‘Tis the Season to Love My Neighbors: Part Three

Neighbor gifts

The first house I lingered…second house, nobody was home…the third house, I caught him at his mailbox….the fourth house was warm and responsive….the fifth house – they were just perplexed…the sixth house was conversational…the seventh house, I was interrupting, but they were still gracious.

Thus began my delivery of my “neighbor gifts.”  My two oldest children tagged along and each had her and his job.  My daughter was the gift-handing-out helper and my son was the doorbell helper, at least when he could reach it!  Beforehand, I psyched up the kids to get them ready to give out our presents.  I coached them to sing out “Merry Christmas” when the neighbor opened his or her door.  This worked only after my daughter warmed up to the experience and pulled her head away from its seemingly permanent spot of her cheek to my rear cheek.

Once we passed the first eight houses (number eight was another ding-dong reverberating through empty halls), we moved on to the other street on which our house resides.  It was upon crossing this threshold that I realized I had counted two less than what I needed to drop off at all the houses! Unbeknown to me, new neighbors had bought the house that was literally finished that week – and they were moving in that day.  I definitely couldn’t be passing out gifts to each house and not stop there; they could be watching me and seeing me pass their house with nothing just didn’t seem, for lack of a better word, “neighborly”.  I sweated my deficient planning as the kids skipped along to the next house.

Two sweet kids answered the door at number nine on our stop.  At the previous empty houses, I had left the baggies on their doorsteps.  At house number ten, I had just seen its occupants drive away and knew they weren’t home.  I have also blogged about getting to know this neighbor before and our long get-to-know-you.  I decided I would come back if I had enough.  The next house, eleven, scared my kids into number twelve’s yard; when my son pushed the doorbell a Labrador, who looked as if it was going to scratch the glass out of the windows when it jumped on them, ferociously barked – and I just decided not to leave anything there.  It probably set us back another few years into getting a dog, so we’re even.

I loved coming to house number twelve.  This is the house of my neighbor who has children at the same school for which I work.  My daughter and one of the children are in the same class.  The children answered the door, and you would have thought we were Santa to the little boy in my daughter’s class.  He was talking so fast about how happy he was to see Lexi and how much he wanted to come play outside with her, but couldn’t.  It definitely made the lingering too long at house number one, perplexed looks at number six, and the vicious dog at number eleven, all worth the entire experience.

We moved on to number thirteen, which I could tell was a dud from the street.  All the windows were dark, and so again, I cheated and said I would come back if I had enough left.  From the outside, number fourteen looked like at least four, licensed drivers were home, but no one answered – and I wondered if they were like me, who pretends that no one is home if I don’t want to answer the door.  My daughter was one step ahead of me and placed a gift at their door.  I didn’t want to confuse her more by implementing my “come back if we have enough” rules, and let it slide.   At house number fifteen we were greeted by a young woman who was friendly and thanked us for braving the neighborhood.  She had children, but didn’t say how old.  I’d guess they were really young.  We finally came upon the brand new neighbors.  The man was pulling out in his truck and had curiously eyed my gift basket, so I approached him at his car window.  It was really awkward, and I felt like a fool, but I welcomed him and his family to the neighborhood and we chatted about how quickly they had moved in to the home.  Even before its completion, they had a contract on the house.  I hope my gift giving might have cemented their love of our little neighborhood.

The next two houses didn’t answer, which helped because I was down to my last two gifts.  The last house was probably the most gregarious and loquacious.  She introduced herself, her soon-to-be husband, and her teenage daughter, who all came to the door.  We talked about how they had met my husband – no news flash here – and also wanted to get out around our streets and really get to know everyone.  By this time, my children were touching all of her Christmas decorations – which look amazing – and I was able to really open up and explain myself and my mission to my neighbors.  Warmly they congratulated me on getting outside and braving the houses with unknown entities behind locked doors.  They encouraged me to get out more, and thanked me for the gift before we departed.

What an experience! I completed my tour and was able to remember some names as well!  The best part was seeing how excited my kids were to complete our mission.  I think a “block-party” may be my next project once it really warms up and all our kids can be outside.  I’m excited for the future and what God will do through me as I reach out.

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A couple of days after, I received a package of Chex mix with a Christmas card from one of the houses where people weren’t home!

