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.”

That’s just what we did. We emailed friends inviting anyone interested to come to my house and have a discussion about forming a book club. Around 20 women showed up. I was floored! The number one thing everyone said they wanted was to get together with other women to have fun but challenge their minds. Once we got the scheduling in place (2nd Sunday evening of the month), several people declined due to logistics. The gals lived all over the area, from Seattle to Tacoma to the Eastside, and not everyone was up for the driving.

[Read Becky's post: "The 4 Reasons Why I Highly Recommend Starting or Joining a Neighborhood Book Club"]

Adding Structure

When I scheduled our first meeting at my house we ended up with a smaller number of total participants but they were all very committed. I can’t remember the exact count, but one member came with her 3-day-old son because she was THAT on board! We decided we would take turns meeting at each other’s homes, and everyone could offer book suggestions that we would schedule months in advance so people knew what was coming. A member could bring a few books and ask the group to vote on which to read, or a member could bring one and say, “This is what I picked for my turn.” It could be fiction or non-fiction, any genre (which we have truly covered over the last 10 years). And we never made it a rule that you had to finish the book to attend the meeting.

Reading, Recreation, Relationship

So much has happened since that first meeting 10 years ago! Overall, we have the same core group of members that were there from the beginning. Some members have left (including my friend with whom I formed the club who moved out of the state), and some new members have come on board. We currently have 10 women on the roster who live as far apart as Tacoma to Bellingham.

While not everyone can make every meeting, many do. We talk about the books some, and we talk about our lives some. Over a decade of getting together, the women in this group have traveled some diverse terrain. Our personal stories encompass just about anything you could imagine, and it’s been wonderful to have a consistent group to come back to with whom we can be ourselves.

We have even vacationed together. For several years we did annual summer mom-and-kid trips to the coast. We had 18 kids in a rental once!

Is it perfect? Do we discuss the books in depth each time? Do we all agree on everything? Do we live the same way? Parent the same way? Show support the same way? Hell no! But I look at it like family. Family isn’t always smooth sailing, but they are your own, and you are one of them. That belonging means something.

Friends of my friends…

I feel a special attachment to the women in this group. Two gals were my former bosses (one from back in college!), and another is a former co-worker. Another gal is my teammate on the soccer pitch. One gal is my neighbor and chief supporter with the day to day nitty-gritty of mom life. Others were friends of my friends whom I quickly grew to love and admire.

I remember how excited I was to plan my wedding reception because I viewed it as the one giant party I could throw and invite all the people that meant something to me in the various stages of my life, even if they weren’t all connected themselves. This book club also feels a bit like that for me. I feel like I get to sit each month with a group of women that I care for individually who may not all be connected with each other outside of that meeting but are connected each month through a discussion of books.

And friendships aside, at the end of the day, I am a big book nerd and excessive gabber, so being in a book club just makes sense.

Tara Bergman is a contributor at World Moms BlogYou can find Tara’s most recent contribution to World Moms Blog by clicking here.

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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

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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The CRAZY, AMAZING COINCIDENCE that happened at my first coffee klatch! Get your Kleenex ready…

Organizing a coffee klatch is an excellent way to meet your neighbors in a casual setting. A great step toward thawing the Seattle Freeze.

Organizing a coffee klatch is an excellent way to meet your neighbors in a casual setting. A great step toward thawing the Seattle Freeze.

On my continuing mission to challenge myself to be intentional about exploring the many ways Seattleites might open up their friendship circles, I decided to try my hand at organizing a neighborhood coffee klatch. I think there was one in my neighborhood years ago, but it faded out about the time we moved in.  I have such amazing timing, I know.

The Invitee List & Quick Details

To build my invitee list I combed through neighborhood and school directories for published email addresses of women in my neighborhood. Yes, this one was targeted at women, sorry guys.  I also scoured my own Outlook account to look for gals I might have served on a neighborhood or school committee with but didn’t really know them very well. And, of course, I invited neighbors that I already knew – aka ‘the peeps’. As I did this one mid-week, I targeted stay-at-home and work-from-home women.

For this venture I used Evite to keep things über simple and organized. I emailed the invite to a list of 22 neighborhood gals, with about a week’s notice prior to the klatch.

Six gals were able to attend. Several more were thankful for the invite, and although they had other commitments they made a point to say “please let me know when you have the next one.”

And, do you want to know the CRAZY, AMAZING COINCIDENCE that happened at my inaugural neighborhood coffee klatch? Continue reading

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One Inspiring “Night Out”

This pig may have seen better days, but he hosted a great time for one North Seattle neighborhood!

This pig may have seen better days, but he hosted a great time for one North Seattle neighborhood!

Last week I shared my celebration with you about taking the risk to organize a block party with just one week’s notice, the result of which was getting the opportunity to meet five neighbors I didn’t yet know. Along with several neighbors I do know, we all enjoyed a casual evening of new connections. It really was awesome.

I was inspired to try this after hearing about three National Night Out block parties via friends and blog followers who were willing to share their stories with me. A couple of weeks ago, I connected with Kristine, a Bellingham transplant who now resides in North Seattle. She has been organizing a NNO block party in her neighborhood for the past seven years.  What started out as a simple potluck, grew this year to include a parade and a roasted pig. How did this all come together? Continue reading

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The 6 HAPPY GIFTS I received at my block party

The fire pit was blazing as I waited for my first neighbor to arrive at my block party.

The fire pit was blazing and I waited for my first neighbor to arrive at my block party.

Last April, I set a goal for myself to have one neighbor over for dinner, once a month for 12 months. And, not just any neighbors, but neighbors that I didn’t already know or know very well.

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the biggest challenge in all that: how do I go about inviting people over for dinner that I don’t even know? I mean, how would it come across if I simply knocked on someone’s door and said, “Hi. I’m your neighbor. I don’t know you. Wanna come for dinner?” In a city where making eye contact can often be iffy, doesn’t the thought of doing that bring you to the point of nervous poopies?  Might as well just put my ‘needy dork hat’ on and march down the middle of the street, right?

Well, anyway, that’s a big reason why I wanted to try to pull together a block party. It would provide a casual, ‘non-threatening’ opportunity to make some first introductions and have more than just a passing ‘mailbox’ conversation with neighbors I didn’t know very well. So, I pulled on my big girl panties and decided to take a risk. I canvassed my street with invites to my backyard for coffee and S’mores.

One week’s notice.  And what happened? Continue reading

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