45 great reasons to use Facebook to start a book club!

So, you want to start a neighborhood book club or a coffee klatch but you’re wondering how.  Pull up a chair. I’ve got an awesome story about a little Facebook comment that launched a neighborhood book club overnight.

We’ve all been there: brand new in a neighborhood. Sometimes we move across town, sometimes from one side of Puget Sound to another, and sometimes from out-of-state or out of the country. Each of us has been ‘the new person’ on the block.

We want to get to know our neighbors; we want to make new friends. But how do we get started?

My friend Gina uprooted herself and her son this past year and moved to a new neighborhood. She had connected with some great friends in her old neighborhood, but after she’d been in her new home for a few months – and rarely having a conversation with anyone there – she really wanted to meet her neighbors but wasn’t sure how to get started.  Because, you know, in Seattle we’re weird about that. #Ahem.

She and I had talked about how much I love my neighborhood book club and maybe she could start one. So, she decided to try out her Neighborhood Facebook Page that she’d heard of when she first moved in.  Here’s how it went:

Gina’s Neighborhood Facebook Post:

This Facebook post started a neighborhood book club

The Response: 

FORTY-FIVE WOMEN replied that they would LOVE to be a part of a neighborhood book club! 45!

I was so excited to hear about this that I asked if I could pop into her book club meeting last week to talk to some of the club’s members. I was curious about their stories, their initial reactions to Gina’s Facebook post, and what they thought of the Seattle Freeze.

Their comments were enlightening, to say the least:

  • A lot of women are wanting to be a part of a book club, but feel like getting invited to one takes some kind of mysterious “Golden Ticket”.

From Kim:

I was THRILLED when I saw Gina’s post. I had reached out through my Facebook page a year ago asking if anyone knew of a book club as I was really interested in joining one. But the response I got was ‘they were all full’.  You kinda feel like you’re on the other side of some kind of glass panel just trying to get ‘in.’

From Emma:

I’m not from here obviously (British accent :) ) but we moved first to California and then to here. I had the same experience of trying to find a book club but kept getting a message that everyone’s club was already ‘full up.’ I was so happy to see Gina’s post.

From Anna:

I just moved to Washington, away from my family and friends. I saw the post and thought ‘I like to read.’ Books and friends: that sounded good!

  • Many, many people really want to connect, but they realize it takes some kind of structure to make meaningful friendships.

From Bridgett:

I recently moved (to this neighborhood) and while I’m a mom with small kids, I also wanted to branch out and not just meet moms, so I thought a book club would be a great place to do that.  I find that people generally are over-working. If you don’t have a reason to get together, you won’t.

From Tammy:

We moved here about a year ago. In reality, when you move someplace new it can, in all honesty, be pretty lonely. We’re empty nesters, so we don’t have the opportunity to meet other people through our kids’ schools anymore. I enjoy knitting so I did join a knitting group, which has been great to get together with women with a common interest. I was so happy to see the post about the book club, and my reaction was “finally, I can meet some people and talk!”

From Gina:

I’m pretty much an introvert and I tend to just stick with people and things that I know. But in the last couple of years I’ve learned to try a bit harder to put myself out there and meet new people.  So, I just decided to go for it and use my Neighborhood Facebook Page to see if anyone else was interested in a book club. And they were!

  • Moms of our generation don’t connect in the same way our Mother’s generation did.

From Maggie:

We moved here in July and I saw Gina’s post in August. This is the first thing I’ve done socially, to meet people in this area. My daughter isn’t in school yet and we don’t do the church thing, so I don’t have those kinds of opportunities to meet people. Also, I had my daughter at a little bit older age than a lot of other moms, so I don’t always have affinity with moms who are upwards of 20 years younger than me. At a book club, you have the possibility of every age group, which is great.  And, a lot of moms work full-time, so there isn’t this automatic group of women available in your neighborhood during the day.

