Tearing Down Fences

The fence separating our property from our next door neighbors was falling down. Too many years of watering and the daily wear and tear of life was making it wobble and it had started taking on a slight I've-had-one-drink-too-many look. 

Through the screen

Looking down at the wobbly fence from my screened bedroom window.

But you know how you look at something every day and it makes you slightly crazy every time and yet you choose to ignore it because there's no time to deal with it right now? That was us and The Fence. 

"That fence is really wobbly." 

"I know."

And we would go on with our lives until the next time we were outdoors, which was usually the next day as we watered the few plants that were still hanging on to life support in our sadly neglected backyard. 

"That fence..."

"I know."

And so it went, until the day, about a month ago when we got together with our neighbors (whom we dearly love, by the way) and actually talked about the fence. 

"We need to do something about the fence."

"We know."

Then it was time for high school graduation and we decided to throw a huge party to celebrate. Not only was Jon graduating, but their daughter, Tori, and Jon's best friend, Nathan were too. So we had 3 graduates to celebrate and 3 families who were on board. 

It was the kids who first made The Suggestion.

"Let's tear down the fence. It's an eyesore."


"But let's just leave the space open."

"Wait. What?"

They convinced us to tear down The Fence and open up the space between our yards for the summer, at least. And maybe for good. 


We hadn't managed to muster up enough energy to plant fresh flowers or pull up the dying plants. (I know. Shut up.) How embarrasing to tear down the fence and have our neighbors have to daily look upon our eyesore-of-the-neighborhood backyard. 

Not only that, but we were now making plans for The *Biggest Graduation Party of The Year (Or the *BGPOTY) to be held in our corporate backyard space. 


So we had a Party Summit in which we discussed ground rules and what to do with our respective yards to pull off the *BGPOTY. There were sketches and discussions and many, many trips to the nursery.

Then the day came. We were going to tear down the fence. We were making the cataclysmic and counter-cultural decision to live our lives in a type of community that is rare in this age. 

Tearing down the fence

We recruited all the able-bodies who were willing and able. 

Eric tearing down the fence

Tearing down the fence 2

And down it came. 

Tearing down the fence 3

By this point, our wonderful neighbors, much to my everlasting delight, had already planted some beautiful butterfly garden beds and seriously, from the moment that fence came down, we have had some gorgeous Monarch butterflies dancing back and forth between our two (now one) yard(s). 

It felt so magical and like somehow we had broken not just the physical barrier between our respective property lines, but like we had dismantled a cultural norm. 

We are choosing to be counter-cultural and live in community. It feels freeing and magical. The dancing Monarchs feel representative of the magic that we have created between us and how our lives are intertwined.

I took this next photo this morning. The *BGPOTY was absolutely amazing and deserves a post of its own (coming later this week). But here is what the space looks like and we couldn't be more delighted.

No fence

The day after the party, we pooled our collective resources and shared a family meal.

Sharing life

This, ladies and gentleman is how we are now doing life. And we couldn't be more content.

The Fence that used to separate our lives? We found a much more appropriate use for it.


I can't stop smiling.

The End of an Era

I've been struggling to find words to capture this day. Jonathan is graduating from high school tomorrow. And as you may or may not know, he's been homeschooled all these years. 

Jon Darby 5 yrs

Starting from first grade, he's been home with me and Eric and truthfully, we did a whole lot of un-schooling. That is, we let the kids find the things they were interested in and encouraged them to pursue those. 

Jon Darby 1st grade

Jon was always more interested in dressing up (every day!) and playing games that relied heavily on his imagination.

Would it surprise you to know that he's going to be pursuing an acting career? Specifically in comedy. I'm proud of him for having the courage to go after what he wants, but I'm scared for him, too.

Because Jon is the youngest of my four kids, this is obviously not my first rodeo graduation. 

When Amy walked in her bright red robes in 2001 twirling her gold Honor Thespian tassel, I clapped and cheered. I think I openly wept. There was no more proud mom at that moment.

Then Adam was asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at his graduation in 2004. I know I clapped and cheered. Louder than anyone. There might have been tears of relief mingled with joy.

Lucy did her thing in 2011. Of course, I clapped and cheered and shed my tears. I was blogging by then. Here's what I wrote about her graduation speech: Exact Change.

Now it's Jonathan's turn. He walks tomorrow and will be giving a speech, and I'll be honest, I'm much more tender about this moment than all the others. The other ones joke that it's because Jon is my favorite, but every other mom who has more than one child will understand that when "the baby" reaches a milestone it signals the end of an era for the parents. 


The only word to describe it is that I feel extremely "tender." As the mom who has homeschooled him for his entire school career, I'm the one who worried as he struggled to read. Who hoped he'd learn how to learn. Who made sure he ate and slept and did his chores and finished his work and said please and thank you. 

I woke up one day and in place of my sweet little guy was a man. Of course I went through this with each of my other kids, but this is the last one. The quiet and painfully shy one. The one who could barely speak up at our dinner table. I wrote about that here: The Biggest Insult.

Every time he takes the stage I'm blown away that my introverted Jon can command such a presence. That he is such a natural leader and gatherer of people. And that he's so darn funny.

Jon is the beneficiary of my blogging years and so I've managed to capture all of his best moments of growth on stage. 

This year he was Lazar Wolf in his high school production of Fiddler on the Roof.


Here's my favorite scene that he's in with his best friend, Nathan.  "To Life." 

And then, there came that bittersweet moment when he took his final bows.


And thanked our friend and the only director he's ever known. (I can't even look at this photo without weeping.)


So here he goes. Off to find his way in the world. And Eric and I are left shaking our heads in amazement and wonder. 


To steal a line from Fiddler (Sunrise, Sunset), "When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?" 

We are thrilled. We are delighted. We are left scratching our heads and wondering, "How did that happen so quickly?"

Tomorrow I'll cry and pray and hug my graduate. And I'll thank God that I was privileged to have a daily front row seat to The Jonathan Show. 


I'm taking a week off to plan and prepare (amidst my tears and joy) the biggest blow-out of a graduation celebration we've ever had around here. 

Congratulations, Jonathan and all the Class of 2014. Mazel tov, my friend. Better yet, here's TO LIFE.