Ohio Welcome

Our family recently completed our seventh move in 13 years. We moved from Northern Virginia to Columbus, Ohio, after having lived in several places in the United States as well as in New Delhi and Singapore. With so many postal codes and zip codes we’ve called home, you might think that we have mastered the art of fitting in, making new friends and settling into our new digs.

I find though, it’s not necessarily true. Yes, I’m a pro at unpacking the boxes, but the connection with neighbors and finding like-minded people is a challenge. I always worry – with each new move – whether the new neighbors will accept our version of crazy chaos, understand that our background includes a diverse collage of experiences, and welcome us into the fold anyway.

We’ve been in the new house for two weeks now. We have been blessed with great neighbors, a true Ohio welcome: everyone bombarded us with treats, including breakfast one morning, dinner another evening. But as we approached Halloween, I was faced with dread and dismay.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite celebrations. Yes, I dress up. But this year, since we are new, I was freaking out a bit. We don’t really know anyone yet and I’m once again left to keep the cheerleading going for the family as we settle in. For instance, my kids have no one to trick or treat with, we have no idea what time the neighborhood starts trick or treating, and we don’t even know if older kids trick or treat here.

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Last week, as I met some of the neighbors, many of them excitedly said, “We gather in the cul-de-sac for Halloween. Bring wine and some food and your candy bowl.” I was thrilled.

We have five neighbors on this cul-de-sac, the circular street that marks the end of the neighborhood. Two Italian-American households are related to each other, one couple has grandchildren, another house is occupied by a single, older man, and another is occupied by an older Polish woman and her Japanese husband, who both immigrated to the U.S. 30 years ago.

So when we were invited for Halloween, I of course accepted, and then a few days later, when I was talking “over the fence” to the Polish lady with the Japanese husband, I asked if they would also be there. They shrugged. In broken English, they said that maybe they could come.

Fast forward to tonight. In my head, I knew that we’d been invited, I KNEW that we were welcome, but I was anxious and nervous. Did they really want us to join them? What if we were supposed to cook something? Should I make a quick cheese plate?

Suddenly, I saw the kids were starting. Should I take our chairs over to their driveway, or sit in ours? I poured a glass of wine at 5:30 p.m. and hid behind the blinds, as I peered out and tried to discern the rules. I tried to hide my discomfort from the kids as I encouraged them: “Right! Go get your costumes on! Let’s go, let’s go. This will be fun!”

A bit later, it was obvious that the neighbors had indeed gathered in one central driveway. Soon enough, everyone was there around a bonfire. We placed our collective candy contributions on the centralized table for the visiting children and we had chili, and pizza from the Italian families’ restaurant, and s’mores.

We talked and laughed and then I watched as the Polish lady and her Japanese husband met —- for the first time in three years —– the other neighbors in the cul-de-sac.

Flabbergasted, I asked one of the neighbors sitting next to me if they had never met this couple before. She said, “Apparently it takes the newest of neighbors to truly bring us all together.”

When I dug a bit further, I learned that this couple moved in to the neighborhood when everyone else had a lot going on — kids graduating from high school, babies being born, a death in the family. Their move-in was also complicated by a 10-month renovation project, so it was a bit less obvious of a move-in than when WE pulled up with our 40-foot truck, three obnoxious dogs, two cats and a red Jeep.

Tonight I watched them share their stories of life abroad, being expats in the U.S., with our neighbors and new friends. The Italian families then talked about their own parents who immigrated, the couple with grandchildren announced they were soon going to retire and go traveling, with the wife doing “on the road” hospice and other nursing care. Another neighbor’s daughter discussed her plans to combine her psychology degree with a master’s in education so she can have an impact on the lives of students living abroad.

We all found we had more in common than simply the same cul-de-sac address. These new neighbors of ours had never talked about their worlds before.

Lesson learned? Just because you’re the newbie doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer the neighbors.

Moving is hard. Fitting in sucks. Figuring out where and how you belong is exhausting. But sometimes just showing up — especially when it feels the most awkward and difficult — is where the magic lies. When I said goodnight to everyone, the Polish lady gave me a tight hug and in her beautiful broken English said, “Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this.”

For all those struggling with finding their people, and meeting new friends, I say: Change your perspective ever so slightly. Lead with an intention to serve, volunteer your time somewhere, or invite someone to the table. Asking “how can I help?” can be the best introduction to authentic and meaningful relationships.

I am often asked by my friends from around the world whether I am proud to call America home. With so many nasty things happening in America these days, I am reminded that this truly is the spirit of our country. Our basic nature is to welcome new friends. I am living proof that’s who we are.

God will never give you more than you can handle.

You’ve heard it before. God will never give you more than you can handle. I’m here to challenge that a bit!

This post goes out to all the women who are holding it together.

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The ones who are cleaning up dog shit from carpets that you just paid a fortune to have cleaned.

To you who are making sure that your children have all that they need, even when it means you go without.

For those of you who can’t remember the last time someone told you “I like that sweater!” yet you consistently dole out accolades and compliments.

I see you, Mama Bear who wants nothing more than to see her son fit in, and have friends … but you don’t know how to encourage him, so you simply cook his favorite dinner and hope that suffices in some small way.

My friend, who struggles to know what’s “cool” when it comes to planning a birthday party for a tween, yet chooses to plan away anyway, with no regard for the eye-roll and the hair flip.

