Why don’t more Seattleites get to know their neighbors?

This is a question that puzzles me more and more each day.  Last April, I declared war on the Seattle Freeze. I was really disturbed to hear over and over in various social circles that a lot of people who live here, and especially those who relocate to Seattle, struggle to make meaningful friendships.

Since my ‘declaration’ 6 months ago, I have simply set out to be intentional to find ways to get to know my surrounding neighbors more and to know more of them.  The result so far?

I am having a ball! 

Coffee KlatchLast weekend I organized my second neighborhood coffee klatch.  As I started a new marketing contract that has me onsite Monday through Friday, for this klatch I decided to see if women in my neighborhood were available on a Saturday morning. Several were. Only one person (other than me) was able to come who had come to the first one, BUT four other women who live on my block were able to attend this one and it was JUST SO MUCH FUN.

It’s so interesting to hear about the many different adventures and interests of the people who live within walking distance of my house.  A special vacation to Paris, one son graduating from Air Force training, another’s son watching the mail waiting for his first Air Force training orders to arrive, and another’s son who just got married and moved overseas to Luxembourg.  They are moms, educators, scientists, corporate professionals. And they are my neighbors.

The most fascinating people in Seattle live right outside my front door.We live in an age of an over-celebritized culture, where everyday people are becoming famous just for being famous. An age where we’re more concerned about the plight of Kim Kardashian than the results of the last election. As Maria Shriver recently said in her blog:

“I’m worried that we are so immersed in what is ‘breaking the internet’ that we can’t see what is breaking us. There seems to be a lack of humanity, lack of connection, lack of concern, lack of interest.”

I agree.  And I’m finding that the most fascinating people engaged in interesting endeavors live right outside my front door.  And I’d be willing to wager the same is true for all of us. If we purposed to live more connected lives, being more interested in the people right around us, what would be the ripple effect in our communities?

So, I wonder, why don’t more Seattleites get to know their neighbors? Why don’t we get just a little more intentional about extending a few invitations?  We’ve got so much to gain.  Remember, getting to know our neighbors is a process.  You don’t have to try and do it all at once.  It’s an invitation, NOT an obligation.

You can do a coffee klatch every month or two months; it just takes developing an email list.  You can do a block party or a Seahawk 12thMan Tailgate Party; it just takes watching the forecast and handing out some invites. You can welcome a new family by delivering cookies; it just takes an hour in your kitchen or a quick trip to Trader Joes.  You can invite a neighbor or two over for dinner; it just takes a moment to pick up the phone or knock on the door.

It’s just so do-able.  It’s just so much fun.

It’s just #neighboring.


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I’m launching a December Laugh-a-Day Campaign!

This week’s arctic blast inspired an idea. As December is approaching, I want to do something that would bring some light to those dark days of Seattle’s winter, especially for those that may have recently relocated here.  For some, December in Seattle can be a rough month.  Short days, sideways rain, holiday stress: if you’ve relocated to the Emerald City and thought it was always like August around here, you can be in for a bit of an adjustment.

In Seattle, December is the non-equatorial equivalent to the monsoon season.  But we don’t have to take it lying down. Seattleites are resilient and we refuse to let the weather dictate our mood.

As I’m on a mission to be neighborly and to encourage connection, how about if we get connected here every morning in December just to have a laugh? Would that brighten your day? Alleviate holiday stress?  Help you power thru the potentially gray day by beginning with a little ‘serotonin latte’? Who doesn’t want a little more laughter in their day?

EmmaStoneOK, then. Today I’m launching my December Laugh-a-Day Campaign. And I’m launching today to get the word out and give whomever would like to ‘play’ plenty of time to write-up and send to me their funny stories.  Yes, I’ve got a few good ones up my sleeve, but I’m betting that you’ve got some good stuff to share too.  I know many of you personally and know your sick sense of humor first hand. It’s why I love you.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Anyone can send in a FUNNY story. You do not have to be from Greater Seattle to submit a story. However, if you’re not from Seattle, your story BETTER BE FUNNY because Seattleites know funny. We’re the home of Almost Live and Comedy Underground, for Pete’s sake.
  • The story can be about you, a family member, a friend or a neighbor. All names and places can be changed to protect the innocent.  And prevent libel.
  • The story must be original. (no scraping Reader’s Digest, the internet, or Jimmy Fallon’s most recent monologue. People will always find out, and your reputation will be ruined.)
  • Let’s keep each story about 500 words or less  – about one Word doc page (we all eventually have to start the work day, so make it brief)
  • The story can be prose or poem, narrative or conversational.  Be creative. Have some fun.
  • No profanity or vulgarity.  You can be gross as long as it’s G-Rated.
  • The editor (that would be me) reserves the right to NOT PUBLISH any submissions that I deem not suitable or, even worse, not funny.

