Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Connecting With Your Hometown



Remember that time you moved and you didn't know where the grocery store was let alone anything of real interest and your kids didn't know anyone and neither did you and after a year you discovered that there was this awesome museum within walking distance from your house and an adjoining park with ducks in a pond and it's where the first dingleberry tree was planted by one of the Founding Fathers? Yeah, that was awesome.

Not.

Getting connected to your new community is one of the toughest things about moving. Sure, there are boxes to unpack, painters to contract, missing important papers to find, and mail to forward. And who has time to go exploring your new town when your moving to-do list is so long?

We've all been there. And we've all felt that disconnect, feeling like we're not quite settled in yet; we're still The New Kid because we just aren't connecting with our new hometown.

Now imagine you're in a military family and you have to go through that every couple of years. Military families PCS an average of every two-to-three years, which is 10 times more often than civilian families. PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station, which is laughable, because there's nothing permanent about it. A military family has a limited time to settle into its new home, get to know their new town, and fell a sense of community.

I'm not in a military family, but because I've moved an average of every three years during the course of my marriage, I feel a kinship with military spouses who have to go through all that I've gone through, but with the burden of doing it alone, while her spouse is deployed. So when I started researching for an article I'm writing for MILLIE, a military family PCS support organization, I found the stats fascinating. Blue Star Families' annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey for 2017 showed that a major downside of frequent PCSing is that military families don't feel a sense of community with their town.

Here are just a few results from the survey:

  • The majority (51 percent) of military families do not feel they belong in their local civilian communities.
  • Fifty-three percent felt they were not valued members of the local community.
  • The majority of military families lack adequate time to form local community bonds on their own, as 72 percent of military family respondents indicated living in their current community for two years or less.

Sad stats, for sure. But military spouses don't sit around and feel sorry for themselves. They get out there and get things done.

I have told this story a lot: When I moved from Cleveland to suburban Washington DC, I had a 4-year-old and a toddler. About a month after we moved in, I ventured out (with much trepidation) to a library story hour and was standing there feeling like a fish out of water when a woman walked up to me, introduced herself and started chatting. She filled me in on everything there was to do within a five-mile radius. Ten minutes later we had each other's phone numbers and had scheduled a play date.

"Wow, I really appreciate this," I said. "How long have you lived here?"

"Oh, I just moved here a week ago," she said. "We're military. I don't have a lot of time to waste."


I learned almost everything I know about being a quick Tourist at Home from military spouses. Their sense of community is one of the many challenges they face, but they understand the importance of a connectedness to the city in which they live.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Stories: Show Me Yours & I'll Show You Mine

After the holidays, when my kids filed out the door to go back to where they live, after the tree was taken down and the decorations put away, when the last of the New Year's Eve party snack leftovers were scarfed up (yum!), I sat down to see where I stood on my book.

I couldn't have been more pleased. Because the book I had started writing in late Fall, a light how-to on being a Tourist at Home, had actually gotten better from sitting dormant in my laptop while I partied hardy.

Every writer has heard this advice.

"If you feel that your writing is getting stale or if you feel that you simply are not making progress, then do yourself a favor and have a break from your writing."


My hiatus was a barrel of fun. I spent a week shopping, wrapping and decorating. Another week with my kids in town, cooking, eating, drinking, and orchestrating family traditions we've been doing for more than 30 years.

And then last Tuesday (there wasn't a trace of red and green anywhere), I poured myself a cup of coffee (in my new mug from Russia) and sat down to see where I stood on my book-in-progress. I have to admit, I was kind of dreading it. When I had last left it, I was unsure about the tone (Too funny? Not funny enough?), I doubted even the need for such a book (No one will read this. Everyone will hate me), and I was already flirting with ditching the whole thing and starting a thriller novel about four high school friends, now in their 50s, who get revenge on an old middle school teacher who paddled them (I am absolutely serious).

You can say I was in a bad place.

It's still in outline form, but some branches of the outline are three pages long. It's still without a title, although I'm getting close. And it's about to be infused with a jolt of great stuff. Think Uma Thurmon getting that shot of adrenaline in the heart in Pulp Fiction.

Because I'm ready for your stories.

And if you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine.

How are you a Tourist at Home? How do you make the time? What's the touristy thing you've done in your town? How does being a Tourist at Home benefit your children, grandchildren and family? How do you show off your community to out-of-town visitors? What tips and tricks do you want to share?