Neighbors: My Children

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving holidays with family five hours north of us, I’m reminded of needing to take special care of my children, my little live-in neighbors.  You see, I know the upcoming drive is going to be rough.  They’re going to want to get out of their carseats and they’re going to scream when we don’t let them.  They’re going to need to go to the bathroom fifty times and we’re going to have to stop each time if we want to save the upholstery in our car.  They’re going to fight because, “Emry touched my foot!” or “Lexi said I was a bother, not a brother!”  The baby is just going to scream, because she does that randomly when you least expect it.  This drive is  going to test my mothering skills and my ability to stay calm – which is a feat in itself.

In preparation for our five hour drive, I’ve spent a whole day listening to Christian music, especially my current favorite, “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real.  The lyric, “so Father give me the strength, to be everything I’m called to be, oh Father show me the way to lead them, won’t you lead me?” is especially pertinent.  Beyond the five hour drive, though, I pray this line to help me be a leader in my house to my little live-in neighbors.  I know that I can do nothing without God’s help.

This post is short, but I wanted to touch a bit on something in preparation of a day in which we talk about everything for which we are thankful.  I’m not a “day 1, day 2, day 3: I’m thankful for” fb, twitter, blog poster.”  I’m thankful for the air in my lungs, a new day to experience, my husband, my children, my parents, my sister, and my friends.  I’m thankful that I get to hear screaming and fighting on the way to visit family, because others have lost these noises and would give anything to have them back.  I’m thankful for my readers and those of you who support me.  Most of all, I’m thankful to be one of Christ’s own.

May God bless you in this time of thankfulness!

Mission

In one of my last posts, I expressed a desire to speak Spanish to others and use the opportunity of going to Honduras as my full immersion experience.  However, I have slowly realized I have a different “mission” I must tackle before I can go outside my country.  I must first walk down my street and meet my neighbors.

My husband and I have lived on our street – the corner house of two cul-de-sacs – for four years this month.  My husband knows most of our neighbors because he is outside ten times as much as I am.  He mows and takes care of all outside house improvement.  Naturally, he meets and greets more people.  I, on the otherhand, venture out to get the mail every once in a while.  I don’t quite know what it is that keeps me in – it could be just taking care of the three kids – because I love being outside.  I wish we would go camping, but we don’t.  I wish we had a pool in our backyard, but we don’t.  I wish we could go watch a movie at a drive-in theatre, but we still haven’t.

Regretfully, I still don’t know the people that live so very close to me.  It has been on my heart to go out and meet my neighbors.  I’m that kind of woman, however, that never knows what to say and makes an introduction awkward.  It always happens.  I’ve decided, though, that I will take my kids with me to meet my neighbors.  Hopefully their presence will alleviate some of this awkwardness.  I will also not try to tackle these introductions all at the same time.  I’m thinking I will pace myself with one house each week.  You have no idea how badly I wanted to type “month” instead of”week.”

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.  If you are, like me, naturally inhibited, how do you get over yourself and “just do it” as Nike would say?  If you have no qualms about meeting new people, how do you perceive those of us who are so nervous?

I hope that in a week I can blog about my first neighbor meeting experience.  If I can introduce myself to millions of unknown people online, surely I can manage one to three people a few yards away…right?

My Love-Hate Relationship with the Streets of Longview, Texas

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Since being transplanted from the highways and interstates that crisscrossed Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Longview, Texas nearly nine years ago, I have grown to have a love-hate relationship with the streets and country roads of this smaller metropolitan area.  In my daily commute I’ve noticed streets I fancy and those I loathe – both of which I’ll go out of my way to traverse or avoid.  The following are examples of my favorites and most hated.

If I am in a Starbucks mood, I travel on Hawkins.  I currently live outside the city limits, so Hawkins is my way to get to everything that I find enjoyable.  It not only provides easy access to one Starbucks, but two palaces of caffiene explosions to help me get through my day.  My first favorite hot spot on Hawkins is going East, just after Bill Owens Parkway.  Here there is a little place I call the “Weee” spot.  It is at the entrance of Ben Hogan Drive and as you come over the road there is a little rolling hill that your right tires glide over and for a moment, you feel like you are flying.  When I have my children with me, they say “Weee” with me.  I pray that the City of Longview never destroys my “Weee” spot.

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On my way home, I also come back using Hawkins in order to pick up my daughter from day care in Spring Hill.  Going west, just after Bill Owens and between Gilmer Road there is a byway that saves me a couple of red lights.  It’s Heritage Boulevard, a road splitting several developed neighborhoods, so it’s easy on the eyes too.  It is also fun to take, because you don’t have to stop for a sharp curve to the right, but instead, as if you were on a on-ramp, you smoothly speed on by, no right turn signal needed.  You live in Longview, Texas long enough and you too will get excited about pseudo on-ramps.