  • The Seattle Freeze’s reputation reaches beyond Seattle. Several women said they’d heard about it before moving here.

There was a definite consensus that there was a feeling that, when they moved here, everyone ‘already had their friends’ and it was difficult to find a way in.  We can change that, right?  If you have a Neighborhood Facebook Page, consider trying it out.  You may find that many people have been looking for that “Golden Ticket” into a book club or a coffee klatch or a knitting group or a poker night (I’m talkin’ to you too guys!) or some other type of common-interest structure to get better connected and move beyond ‘Seattle friendly,’ to making real friendships.

While Gina’s new Neighborhood Book Club has 45 women on the email list, they are currently averaging about 7-8 women each month. As that number grows, they’ll figure out how to let it evolve. For now, a great core of women are regularly attending and building a friendship circle. It was so fun to meet these women and hear their stories and see their excitement about the group.

Kudos to you gals!  You are taking the risk, getting out there, and finding new and meaningful ways to increase your friendship circles.  You are thawing the Seattle Freeze. :)

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Why Suicide Prevention Month matters to Seattle, and to me

September is national suicide prevention month. While Seattle is not among the country’s top cities for suicide, we are 6th in the nation for depression.  Couple depression with prolonged stress factors such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment, and a person can venture into unsteady emotional ground.

Because the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has done a great job getting their message out this month, I’ve learned that:

  • Suicide now accounts for more deaths than car accidents each year in the U.S.
  • Suicide is ranked as the 10th leading cause of death overall, but ranked as the second leading cause among young people, aged 15-24.
  • What we know from research is that 90% of people who die by suicide have a potentially treatable mental disorder at the time of their death—a disorder that often has gone unrecognized and untreated.
  • A suicide attempt is made every minute of every day, resulting in nearly one million attempts made annually.

But the reality of suicide is so much more than statistics. Suicide is personal.  It’s the loss of people that we love.  Many years ago I had an extended family member commit suicide and I remember the shockwave it sent through my family.

This past year I reconnected with one of my dearest friends from high school, Stacie.

Suicide prevention is important to Seattle, a city that ranks 6th in the U.S. for depression Nine years ago Stacie lost her brother to suicide.  It is a pain she carries with her daily. To honor and remember her brother, and to champion prevention, a few months ago Stacie participated in an AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk in Boston, a fundraising walk that stretches overnight and into the morning, watching the sunrise as a symbol of hope.

This is her powerful story:

What a challenging night!  I’m from Seattle and am used to rain, but the winds picked up hard from about midnight on. It poured. My umbrella turned inside out numerous times before it finally snapped in two. It flew inside out into a fellow walker and stuck to her like a jelly fish!

It was relentless. The rain kept beating down on us, harder and harder. Our garbage bags rippling in the wind made it hard to walk. I cried. I wanted it to stop. But it wouldn’t. It got worse. I was upset that we wouldn’t see a sunrise – that symbol of hope in the morning.

I cried for my brother and how life situations just kept beating down on him until he couldn’t take it anymore despite how hard he tried. It was a downer of a night. My feet and knees hurt. And then I got to the finish line…

I was welcomed by cheers for making it. I saw the luminaries and cried some more. I saw the words HOPE spelled out in candles. I looked at the mass of people there and found my teammates. I was not alone.

We’re in this together. We walk for this cause to let you know that. I walked with walkers who struggle with depression and I admire them. I reminded myself the sun IS still there even though days are dark and miserable and hope seems lost.

I salute ANY of you who struggle with depression. Don’t give up. You are not alone. You are strong! Keep walking in this life one step at a time. There is hope.

As we seek to become better neighbors to one another, we can build a stronger community of support for one another. We will, eventually, get to know someone who may be struggling with depression, or whose family is impacted by mental illness, depression, or suicide.

