Is Facebook making a liar out of you?

This past weekend was my mother’s memorial service. A wonderfully tearful time of reflection mixed with giant breaths of gratitude for the number of extended family and longtime friends of her’s who came to say ‘she was a great lady; she was a great friend. We will miss her.’

It was naturally also a time for me to get caught up with a few folks that I’ve known since my childhood – old neighbors, longtime friends from the church my family and I attended during my growing up years.

And then I had a conversation with a good friend – one of those longtime friends – that stopped me in my tracks. I have always felt a good connection with my friend. We grew up around the corner from each other, attended the same church as kids, went to the same high school, I was an attendant in her wedding, we share longtime mutual friends. She is an amazing vocalist and she sang at my mom’s service. Certainly, we have lived in different cities for quite some time, but we still know the ‘goings on’ of one another’s lives.

And then she said, “The last time I actually saw you in person was at your wedding.”  More than 15 years ago. What?  No. That can’t be.

Oh, it be.

You see, we have stayed connected via Facebook, texting, Christmas cards, email. But we haven’t truly sat down face to face or really even had a long talk on the phone in over 15 years. We haven’t had that nice, long, get caught-up conversation.  The phrase that shot out my mouth at that moment was, “Facebook sure can make a liar out of us, making us feel that we’re more connected to each other than we actually are.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blasting Facebook. I love Facebook – it’s fun. It’s like getting your friend’s annual Christmas card, except it little snackable bites throughout the year, rather than one long letter in December. It is a great tool that allows us to peek in on one another’s lives, stay current on big and little life events, and share pictures and highlights about our families.

But if we’re honest, it’s not a conversation. While Facebook is fun, I need to be mindful to not let it become a substitute for the real thing, for real friendship. I need to not let it lull me into thinking that just because I peek in on postings and pictures that I really know what’s going on on the inside with my friends.  That takes time. Long, good, honest conversation and good quantities of time.

Neither my friend nor I in any way find fault with the other for how long it’s been since we’ve had that ‘sit down.’ Life gets busy for all of us: we move to different cities, our kids are at different places which makes different demands on our time, our work paradigms fluctuate creating different shifts in our schedules. And friendship – in the modern age – always take intention. It just does.

Our conversation was simply a wake-up moment for me to examine how many friends do I ‘assume’ I’m current with, when in reality I’m letting Facebook do that job for me? I think I’ll do an inventory of my Facebook connections. Perhaps the coming months could be about simply picking up the phone and talking to a couple of those longtime friends that I don’t see very often anymore, but still value greatly.

Intention about good relationship with our friends is a good discipline to strive for. It’s the same discipline that might encourage us as we continue to find ways to become better neighbors.

Facebook is fun. But I won’t let it make a liar of out me.

Posted in Connecting, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

LIFE: It Takes A Village

Spring brings new beginnings

Several years ago I found myself in a place of feeling like every facet of my life felt like ‘work.’  Have you ever felt that way?  That no matter what you had your finger in, it just became more investment than reward, more negotiation than resolve, more conflict than peace. More work.

Sharing this with a good friend, his response was to encourage me to “take some time and practice gratitude.  Write down everything you are grateful for right now in your life.”

My first reaction was “Oh, thank you Mr. Solution-Oriented Male.”  (I’ll own up – he was my pastor.) That’s NOT what I wanted to hear.  In fact, I didn’t want to have to DO one more thing.

Yet, within a week or so of that conversation I found myself traveling for work (which I was not happy about). Having some free time one evening, my friend’s recommendation was ringing in my ears so I bought a journal and started writing down what I was grateful for.

At first it was a great struggle.  But then, I changed the ‘what’ to ‘who’.  And then the writing became easy.  I began writing down the names of so many friends.  Friends from childhood that were still good friends.  Friends from my late twenties that I met during a season in a social organization. Friends from my faith community. Friends at work. Friends that had moved away but we still stayed in touch.

SpringBeginnings1By the time I finished writing and looked at my long list, my heart was indeed grateful. My mind began to clear and I began to have a fresh perspective on changes I could make in my life to lessen the ‘work.’

Thank God for my friends.

Today I’m embracing and returning to that much-needed gratitude exercise.  Last week, after a 7-year decent into Alzheimer’s, my mother passed away.

August 12th of 2007, one day after my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary, my father died. While a biopsy was not possible, his doctors believed he had mesothelioma – asbestos poisoning in the lungs.  He lasted less than 4 months after his diagnosis.

