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?

My sister-in-law, Karen, recently had an experience of taking that extra step. She and her husband, Jeff, went out to dinner with some friends.  When they arrived, they all hugged one another in greeting.  A woman – a complete stranger – approached them and said how lovely it was to see them hugging one another.  She expressed how she missed being hugged by her children and how she loves hugs.  So, what did my sister-in-law do?

She paused, she noticed, and she asked the lady if she would like a hug.

The woman said yes, grabbed ahold of Karen and hung on and on and on.

People are often desperate for being heard, being noticed, or even receiving a touch, even if they have to get it from a stranger.

August’s gentle spirit can show up in all of us, like it did in Karen, if we simply slow down and take the time. I’m sure I would be surprised to find that some of the people I pass by on a regular basis might just need a little encouragement but I’m often speeding by in too big of a hurry to even notice.

The calendar flips to August this weekend. What timing. August is the month all Seattleites usually live for all year long and when it arrives, we want to make it count as the change in fall weather looms.  I want to make my August count. I want to use it to slow down and practice noticing the people around me, being sensitive to who they are, what they value, and what they might need. Perhaps even offer a hug. I want to imbibe a gentle August spirit.

I’ll be taking a bit of a ‘blogcation’ this August, focusing my time on experiencing instead of writing. I’ll be back online in September. Have a wonderful, blessed rest of the summer.

Have a wonderful experience of August.

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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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The benefits of splurging on memories instead of stuff

Years ago a friend told me that when she and her husband started their family they decided that whenever they had a little extra money they would choose to spend it on making memories instead of buying stuff. They believed if they stuck to this philosophy, in the long run they would ‘come out ahead’ with their kids.

From the evidence of their terrific four grown children, I think they chose wisely. It’s a model that more and more I seek to incorporate into my family’s life. Recently I spent money on something I swore I’d never do before having a child: I spent $350 on a 4-hour rental of a giant inflatable water slide.

And boy am I glad I did. Why? Continue reading

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How to make the most of this AMAZING Seattle summer!

Just like a great friendship, a Seattle summer should never be taken for granted – especially this AMAZING Seattle summer we’re having!  Last week my friend Gina and I grabbed our beach chairs, packed up lunch for our boys and headed to Rattlesnake Lake.

Is there better fun to be found than a day at Alki Beach in Seattle?

Is this not hilarious? Mr. C and his friends buried themselves in the sand! Is there a better day of fun to be found in Seattle than a day at Alki Beach?

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Eat Play Thaw, Chapter 2: Blogging on the Brighter Side

As I crossed the finish line last month having achieved my Eat Play Thaw goal of connecting with one neighbor every month for 12 months – a neighbor I didn’t already know or know very well – I’m now standing at a new starting line asking, “what’s next?”

A year ago I set out to try and do my part to thaw the Seattle Freeze by being intentional with my neighbors. Along the way a big part of the process was warming up my own “frozen behavior” by taking to task my own “stuff” – insecurities, procrastination & attitudes.

I’ve decided I really want to continue with my neighboring quest, once again challenging myself to do one thing each month to connect with people in my neighborhood.

sherryroseI like having this type of goal. Life is busy and if I don’t have a goal out in front of me, my “stuff” may take over and I’ll find ways to retreat. I think one thing each month to increase connection with my neighbors isn’t too much to ask of myself.  Meeting people is awesome, but real connection takes time. Continue reading

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Aunt Jenny’s Chicken Salad: TIME to pay it forward

If I’d waited until I’d had the time, I’d have never gotten to know my neighbors.

TIME.  That elusive, ethereal substance that can overwhelm us, escape us, stare us down or hover like a fog in an imaginary distance. Well that was an awfully pithy sentence for a blog! What a crock – Sheesh!

Anyhoo.  TIME is the stuff life is made of and TIME seemed to be the theme about a week ago when I was able to enjoy having a few neighbors over for lunch.  My goal was to host the same gals who started my “neighboring journey” with me one year ago last May [see: “The Power of the Neighborhood Directory”].

My neighbors are so gracious - look at these beautiful "hostess gifts" they brought to me at our luncheon! The most beautiful rosemary bush, and fresh peonies my neighbor picked from her garden that day. Wow.

My neighbors are so gracious – look at these beautiful “hostess gifts” they brought to me at our luncheon! The most beautiful rosemary bush, and fresh peonies and roses my neighbor picked from her garden that day. Wow.

Four of us gathered on my deck (a few were not able to make it). It seemed to be one of those TIMES when we fell in, grateful to catch a breath. TIME for everyone was a precious commodity this past year as each woman had either returned to work or increased their work hours, both outside of the home AND with kid’s activities.  But it’s amazing how just 90 minutes of TIME spent over great conversation can refresh the soul.

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A discussion about religion and beliefs beneath The Red Tent

It’s been said if you want to get into an argument, just start a conversation about religion or politics. Apparently whoever said that never took part in my neighborhood book club.

Last week my book club met to discuss The Red Tent. Published over a decade ago, it’s a fictional story that uses the brief Biblical story of Jacob’s one daughter – Dinah – as its jumping off point. [Jacob as in the 12 tribes of Israel, as in Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham – the father of the Hebrew/Jewish nation. Just in case you were wondering.]

My book club enjoyed a discussion about the role of religion in our lives after reading The Red Tent.

My neighbor Sue literally created The Red Tent for our book club discussion, wrapping her outdoor table in red table cloths and napkins. To top it off, she served us ‘old testament treats’ of dates, olives, goat cheese, almonds and chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. Gotta love it.

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I’m taking a gratitude walk this Memorial Day

This morning I awoke to once again enjoy what I consider to be one of the most spectacular works of art ever created. Each time I see it I am inspired and humbled, and the experience of it causes me to reflect and be incredibly grateful.

I’m referring to HBO’s WWII compendium Band of Brothers.

Part I concludes with Dick Winters getting ready to lead Easy Company with the 101st Airborne as they parachute into Normandy on D-Day.  As the camera fades from Winter’s face, the D-Day message from General Eisenhower appears which includes “…the eyes of the world are upon you…”

It is impossible for me to watch without becoming emotional and humbled at the incredible sacrifice, not just of the young men from WWII but of every man and woman who continues to serve today. As this is published, I’m heading outside to take a simple walk around my neighborhood. A walk of gratitude. Continue reading

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How do we best celebrate Mother’s Day after losing our mom?

Since early childhood, I called my mom “Vovvy”.  My dad was “Zazzy”. My siblings and I arrived at these nicknames after our youngest cousin David couldn’t pronounce his syllables correctly. We spent a weekend listening and laughing at his conversations to “Gwammah” and “Dzadzy”. Somehow, we morphed that into calling our parents Vovvy and Zazzy, and it stuck.  This weekend will be my first Mother’s Day without my mom.  Without “Vovvy.”

my first Mother's Day after losing my mom

My mom, Kathryn (right), and her sister, Delphine (left). Weren’t they both a dish?

As my mom’s last years were spent declining into the abyss of dementia, before her death last February I had been losing her over and over again for 7 years. Years filled with difficult decisions and ever deeper levels of sadness.

Those days are now gradually moving behind me and this Mother’s Day I’m looking to honor my mother in new ways. My faith tells me she is now with God, with Jesus. No more pain, no more disappointments, no more memory loss. Just eternity stretched out before her with unlimited joyful possibilities. This Mother’s Day I celebrate her eternal happiness.

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