What can we do? Citing from information from the AFSP website, we can:

  • Practice being an active listener. Most people with thoughts of suicide invite help to stay safe.
  • Learn to be available. Stacie shared with me a story about taking the time to listen to a distraught neighbor. They were able to contact the neighbor’s boyfriend and ensure they had the support they needed.
  • Listen and watch for warning signs such as:
    1. Talking about wanting to die
    2. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
    3. Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
    4. Sleeping too little or too much or withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • And, if you have someone in your life who is exhibiting these warning signs, stand in the gap for them and:
    1. Do not leave the person alone
    2. Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
    3. Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
    4. Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

Finally, we can consider participating in the upcoming Seattle Community Walk October 25. The Seattle event is a morning/day event, not an overnight. When you walk in an Out of the Darkness Walk, you join the effort with hundreds of thousands of people to raise awareness and funds that allow AFSP to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.

Thank you for sharing your story with me Stacie.  Good neighboring – both up and down our sidewalks and through partnering with larger community events like the Seattle Community Walk– can bring a sunrise of hope to all of us.

An Out of the Darkness Community Walk will be held at Sunday, October 25 at Fisher Pavillion in Seattle. Click on the logo to access the event information page.

An Out of the Darkness Community Walk will be held at Sunday, October 25 at Fisher Pavillion in Seattle. Click on the logo to access the event information page.

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Second Sunday Potlucks: where neighbors become friends

I love hearing about and celebrating what others are doing to intentionally build community right in their own backyards. In the past year, I’ve continued to meet like-minded people who are trying new things. Last spring I met fellow neighboring sojourner, John Crilly, at a conference in Seattle. Following is an excerpt from his own blog post from earlier this year about his family’s experience moving into a new neighborhood, and how a routine potluck brought his neighborhood together:

The initial awkwardness of being the “new people on the block” soon gave way to friendly connections, but we yearned to build deeper community.

When we arrived, the neighborhood already had some connection points in place such as the summer block party and a women’s book group. But, to extend our own connection in the neighborhood, we came up with the idea of hosting an open house. Partnering with another couple that we were friends with in the area, we invited everyone in the neighborhood to come over for a few hours late on a Sunday afternoon. We made a pot of chili and encouraged everyone to bring some food to share. We paid some local high school students to care for the children and ordered some pizza for them too.

We had no agenda except to welcome and love our neighbors. And that’s what we did! We made the open house a once-a-month event, calling it Second Sunday so folks would remember which Sunday to plan on coming over. Clever, huh? 😉

We also created a motto for our home: “Where strangers become friends and friends become family.” We try to extend welcome beyond the limits of our house structure and cultivate community wherever we go—because welcoming is not just about inviting, it’s about bringing a warm, inviting presence to others wherever you are. It is a way of living.

Excerpts taken from “The Cape of Good Hope,” OnQ blog


Need a quick and tasty potluck food? Click on the photo for my recipe for Ballard Lingonberry bars. Oofda, yah, deez ahh goodna!

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Seattle block parties: if you host it, they will come

In the world of blogging, you’re supposed to have a catchy (and sometimes misleading) title to get people to click and read. You are supposed to write posts that have numbered lists and bullet points for easy reading. Slick gifs and graphics also help.  Well, I don’t really have any of that today; what I have is much better.

block parties are pect for s'mores and getting to know your neighborsWhat I have today is a huge smile on my face to share: I had the best time at my fall block party last Sunday afternoon. And the simple reason why is because it felt less like spending time with neighbors but more like hanging out  with friends.

A year and a half ago, I declared war on the Seattle Freeze by setting out to be intentional to get to know my neighbors with dinner & lunch invites, coffee klatches, and trying my hand at tailgate and block parties. This weekend was my second fall block party and this time I took a cue from my childhood friend Sue and her West Seattle National Night Out block party, and I expanded my invitation to two blocks this year: one up the street and one down the street from my house.