The very next day, August 13, my mother began to die. Depression over the loss of my dad overwhelmed her and, on its heels, dementia stormed in like a freight train. There was no slowing it or stopping it.  In a short season, my mom went from being someone whose wicked sense of humor and boisterous laughter could fill a cavernous ballroom, to someone who struggled to get out of bed and take care of daily tasks. And she continued to decline.

It Takes A Village

LifeThey say it takes a village to raise a child.  I’m here to tell you it also takes a village when you’re caring for an aging, declining parent.  If this is you, let me say first: I’m with you, I’m for you, and I’m in your corner.  I understand because I have lived the ‘long goodbye’ and have spent a lot of time in the last seven years taking over finances, negotiating bad decisions, managing expectations and endlessly re-adjusting to yet one more stage of a “new normal”.  Then came one of the worst days of my life when I moved my mom from her home of 50 years into an adult family home.

Countless first-time moms (and dads) have lived through the anxiety of the days approaching the first time s/he’s going to drop the new baby or young child off at daycare before going back to work.

The mental stew of worry begins:

“Will they love and take care of her the way that I do?”

“Will I be able to reach her in time if something should happen?”

“Will she cry all day when I leave?” 

“Will I really be able to go through with this?” 

Those questions and emotions are similar when moving a parent out of their home and into a care facility.  Plus, you know they’re not ever going home again.

The events of the past seven years created a very full backpack that was too heavy for me to carry alone; and too heavy to expect my spouse alone to help me carry.

Thank God for my friends.

LavenderJust as with that previous ‘work’ season in my life, I pause today to celebrate and give thanks for how the support of my friends carried me and sustained me during this terribly sad and stressful season.  For my two best friends-who still live in our hometown-who carved out time for me again and again in those first years when I would need to ‘unload’ the latest frustration or heartache that I had discovered on my visits to my mom.

My BFFs here in Seattle and at multiple points across the country who constantly made themselves available in person, on the phone, via email, text – whatever communication I could find time to grab. They consistently responded “I’m here.”  My cousin who is like a sister to me. And countless others who listened over coffee.  Each connection was an opportunity to vomit out the toxin and create room for healing, wisdom and perspective.

BookClubThank God For My Neighbors.

And, my neighbors.  How grateful I am for my neighbors who have become so much more than neighbors, but my dear friends. Especially the women of my book club who frequently coached me through the ‘what do I do about this’ endless series of challenges.

The loss of my mom, whom I loved so much, is yet another reminder of why I want to always be expanding my circle of friends. How incredibly fortunate I’ve been to have such wonderful people in my life, supporting me and encouraging me through a long, difficult season. It definitely took a village. And, how fortunate I am that so many of these people lived within walking distance of my home, being so accessible.

sunSpring is a time of new beginnings, as well as a time for a surge in local housing sales. New people are moving to the greater Seattle area everyday.  Many are moving away from their families for the first time.  Their once solid network of support is now several hundred or several thousand miles away. Some are relocating from a different country.  And, as they arrive, their ‘real lives’ don’t go on hiatus.  Life keeps happening every day in every way for all of us – the exciting, the happy, and the very sad. We need each other for all of it.

If I’ve learned anything in my first 50 years, it’s that real life – as well as a real friend – is always waiting for us just around the corner.  Real life will always find us. A good friend will help us find a meaningful way through it.

Let’s continue to encourage each other to be purposeful about welcoming someone new – a neighbor, a co-worker, a club member – into our friendship circles. You never know – as we reach out to perhaps fill a need in a new neighbor’s life, they might turn out to be just the person that we’ll need for that next chapter of our lives.

Forgive

Posted in Better Together, Connecting, neighbors, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neighboring: don’t underestimate our ‘Friends of the Road’

What free gift could you give a friend or neighbor this Valentine’s Day?

Friendship is a broad word that, when you break it down, describes the intentional actions of giving and receiving with another human being for mutual benefit. It occurs when, ideally, people equally invest in one another.

What word or gift could you give a friend this Valentine's Day?

Sometimes I think this Seattle Freeze comes from the fact that we live in a time when people move pretty frequently and the thought of ‘investing’ in neighbors feels potentially ‘emptying’ rather than ‘fueling’. I grew up in a small town (Longview, WA) and lived in the same house my entire life from birth to when I left for college. My parents owned only one home during their lives. Given that paradigm, why wouldn’t my family get to know and have meaningful friendships with our neighbors?