Let me give you a couple of examples, so you know what I'm looking for:

My friend Lynn hosts her nieces in Florida every year. Lynn keeps a spreadsheet of all the things they've already done and all the things they have yet to experience. She includes the hours, admission and directions. So when that week rolls around, her nieces have a fun-filled week already planned out for them. And Lynn gets to go along and enjoy being a Tourist at Home.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I always tried to plan a couple of day trips to local historical sites during the kids' spring break. They probably didn't realize they were learning about local history. But when her third-grade teacher started talking about Washington's crossing the Delaware, my daughter said she could picture the actual spot on the river where it happened. Because we had been there the Spring before,

When my friend Dianne and I were raising teeny-tiny little ones, I asked her how she always managed to have the energy and the time to pick up and take the kids places. She said the everyday things seem to get done regardless. But it's never a bad idea to go to a museum and learn something,

And then there's my friend Barbara whose stories include taking a company VIP on a tour of Washington DC and her car caught on fire in front of the Smithsonian.

This is going to be fun!

I'm eagerly awaiting your stories, tips and tricks -- tell me how you are a Tourist at Home, where you find ideas, how you prioritize, and what successes you've found in getting to know your community like a tourist.

And while you're at it, tell me the problems you encounter, the snags and hitches (Kids aren't interested? No time with your work schedule? You're not sure where to go? Not sure where to look for information?) and I'll be sure to address those issues in my book.

You can talk with me anytime on my Facebook page or by shooting me an email at diane@dianelaneyfitzpatrick.com

Let's chat! 





Monday, October 30, 2017

Welcome!

Welcome, tourists!

We hope you'll put down your map, your museum brochures, your GPS and your camera, take off your fanny pack, slip out of your walkin' shoes and take a few minutes to have a conversation about what you did last weekend.

You know, being a Tourist at Home.

Because I've been there. Probably literally.

When I had moved to my 10th new city, I believed I had mastered the art of being a tourist in my own backyard. As a newcomer in Cleveland, Washington DC, the Ohio heartland, Chicago, Philadelphia, northern New Jersey, Lexington, Kentucky, South Florida and San Francisco, I packed my kids into the mini-van and visited every museum, zoo, monument, scenic view and ________ (fill in the blank with your favorite tourist attraction, because it's probably mine, too).

Who needs Welcome Wagon when you have a stack of brochures from the public library and a tank of gas?

While I was awe-struck with the uniqueness that my new communities offered, I was also hit by the discovery that many of my new neighbors - some who lived in town for years and years and years - had never been to the tourist attractions that were drawing out-of-towners.

What's wrong with those people?

So I decided to do what every unemployed freelance writer who's had her second cup of coffee on a Monday morning full of possibilities is inclined to do: Write a book.

Part how-to, part friendly advice, and part humor, my yet-untitled book (but looking for suggestions, you creative types!) will help you be the best darn Tourist at Home in town.

          🚘   How to Put Together a Tourist at Home Vacation Package

          🚘 . When Guests Come to Visit: Know Your Town to Show Your Town


          🚘   Tourist-at-Home Parenting: The Importance of Kids Knowing Their Home Base


          🚘   Planning the Most Amazing Spring Break Without Leaving Home


          🚘   How to Score Local Lodging and Tourism Discounts


          🚘   How Your Small Business Can Snag the Tourist-at-Home Market


Interested? I'm writing as fast as I can and hope to publish in Fall 2018. Meanwhile, I'll be running some promotions, offering some surveys, and picking your brains as much as I can. Being a Tourist at Home is all about connecting: With your community and the people in it.

I hope you'll join the conversation about your Tourist at Home experiences, wherever you live! Here's how:

Diane's email address is diane@dianelaneyfitzpatrick.com.

Read more about Tourist at Home adventures on her website at dianelaneyfitzpatrick.com.

Chatter away on her Facebook page or her Twitter account.


Learn more about Diane's other books here:

Great-Grandma Is on Twitter and Other Signs the Rapture Is Near

Home Sweet Homes; How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves

And check out her blog on the adventures of moving and relocation at It's Your Move!



Connecting With Your Hometown

Remember that time you moved and you didn't know where the grocery store was let alone anything of real interest and your kids di...