What. A. Blast. We had 40+ neighbors and kiddos in our back yard just hanging out, talking about life, getting connected and having fun.  They were all so generous bringing food and drinks. A squirt gun fight broke out with the kids in the middle of their badminton match. You can’t beat that. And several adults (including moi) decided s’mores shouldn’t be just for kids. And then a couple of neighbors started talking about hosting a Halloween costume party for the adults. No, it wasn’t me (but of course you know I’m all in for that).  Inviting is contagious.

The event was designed to end at 6:00p; my last guest left at 7:30p. I was delighted, because that told me people were having a great time with one another and not watching the clock. In the past 18 months many of us have gotten to know each other better. As a result, we really enjoy spending time together.

So, nothing earth shattering today and certainly no bulleted list. I’m simply feeling very blessed. I went to bed Sunday night thinking that I’d ‘set out to thaw the Freeze’, to make sure no one in my neck of Seattle felt isolated or disconnected. Yet, in reality I’m the one who has gained so much.  It’s a great thing to bring people together, to truly know them and feel known by them.

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post because you’ve just moved here and you’re ‘feelin’ the Freeze’, or if you’ve woken up today finding your life in a new season and you’re feeling disconnected, I just want to encourage you that it can change. It can be different.  And that difference could be right out your front door. It will take time; all friendships do. But that time could start today, and it could make a world of difference to your tomorrow.

Or maybe you’re a resident Seattleite and you’re wondering what you might do to bring a little light to your corner of the Sound.  I highly encourage you to step out and take a risk. Think about the simple act of walking out your front door and connecting with a new neighbor. It might trigger a domino effect of deeper connection.

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Confessions of an extrovert: we’re not always great neighbors

There is a common belief that extroverts make friends more easily than introverts. That because we live life outward facing, we naturally connect with people. We naturally make good neighbors. I’m here to tell you: that’s not always true.

When it comes to thawing the Seattle Freeze, even extroverts can use a swift kick in the butt.

When it comes to thawing the Seattle Freeze, even extroverts can use a swift kick in the butt.

When it comes to thawing the Seattle Freeze, even extroverts can use a swift kick in the butt.

After living in my current neighborhood for about 7-8 years – and knowing maybe two people beyond an occasional hello – I was invited to participate in a Bunko group. As I’ve written before, I hate Bunko, but I wanted to find connection in my ‘hood, so I was game for anything. I happily accepted the invite.

One evening at Bunko, a discussion turned toward a comment “has anyone heard how Jake is doing?”  Jake was a little boy who lived 3 houses down the street from me.  He looked about 4-years-old and I had often seen him riding his bike up and down the street.  As the conversation continued, I made what I thought was an innocuous comment about always seeing him riding his bike alone, and I had never seen his parents. I assumed they worked a lot.

My neighbor Debbie graciously turned to me and said, “Do you not know what happened?”  Umm…. No.  “They (parents) separated awhile back, but then she got cancer so he  moved back in to take care of her and of Jake.  She died a few months ago.”

Ouch.  I had no idea.  It struck me that in the first several years in my neighborhood I was pretty inwardly focused, living with a huge expectation (and attitude) of feeling like people should be reaching out to me because I was the new person. And in that time, a lovely lady who lived 3 houses down the street from me had fallen seriously ill and died of cancer.  I didn’t even know her first name. I was not a great neighbor to her.

A new day, a new direction

That was an obvious wake-up call for me – a swift kick in the butt to re-evaluate my attitudes and expectations and head in a new direction. For all of us, regardless if we’re extroverted or introverted, we need connection and it’s our responsibility to seek that out in our lives.  For all of us, if we’re feeling a bit isolated, each day brings a new opportunity to try something new. An opportunity to not wait, and instead be proactive to get to know someone new.

This weekend, I met with someone who found my blog and said she was ‘drowning in the Seattle Ice’ and asked if we could connect as she ‘could use a hand to hold as she wanted to try to get her neighbors together for a block party.’ She wants to keep trying something new. Kudos to her.