Today, however, most of us feel uniquely lucky if we are able to sustain the same job in the same community for the duration of our children’s Wonder Bread years. It’s indeed unusual, often causing us to think: “why get to know my neighbors? They’re just going to move anyway.”

Well, here’s why: We need our Friends of the Road

In their book “Relationships” Seattle Pacific University professors Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott unpack the concept of the value of having both Friends of the Heart and Friends of the Road.

Friends of the Heart are those fewer yet highly cherished people who are here to stay. You may not see one of them for years, but when you do you easily pick up right where you left off. You’ve walked through the best and worst events of your lives together. They’ve become interwoven into the fabric of your life. Think about it: names of a few individuals have just immediately come to mind, haven’t they?

Friends of the Road, however, are those people whom you know/knew for a few fantastic years or a brief season. You shared a significant event or time in your lives together. But then life circumstances moved you apart and, well, that pretty much ended the friendship. When you reflect on these people, a smile still comes to your face, but in more of a nostalgic way, not in a way that moves you to pick up the phone and reconnect.

It’s true that the vast majority of people we will know as our neighbors will most likely fall under the ‘Friends of the Road’ category. We will know them for only a limited season of time. Yet, according to the Parrotts, these relationships are no less important to our lives than those life-long friends:

‘Some friendships are meant to be transitory. Like cowboys who ride herd together for miles, sharing both dusty perils and round-the-campfire coffee, we all have friendships that come to their natural end. Not because of discontent or lack of interest. Simply because the road has run out.

Understand, these are not failed friendships. Not at all. They are friendships of the road, equally intense, equally necessary, equally worth cultivating and treasuring as the long-lasting versions. We couldn’t survive without them. They get us through a particular stretch of road, and for that we can be grateful.’

Isn’t that true of many of our friendships from high school? College? Don’t most of us have a former co-worker who became a great confident during a particularly toxic season at work or in our lives?  Did we hesitate to invest in them?  Do we feel that time spent with them was a waste? No.

Then why not move out the front door and risk connecting with our neighbors? We’re not talking about ‘shopping for best friends.’ We’re talking about INCLUDING and INVITING our neighbors along for the journey on our Road, and being willing to join theirs, if even only for a short season.

Which brings me back to my neighboring goals via Eat Play Thaw.  I’m continuing to have a Coffee Klatch with the women in my neighborhood. And, yes, I’m having one tomorrow on Valentine’s Day.  While several houses within eyesight on my street have turned over in the past 5 or so years, and most likely several more in the coming 5, I am finding a great value in getting to know and investing time in these Friends of the Road.

  • Knowing them provides social fun as we enjoy books & barbecues together, host baby showers and watch one another’s children, and proudly fly our 12th Man banners.
  • Knowing them provides community investment opportunities as we learn of each other’s volunteer activities that peak our interest and we decide to join in.
  • Knowing them provides security as they’re watching my home and I’m watching theirs for any unusual activity, particularly around vacation times.
  • Knowing them gives me encouragement as being connected to them gives me an increased sense of belonging.

What words or gifts you could give tomorrow via card, in person, phone call, or e-card (it’s free!) to a Friend of the Heart or a Friend of the Road?

  • A lifelong friend you no longer live near but find yourself missing them more often than reaching out to them.
  • A co-worker you’ve recently gotten to know via a project and you have great appreciation for what they brought to the table.
  • A neighbor you used to live by, but a job or other relocation moved you/your families apart.
  • A new neighbor.

Let’s not let Hollywood cheapen Valentine’s Day and convince us it’s only for dramatic or ill-fated lovers. At the heart of any great relationship – romantic or platonic – is friendship. And that is the greatest gift we can give for Valentine’s Day, or any other day.

Valentine Hearts

Posted in Connecting, neighbors, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You know you’re turning 50 when…

…You need your reading glasses not only to read The Seattle Times but to decipher the items on your dinner plate.

…Y2K is the last date you remember having a recognizable waistline.

… Your chief career goal is to retire early enough so that your Social Security benefits are grandfathered-in before the government goes bankrupt.

… Someone mentions “50 Shades of Grey” and your first thought is not a spicey novel, but the number of black turtlenecks in your closet (see Nora Ephron’s “I feel bad about my neck” ).

You-know-youre-50-when

… You still lay awake at night wondering if Madonna might one day get back together with Sean Penn.  Still. Not. Over it. Sigh.

… When you were 12, you wanted to be Pinky Tuscadero.

