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?

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