If you grew up watching Mr. Rogers, you’ll remember his famous song, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
That song kind of sounds funny nowadays, doesn’t it? Won’t you be the person who lives near me? A little weird. But back in the day it made perfect sense because neighbor was just another word for friend.
My closest and dearest friends today are the girls who lived in my neighborhood growing up. Becca and Anna lived next door, Allison lived around the block near the lake, and Michelle lived across from our neighborhood pool (lucky girl!). We rode our bikes for hours on the dead end roads, met up at the pool almost every day in the summer, and later in high school would hang out at each other’s houses talking about boys or coming up with silly pranks. These girls were (and still are) such sweet friends, and part of the reason was living so close.
But enter 2013, and y’all — neighborhoods have changed!
It’s been literally ten years since I have lived in a house with a mailbox that didn’t have a key, and it’s not the chummy-hang-out-outside-with-your-neighbors life like it used to be.
We moved to our little cul de sac over a month ago, thinking for sure someone would bring us something to welcome us to the neighborhood… but nothing.
As much as I want to blame my neighbors for this, I am just as guilty.
For years I’ve been apartment hopping and never felt the need to meet the people I shared a wall with. Our society has become so individualistic and private that we are threatened when anyone knocks on our door. (It doesn’t help when that knock provokes your dog to bark like the dickens). At first I was excited to have a two-car garage, but I see it now as another way to make our lives more private. You can go from your car to your house without anyone even seeing you get out of the car.
It’s really easy for me to complain and say, Well, this is just how things are now! or hope someone will do something about it. But to paraphrase Ghandi: If I want my neighborhood to be lively and open and friendly – I need to be lively and open and friendly.
So, thus commenced Operation: Meet the Neighbors.
If there is one person who knows how to develop community, it’s my sister Carrie. She reminds me a little of Andrew in the Bible, who was always inviting random people to meet Jesus (which is kind of ironic since she’s married to an Andrew). They are two of the most generous, most welcoming people I know and are great examples of putting yourself out there and inviting people to their home. She moved to a house less than a year ago and knows every single person in that neighborhood and tells me all the time about the cookouts, play dates, and parties she throws or attends. It’s admirable and I am a little jealous.
So after getting back from the beach, I decided it was time to meet the people inside these 12 houses I share a street with, and bring them all chocolate chip cookies (cause, c’mon, EVERYONE loves chocolate chip cookies).
I sent a text to Carrie: ”I’m giving my neighbors cookies. What should I write on the card?”
She wrote back: “Cookies contain sugar… so feel free to stop by any time you need to borrow a cup!”
I wrote back: “Haha, um no thanks preschool teacher. Way too cheesy. Try again.”
She gave me a few more general ideas, but after mulling through each, I decided to go with her cheesy line. This was a practice in putting myself out there, not trying to look perfect. Besides, if someone brought me some cookies with that line I would think it was kinda cute. Cheesy still, but cute.
So, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon I made six dozen cookies, stuffed them in cellophane baggies and tied them with a ribbon and that cheesy note. I made J go with me, but kept Leia at home since she’s afraid of children (that’s another reason why it’s hard to meet people in this ‘hood: that little goober barks at the kids!).
As silly as this sounds, I was a nervous wreck. Going up to each house and meeting my neighbors? Terrifying. My hands were sweaty and I kept telling J that maybe this wasn’t a good idea… but we went and did it anyways.
The first neighbor, super nice. He’s single and his girlfriend stays with him sometimes. The second neighbor lives next door and laughed that she should have given us the cookies, not the other way around. The third neighbor wasn’t home, so we tied the cookies to the door handle. Same with the fifth, sixth, and eighth houses. The fourth neighbor looked at us like we were selling something, but then warmed up after we told him we lived two houses down. The seventh neighbor was so nice and invited his wife and son to come to the door to meet us. The ninth neighbor we had met before, and he thought it was the nicest thing in the world. We heard his daughter scream “Cookies!!!” once the door was shut. Adorbs. The tenth neighbor was washing his car, and we learned he was a police officer with three daughters. The eleventh neighbor was an old lady who declined the cookies because she was on a diet. (Oops!) The last neighbor lives next door, and we learned between she and her husband they have 6 kids. We learned her husband is a big football fan, and J invited them over any time they want to watch with him.
It went a hundred times better than I ever imagined. Everyone was friendly and appreciative and the whole experience was so… life-giving. It’s just a start and I know it takes time, but I am so excited to get to know them more.
Last Thursday night we came home to find a pot of mums at our front door with a note that read: Welcome to the neighborhood! from the neighbors with the three girls. THE SWEETEST.