Submission Process

  • Submit your stories via bhenchman@gmail.com.  Title your subject line: December Laugh-a-Day Campaign.  You can submit anonymously or have your name on your story, your choice – just let me know in your email.  If you’re a writer, blogger or other creative type I’m happy to include links to your sites or your work. Just lemme know.
  • Stories can be sent in email or Word doc attachment format.
  • START SENDING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  If I get more than 31 submissions, then I’ll do my best to double up on some days.  C’mon – send ‘em in!
  • Send me a virus via email and my Uncle Bruno will be paying you a visit. I will not be fooled.


SPREAD THE WORD and encourage other folks you know to join in the campaign to shed some light in our darkest month. Encourage others who might need a lift or a laugh to check out the blog each morning in December (or subscribe).  Help me cast a wide net of encouragement.

For all of you writers, bloggers, joke tellers and everyone else who has a funny-spray-cola-out-of-your-nose story to share or knows someone who does: SEND ME THOSE STORIES.   The goal is to have one laugh-out-loud story posted up each day in December. Let’s have some fun!

Laughter is, I believe, the best antidote to a dark day, and we never know when one might show up. Let’s connect as a community and give each other a boost!

Ready? Go!

P.S.: Oh, and I’m organizing a second neighborhood coffee klatch for this Saturday. I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’m finding these bigger event/invitations are a great, non-intrusive way to connect with neighbors, especially those that I don’t know well yet.  Try it out. Cast a big net. Take a risk.  Try some #neighboring.

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Why I’m happily freaking out about “The Art of Neighboring”

Last week a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook post, letting me know she thought of me when the church she recently started attending was advertising a new teaching series called “The Art of Neighboring.” Apparently, The Art of Neighboring is a book that was published in 2012, based on the experiences of a small group of clergy who had met with the Mayor of Denver asking what they could do to help make a real difference in the city.

The Art of Neighboring

As I started my goal of getting to know my neighbors better last April, I was obviously intrigued. So, I got the book and cracked it open Nov. 1.  The Denver Mayor’s response to this small group of clergy kinda floored them.  And me.  He said: “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.”

So, they set out to be intentional about encouraging everyone to get to know their neighbors.  It’s apparently formally called the “Denver Neighboring Movement.”  No, I’m not kidding.

So, it gets better.  In the early chapters of the book, they write about how the I'm declaring war on the Seattle Freeze!majority of people don’t even know the names of most of their neighbors and how they hope to change that. Uhuh.  Kinda like declaring war on the Seattle Freeze“.

They write about getting over ourselves and the fear factor, as “fear changes not only our image of others but also what we assume they think of us.” Uhuh. Kinda like my “20 mile march..” and “Getting over ourselves” posts.

LunchThey write about one of the first steps you can take is developing or using a neighborhood directory. Uhuh. Kinda like my “Power of the Neighborhood Directory” post.

They write about inviting neighbors to do what you already love and plan to do. Uhuh. Kinda like my “ING TO BING” posts (see July & August archives).

photo 2

They write about organizing block parties. And having s’mores. Check.

They write about the amazing stories that surface as individuals started to get to know more people in their neighborhoods. Yup. Kinda like “The Crazy Amazing Thing that happened at my Coffee Klatch.”

Basically, as I’m reading, I’m thinking ‘if I were to write a book about what I am doing with Eat Play Thaw, it would pretty much be a lot like this book!’ Crazy! 

Now regardless of your world view and whether you see this as a coincidence or a God-thing, you have to admit that the parallels are a bit uncanny.  Maybe millions of Americans are just getting tired of living disconnected lives and one by one they just want to do something about it.  Do you?

And, it gets even better.

I was halfway through the book last Saturday evening and was, in essence, happily freaking out that the journey I’ve been on this past 6 months had been someone else’s journey as well; in fact a city’s journey (Denver).

That night at dinner I’m unpacking all of this with my husband, Jaz. We were talking about this ‘pastor-led’ Denver movement and hoping that it just wasn’t some ‘church program with ulterior motives.’ We talked about how too often many faith communities seem to require people to come through their doors as the price of admission for their connection and friendship.

Yes, I am a person of faith.  But I didn’t set out to thaw the Seattle Freeze as some ulterior motive to recruit my neighbors to go to church. I want to get to know my neighbors because I think the Seattle Freeze is real and too often people are moving here and feeling isolated.  I wanted to do one small thing to reverse that trend, at least with my own behavior and in my own neighborhood.  I believe connected neighbors make great communities, and great communities make a great city.