… You know the truth: a muffin top is not found on the top of a muffin. It rears its ugly head when you try to save money by trying on jeans in the juniors department at Macys (formerly known to The Bon Marché loyalists as “The Cube”).

… You’re on a first name basis with the gal (Diana) at the Origins Plantscription counter.

… You have come to grips with the fact that you are no longer 40.  But you’re not yet 60. A point you like to bring up only around your friends who are older than you. And closer to 60.

…There are necessary evils in growing older, like enduring lycra and mammograms.

…There are few necessary evils whose pain cannot be mitigated by the unadulterated joy of a dark chocolate salted caramel.

saltedcaramel

… You’d stick a fork in your eye before you’d pay full price for a stick of furniture, a blouse, a piece of jewelry or grind-your-own organic peanut butter at Whole Foods. But you’d pay the note on the farm for a good pair of yoga pants and an even better bra.

There are also many upsides to turning 50, such as learning that…

…Life isn’t perfect and it never will be. And while there’s no guarantee that life’s curve balls won’t cause you a few sleepless nights, you know you’ve gotten through hurdles before and you can get through them again. There will always be challenges, but there can always be good friends to walk with you through the “ish”. And that alone can make life so much more than ‘just bearable,’ but really, really good.   And, not just Martha Stewart good, but really good.

…A happy marriage is built by happy people who both consistently work to bring their best happy to the table. (That, and having Jaz surprise you on your birthday with a hot cup of coffee in bed at 6:00 a.m. And a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  And balloons.  And a poem.  And tickets to Cirque du Soleil.  And a card from your son that says “Happy half way to 100 mom!”) #blessed

BirthdaySurprise

…You know in your heart that you won’t find out whether or not you’re a good parent until your child is about 30. Do your best, keep learning, make changes, & don’t get lost in the comparison game.

…You are strengthened by the knowledge that Julia Child didn’t ‘find her calling’ until she was 40, and she published her first cookbook at 50. And then her career began.

…You know that you cannot stop your body from aging. But, you can make good decisions about taking care of your heart and your mind.

…Having a strong faith in God and believing He is in control does not mean He’s going to ‘serve up’ your life to you on a silver platter. The good stuff still takes work.

…You discover that finding a good neighborhood starts by being a good neighbor.

…Every year won’t bring a winning season, but sometimes your team does make it to the Super Bowl. And they win. And you float. And in other years victory gets snatched away at the 1 yard line.  And you’re stunned. And you grieve. And seeing it all as a metaphor for life, you’ve learned to NEVER miss a chance to celebrate the miracles, and NEVER camp out in denial and forget to grieve a big loss. But after both, as “President Bartlett” and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson would say, you have to hit the re-set button and focus on the next opportunity.

And, yes, 99% of this has nothing to do with getting to know my neighbors and I’m not the first writer to satire the deliciousness of mid-life. But, I figure it’s my blog and I’ll opine if I want to.

Yep. I am turning 50 today.  Life isn’t perfect, but it is really good.

“What’s next?”

Posted in Connecting, Laughter | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Seattle: it’s time to engage your inner 12

 

I just need to say #GoHawks.

Seattle Seahawks Hawkitecture

It’s the Blue Friday of all Blue Fridays today.

We’re on the cusp of #RePete and you can feel the energy in the air.

MeadElementary12

It’s time for all of Seattle to engage their inner 12. 

Many loyalists wear their 12 on their sleeve.  ‘Goin’ 12′ is as easy as breathing. Still others need a little encouragement to ‘share the love’ of their team with a co-worker or a neighbor.  Cmon. There’s still time.  Let’s get those “Anti-Freeze” 12thMan Tailgate parties planned. Invite a neighbor, co-worker. Use this amazing weekend as an opportunity the thaw the Seattle Freeze.

Tiger Woods Super Bowl 49 Pick - go Seahawks!

I’ve got a few Tailgate recipes posted on a new Recipes link (see nav bar) if anyone should need a couple of ideas. More will be coming this weekend.

M&MCookiesAnd this Sunday my family will be enjoying a Breakfast of Super Bowl Champions: The #WilsonScramble.  Check back Sunday morning if you want the recipe – I’ll post it on the Recipe page.

Until then, let’s all take a deep breath, try our best to focus. And fasten our seatbelts for Sunday 3:30p.

Tweet ya then. #GoHawks.

Posted in The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Are you ALL IN for a Seahawks Super Bowl Party?

