Hello, friends! And hello, fall! My new book “Bringing Home More Than Groceries: Stories About Gathering & Nourishing People” is divided by seasons, so I wanted to start this new season with an excerpt. This also kicks off a monthly series about why hospitality matters in every season. Stay tuned for fun giveaways, practical tips, and free resources!
Katie moved next door to me in October of 1990 and my life hasn’t been the same since. She befriended the school principal’s daughter and I was happy to have a new kid in the neighborhood. We didn’t realize we were building a lifelong friendship. At the time, we ate Circus Peanuts, drank Dr Pepper, joked about fruitcake, and consumed more than our share of Hometown Pizza and Dairy Queen Blizzards.
When we met, she was 10 and I was 11. Now we’re grown-ups who do frequent grocery shopping for our own families at two Kroger stores that are too far away from each other.
One time Katie sent me a card—yes, we sometimes still use the Postal Service to communicate—that says, “Sometimes I’ll think about something you said, and I’ll laugh, and then other people choosing tomatoes at the grocery store will wonder what’s so funny about that tomato. (Open card.) You’re good for me.” And I laughed. Out loud. More than once. That’s how we are. We really are good for each other and nobody thinks I’m funnier than Katie does.
Strangely but sweetly enough, my husband is distantly related to Katie, thanks to their common roots in a very small western Kentucky town. He once described us once as friends who make each other laugh at things nobody else would think are funny. We have inside jokes that drag on for decades, sometimes to the point we don’t remember their origin or point. But we still laugh. And even though we haven’t lived in the same town for more than half our friendship, I still know she’d rather have a short grocery list with so few items she can carry them all with a handheld basket, certainly without a cart. Just picturing her juggling a carton of orange juice, a gallon of milk, and cartons of ice cream makes me laugh.
In the fifteen months I was a mom before she was, I told her more than once how when she had a child, juggling these items wouldn’t be possible—regardless of how strong and crafty she was. That baby probably will weigh about eight pounds from the beginning. Add in the weight of the baby carrier moms inevitably have to carry into the store because their babies fall asleep on the shortest of drives. And, well, the orange juice and ice cream just have to find a home in the cart.
She learned, like all us moms do about something. She now mothers two boys and manages to keep them fed.
Through all the seasons, Katie has been in my life, even if many miles have separated us almost all of our adult lives. Grown-up life sure has its obstacles but they’re easier to navigate with friends by our side—wherever they live.
Here are some simple, practical ways to stay connected and close the distance that physically separates loved ones:
- Use social media to spark real conversations. Conversations may happen in emails, text messages, phone calls or Facebook messages, but they go deeper than what’s happening on a public profile. Ask questions, swap stories, or continue previous conversations on a personal level. Maintaining long-distance friendships is certainly aided greatly by technology, but you still have to make an investment.
- Send care packages and real mail. Yes, do it for birthdays or other special dates. But also do it just because.
- Invite them over. Long-distance friends may not be conveniently located in your same town, but you can still invite them over. Get dates on the calendar and make plans. Another Katie in my life has become a faithful summer visitor to our house. In the winter, we make summer plans by setting aside a weekend for our families to spend together.
- Be willing to go see them. When we go on a road trip, often prompted by a particular event, I try to schedule dates with other friends who live in that area. It doesn’t mean I can always see everyone I hope to see, but it’s worth trying to connect over a meal.
- Tell your kids about these friends. My kids adore some of my out-of-town friends. So when we do get to see them, they’re just as excited as I am. And they adore the grown-up friends too when they know they’re like family.
- If you can’t be there physically, send something. When my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly a decade ago, some out-of-town friends journeyed to our small town to grieve our loss and celebrate his life with us. Others couldn’t be here, which is understandable, but they sent flowers, pictures frames, cards, and texts of prayers. Celebrate happier moments together across the miles too.
Yes, I’d love to be neighbors with Katie again, but that’s not likely to happen, so we’ll cherish the time we get to sit close on the couch and then continue connecting as we can to build upon our much-valued history.
I have a pretty (and free!) printable called Hospitality For Any Season for y’all! Hospitality matters regardless of what season you’re living, so I share practical ways to open your heart and home to others.
Download it here!
AND THERE’S A FUN GIVEAWAY happening over on Instagram just through tomorrow (Oct. 16, 2020). Join me there to enter to win a copy of my book and “Daily Acts of Friendship” by women at The Ruth Experience.
Of course, “Bringing Home More Than Groceries” is also available on Amazon or directly from me. To get an autographed copy directly from me, send $10 (plus $5 is shipping is needed) via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get you a copy delivered to your front porch or mailbox. Learn more about the book, read a sample chapter, and see who endorsed it.