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Make Thursday Night Community Potluck Night

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Make Thursday Potluck Night. Invite friends, neighbors and even strangers to join you at a local park for a potluck dinner. No rules - just show up with what every you can muster that day. Sometimes you'll be inspired and cook something amazing and other times just getting there with stale chips and bottle of wine is all you can manage. This creates a welcoming atmosphere with lots of authentic laughter, conversations and connections.

And if you say - "Wow - that sounds great but every week?!? That is too much commitment" then I say "But you have to eat and food always tastes better out doors with friends." Yes inertia is a bitch sometimes and can be hard to break once you get home after work or pick up. But once you get there and let the kids run free you will love having that first glass of wine and an actual adult conversations.

Plus they are so easy to start - just find a park, invite people, make food and show up. Repeat the last three steps every week. Make it community based and not just for a school or a class so that everyone can invite their friends and neighbors. You will be amazed how powerful and enjoyable the simple act of eating together can be.

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Stories (3)

  • Joey Chandler

    June 17 - Last night, being the first week of summer vacation, I was a bit worried about the turn out at the potluck. Never know what happens to families when routines go hay wire and parents have to figure out how get little ones to and from camps or actually talk with their kids all day. I made the mistake of picking up my son at 3pm and then heading home before the potluck. Fortunately I broke free of the inertia of the cool house, comfy couch, and world cup, to make a couple boxes of mac and cheese and venture off to the park. 15 or so families joined us as well so while it was smaller then last week's turnout it was not a bit less enjoyable.

    We welcomed several families that came for the first time and marveled how their kids played with others like they were old friends. Along with my less then amazing contribution, dinner included Hawaiian bread pizza, kale salad, cup cakes, hamburgers and a two tables worth of other tasty treats. Wine bottles were opened and then emptied and we joined together in one of those "if only I had thought of that I would be rich" moments when a mom pulled out a cork-cicle to keep her wine chilled.

    One mother stopped by for a drink (and then another) as she caught her breath before heading home to prepare for a sleepover with 4 13 year old girls. We pined for the days of being bad at our own sleep overs and shared with pride our tips on TP-ing houses, filling dorm rooms with newspaper and covering a cute buy's car in post-it notes.

    A few moms held the babies of new moms, loving the feel of the little, little ones and even more the knowledge that they can hand the baby back. Parents talked about the challenges of connecting with other families in the race between home, school, work and grocery stores and more then once people laughed with surprise when they realized they lived within a block or two of each other.

    We watched the kids make games from everything they could find and cringed at the site of a post-summer-camp-sun-burn. Not so much for the pain he felt but the pain that the father will feel after admitting to his wife that he forgot the sun screen. Single moms and single dads talked about the challenges of being single and married moms and dads talked about the challenges of being married. And we all agreed that wine was a necessity for any gathering of parents.

    We talked about the neighborhood, the business of video games, the craziness of Iraq and the entrenchment of most every political debate.. Conversations moved from the fires around San Rafael to flame wars online, from selling clothes for a little extra money to the definition of affordable housing in Marin.

    We played, laughed and had a great time talking about the joy and challenges of summer vacation. Another great potluck.

    And I still have no idea what the swarming mass of kids talked about.

  • Joey Chandler

    June 12th - Another great potluck. Last day of school for many so lots of laughs about graduation and praise for kids (and parents) that survived another year. We congratulated friends for finding a new home and shared our summer plans. Kids ran free, shrieks of laughter and joy filled the surprisingly chilly air, and we patched up a few bumps and bruises that resulted from those "I told you not to do that" moments that the little ones love to ignore.

    We welcomed old friends thatwere new to the potluck and agreed when stranger-turned-friends said "I can't believe everyone is so nice" in astonishment. We applauded the efforts of an entrepreneuring teenager who brought fliers for her baby sitting business and pondered the cultural differences a family will experience when they move from Marin to Texas next month. We held a baby for a single mom and discussed the returning hipness of rose.

    And although it damped our spirits for a moment we cringed at the horror of the recent shootings, wishing that the shooters would have had some connection with their families, neighbors or community that would have reduced their isolation and despair to the point where picking up a gun in anger didn't make sense.

    We ate homemade pastas and salads, dipped chips in store bought guacamole and praised the genius of a dad who had pizza delivered to the park.

    Mostly we enjoyed the evening and thought about summer.

  • Joey Chandler

    I've done these potlucks for over two years now. Minus the dark months of winter and a few weeks in July and August while families are traveling we have met every Thursday. Since not everyone can attend each week, there is always a new mix of families. Size has grown from just a few families to about 20-30 each week.

    Rather then giving more details about the potlucks, I thought I would share something I wrote a few weeks back. I think it will give you a sense of what these are like.

    “I woke up this morning thinking of the conversations that occurred last night at the potluck.

    We celebrated a three day old baby and her mom that made it out. We grieved in hearing good friends are moving away and talked about the party we have to throw for them. One single mom got ideas for finding housing in Marin, another had her baby held so she could have an adult conversation and a third shared the challenges of having a super hot landlord. A single dad arrived at the potluck for the first time and shared that just knowing the potluck existed gave him hope that he could break free of the day to day rut that is having him feel disconnected and wanting to move.

    We talked about the long week and how our kids are equally amazing and crazy making. We shared recipes for pizza and carnitas and pondered if margaritas made in a Vitamixer are healthier than ones made in a regular blender. We talked of summer plans and date nights. We wondered where our kids were and agreed about being happy they weren't under our feet.

    We welcomed new people to group and laughed with others who resisted coming for a long time and are now are smiling regulars. There were the obligatory "no, no, no's" when people were offered a glass of wine followed by the inevitable "well maybe just a little's" when they realized it was ok that they hadn't brought anything. We talked giants and little league and cringed watching the kids run into each other while playing chase, football and what ever else they were doing.

    And this was just a normal potluck, only includes a sliver of the conversations and doesn't even begin to consider what the gaggle of kids talked about while they were free of parental control.

    Create community, make friends and have conversations like this on a weekly basis - create your own weekly potluck.”