Mead 12th Man!  Go Hawks!!Like so many Seattle 12s, I am still stunned, thrilled, exhausted and just-shy-of speechless from the Seahawks’ miraculous come-from-behind NFC Championship victory last Sunday. This is probably why it’s taken me 5 days to try and get some thoughts down about it.

Every time I start a conversation – or a paragraph – about the game it sounds/looks like:

“Can you be…”

“I thought my heart w….”

“I was so…and then…I just…”

“And Sherman played with his ar….”

“And then that guy – I’d never heard of  – caught the fa…..”

“And then Wilson started to cr….”

Speechless.  Our boys in blue delivered one for the ages. One that we’ll be retelling over and over to our grandchildren.

Probably the best 5 minutes of football ever played.

We witnessed a miracle, celebrating what seemed impossible. As KOMO sportscaster Eric Johnson put it: “Game? That was no game. That was a metaphor for life.”  Indeed.

And we cried after it was over. Oh, just admit it. You cried.

And now, I’m quivering with anticipation about the Hawks heading to another Super Bowl.

Emphasis on ‘Another’ Super Bowl

Few things in the modern era pull people together like sports.  Kicking off the 2014 season, I wrote a blog post titled “I believe the 12th Man can Melt the Seattle Freeze”, believing that the eagerness and energy level of this amazing post-super-bowl season would provide incredible opportunities for connecting with other 12s in the city, in our local communities, and in our own neighborhoods.

Well, here we are.  Another championship season. Another Super Bowl. Another opportunity.

So, then, what shall we do?  For me, how could I not leverage this miracle moment for another opportunity to connect with a neighbor (or two, or ‘twelve’)?  When it comes to big events like this, though, you want to share it with your close friends and fellow 12s.  You want to be able to let your hair down, be yourself and be surrounded by people who want to share in the excitement. When you are first getting to know your neighbors, you have no idea if they’re even interested in football let alone if they’re a Seahawks fan.  I know: blasphemy.  But, it’s true.

My solution:

     √ I am having a Super Bowl party.

     √ I am inviting a few of our “Besties”.

     √ I am inviting some family.

     √ And I am also inviting some neighbors.

When getting to know your neighbors it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition, making a choice between spending time with them OR spending time with your friends.  Why not do both? The way I see it, being a 12th Man is one of my “INGs” (see my blog post “Turning our ING things into BING things) and I’m simply inviting a neighbor to share my past time. I’m welcoming them into a circle of friendship, with some very cool people who they’ll probably end up liking more than me anyway. HA!

Last year, wanting to somehow engage in the Seahawks first trip to the Super Bowl, I zipped out an email to my closest proximity neighbors just a few days before the event extending an invite: “Halftime Party in the Cul-de-Sac”.  The weather looked good and I pulled the trigger. And everyone who didn’t already have a party to go to came out for 20 minutes of #GoHawks! Food. Beer. Sparklers. And lots and lots of smiles. It was awesome. Super easy, fun, and nobody had to clean their house.

This year, I’m going to do that again, weather permitting.  Why not?  Why not celebrate this amazing event with as many peeps as I can?

My One Request

Will you think about inviting a neighbor to your Super Bowl party?

Even if you don’t have a Super Bowl gathering at your home, when making plans with your friends to head to one of the thousands of restaurants, bars and bistros that will be playing/watching the game, will you think about inviting even just one neighbor who might be new on your street or that you’ve been wanting to get to know better.

You never know. It could be the moment their “inner 12” has been waiting for.

#GoHawks!

Note: for anyone who wants to connect virtually during the game, I’ll be tweeting my heart out on Twitter at @eatplaythaw.  Follow me and I’ll follow you back and together we can tweet the Hawks to victory!

12thartistic

Posted in Connecting, neighbors, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Will Your 2015 Goals Improve Your Character?

In the last week I have absorbed my share of blog posts, magazine articles, columns from cultural thought leaders, Facebook posts and not just a few Tweets all about New Year’s resolutions.

√ How to make them.

√  How to keep them.

√  How and why most people fail at them (always a cheerful topic).

But I noticed an absence of column inches dedicated to what makes a resolution ‘worthy’ of one’s time.

Hobbs

According to USA.GOV, almost every year the most popular resolutions include losing weight, quitting smoking/drinking, getting a better job, saving more money/getting out of debt, and a couple of bucket list items like volunteering and taking a nice trip.  And, considering the propensity each goal has to populate the list year after year, that’ll probably tell you how well we’re all doing with these.