Then, I cracked open the 2nd half of the book on Monday evening.

The name of the next chapter?  “Motives Matter.”  In the first paragraph, these pastor-authors get blunt: “The agenda we need to drop is the tendency to be friends with people for the sole purpose of converting them to our faith.” 

OK. Seriously. Freaking. Out.

I’m in agreement with “The Art of Neighboring” that we should all be neighborly simply because good things happen when neighbors get connected. Let’s re-learn what our parents, grandparents and so many generations before us knew and practiced without even giving it a second thought: that life is better when we live interdependently. And I think a great place to start that re-learning process is right outside our front doors.

As I’ve reflected these past couple of days on this book and the similarities of this “practice of neighboring,” I’m wondering how many other individuals are taking similar steps? Let’s be honest, disconnected behavior is not just Seattle’s issue.  Ever heard of “Minnesota N’Ice”?  The “Boston Cold Shoulder”?  When you think of New York and L.A. are “heartwarming and welcoming” the first two words that cross your mind?  Exactly.

So what do I make of all of this and what am I going to do about it?

Well, I’m not really going to do anything different, but simply carry on my mission to gradually get to know my neighbors and open up my friendship circle to those who may want to connect. But I do think that you and I and whoever wants to jump on board could be the start of a Seattle Neighboring Movement together.

So, let’s get those Seahawks 12thMan Tailgate parties going. Let’s invite a neighbor over for dinner.  Let’s cast a big net with a big block party event so we can make first introductions. Let’s follow-up with a dinner or coffee or some other creative invitation to get to know our neighbors a little bit better over time.  Let’s think about a holiday gathering for the 10 houses immediately surrounding our front doors. Let’s thaw the Seattle Freeze.

Let’s get #Neighboring.

Note: For those who enjoy a more faith-based book, I highly recommend “The Art of Neighboring”. For those who are more interested in sociological, fact-based research around why America has become so disconnected, I also highly recommend Robert Putnam’s “B0wling Alone.”  And, if you are more of a social activist at heart, “Better Together” by Putnam and Lewis Feldstein. All are available on Amazon.

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Book Clubs: Testimonials and a Reading List

While I won’t promise to not revisit this topic in January-New-Year’s-Resolution-Month, today is my final fall push for encouraging Greater Seattleites to start or join a neighborhood book club.  Honestly, I believe it is one of the best ways to connect, thaw the Seattle Freeze and bring neighbors together to form deeper friendships.

[Read Becky’s “The 4 Reasons Why I Highly Recommend Starting or Joining a Neighborhood Book Club“]

Don’t believe me? Below are testimonials from my previous and current neighbors highlighting their journeys and enjoyment of participating in a book club.  Below that, as promised, is our short list of Recommended Reads that elicited GREAT book club discussions that we offer up to help you get started. Oh, and Tom says “Happy Halloween!”

Sensing the impending doom of the calendar flipping to November, Tom, In the midst of his nervous whistle, quickly donned his Halloween costume hoping that his holiday spirit might endear him as part of the family, staving off the potential calamity that might lie ahead.

Sensing the impending doom of the calendar flipping to November, Tom, in the midst of his nervous whistle, quickly donned his Halloween costume hoping that his holiday spirit might endear him as part of the family, staving off the potential calamity that might lie ahead.

Continue reading

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The 5 W’s of a Successful Book Club

If you’re thinking about starting a neighborhood book club (and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you are) there are a bazillion ways to do one right. But, for those who can already feel the panic monster looming over their shoulders at the mere thought of ‘where do I even begin,’ I wanted to provide an EZ PZ  guide of book club how-to’s to help you get started.

Over the past 20 years, I have led and facilitated various kinds of study groups, from book clubs to corporate training workshops to faith-based topic groups.  Trust me: you can do this.  And I’ve got your back.

Drawing from my journalism roots, my failsafe “How to Launch a Successful Book Club” plan is crafted around the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where & Why. And I’ll toss in a How for good measure.

Ready? Continue reading

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World Moms Blogger Shares Reading, Recreation and Relationship with Book Club

Today I’m grateful to have guest blogger Tara Bergman share about the dynamic impact being a part of a book club has had on her life. A transplant from Pennsylvania, Tara moved to Seattle in 1998 with her husband and they and their two sons enjoy life in the greater Seattle area. Tara is a regular contributor to World Moms Blog.   This past year Tara and her book club members celebrated their 10th year of meeting together.

Getting Started

Tara Bergman's book club includes women from all over Puget Sound, from Bellingham to Tacoma.  This past year they celebrated their 10th anniversary of meeting together.