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Now Hawkins does have one drawback, but usually not big enough for me to bypass it completely.  If you are coming north on 4th street, in attempt to turn right on Hawkins to get to a) the other Starbucks on your work’s side of town or b) movies, shopping, and yummy eateries, you have to traverse the seemingly infinite stopping zone on 4th between Loop 281 and Hawkins.

Let’s say you want to turn right on Hawkins.  There isn’t really that much room to zoom past the car in front of you in the left hand passing lane, without invariably having to screech your brakes at the F250 trying to turn left to go into Lowes.  Your best bet to successfully make the right turn is to stay in the right lane.  However, there are eleven right turns before the one you want to make at Hawkins.  Why eleven you ask?  Their names are Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Chick-Fil-A, and Taco Bueno.  There has to be plenty of ins and outs to those major Longview markets.

Fourth Street also leads to some more loved-hated places.  One of the biggest time wasters for a yield sign is towards downtown Longview at the intersection of 4th   Street and 6th Street.  Of the 78,038 population in Longview, I believe 100 of us know that it is a triangle that says “YIELD” and not an octagon that says “STOP”.  There is even a road it gives us to yield in, but 77, 938 people are blind to this fact.  I don’t know how to re-educate all these people that supposedly passed their driver’s tests.  If you have suggestions, please give.

If I continue going on 4th street towards my daughter’s day care, I choose to turn left on Pegues Place towards Judson Road.  About a year ago, this street was a hated way because of widening construction on the curbs.  However, it has once again been endeared to my heart because I find the homes along this street gorgeous.  For the thirty seconds it takes me to drive through this area, I feel transported to Rice Village in Houston, where my sister lived while in college.  Driving Pegues Place reminds me of the grandeur of homes found in Houston, and how much I need to see my sister.

One last hated place remains – at least of what I can think of currently, I’m sure more will inspire me to blog again.  I hate, hate, hate driving south of Cotton Street.  Why the City of Longview spends so much developing the northern area and not trying to improve the southern area, I will never know.  However, if you are going to attend LeTourneau University, going south on Mobberly Avenue and driving by yuck is about the best way to get there.   When you finally reach LETU, there is nothing in the vicinity to entice college bound students except for the Bodacious BBQ across the street.  However, with its ultra conservative reputation, maybe LETU likes it that way.

To end on a happy, warm-feeling, note, I will describe not one, but two loved drive-bys.  These are definitely not places for drive-by shootings, but for drive-by “photo-op”ings.  I love taking a leisurely drive on H.G. Mosley Parkway from Judson Road all the way to Loop 281.  The stretch on this way between Fairmont and Highway 80 used to be so ugly with overgrown trees, weeds, and bushes, but recent development makes the Pine Tree District appealing to live in.  From Highway 80 to Cotton Street, you get to take a nice curve around that almost makes you feel like you are in a convertible, hugging a mountain with a beautiful seaside retreat in the distance, with all the aura of a commercial – even when in actuality you are in a junky Mitsubishi Montero sport with the windows rolled down because your air conditioner goes out in the summer months.  Everyone say it with me, “Ahhhhhh!”

I also love driving on Fairmont.  It starts out kind of junky from Gilmer Road, but I love passing Pine Tree High School.  This bit is nostalgic for me.  No, I didn’t go there and graduate from there, but I definitely still learned a lot about life, teaching, and me.  I completed my student teaching there and was hired upon completion of my post-baccalaureate teaching certification.

My first year I made truckloads of mistakes.  I didn’t receive much guidance from the then principal – had he observed me my first year, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten to teach the other two that I was there.  I had some great guidance from two seasoned teachers that first year however.  I had some great students too.  Some helped me; some helped me learn that I was not cut out for teaching.  I persevered, hoping it would get easier through the years.  It didn’t.  I was the type of person that thought if they really liked me, then they would learn!  Needless to say, that philosophy didn’t pan out and I was canned after my third year.  The students might not have learned how to write properly, but I sure hope they learned something about life.  Maybe it was the simple fact that I cared, or that they learned how to further manipulate to get their way.  While I hope it wasn’t the latter, I hope I mattered in some way to each of them.  They mattered to me.

I find it hard to drive byPine Tree High School.

Fairmont is a favored street, but it is a hard street.  I have to face my failure when I think about driving down that road.  It is bittersweet, a definite love-hate relationship.