Even for a highly relational extroverted extrovert like myself, reaching out takes risk. Even for me, when I walk into a new situation or a new group of people, I’m hesitant and quiet until I get the ‘lay of the land’. Each time I pick up the phone, or drop off an invitation to someone I don’t know well, even I get that nervous pit in my stomach, feeling that risk of rejection.  It happens to ALL OF US.  But this community, this blog is about encouraging one another to do an about face and head in a new direction.

Kudos to all of you who are taking new risks and creating a climate of community in your neighborhoods.  Let’s keep it going. Please send me your stories – they are an encouragement to me and I would love to share them here to encourage others.

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Coffee Klatch 201: Casting a Wider Net

Several years ago when my son was a wee toddler, I found myself in the all-too-familiar new mommy space of having a little one at home and feeling very isolated. I had left work for the first time in 20 years, didn’t know anyone with small kids in my neighborhood and my church didn’t have a mom’s group.

So, I decided to try out a mom’s group I saw advertised in my local community newspaper. I arrived at my first meeting with what I felt like was a huge neon sign above my head that said I needed connection! The result?

Well, it was pretty much a disaster.

First, when I arrived I had no idea where to go inside the building. There were no signs posted at the entrance so via a half dozen wrong turns and finally finding a warm body to talk to, I dropped my son off at the childcare room then followed the ‘verbal bread crumbs’ to the meeting room. And then no one greeted me. OK.

NewMomsI eyeballed a table with an empty seat and sat down. And then no one introduced themselves. OK. At this point I’m thinking ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ and I’m intentionally stretching my neck like a hungry turtle to make eye contact, trying to ooch my way into one of the 3 conversations that were in process around the table. Nothin’.

Eventually a speaker got up, said something that I’m sure was quite profound about how to be a good mommy. Then it was what I lovingly refer to as “mommy club macaroni art time”, creating a ‘crafty’ picture frame that I would ditch in the recycling bin as soon as I got home. I couldn’t wait for the whole thing to get over. When I left, I never received a call from anyone as a follow up. Nuttin.’ Been there?

Needless to say, I never went back. I left thinking “why do organizations have these groups to reach out to the community and then no one even talks to you when you get there?”  Been there?

Upon reflection…

As I reflect on that experience, the reality is I really should have given it a second chance. Everybody has an off-game day, right? Maybe someone brand new was taking on that group and wasn’t totally sure what to do, but she was willing to step up, step in and figure it out as she went? That deserves some credit, doesn’t it? Maybe I wasn’t the only new person?

I mean, let’s be honest: I have issues. Mostly around expectations.  Of people, of activities, of even a simply-planned day. Truth be told, I have a history of copping an attitude faster than Elizabeth Taylor could find a new husband.

And, why did I cast such a small net?   Why did I allow my hurt feelings to torpedo my efforts to get out and meet some other moms? Why didn’t I try another table the following week? Why didn’t I try several groups? Instead I let my initial disappointed turn into hurt and anger and my attitude got the best of me. Been there?

The art of casting a wider net

Coffee-KlatchThinking about this wider net idea and wanting to put a positive, proactive spin on it, I decided to try and expand the reach of my neighborhood coffee klatch. Building upon the great group who participated last year, I decided to make the extra effort to reach out to my entire neighborhood in the chance that there are more women who might need connection and would like to participate.

So, I:

    1. Emailed everyone that I had been inviting this past year to make sure they wanted to continue being on the evite distribution list. If a coffee klatch wasn’t their (pardon the pun) cup of tea, then I don’t want to be bombarding them with superfluous emails.
    2. Put an announcement in my HOA electronic newsletter/email.
    3. Posted flyers on our neighborhood group mail boxes.  Just in case a neighbor might not check a specific email account that often (like us) or they were just getting back from vacation and had 600+ emails waiting for them (like me), I wanted to make the extra effort to get the word out.

 And what happened?

