for. Like Jason Slaughter of Not Just Bikes, I’m not a cyclist. I don’t care about speed, the sport, the latest tech gear, or ::shudder:: Lycra. I certainly don’t want to sit leaning forward and messing with my lines of sight, back, shoulders, neck, and wrists all in one go. I just want the equivalent of walking on two wheels so I can ride places without worrying I’ll get hit by a car.

Things change, slowly

Many years and a pandemic later, some leaders in the U.S. are finally figuring out that perhaps making bikes and cars duke it out in the same road isn’t such a great idea. They recognize that maybe we need to design human-scale places that accommodate multiple ways for people to get around, whether it’s by foot, bike, mobility scooter, wheelchair, mass transit, car, whatever. It’s long overdue. Some countries, especially The Netherlands, are decades ahead of us, but we can learn from them if we’re willing to.

My county has a transit proposal on the ballot this year and three towns near me are in the process of improving their streets to be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. My town isn’t terrible, and I see people of all ages outside walking/sometimes biking/doing their thing, but it can be so much better. I’m glad there now seem to be more people who want what I want. I only hope that if/when things change, I’ll live long enough to enjoy it.