To you folks who have partner who is away more than he or she is HOME. I can see their absence and raise you a “they are providing and doing the best they can.”

Maybe you are the leave-ee. Maybe YOU are the one that is footing the bills and trying to make up for homeruns missed and bedtimes passed by. To you, I say, I can see your absence too … and I don’t judge it. Don’t let anyone judge it … do what works for you and your family.

On that note, to the ladies who are traveling for work, packing suitcases and saying goodbye. Make a habit of leaving love notes for your family. And if you’re the one staying behind? Start training the leavee to scribble a quick note for everyone before they fasten the seatbelt on the way to the airport.

For those who are hurting because your current load is triple that which you signed up for, I’ll bring you a frozen lasagna if you’re close enough!

You may feel that god is giving you more than you can handle right now … but if you’ll be a bit transparent, ask for the help that you need, you’ll find that people will show up.

(and if they forget to show up or neglect to commit, remind them again)

 

 

Table Grace Cafe

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Recently, while visiting friends and family in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, our dear friend Cynthia took us to Table Grace Cafe for lunch.

Utilizing physical food donations from companies like Wohlners and Whole Foods, Table Grace Cafe is able to create amazing meals, using food that otherwise would have been thrown away! Look at this menu from a recent day of service:

Salad: Mixed Lettuce, Toppers: Craisins or Strawberries with Champagne – Berry Vinaigrette or Balsamic, or Ranch

Soup: Roasted Potatoes and Pepper Soup, Mild Chicken and Potato or Cream of Asparagus

Pizza: Antipesto or Roasted Brussel Sprout and Squash

 

From their website, their mission:

To foster a healthy community by offering great food prepared and served in a graceful manner to anyone who walks through the door.

Gourmet Pizza, Salad and Soup
no set price
different varieties prepared daily
fresh and organic ingredients when available
no cash register
funded by donation box,
patrons may donate or serve.
10 day work program/referral

Our goal is that everyone regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat wonderful food while being treated with respect and dignity.

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If you find yourself in Omaha, Nebraska, take a gander over to Farnam Street and pay a visit to the folks at Table Grace Cafe!

Hours

Monday – Saturday
11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Location

1611 1/2  Farnam St
Omaha, NE  68102-2113

 

Things I’m scared to say out loud

This post was inspired by this from Nina Badzin and this one.

I have been not writing much at all like I used to. I have so much to say, but it feels weirdly tiring when I try to write a post that makes sense. When I saw Nina’s post about things she won’t write about and then Alison’s piece on what she’s afraid to tell her readers, I realized that it was ok to just write my thoughts down, whether or not they make sense and then just hit publish. That’s the beauty of my blog, I appreciate that I don’t have any rules and no one looking over my shoulder at my content / themes and subject matter.

Without further ado, some things I’m scared to say out loud:

I really didn’t like living in Florida.

It has nothing to do with the friends we DID make while we were there, but instead all about the combination of trying to repatriate, realizing that we didn’t fit in anymore (but we looked like we should have) and struggling to find common denominators with those we encountered.

I loved the climate, or so I thought. It was great to have consistent flip-flop weather and a garden that grew nearly year round. It was nice living in a place where so many friends and family came through on vacation, so we got to see more of them. The reality was that I missed the four seasons and snow in the winter. I wore skirts nearly every day because it was THAT hot in Orlando, almost every day. As my friend Lynden will say, skirts allow one to cool off the undercarriage!

I don’t know how to parent my children.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know how to LOVE them, cherish them and encourage them. I do not, however, know how to parent them. I realized recently that they have no idea how to do any kind of housework and all three of them are very unorganized and unable to prioritize. I also am not quite sure how to instill tradition into their lives because we’ve bucked the system for the majority of all their childhood years by raising them overseas and some days, it feels too late to begin.

I don’t like talking about politics or racism, even though I am very outgoing and not afraid to voice my opinion.

I recently wrote about how it feels to be from a mixed heritage but several months ago, I had another experience that made me realize just how uncomfortable of a topic it is. When I passed my Real Estate Exam, at the end, I was asked to fill out a form that asked about my race. The four options were 1. Caucasian 2. Asian 3. African-American 4. Hispanic.  “Huh” I said to the proctor, “I’m half and half, what should I put?” She said “Well honey, up here in Virginia, I’d say you look black.” I’m currently investigating this with our State Board as I think this paperwork needs to be updated a bit, don’t you think? I will work hard to change things like that, but I still don’t like discussing racism. Sometimes that feels ignorant, and sometimes it feels like a way to protect myself. I don’t know how to have that conversation either.

I have a family member who struggles with addiction and is in rehab, after a considerable amount of time in jail.

Someone said the other day that she enjoyed interacting with me because our family was so fascinating and interesting, and “whatever your parents did, they sure did something right.” She went on to say that she sometimes feels shame when talking about her sister, who is in and out of jail, who struggles with addiction and is letting their family down. I listened to her, and then when she was finished, said “I know what you mean.” She was shocked and said “You too?”  We then had a very strange conversation about the assumptions and stereotypes that we give one another when it comes to criminal matters, family drama and discussions about addiction. I don’t have a solid, streamlined way to have this discussion, so I’ll leave it here for now.

 Are there things you wish you could talk about to others, but feel afraid to open your mouth?