Issue 25: I Am Sitting on My Front Porch

Melody WarnickBlacksburg, Moving, Place love, Virginia

You don’t buy a lot and build a brand-new house without thinking for about a bajillion hours about the kind of place you’d like to have. For my husband and me, those bajillion hours distilled down to a few core principles rooted in everything I’ve ever learned about place attachment:

  • We wanted an infill lot in an existing neighborhood with trees
  • We wanted to be in walking distance to stuff we cared about
  • We wanted to be closer to downtown
  • We wanted a front porch

Five months in, I stand by all those decisions. Maybe the porch most of all.

In builder’s terms, it’s dead space, a $10,000 boondoggle. In life terms, it’s what spans the gap between inside and outside, private home and neighborhood. It’s where we read after dinner and watch the rain without getting wet. It’s the quiet vantage point from which I can greet (okay, spy on) the neighborhoods.

When I get ambitious, I’ll mimic my friend Dawn’s family and institute weekly “open porch” nights. Pop some popcorn, stir up some lemonade, and issue a standing invitation to stop by and chat.

Do you have a porch? Do you want one?

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Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter

Just another month till we’re ready to kick off our new online mini course! For not much time or money, it will make you less of a mess after a move.

If you relocated this summer, or last summer, or soon, sign up for our mailing list to get more details.

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7 items of interest

1. The nutty finances of living where you want to live.
2. This will make you want to move to a small town. In Texas.
3. When place attachment means running for office.
4. Gentrification summed up.
5. The world’s most Instagrammable mural.
6. Are you anti–open concept? “Nothing is more maddening than trying to read or watch television in the tall-ceilinged living room with someone banging pots and pans or using the food processor 10 feet away in the open kitchen.” #FirstWorldProblems
7. A short podcast about the travails of moving. (I got interviewed!)

xoxo, Melody

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Issue 24: The $5 Love Where You Live Experiment

Melody WarnickBlacksburg, Buy local, Love Where You Live experiment

On the Friday that the ice cream shop Sugar Magnolia finally soft-launched in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia, traffic through the doors didn’t falter for eight hours. The tables were swamped when I wandered over. No matter. I ate my $3.50 coconut chip ice cream cone among the greeting card racks.

It’s the least I can do. Communities do well when their locally owned businesses are thriving. Businesses succeed when the communities they’re located in are humming along. It’s the ultimate circular relationship.

When I was researching my book This Is Where You Belong, I joined a downtown cash mob, a group of locals committed to spending $20 that evening at a designated downtown businesses. That night, our target business was a local skateboard shop that I’d never set foot inside because I’m a middle-aged lady who would rather not break her arm, thanks.

Galvanized by the cash mob, I dropped $20 there on a locally screen-printed Blacksburg t-shirt. One of the store’s owners thanked me for coming. “Your support means a lot to us,” he said.

Your local spending obviously matters to the entrepreneurs, but it matters just as much to your community. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, when you shop at locally owned stores, about three times the money continues to circulate locally than when you shop at chains, creating a trickle-down effect in the way of additional tax revenue, employment, and spending. Sugar Magnolia, for instance, sells locally made Homestead Creamery ice cream, chocolates from just over the border in West Virginia, and books and art from local creatives.

I’m seeing the effects first-hand now, since one of the pony-tailed teenage girls scooping ice cream at Sugar Magnolia that first afternoon was my daughter, on her first day at her first job. That job will last only as long as Sugar Magnolia stays open.

Now all my downtown spending falls under the heading “supporting the local community.” It’s like an emotional tax write-off that perfectly justifies a $5 greeting card and a $20 t-shirt. I am my own cash mob of one. It’s a pretty cheap investment in loving where I live.

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Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter

Some super-exciting news! This fall, my friend Marni Cummings and I will be launching an online course designed to help people who have recently moved feel happier and more settled in their new community. Are you moving this summer? Be the first to know about our online course by signing up for our special e-mail list.

