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Kids Donating Birthday Presents

Abundance. Life in the affluent burbs is all about abundance. We have an abundance of stuff. Clothes, useless kitchen appliances, $300 hand bags, cars, backyard grilling items. You name it, we’ve got it and a lot of it. As my kids get older I’m starting to notice that they are developing this abundance thing as well, with their toys. I try my best to teach them that they are fortunate to have this abundance of toys, but I don’t think they don’t get it.

We celebrated a birthday this past weekend for my youngest. I got to thinking about this idea while he was opening his mountain of presents. I wish I could take credit for this one but I first heard about it at church years ago. Here’s how it works… As the birthday approaches, you talk to you kid about donating one of his presents to charity. You explain that some children are not as fortunate as you… you know the drill. The important part is that you want junior to decide to do this on his own. Don’t force them into it but rather offer it as an idea.

The charity here locally that is pushing this is called And One to Grow On. Click the link and check out their website. They will guide you through the process once your little one decides to go through with it. First, they will provide you with a card to include with your party invitations. I’m not sure if this is completely necessary but it promotes the charity. Once your party takes place, AOGO makes it easy to donate the gift. The have drop off locations for toys or they will arrange to have it picked up.

If you don’t want to go with this specific charity, I’m sure you could accomplish the same kind of thing on your own. There are dozens of local charities that will take a new unopened toy.

To me this isn’t about the gift itself. Let’s be realistic, one toy isn’t going to change the world. This is about teaching your child to think of others and give. It isn’t a huge sacrifice and your kid won’t miss one toy. Yet this is something that might spark your child into becoming a giving person. If you can raise a child in our gilded suburbs to think this way as an adult… consider yourself a successful parent.

The Joneses to Open Next Week

Alpharetta is set to make its debut on the silver screen. Roll out the red carpet. Are you ready? And what better way for this to happen than with a movie about materialism and keeping up with the Joneses? Can this play any better with my blog’s theme? I love it!

This movie starring David Duchovny and Demi Moore was filmed all over Alpharetta almost a year and a half ago. I’m surprised it took them this long to finally open. But nonetheless it is here. The premise is that Duchovny and Moore are new neighbors in a posh gated community in the burbs. But looks are deceiving. They are really slick marketeers trying to sell high-end merchandise and toys to the affluent locals. The story sounds interesting and strangely believable. You can read reviews for the movie here or check out the trailer.

The neighborhood shots were filmed at The Manor Golf and Country Club in Milton. This neighborhood is no stranger to pop culture. One of the Real Housewives of Atlanta lives here. There were also scenes filmed at Muse Hair Salon in Alpharetta. Muse got a lot of publicity out of this, something which I’m sure will make for good business in the future.

I can’t wait to see the movie and pick out other locations around town. And while Alpharetta will be duly proud of its new movie stardom, will the joke actually be on us?

The Joneses opens on Friday, April 16th at a theater near you. Look for me there. I’ll be the one driving the new BMW (yeah I wish).

Cleaning for the Cleaning Ladies

Every other Tuesday night. That’s when it happens. It usually starts with me threatening the children. Pick up these toys or else! Or else what? Or else I’m going to move them all to the basement and donate them to charity. That’s usually enough motivation. Next comes the dishes, picking up two weeks of mail, putting away laundry, etc.

What am I talking about? This is the ritual of the affluent burbs known as “Cleaning for the cleaning ladies.” To an outsider, this sounds completely absurd. It was to me until we hired a cleaning company about a year ago. “Isn’t this what you pay them to do?” Well, yes, kinda. Before we hired a cleaning crew, I used to laugh at my bachelor friend for doing this. His reasoning was that he didn’t want the cleaning ladies to see his bachelor lifestyle. So his cleaning routine consisted of throwing out beer cans and putting away random pairs of underpants that might be scattered around the house. Our routine is a little different… less beer cans mainly.

In reality, this is more of a pickup and not really a cleaning effort. It is amazing to me that in two weeks we’ve managed to cover most of the horizontal surfaces in our home with junk. That junk has got to go somewhere so the cleaning ladies have a surface to clean.