Be honest: we’re 7 days in – have you already cheated on your diet? #thanksalot  #you’rewelcome

NYRFunny!So, for myself, I thought I’d take the whole thing in a little different direction. First, I don’t believe in ‘resolutions,’ but I do embrace setting goals and then putting some things in place to help me stay on track. You know, like maybe doing a blog or something to hold me accountable to do a better job of getting to know my neighbors.  #ahem

I want to focus on goals that are worthwhile enough to IMPROVE MY CHARACTER, not just my waistline or my checkbook. I asked myself: what kinds of goals would move me toward being:

√ Less materialistic, and more generous?

√ Less judgmental, and more gracious?

√ Less negative, and more joyful?

√ Less self-focused, and more patient and resilient?

√ Less frozen and more welcoming?

So based on those criteria, here are my Eat Play Thaw Goals for 2015

1) I’m setting a goal to Eat More in 2015

For Pete’s sake, has no one else thought of this one yet?  Am I the only one? We spend so much energy on goals to eat less, why not a goal to EAT MORE?

In 2015, I’m setting a goal to eat more with my family, eat more with my friends and eat more with my neighbors. (Yes, I know the correct grammar is ‘eat more often’ but it’s a play on words. Roll with it.)  According to TheScramble.Com, 60 years ago the average dinnertime was 90 minutes; today it’s less than 12. Ouch. Furthermore, kids and teens who share family dinners 3 or more times per week are less likely to:

  • Be overweight
  • Use drugs and alcohol
  • Engage in sexual activity
  • Have fewer emotional and behavioral problems

And more likely to:

  • Eat healthier foods
  • Perform better academically
  • Have better relationships with their parents
  • Be stronger emotionally and have greater life satisfaction

Call me crazy, but isn’t this a no-brainer?  Count me in.

Deeper connection can happen around sharing a family meal, so why not extend this goal to my friends and neighbors? I know that when I carve out time to share a meal (or cup of coffee) with a good friend my soul – not just my stomach – gets fed. So why wouldn’t I set a goal to be more purposeful about that? Life is always right around the corner.  Deep human connection is the strongest underpinning to navigate whatever may come.

Last May, I set a goal to connect over a shared meal, coffee or other activity with at least one neighbor – which I didn’t already know very well – per month for 12 months.  (see “I’m Declaring War on the Seattle Freeze!”) Well, if you’ve been watching the counter in the upper right hand corner of my blog, I surpassed that goal in December with the help of a couple of cast-a-wide-net block parties and coffee klatches.  So now I’m eager to go a little deeper with those neighbors I’ve met and simply enjoy having them over for dinner, one by one.

2) I’m setting a goal to Play More in 2015

Four weeks from today I’m turning 50.  And I intend to celebrate all year long!  Life just keeps getting busier and more complicated and I’ve learned that if I don’t plan intentionally to recreate and play, it just won’t happen.  I’ve already put the wheels in motion to block out special time this year with as many of my dearest friends as I can. Next week, I’m going on my first cruise with my best friend from college.  I’m planning a Suncadia weekend with the women who’ve tracked with and supported me while I’ve cared for my mom (another post for another time).  And, good heavens, if the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl again…. party in the ‘hood!

Recreation and celebration remind me of the great blessings in my life, which in turn move me toward pouring out blessings on others.  Exhaustion and bitterness serve no one.

IMG_5460Jaz and I will also be taking our master bathroom down to the studs and completely remodeling it this year.  Now, for some of you who can recall the near phone call to the divorce attorney over a past wallpaper debacle, you’re thinking: soooooo, how is that playing?  And, how is that going to improve your character versus just making you crazy?

Hear me out. While some may fear the havoc a remodel might work on their marriage, Jaz and I thrive together when we’re transforming a space. Jaz has amazing gifts in craftsmanship. I love to create and design.  And I believe good character is developed not just from ‘working thru the hard stuff’ but in understanding what your soul needs to thrive amidst the celebrations and the heartaches.

Jaz and I get in the zone together when we remodel a space. Check out our powder room that we did start to finish (above):  Jaz designed and built the custom vanity, mill work and cabinetry and installed all the tile. I sourced the stone (remnant), tile, fixtures, lighting, hung the wallpaper, painted the ceiling and stained and varnished the vanity.

Demolition on the master bath starts next week. I can’t wait.

3) I’m setting a goal to Thaw More in 2015

I’ve been having so much fun getting to know my neighbors that I can already see that I’ll most likely extend my Eat Play Thaw adventure past May 1 of this year, as I had originally planned.