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7 items of interest

1. “I set my intention to deepen my experience of community wherever I am.” How unlikely connections make our lives richer.
2. Your town needs its own musical.
3. Would you retire to Florida? (Florida wants you to.)
4. “Loneliness won’t just make you miserable—-it will kill you.” And the solution could be as simple as a monthly potluck.
5. What happens if rich neighborhoods can just secede from poor cities?
6. Find a place that needs you.
7. Two great lists of picture books to teach your kids about helping the community.

xoxo, Melody

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Issue 23: One Word That Changes Everything

Melody WarnickCool projects, Love Where You Live experiment, Moving, Place love

Right before my friend Cristina moved to my town a few years ago, someone gave her this advice: Say yes to everything you’re ever invited to do.

“Since you’re new in town, you’ll probably get invited to things. But you only get one chance, because if you say no, you probably won’t get invited again. So say yes.”

So Cristina said yes. Over and over. For six months after she landed here, saying yes was her personal mission in life. Would she go to lunch with a bunch of strangers? Sure! Did she want to join the Junior Women’s League? Of course!

As a self-described introvert, the thought of socializing with people she barely knew sometimes filled her with anxiety, yet she forced herself to face the awkwardness repeatedly. It was like exposure therapy. Before too long, the awkwardness dissipated and Cristina started making real friends.

Then things got serious. A few months after moving in, she and her husband were at their new friend Holly’s house when talk turned to Holly’s approaching 40th birthday. The big plan: A bunch of couples were all flying to the Caribbean together for a blow-out, rum-soaked birthday weekend. Holly suddenly turned to Cristina and exclaimed, “You should come!”
Read more at Livability.com.

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7 items of interest

1. Would you move to a town that promised to pay off your student loan debt?
2. Two words for areas looking to bolster tourism: Donut. Trail.
3. One sign you might be moving: You have box envy. (Haha, a month after we moved into our new house I’m still scanning dumpsters.)
4. Vermont wants you to go on vacation there this summer. And they wouldn’t mind if you moved there either.
5. Did Fixer-Upper fix Waco?
6. Chill the heck out, Louisiana (and other takeaways from this list of most-stressed states).
7. Should I admit that I still check online real estate listings?

xoxo, Melody

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Issue 22: Truth: Money CAN buy happiness. At least for you in your place.

Melody WarnickBlacksburg, Love Where You Live experiment, Place love

I know, I know. Buying things doesn’t make you happy. Experiences do. But what about paying for gear that helps you have more meaningful experiences where you live? I have spent about 20 years of my adult life in places where it snows every winter, sometimes an awful lot. Utah. Maryland. Iowa. Virginia. And yet it was only last year that I finally bought myself a pair of snow bibs. Every other winter before this, I’d haul jeans on over my long johns to go sledding or build a snowman and be soggy and miserable within 20 minutes.

Finally, it occurred to me how ridiculous I was being in my misguided frugality. I live in a snowy place! It was time to suck it up! So I plunked down $30 to buy myself a cheap pair of snow bibs, and I’m here to testify that it’s made all the difference. This winter, after our first big snowfall, I simply lay there, blissed out on my sledding tube for 20 minutes, marveling at the fact of my warmth. It’s amazing how little money can bring so much pleasure.

What could you buy (or borrow, or rent) that would help you make the most of the place you live?

Consider, for instance,

  • a kayak
  • hiking boots
  • a bicycle
  • season tickets to the local playhouse
  • porch chairs
  • tickets to a concert
  • a kite
  • skis
  • a sled
  • rollerblades
  • a jogging stroller
  • fishing poles
  • a bike rack for your car
  • a tent and camping supplies
  • a pass to a local museum, zoo, or aquarium
  • tickets to a sporting event
  • pool passes

Although I generally hate when people use the word “invest” to talk about purchasing stuff (These are not stocks, people! You’re not going to get your money back!), there are indeed emotional returns to be had when you buy the equipment you need for your particular place. Your feelings of commitment to your town increase, and you up the likelihood that you’ll have enjoyable, meaningful experiences that will grow your place attachment.

Money is fraught. But if you want to love where you live, spend a little and buy the gear. Read more at Livability.com.

