For seven years I ran a vinyl shop out of an old drugstore on the main street in Shelley, Idaho. It had a high decorative tin ceiling that crowned the room perfectly and added such a nice touch of charm to a home decor sign shop.
My two sons and I lived in the studio apartment over the store where I could be both at home AND at work. It was an ideal situation for a single parent.
Every morning after my boys toddled off to school, I showered, got dressed, went downstairs, turned on the shop lights and tied on my apron ready for another day of making signs.
Then, from early spring to late fall, I propped open my front door and dragged out the old fashioned OPEN sign to the curb.
I was open for business.
Customers came in and out all day, and over the course of seven years those customers turned into friends.
I really loved that side of the business. I may have been raising my boys as a single parent, but I was not alone. I had a whole town supporting me.
The three of us had a very predictable and peaceful life surrounded by loads of nice people.
But then my whole life was turned upside down when I came on vacation to Newberg. I HAD to live where it was this beautiful. I made the leap from Idaho to Oregon and from a well-connected shop owner to a brand new town where I didn’t know anyone and worked from the desk in my living room.
It was a tough adjustment.
I’d lived in Newberg for nearly three years when a friend asked me one crisp fall morning, “Why do you always have your door open? I swear you always have the heater on and the door wide open.”
She was right.
When you live on the main street of a town and have your door propped open and a sign inviting people to stop in, they do. People bring themselves into your life and you find a way to make them friends and keep them in your life.
When you live in a neighborhood and work behind a computer, even with my door wide open, no one just stops in to chat. No one just drops in and asks to be my friend.
BUT...I still left my door open with the quiet invitation to the jogger or the dog walker or the mailman to come through my door and have a cup of tea. They never did.
Years have passed. I still leave my door open at seasonally inappropriate times, but I’ve decided to stop waiting for people to stop in and introduce themselves.
That Saturday morning in September when I woke up giddy with delight that there were guests in my home ready to explore Newberg my thinking changed and my path became much more clear.
My job is to go to work finding people to invite through my front door and into my life.
It feels hopeful to recognize life still holds a lot of new friends on my horizon. There are conversations yet to have and kindred spirits yet to discover.
It feels empowering to assign myself the responsibility of making new friends and deepening my connections in my community.
I have spent a lot of time over the last few years in my house by myself feeling disconnected and alone, but I have the power to change that.
So with connection and future happy memories as my motivator, I went to work last month reworking my living room to create a space that would provide a neutral backdrop for potluck dinners, classes and small workshops.
I assigned myself the task of being the creator of happiness in my life. If I want to learn how to make French macarons, then I will organize a class and find someone to teach it.
If I want to learn how to ferment vegetables, then there’s probably someone in my village that knows how to do that and is willing to share.
If I want to go on that hike I heard about, then why not get a group together to do that?
Sometimes we all just need an initiator. Someone to plan that party. Someone to set a time for that hike. Someone to bring people together.
I want to be that person. I love bringing people together, and my life is richer when I make that effort.
I thought about all of this as I packed away the family pictures and with my blank canvas of a living room went to work making a gathering space.
It needed to be comfortable, inviting, have space to create, cook, eat, learn and share conversation together.
I had at my disposal the contents of a full and extremely unorganized garage, ten years of collecting things “that I might use one day.”
THAT day had come. It was time to utilize all the things I’d been collecting over the years to create the next chapter of my life.