I think I’m going to like living here.
Do you have any experience getting to know your neighbors?
Oh hey there, blog. I kinda forgot about you for a week. I forgot about a lot of things for a week, actually. Like forgetting to set an alarm, wear make up, and shower daily.
It was fabulous.
Last week my family and J’s family went to the beach for the week. Yep, you read that correctly — both of our families went to the beach together. Not many in-laws can do that — but I’m happy to report we survived and had a great time together! We went to Wrightsville Beach and stayed at a the most gorgeous 6-bedroom beach house that my SIL decorated for work. Y’all, it was gorgeous. (Check out #clemdaneelbeachtrip2013 for more pics. Yes, we’re so nerdy awesome we started a hashtag for the week.)
I am convinced that September is the very best month to go to the beach. (Well, aside from it being hurricane season. Thankfully, none entered our perfect beach haven.) I admit, this summer it was a little depressing going to work every day while my teacher friends and many coworkers took week (or even month)-long vacations, but September at the beach is magical. The beaches are secluded and quiet. The restaurants and shops are filled with locals. The weather is warm, but without the sticky humidity in the summer. And the ocean is so warm it’s almost like bath water.
I turned 28 on Sunday the 15th, and it was one of the best birthdays ever. How can you complain when you have the closest people that love you the most celebrating your birthday? There was even a birthday chant (don’t ask, it was embarrassing). My sister Carrie made a huge brunch and we sat on the deck for hours eating and laughing and opening presents, and then spent the day at the beach reading and fighting the waves.
We made delicious meals at home, took walks to the sound, saw every sunset, read a lot of books, told lots of stories, took naps on the deck, and got up the last morning to watch the sunrise.
It was such a great trip, and I am so thankful to have families that like each other. :)
I am over-the-moon excited about our new house. The fenced in backyard. The little front porch. The small, house-lined neighborhood. The garage that fits both our cars. The quiet cul-de-sac. The spacious, open floor plan.
But there are a few things I will miss about the our apartment, particularly its location. It is in walking distance to a small shopping center (hello Starbucks and Panera!), and also on the edge of town where there is a lot of undeveloped land, making it the perfect spot for walks and long runs. Every morning Leia and I took a walk to the edge of our complex, where the road dead ends and we have the perfect view of the sunrise. I am going to miss that.
They have started to develop that area (so it’s a good time to leave) and our sweet little dead end to nature has turned into a construction zone, but I will always look back fondly on these walks and the special season of our life when we lived here.
Here are just a few pictures I’ve taken near our place in the last year:
Of course, the sun will still rise and set at our new house, and I am so excited to set new routines in our new neighborhood. Change is good.
1. THIS DRINK. Mocha light frappuccino from Starbucks, my indulgent drink of choice in the summer. You’d think it would be a regular mocha, but I have gotten so used to them that when I do have a full-fat one, it tastes too creamy. Of course, if it’s a Friday, I have been known to add whipped cream.
2. THESE MOUNTAINS. So many memories are tucked away in these hills. I can’t wait to go back this autumn. Also, when I think of September, this is what I picture:
4. THIS PUPPY. I spontaneously bought Leia this dog bed for her to use in our living room (she has one in our bedroom), and she immediately laid next to it, instead of on it. That little goober. I planning to make her one, but found this at Marshall’s for $25 and figured that’s how much it would cost, or more, after I picked out fabric, etc. (Picture taken by my SIL.)
5. THIS SONG.
Am I the last person to get on The Civil Wars bandwagon? In any case, I’m digging them, and this song.
6. THIS SHOW. Whenever there’s change in my life, I turn to Gilmore Girls. No matter how many times I’ve seen the episodes, it makes me happy and keeps me grounded. Oy with the poodles already!
7. THESE GIRLS. My sisters and old Hamilton Lakes girls all grew up in the same neighborhood and have been friends for years. We catch up with each other individually throughout the year, but each autumn plan a get together. I can’t wait for this year’s. :)
8. THIS (SOMEDAY) BLANKET. I have been crocheting together this granny square blanket off and on for about a year now. I pick it up whenever we watch TV and make on average four or five squares a week. Even still, I think I’m only halfway done. A labor of love, this one.
9. THIS FELLA.
Sometimes in the mundane routine I forget how lucky I am to have this guy in my life. He’s a keeper.
10. THIS WEEKEND!
I have a happy weekend planned and hope to share more on Friday. (Pic below taken from a date night last month.)
What are you happy about this week?
PS – I stole this post idea from Kerrie. Head over and wish her luck as she and her husband move to Mexico!