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Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter: Shout-out to the new subscribers I met speaking at the Main Street Now conference in Kansas City! Also, go listen to me talking to Lara McElderry about living somewhere you absolutely don’t want to on the fabulous Married to Doctors podcast. (You know someone who needs this, right?)
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7 items of interest

1. A town in England cut hospital admissions by building community. (Important: We need “men’s sheds” in America.)
2. Why is violence on the decline in cities? Community gardens and block associations.
3. What a grassroots place-love movement looks like.
4. Love Where You Live experiment alert! Make tiny hedgehog crossings in your neighborhood! I’m swooning.
5. Could unbranding your city be better than branding it?
6. I moved into a new house!
7. Only 34 percent of Americans have had their neighbors in their home. GET ON THAT.

xoxo, Melody

Issue 21: Why You Need a City Bucket List

Melody WarnickBlacksburg, Cool projects, Love Where You Live experiment, Place love, Virginia

Fun fact: New York City residents do not visit the Statue of Liberty every day.

It seems like they should, right? About 60 million people visit NYC every year, and the number #1 thing they want to see is the Statue of Liberty. Don’t the locals who have daily access to her just count their lucky stars?

No. No, they don’t. Actually, some people believe that the #1 sign you’re a real New Yorker is your utter disinterest in Lady Liberty. That old thing? Meh. Tourist stuff.

The sad truth is that most of us treat our own city’s most thrilling attractions the same way. Daily life intrudes. Even if you moved to your city precisely because you loved its amenities, eventually the carpools, grocery runs, and late nights at work force everything else into the background. The longer you live in a place, the more successfully you ignore it.

That’s why you need a City Bucket List.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of bucket lists in general. I’ve kept a life list (Go dog sledding! Learn to play tennis!), a “40 Before 40” list (Visit Acadia National Park! Buy a grown-up piece of furniture!), and currently a “19 before 2019” list (Write a will! Try meditation!). I love sitting down and making the lists, the way it funnels my imagination toward a hoped-for future life. And I love actually ticking off items. Without my 40 before 40 list, would I have paid the money to go ziplining? Or planned a summer vacation that would get me to the last of the 50 states? (Love you, Connecticut!)

With a City Bucket List, I get that same push toward adventure, except where I live right now. Right around the time I moved to Blacksburg, Virginia, I started formulating one for my new town. To get ideas, I scoured blog posts, Instagram (hashtag Blacksburg), TripAdvisor, Yelp, the website of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. My friend Kristy asked strangers about their local favorites as an icebreaker. “I just moved here,” she’d say. “Where should I shop? Where’s a good place to eat? What should I see if I only have a few days here?”

The candidates included

Go to a Virginia Tech baseball game

See a movie at the Lyric Theater
* Hike at Pandapas Pond
* Bike the Huckleberry Trail to Christiansburg
* Eat at Dude’s Drive Inn
* Swim at Claytor Lake
* See Mabry Mill

Start with the Statues of Liberty in your neck of the wood—all the attractions you never got around to seeing. Then add the trails you’ve meant to hike, the views you’d like to take a selfie with, the restaurants whose dishes your colleagues keep yakking about, the festivals you’ve avoided up until now.

Simply brainstorming the list recalibrates your relationship to your community, making you do a mental deep-dive into your city’s assets, strengths, and hidden gems. Basically, you’re creating a mass of positive, “I’m happy here” feelings. Then, when you actually do the things, you create a trail of meaningful experiences all over your community. Meaning is the kicker here—what turns a park into “the park where we picnicked on a warm June afternoon” or a weird back road into “the place where we found the apple orchard that smelled like heaven.” Bucket list experiences make your town feel like home.

Tourist stuff is pretty amazing sometimes.

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Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter: I’m now writing a weekly column for Livability.com! Do me a solid and come check it out.
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7 items of interest:
1. The new utopia: real estate developments that encourage walking and blueberry eating.
2. “As urban renewal swept through Northeast, neighbors who’d looked after each other for decades were suddenly scattered across the city. They literally couldn’t find each other.” An illustrated history of urban renewal in Roanoke.
3. A simple way to make people happy where you live. Or anywhere.
4. Are you living the dream?
5. We probably need a minister of loneliness too.
6. Did you know China has a fake Paris? A guide to duplitecture (best coinage ever).
7. How to go slow, plus a nice matching podcast episode.

xoxo, Melody

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