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?

Long ago before we both had our sons we worked together for several years.  Today, after many years as a senior writer and editor at msn.com, Gina is currently a successful contractor and blogger. [Gina’s blog Dynamom has been featured on The Huffington Post, ScaryMommy and PopSugar, just to name a few – check it out!]

The ubiquitous selfie at  Rattlesnake Lake.

The ubiquitous selfie at Rattlesnake Lake.

I have long admired Gina for her resilience as a solo mom and the way she has always tenaciously attacked life with verve.  We are both so grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy this summer with our boys. This is the FIRST SUMMER EVER that Dynamom has had the flexibility to be at home with her son. She’s already raised one wonderful daughter while working full-time. The gift of this summer is not lost on either of us and we have every intention of not letting it slip away.

So, with that thought in mind, I’m putting my son on notice about how we’re going to make the most of this amazing Seattle summer*:

Okay, Mr. C:

Lake 3When you leave your wet bathing suit and towels on the hardwood floors which can cause them to warp, before I get all bent about it I’ll do my best to remember that those hardwood floors were my idea, not yours, and you’d be just as happy with linoleum. And before I’m tempted to rant, I’ll first remember how lucky we are to be able to afford real hardwood floors.

And all those last-minute requests for playdates with your friends and driving you back and forth? Count me in. Summer structure and camps are great, but not when they crowd out time with friends. And your dad and I are pretty grateful for the posse of great friends you’ve collected. So bring it on.

And when those playdates turned nerf gun wars turned squirt gun battles turned zombie apocalypses  completely cover our deck with debris and muddy footprints? I promise to remember that both of us can take care of that in just few minutes with a hose (rather than feeling ‘put upon’ about another mess).

SandCastlesAlkiBeach

All of these amazing Seattle places just aren’t as fun when you don’t have a friend to share them with.

 

And when you leave a string of dirty clothes and Legos all over the family room, and super blasters and action figures clutter the back yard, how about if we both worry a little less about keeping the house spotless this summer and instead use that time to go on adventures?  I love gardening and decorating and all that as much as the next mom, but I decided a long time ago that our house was going to be about making memories, not about making a statement.

The "Poor Man's Water Park"

The “Poor Man’s Water Park”

And if I’m not able to get you into that perfect swim, soccer or other camp… well, bummer. I guess we’ll just have to grab a friend and head to Alki Beach for the day. Or Rattlesnake Lake. Or Greenlake. Or Lake Sammamish, Pine Lake, or Carkeek Park.  Or one of a bazillion other great places to play in Seattle… for free.  Or we can pay the 5 bucks and enjoy one of the local pools.  Or just head into the backyard, turn on the hose, and enjoy “the poor man’s water park”. 

All I ask in return is ONE FAVOR:  let’s make sure we find a couple of times this summer to invite and include those new neighbors. Because all of these amazing Seattle places aren’t as fun when you don’t have a friend to share them with.  And they might not know anyone yet and they don’t know about all the really cool things to do here. This summer, let’s remember to be good neighbors.

Pinelake1

 

 

 

As that sweet lady in the grocery store said today when she spontaneously tapped me on the shoulder:

“I noticed you hugging your son. Be sure to do that for as long as he lets you. Before you know it he’ll be all grown up and gone.” (completely true story!)

She’s absolutely right. One day I’ll blink and you’ll be off to college. And I’ll come home to an empty house and I’ll run my toe across that warp on the hardwood floor that was made by your wet bathing suit. And it’ll just bring a teary smile.

As the great prophet of my generation Billy Joel once said:

This is the time to remember

Cause it will not last forever

 These are the days to hold on to

Cause we won’t although we’ll want to

Lake1This record-breaking Seattle summer is a gift – to both of us.  And when I’m stretching my head out like a turtle looking forward to the first day of school, about to set my hair on fire and run naked down the middle of the street – I welcome my friends and my neighbors to remind me of this post and to remind me to ‘get a grip.’

*yes, if this post sounds a bit familiar, it’s my ‘response’ to “that” blog post that circulated Facebook last week. I mean no disrespect to the blogger, but simply wanted to present a different perspective from the Brighter Side..”
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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. If I stop “neighboring” after just one year then really I’m just fulfilling the stereotype of the Seattle Freeze – friendly but aloof. Nope – I’m not stopping there. To quote one of my long-time distant mentors:

“Progress happens when you engage the world with your talents and your love. Just thinking about them without engagement does nothing.”       – Dr. Henry Cloud

I’d like to think I’m adding a little positive mojo to the blogosphere.  When I started blogging a year ago, I wanted to do something positive and with a little integrity.  I investigated a lot of blogs for reference, and while there’s some that I really love: Maria Shriver, Dynamom and Seattle Mama Doc, there’s also a lot that leaves me cold. Today’s blogosphere is ripe with sarcasm and negativity, and sometimes I feel like there’s a contest to see who can riff on someone the loudest because often that’s what seems to get ‘clicks, likes and shares’.  Too many mom’s trying to pass themselves off as parenting experts simply because they have a 3 year old, too many political agendas trying to set everyone straight. Too much!

For me the acidic, the difficult, the blue days, the uphill battles and the general crap of life will find me without any effort on my own.  So, if I’m going to spend time writing, I want it to be about something hopeful, productive, full of levity and the brighter side of life. I’m no expert; I simply want to write about an honest journey.

I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need my blog.  But it definitely needs people to raise the conversation about our need for meaningful connection. Connection across our streets, connection across political ideologies and connection across the racial divide in our country. Last week another deeply troubled soul acted out in another horrific shooting of innocent lives, this time in Charleston, South Carolina. A church invited a visitor into their friendship circle, only to be betrayed by his agenda of hatred.  I watched the details unfold in the news and kept wondering ‘why are so many so filled with hatred? What happens – or doesn’t happen – in a person’s life to bring them to such an act of violence?’