There is some modesty in all this. Even though we don’t know the cleaning ladies, we don’t want them to see anything that might be embarrassing, not that I have anything like that! And I’m sure they’ve seen it all, I just don’t want them to see mine (whatever it may be).

So we clean… for the cleaning ladies… so they can clean for us… and we pay them for this. It all makes perfect sense in the burbs. After all, if we didn’t clean for them, we wouldn’t get our money’s worth out of their service. Thus by paying them, it forces us to clean up our mess, something we would put off for a lot longer than two weeks. The end result is a presentable home, at least for a few days.

Home Invasion/Kidnapping in Johns Creek

Just when I get done talking about how there is almost no violent crime in the northern burbs… Several Atlanta news sources are reporting of a home invasion and kidnapping this morning in Johns Creek. The details are sketchy at this point. It sounds like at least five perps entered a home in the Glen Colony neighborhood. They tied up the family and kidnapped the father. He was later found in Dunwoody. WSB is reporting that they were looking for specific items in the house.

I’m not a detective or journalist. What I’m about to say is complete speculation. This sounds very similar to a violent home invasion last year in Roswell. In that case, the man they were after was the owner of a pawn shop. My speculation on this case is that this kidnapped man was a business owner of some kind. The criminals probably got wind that he was in possession of something valuable, something that perhaps he would not have for long. It might have been cash, but who knows. But they had specific information. They probably didn’t plan to kidnap the man, but I’m guessing that whatever they were looking for wasn’t in the home, and thus the trek to Dekalb county.

Again, just speculation. We’ll have to see the details as they emerge.

We live in an affluent burb. As I’ve talked about before, just about everyone out here earns a bunch of money. Many flaunt their wealth with fancy cars, jewelry and toys. Yet even with all that, I think you’ve got to be careful with how you broadcast your wealth. Be guarded in what you tell people. Did you inherit some valuable piece of jewelry recently? Are you moving your coin collection from one bank’s safe box to another? Do you have a large cash deposit to make after the weekend is over? Don’t go blabbin’ about this stuff! Loose lips sink ships, and they can get your stuff robbed! While you may trust your friends, they could tell others, who tell others. The next thing you know, half a dozen thugs are in your home at 7:00am on a Saturday wrapping duct tape around your wife’s arms.

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This is Where I Want To Be

I realized something after reading my first few blog posts. It is easy to come across in a negative tone about living here. A lot of people curse the burbs. Folks despise the relos, traffic, strip malls, chain restaurants, soccer moms, etc. I don’t want to come across as one of those people. To put it simply… I like it here. Yes, seriously I do.

Alpharetta Chose Me

I don’t like to think of myself as a relo, but I suppose I am. I sorta ended up here by accident. About twelve years ago I was a young bachelor living in the upstate of South Carolina. I enjoyed the pace of life up there and the job I had. But after getting a few years of work experience under my belt, I began to realize something. There were only a handful of companies up there that would hire someone with software experience. If I switched jobs every several years, I would simply run out of places to work before long. So I interviewed with a company in Atlanta, got an offer and moved down here in 1999.

Since then I changed jobs just twice. My work location moved from Norcross to Duluth then finally to Alpharetta. Not wanting a long commute, I moved here. I eventually married my sweetheart from South Carolina, cranked out a few kids, and here I am!

There are a lot of things I love about this area. Here are a few…

Jobs

As I mentioned recently, there are (still) technology jobs here. There are more high-tech jobs on Windward Parkway alone than in all of the upstate of South Carolina. Add to that Johns Creek, Duluth, Norcross and the Perimeter area (all within an easy commute). Even in the recession, this is a great place to be.

Traffic

Yes, this is a positive on my list! Most people around here won’t admit to this, but… you choose where you live and you choose where you work. I choose to have both of these in Alpharetta, and both fairly close to each other. I have a five mile commute; very atypical for an Atlanta commuter. I can come home everyday for lunch but I usually choose to eat out with my family. It is nice, and something I don’t take for granted.