  • I’m going to continue my Neighborhood Coffee Klatch every 4-6 weeks
  • I’m going to continue with my cherished Neighborhood Book Club
  • I’m going to organize a Neighborhood Block Party for National Night Out in August
  • I’m going to continue having a neighbor over for a meal or activity once a month
  • I’m going to continue to explore and write about opportunities that all Seattleites can engage with to build deeper connections and make transplants feel more welcome
  • I’m going to keep asking anyone who stumbles upon this blog to Join the Thaw Challenge and go on record to reach out and get to know their neighbors (hint-hint).

I don’t know where it all will take me, but I’m pretty sure it will push me to ‘get over myself,’ embrace and enjoy the wonderful diversity in my community, and keep an ‘others-focused’ placeholder in my life.  That sounds like pretty good character-building stuff, doesn’t it?

I feel good about my 2015 goals.  How are you feeling about yours?

Posted in Better Together, Connecting, neighbors, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I spent my Christmas vacation..

Do you remember when your grade school teacher asked you to write a ‘theme’ in January titled “How I spent my Christmas vacation”?  I do. And I feel like I’m writing that theme today. But today it’s a lot more fun than it was in Fourth Grade. First, because it’s not for a grade. Second, and more importantly, because I’m enjoying reflecting on a warm December, of time well spent with my neighbors.

December 1st, I posted up a challenge of sorts of 5 terrific ideas each of us could try to take one step toward getting to know our neighbors better. (see “One Thing Can Make All The Difference This December”) The rest of the month was spent sharing funny stories with each other in the hopes of bringing a little sunshine to Seattle’s darkest month. I hope it was a lift.

But as the calendar has rolled to January I thought it would be a good idea for me to give an accounting of how well I tried to follow my own advice with regards to these 5 ideas.

I’m grateful and humbled to say that I received as much or more than I gave, and I feel very encouraged about some great things that are happening in my neighborhood.  Here’s the highlights:

Gifts That I Gave

I Organized A Holiday Party

Organize a holiday party in your neighborhood to thaw the Seattle FreezeFor the past two years my neighborhood book club has decided to skip our usual reading for the month of December and opted for a Christmas party instead, complete with our husbands and significant others.  I and another neighbor split hosting duties.

This year, I also organized a party at my house for those of us with younger kids. When pulling together a larger neighborhood event that includes the kids, sometimes that can be problematic when vying for neighborhood babysitters. So, we decided to pull all of our kiddos together in one place, share one babysitter and host a little fun party night for them.  GHouseFood+Craft+Movie = EZ Kid Night.  That and 10 minute of running and screaming outside in the cul-de-sac. Hey, they’re kids. Don’t think that some of the parents didn’t want to join them after their 2nd glass of wine, but to unpack that would be a different blog all-together.  Back to my point.

It was awesome to see them enjoy each other. Pinterest is your friends when it comes to creative yet simple party ideas and, voila – I found a super easy Christmas craft for the kids: decorating gingerbread houses out of graham crackers. So much easier that baking a bunch of gingerbread!

Once the kiddos were settled at my house, the grownups all moved across the cul-de-sac to continue the festivities and food!

I Organized a Seahawk 12th Man Neighborhood Tailgate Party

Marshawn Lynch loves his skittlesOK, so maybe that’s not very holiday-ish, but I just HAD to do it.  It was the last scheduled game of the regular season. I’d been waiting for schedules and weather and whatnot to be right.  It was now or never. So, I printed up some quick flyers, sent them via emails that I had and also put them on the front porches up and down my street for a low/no-pressure invitation. I just said “Calling All 12th Man Neighbors” for an EZ pre-game Tailgate party in my driveway.

I picked up some smoked pulled pork at Costco and dropped it in the crockpot with some BBQ sauce, fired up our fire pit in our driveway, and voila: Tailgate.  As a result, I met another longtime neighbor on my street for the first time, and I visited with a friend’s husband for the first time.  I, again, enjoyed introducing neighbors to other neighbors.  It was easy and fun.

And, DANG, if the Seahawks didn’t just KILL IT in the second half of the game and bulldoze those Rams 20-6! And, DANG now they’re in the playoffs and I’m thinking “I gotta have a party and stir up the Blue MOJO for that…” And, DANG what it they go to the Super Bowl again????

I mean a 12s gotta do what a 12s gotta do! DANG!

I highly recommend organizing a 12thMan Tailgate Party to get a Thaw started in your neighborhood.  The playoffs are here. The Hawks have earned home field advantage.   Everybody loves a winner.  See: “I Believe the 12th Man Can Thaw The Seattle Freeze!”