I know it certainly isn’t earth shattering to invite my neighbors to coffee or lunch or dinner (maybe in Seattle it is?). But I think it’s a place to start and it’s something I can do.  I’d love to see – over the course of many years – what kind of long-term impact could be achieved in our neighborhoods if we would begin living with more intentional connection with one another.

So here I go, signing up for one more year of doing my part to de-ice the Seattle Freeze. Community, connection, friendship. That’s what I want to continue exploring and writing about. Anyone want to join me on this journey? Anyone have a goal to increase their impact on their community or raise the value of friendship in their lives? There’s lots of room in this online community for anyone ready to take the risk.

Let’s go.

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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.

 

TIME was not available for a few ladies I had invited as they had other commitments to family and to volunteering at their children’s schools.  A GOOD use of their TIME.  And while I’m always a little bummed if someone can’t attend, I’m indeed encouraged when my neighbors invest their TIME well.  Family and volunteering – are there better uses of one’s TIME?  I think not.

Paying It Forward

Last summer when my mom entered hospice, my neighbor Jenny (“Aunt Jenny”) took the TIME to make and bring over to me a bowl of the most delicious chicken salad I have ever had. Bar None.  I appreciated it so much as my TIME was threadbare and this was such a gift to me and my family.

So, for my lunch, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and share Aunt Jenny’s Chicken Salad with my neighbors. And now I’m sharing it with you. The recipe is below.

So, in regards to TIME this summer, do you have TIME to share a serving of Aunt Jenny’s Chicken Salad with a neighbor or a friend? Is there someone you’ve been meaning to welcome to the neighborhood? Perhaps take them a Tupperware container of Aunt Jenny’s chicken salad?  Is there a neighbor whose time has been threadbare and you might be able to help them out with a quick meal?  Is there a friend you’ve wanted to share a ‘thank you meal’ with but haven’t yet nailed down the TIME? This summer is a good TIME to do that. Our summer TIME is often hectic and it slips away if we are not intentional with it.

Let’s take, make and grab some TIME that’s available to us this summer and make the most of it with family, friends and neighbors. Just one invite might prove to be the TIME someone’s been hoping to enjoy in your company.

Aunt Jenny’s Chicken SaladAuntJennyschickensalad

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (I used a QFC whole rotisserie chicken)
  • ¾ cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • ¾ cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

Dressing

  • ½ cup real mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Simply place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad, tossing to coat.  Voila. Best Check Salad Ever.  I served mine in an iceburg lettuce “cup” because in my dreams I’m The Barefoot Contessa.

Enjoy!

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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.

Anyhoo.  The focus of the book was to unpack what life was like from the women’s perspective in ancient (Biblical) culture. The “red” tent was designated for the women to gather during “that time” for rest, encouragement and deeper conversation.

After unpacking the book a bit, someone asked the question “…why is it that it seems like children of other religions (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc.) seem to know so much more about religion  – their own and in general – than kids who grow up in a traditional Christian environment?”   Hmmm…. Why indeed.

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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.

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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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7 Secrets I’ve Learned from my Seattle Neighbors

Whenever we attempt something new chances are we’ll learn something new.  In the last 12 months of my quest to thaw the Seattle Freeze in my own neighborhood I’ve learned a few ‘trade secrets’ other Seattleites may want to use to increase connection with their neighbors. Some I’ve learned by trial and error, some I’ve picked up from those who’ve posted great comments on the blog. Continue reading

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5 Steps to Thawing the Seattle Freeze in Your Neighborhood

One year ago today I declared war on the Seattle Freeze. Yep – it’s been a year.

I had reached a point of being genuinely grieved when I kept hearing that Seattleites were ‘friendly but aloof’.  That people who moved here from different communities, states or even countries felt like they could never ‘break in’ to established social networks or make real friendships.

So, I set out to see what I could do to perhaps warm the social weather in my own neighborhood.  I would try and invite one neighbor that I didn’t yet know well or know  at all over to my home for dinner (or other meal) each month for 12 months. And, I would blog about it to hold myself accountable.

How did I do?

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Earth Day 2015: Are you ‘greener’ than your neighbor?

Take a look to see how you rate in regards to being an Earth-friendly neighbor.  #EarthDay

Earth Day Infographic Green Practices

Happy Earth Day 2015!

EarthDay2015

 

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Beware the Seattle Introvert

There are those who believe that the Seattle Freeze is simply a bi-product of Seattle having a higher percentage of introverts than other large metropolitan cities.  Ok.

Well, for what it’s worth, in my journey of getting to know my neighbors better I have found that regardless of introvert or extrovert, people (neighbors) enjoy connecting. True, they all may not need or want as much connection as myself (an extroverted extrovert), but this past year I have not only INVITED neighbors over for dinner (who tell me they are more introverted), but I have also been INVITED TO THEIR HOMES for dinner.  So there.

Autumn in Seattle is a great time to host a block party.

In two weeks, April 29, it will be one year since I “Declared War On The Seattle Freeze.”  In two weeks I’ll unpack what I did, what I learned and where I go from here.  Until then, I thought I’d celebrate my introvert friends by sharing some fun insights I came across from another blog called “Introvert, Dear.”  Blogger Jenn Granneman shares her “9 Rules For Being Friends With An Introvert” in this whimsical (yet truthful) blog post about what she needs her friends to know if they want to enjoy a friendship with her. Continue reading

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