Strip Malls

I love ‘em. Seriously. They have stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, veterinarians, and barber shops to name a few things. I like these things. I like that I have literally one hundred restaurants within range for lunch. I like that there are new Targets and Walmarts nearby. I like having a Home Depot open until 10:00pm. I like Chinese takeout. I dig all of this. You might call it sprawl. That’s fine. I call it stuff I like. I call it a job for someone, a business or entrepreneurial endeavor. Yay capitalism!

Schools

The schools up here rock. I would gladly enroll my children in the worst public school in North Fulton or South Forsyth over the best public school in the city of Atlanta.

Crime

…or lack thereof. Let’s face it, the streets are relatively safe here. Sure, someone is going to occasionally get a purse snatched at the mall. But violent crime is almost nonexistent here.

In my blog I’m going to write about all the craziness and contradiction that exists out here in the affluent burbs. But don’t take this the wrong way. I love this place. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to move here. But now that I’ve been here for ten years, I’m diggin’ it. If you don’t like our pace of life, our standard of living, our “sprawl”, our five bedroom homes and large SUVs, that’s fine. I’m open to all the good-natured ridicule you can throw at me.

Addicted to Intervention

Okay, I’m certainly not the first person to come up with this line. But A&E’s documentary Intervention is a riveting show that I’ve been hooked on for several seasons. Tonight’s episode hits home for those of us living in the affluent burbs.

Imagine the beautiful wife of a doctor. She graduated with honors from UNC Chapel Hill and married young. She lived in a beautiful home in a gated country club. Sound familiar? There are probably a thousand women like this in the northern burbs of Atlanta.

But behind the facade of her gilded country club life, she’s dealing with long held grief. The loss of her father at a young age and a miscarried baby moved her toward alcoholism.

What I find amazing about the stories on this show is how they cut across all parts of Americana. You’ll find toothless rednecks on meth one week, cocaine crackheads in college the next week, inner-city heroin users on skid row, and Oxycontin addicts in the burbs.

Addiction is everywhere, even here in the rich burbs. The show has really opened my eyes to this. Thankfully I’ve never been exposed to this kind of hardcore addiction, and I hope I never have to be.

I’ve noticed a few common themes to this show. The first is the lack of a father. Tonight the addict’s father died unexpectedly during her childhood. Other times the fathers are abusive to their children. In 99% of the episodes I’ve seen there are father issues.

Second, drugs and alcohol make you ugly. I shouldn’t make fun of that, but it is true. The drugs take an unbelievable toll on physical appearance. Just take a look at the folks who are successful in treatment. At the end of the show you’ll find a beautiful person underneath. It is amazing.

The show is heartbreaking. But it also wakes me up as a parent. Addiction is everywhere. Hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Be there as a parent today so you’re not on this show in a few years.

$184,207

No, that’s not my salary. Apparently it is for some around here. This is the median household income in the city of Alpharetta. To call Alpharetta an affluent suburb is an understatement. Here you’ll find gated country clubs too numerous to name. You’ll find the homes of Atlanta’s professional sports athletes. And in years past, you’d even catch glimpses of has-been 80’s musicians.

Alpharetta is what I call an affluent, high-tech burb. Scattered amongst the strip malls you’ll find offices for banks, medical device makers, software startups, and telecommunications firms. Inside are thousands and thousands of high paid college educated professionals slaving away in the fabric covered boxes.

Living and raising a family here gives me a different perspective. It is that perspective I hope this blog captures. The mix of money and technology make Alpharetta unique. I hope to chronicle this in the coming months and years. Hopefully my posts will be a creative mix of not just Alpharetta-specific themes, but of life in general in burbs like mine.

Many curse the suburbs. They wind up here by accident and dream of escape! We become the punchline of jokes; the poster child for chain restaurants with screaming toddlers. It is probably hard to believe, but this is where I want to be. This is where I’ve chosen to lay the roots of my young family. Hopefully that root will grow ever deeper. I invite you to follow along.

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