One of the things I miss the very most about “home” since moving to Minnesota nearly 20 years ago is family. I miss having a tight-knit group of people who’ve known you since birth and who will lend a helping hand for any reason at any time, and almost always without needing to know the details of why. They just do it because they love you and because that’s what family does.

Image from the movie, Grumpy Old Men
http://www.likeateam.com/2012/02/29/grumpy-old-men-and-the-lessons-they-teach-team-leaders/

With that said, however, I am so fortunate to have some of the absolute best neighbors anywhere! Most of us are roughly the same age, and our younger children are within a few years of each other on either side. While we are very careful not to take advantage of each other, it’s always understood among us that any one of us would step forward to lend a helping-hand to the other. And that’s a really great feeling, especially so far from home.

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One of the best things about our neighbors is teasing around with them. I’m a huge Oklahoma Sooners football fan, and my neighbor, Cindy, is a big-time Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. Each year as the football season kicks off, I find a ginormous poster of the Huskers’ season schedule taped to my front door..or my garage…or pretty much any reasonably adherable surface…compliments of Cindy. I guess she thinks it’d be a tragedy if I happened to miss one of her beloved Cornhuskers’ games! If we go to her house and she serves us drinks, she always seems to have Nebraska Cornhuskers disposable cups on hand just for us! Oh yes…we feel so loved!

Dude! You don't like me??

On the other hand, my neighbor Brian (who lives directly next door) enjoys giving me a hard time for my Mickey Mouse obsession. It’s completely beyond his understanding how it’s possible for a grown woman to love Mickey Mouse. Conversely, I have a hard time understanding how a grown man doesn’t know better than to dress himself in plaid shorts and a striped shirt of different color groups, no less…but that’s a blog for another day. At any rate, this Mickey Mouse “discussion” has been going on for several years, and came to a head this past summer when – upon my returning from Walt Disney World – I surreptitiously decorated his “monster work truck” with little Mickey Mouse magnets. Thank goodness Brian has a great sense of humor or I’m afraid he might actually strangle me for casting doubt upon his manliness with this latest prank!

Simply stated, then, in spite of the fact I live so far from home, I have great neighbors and I’m so thankful every single day to have been so greatly blessed by living next to these wonderful people.

Minnesota winters can be brutal and neighbors can go a full 6-9 months without seeing each other, except for a quick wave when passing each other on the street. I guess it’s for that reason that I love Minnesota summers so much. And, if I love Minnesota summers, then I absolutely adore summer evenings in Minnesota. Beginning at about dusk, the weather is perfect to just sit out on the deck, open up a bottle of wine or beer, and just take in the outdoor sounds as you sit next to the warmth and glow of a fire pit. Only I don’t have a fire pit. So I go in search of a neighbor who has one lit and will usually crash the peace and quiet of their evening. And lucky for me, I can usually find a lit fire at Cindy and Tom’s or Brian and Alecia’s…ya just gotta know when and how to look.

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A couple of summers ago on a really hot July day, my husband was gone for the evening and I was feeling more than a little lazy. That night I had decided that I didn’t feel like cooking for just myself and the two kids, so I was going to take the easy route and just throw together a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for myself and the kids. The kids weren’t very thrilled with it, but I wasn’t backing down. I was not going to heat up the kitchen for just the three of us. So we ate our sandwiches and the kids went out to roam the neighborhood. Within a few hours, it was my turn to start roaming the neighborhood in search of a fire pit and a glass of good wine. Not surprisingly, I ended up on Brian and Alecia’s patio with an especially peaceful fire and great glass of wine.

As the evening progressed and the conversation got more lively, I happened to mention that I had been feeling pretty lazy earlier that evening and mentioned that I hadn’t cooked a real meal for dinner.

“I feel kinda bad,” I said. “I was feeling pretty lazy tonight and so the kids didn’t get a real dinner. They had PB&J sandwiches.”

Sitting across from me, Brian looked at me with a quizzical expression and said, “No they didn’t.”

“Ummm….yeah, ” I said confused. “That’s what I made them for dinner tonight, so it’s all they’ve eaten. It wasn’t much, but I wasn’t in the mood to do any real cooking, so they ate PB&J sandwiches for dinner.”

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“Actually,” said Brian with a smirk, “A couple of hours ago as I was pulling burgers off of the grill, your kids happened to wander over and mentioned that they were ‘starving’ and that the burgers looked ‘so good’ and that their mom ‘didn’t feel like cooking’ for them tonight. I looked at their starving, pitiful little faces and felt so bad for them that I threw a couple of extra burgers on the grill for them and they had burgers for dinner tonight with us.”

Ack! I seriously could’ve died on the spot! I was mortified! He fed my kids??

Hmmm…I wonder what would happen if I tried that trick the next time he has steaks on the grill? With my luck, I’d be stuck with the PB&J sandwiches!

Thanks, Brian…I owe ya, buddy!