I’m having my first klatch to launch the year in a couple of weeks or so. I don’t know who will be able to attend that first gathering or what will happen, but from the response I received from my ‘marketing campaign,’ I’m feeling very hopeful:

  • I’ve received interest from 18 women I have NEVER met before.
  • From my previous list, I’ve received interest from several women who never responded last year, but still wanted to be on the list in the hopes they can attend one or more times this year. (note: NEVER assume people don’t want to connect when they don’t respond the first time: go ahead and ask them again!)
  • I’ve received some lovely comments, telling me that many women in my neighborhood are eager to connect, such as:

I have been in this neighborhood since July of 1986! I look forward to getting to know you and other members of our community!

Please add me to your list…………and thank you for doing this!!!!

We’ve lived here for about 11 years but we don’t know many people except our direct neighbors. It will be very nice to meet more neighbors.

Thank you for keeping a wonderful thing going!!

I love every opportunity to meet others from the neighborhood and appreciate your efforts in making this possible.

We moved to the neighborhood less than a year ago, and are eager to know more neighbors.

My neighborhood is probably just like yours. People wanting to meet their neighbors, but so often wondering how to get started. Whether you’ve lived in your neighborhood a few months or many years, I encourage you to consider being a catalyst and casting a wide net. Start a Coffee Klatch. If the above quotes are any indication, your invitation might just be exactly what a few of your neighbors have been looking for.

Life Is Short

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Seattle CityClub launches #NiceNeighbor Campaign

I wasn’t planning another post this month, but just in case anyone in the greater Puget Sound area or abroad missed this story, I wanted to repeat it here at Eat Play Thaw. The community is growing with more and more ‘neighbors’ wanting to thaw the Seattle Freeze. All info below is taken from Seattle CityClub’s website. I highly recommend following their blog for ideas! And, by the way, thank you to my #NiceNeighbors Jenny & Jerry for pulling our neighbors together for National Night Out for “cookies in the cul-de-sac.”  Inviting is contagious. Pass it on…. Continue reading

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Can a simple hug change the world?

WonderLast weekend, my son and I finished reading an amazing book together which brought me to tears. Recommended by my friend, Lanie, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, follows the journey of a little boy named August through his 5th grade school year. What makes his year especially unique is up until 5th grade August has always been home schooled, and he’s been home schooled because he was born with a severe facial deformity that required countless medical procedures and a safe haven from people’s often harsh judgments of him.

A beautiful element of the story line is the kids who befriend him. His gentle, genuine spirit gradually draws the students to him. One of them, named Charlotte, offered up my favorite quote from the book:

“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”

Well said, Charlotte. It reminded me once again of how important it is to take the extra step beyond an easy wave out the car window, or a ‘hey’ at the mailbox, or a cordial conversation and truly take the time to notice a person – who they are, what they value, what they might need.  I’m convinced that a single act of noticing can begin to embrace an isolated world.  Why? Continue reading

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West Seattle neighborhood ROCKS National Night Out for 30 years!

For anyone who has been victim to the Seattle Freeze, your dream neighborhood might just be in West Seattle.  No, seriously.  For nearly 3 decades one West Seattle neighborhood has organized and enjoyed a huge block party together for National Night Out.

While doing some research about NNO, I happened upon a West Seattle Blog story celebrating their community’s 2014 block parties and I recognized someone in one of the photos; it was the husband of one of my childhood friends, Sue Riss Daley.  Surprised and amazed I knew someone who was doing this, I quickly reached out and asked Sue a few questions about her neighborhood’s NNO:

How did your NNO block party first get started? Continue reading

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National Night Out is Tuesday, August 4

National Night Out is an excellent way to meet your neighborsOrganizing a block party is one of the best ways to connect with your neighbors.  National Night Out – the brain child of National Association of Town Watch – is just 3 weeks away. NNO is an annual community-building campaign that promotes neighborhood camaraderie and safety. Will you consider organizing A Night Out for your neighborhood? Continue reading

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