Tara Bergman’s book club includes women from all over Puget Sound, from Bellingham to Tacoma. This past year they celebrated their 10th anniversary of meeting together.

A little over 10 years ago, I was enjoying lunch with a friend with whom I used to work. We were very different personalities but always got on splendidly and shared a common love of reading. We also shared an outgoing, entrepreneurial vibe. After lunch as we were parting on the street, my friend said, “I was thinking about a book club,” to which I responded, “I’ll set up a meeting.” Continue reading

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The 4 Reasons Why I Highly Recommend Starting or Joining a Neighborhood Book Club

When it comes to thawing the Seattle Freeze, I can say without a doubt that nothing has created more meaningful connection for me in my neighborhood that my book club.

My book club meets monthly at a member's home in my neighborhood. It is a GREAT way to build friendship and thaw the Seattle Freeze!

My book club meets monthly at a member’s home in my neighborhood. It is a GREAT way to build friendship and thaw the Seattle Freeze!

I think the four big reasons why this is true are that a neighborhood book club offers: Proximity, Affinity, Frequency and Purpose.  I’ll unpack those in reverse order.

First: PURPOSE.  Continue reading

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A brief reminder of what it means to be neighborly


This week I was shown a wonderful reminder of what it means to be neighborly. I’ve mentioned before that two houses on my street recently sold and received new neighbors this summer. The most recent family moved in this past weekend and I was able to grab a ‘first hello’ while the husband was out mowing the lawn in this spectacular fall weather we’ve been enjoying.

[click here to read Becky’s: Top 3 reasons why fall is a GREAT time to host a block party]

But, do you want to know what he and his family did this weekend? Continue reading

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Best 5 Ingredient Autumn Dinner: Grandpa Logan’s Stew

Grandpa Logan's Beef Stew. You won't find a better meal for a chilly autumn evening.

Grandpa Logan’s Beef Stew. You won’t find a better meal for a chilly autumn evening.

October is probably my favorite month of the year. I love the red and gold in the leaves, the crisp evening air, putting pumpkins on the front porch and I love Halloween.  I also love a simple, hot bowl of soup for dinner. October is also special to me because yesterday, Oct. 2, would have been my Grandma Logan’s birthday; today, Oct. 3, my Grandpa Logan’s birthday.  Yep, just one day apart.  To note, this must be some kind of family legacy as my husband Jaz and I have birthdays that are one day apart. Go figure.

While I lost my grandparents many years ago, my memories of them are warm and strong. They were good Southern folk, both born and raised in the hills of Arkansas and both grew up quite poor. They relocated to the Northwest during the great ‘timber migration’ of the 40’s.

Those Southern Roots

I was, indeed, raised with a certain sense of southern hospitality that my grandparents embodied. Florence and John Logan never met a stranger and their tiny two-bedroom bungalow was always filled with family, friends and neighbors. Continue reading

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Won’t you be my neighbor? Oh, wait. You already are!

Today’s post is from long-time Seattle area marketing communications maven Karen Cramer.  Karen and I got connected through the University of Washington’s continuing education program.  Karen recently had the most delightful experience indicative of what it means to ‘live warmly’ in one’s community.  I know you will enjoy this incredible story:

More than 15 years ago, my husband and I moved our young family to an old farming community northeast of Seattle in the sweet, beautiful Snoqualmie Valley. We’ve raised our children here, worked in the schools, and shoveled mud in huge ditches alongside other community members because someone’s farm house was in danger. We are grateful to have enjoyed countless pancake breakfasts at the firehouse, hamburgers in the cul-de-sac with neighbors, and the opportunity to bring Haunted-and-Hopped-Up-On-Sugar Halloween and Winter Fairyland to life each holiday season with treats, decorations, and lighting displays that rival the over-the-top traditions in Christmas with the Kranks.

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail at early fall.

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail at early fall.

We’ve contributed to and benefited from small town, highly engaged community life. The kind of life and engagement I envied and fantasized about as a child while we drove through little towns on the way to our next new home stop during my dad’s military career. We have considered moving countless times for convenience sake but worry about the deep loss we’d feel in leaving this community and the rich ties we’ve built over the years. That’s right, folks. We have it good.

The Seattle Freeze?

If you’d have asked me about the Seattle Freeze six months ago, I might not have taken the inquiry very seriously. Or at least not thought it applied in my world. And I might have given myself far too much credit. On a beautiful summer day this year – the Fourth of July to be exact – we were given a gift: an opportunity to experience what it means to open up to strangers, welcome them in, and truly invite them to be part of our lives.

Here’s what happened… Continue reading

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