Gifts That I Received

I Received Christmas Cookies…

…from a total of 4 different neighbors.  Yep, 4. My neighbor that hasn’t missed gifting us with a special box of Hawaiian shortbread cookies every year at Christmastime – since we moved in – came to our door again this year, even though it has been a rough year for her with a lot of loss.  Two friends/neighbors from my book club each delivered homemade goods, one of them delivered by their kids complete with  Santa hats.

A neighbor I met for the first time at my Fall Block Party also brought a lovely (and yummy) plate of cookies.  Each bag/box/plate of goodies was homemade, a personal investment which has become a lost art in some neighborhoods. It appears to be alive and well in mine.  #SoGrateful

I Accepted An Invitation

Well, it wasn’t for a Christmas or other holiday party. It was actually for a baby shower.  A gal in my neighborhood wanted to do something special for a newer neighbor who was expecting a baby this month so she ‘went on a little tour’ of the homes surrounding hers, knocking on doors to gather email addresses so she could email an invitation. How awesome is that!  She (the host) shared she had actually never hosted a baby shower before but she obviously decided to take the risk. Love it.

And what a wonderful evening it was.  For me, I was able to enjoy a “second touch” with some women that I had first met at my September block party.  I got to meet another new baby that was added to our neighborhood family last November.  I got to meet a neighbor who has lived on our block about two years longer than Jaz and I, and I had never seen or met her or her husband before.  Super nice gal!

A Lovely Tapestry

Amidst the shower games and cake bites  I enjoyed taking a mental step back and taking in the moment of this group. Our neighborhood is a lovely tapestry.  Represented  that night were families from east of the mountains and from the far East (China). Families from the heart of the Midwest and from the heart of France (Paris).  Families that have simply relocated from as near as Portland, and from right down the street in Kirkland.  The first thing our host asked us to do was to introduce ourselves, as many had never met or had only met once. Yet, they were all happy to be there to shower this expecting mom with gifts and friendship, and connect with one another.  All it took was one neighbor taking a risk and extending an invitation.  All I had to do was show up.

Thawing the Seattle Freeze

I really think this thawing the Seattle Freeze thing can be much easier than we think. It simply takes intention. It takes each of us taking a little risk to get out of our comfort zone and try something new.

I mentioned above that my ‘received’ column was equal to my ‘gave’ column. Actually that’s not true.  I continue to find that when I take a rise, extend an invitation, ‘give’, I receive 10 fold beyond what I gave.  Meeting new people, pushing through my own insecurities, trying something brand new, forging stronger bonds with neighbors over time with intentional frequency – these are all incredible gifts, far outweighing any ‘effort’ that I invest.

It’s been a good December.  And, this Saturday, I’m grateful to say Jaz and I will be starting off 2015 enjoying an invitation to dinner from neighbors that we’ve continued to get to know over the past couple of years.  Yup.

There’s good stuff happening in my ‘hood.  Are you adding #Neighboring to your 2015 goals?

Posted in Connecting, neighborhood block party, neighbors, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Grandma Got Bamboozled By A Reindeer!”

ReindeerWell, it had to happen.

This past year saw some interesting developments in the realm of ‘legalized relaxants.’  A few weeks ago when the Christmas music started lighting up the radio stations, Jaz and I were laughing that we were surprised that we hadn’t heard about anyone re-writing the words to “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” with an Initiative-502 spin.

Light Bulb.

So, because my brain just works that way and because my goal this month was to try and bring some laughter and levity to Seattle’s darkest month, the words came pouring forth.  My sincerest thanks go to my Besties “Ward and June” for lending me their vocal talents.  We’ve laughed that this will be one of those Christmas memories that’ll stay with us well through our nursing home years. We hope you appreciate the garage band quality.

If some of you still have a funny story, video or other to share, send it my way and I’m only too happy to post it this month.

Without further ado, I give you

“Grandma Got Bamboozled By A Reindeer.”

Simply click on the ‘go arrow’ below and enjoy. Happy Holidays.

Posted in Laughter, The Seattle Freeze | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Every time I go to town, I gotta…..”

This one is all mine.  What started out as a routine video of “the cutest little boy ever” turned into a moment that still makes me laugh to tears.  My Mr. C. He’s all that.

The gotcha is all the way at the end… wait for it…

Posted in Laughter, The Seattle Freeze | 1 Comment