Review: Loving My Actual Neighbor by Alexandra Kuykendall

When we moved to our cul-de-sac in the suburbs, I didn’t realize how intertwined our lives would be with our actual neighbors. My daughters dash across the street, inviting themselves into the house of their best friend. (I’m told this is ok because “we actually family, mom!”) Our neighbor two houses down keeps a stash of crackers at the ready for Elle, who only likes what Judi offers. When I called an ambulance to rush Frank to the hospital last October, I got texts from my neighbors, checking in and with offers to help in all manner of ways.

White and red text on a faded background of wildflowers in a forest.
Text reads: "Our neighbors––the people right in front of us––are not those we choose, but those we can choose to treasure."
Alexandra Kuykendall, Loving My Actual Neighbor

These relationships didn’t happen overnight. They took time and intentionality. It meant bringing my book out front so that we’d interact with folks coming and going. It meant accepting offers of dinner during tax season and hanging out in pajamas and sweats on snow days. Now I see these neighbors as an integral part of our family’s rhythms but I also recognize the work that went into opening our lives to our neighbors.

In her newest book, Loving My Actual Neighbor, Alexandra Kuykendall sees the need to love our actual, right next door neighbors as well. In a divided world, remembering to love the people who live along our daily routes is important. We don’t really get to choose our neighbors and so getting to know them and immersing ourselves in their lives is a practical way to break down walls and misconceptions.

She says, “Our neighbors––the people right in front of us––are not those we choose but those we can choose to treasure.”

Alexandra Kuykendall, “Loving My Actual Neighbor”

This is easier said than done and Alex offers seven practical stories and steps in Loving My Actual Neighbor. From asking questions to actively listening and honing our empathy, Alex grounds her steps in story and scripture, reminding us that loving our neighbor is the most important of the commandments. Each chapter ends with a call to action, a reflection, steps to practice, and a scripture to guide you on the journey.

Loving our neighbors can be overwhelming, for a myriad of reasons from perfectionism to social anxiety. Alex takes the guesswork out of connection and helps dismantle the idea that loving our neighbors is something out of the realm of possibility.

If you have neighbors, you need to read this book. Alex will encourage you, push you, and help you remember that loving our neighbors can become second-nature. And what a gift that is.

What are ways you love your actual neighbors? What are some challenges in loving the people right next door?

I received this book free from the publisher via Baker Books Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon,any purchase you make supports this site.

Loving My Actual Life

On our recent post-tax season trip to Moab, Frank and I had plenty of “windshield time.” It’s that time that only a road trip offers: looking at the road, radio off, both girls asleep, nothing else to do but look at the scenery. Time to talk, to process, to dream.

One topic that came up was our 5 Year Plan. What are our goals and hopes in the coming years? As individuals, as parents, as a couple? One of the things we discussed was me going back to work. In five years, Elle will be in kindergarten. What does that mean for our family?

Right now, it’s easy to get bogged down in the minute and lose sight of the big picture. I often find myself dreaming about what life will be like when…. When the kids are older; when they’re more self-sufficient; when life is quieter. It’s crazy to think that, in five short years, our life as a family will be vastly different.

12512411_10208144234217534_6513410687910768109_nIt’s exciting. But, it’s also a reminder that this crazy stage is fleeting. It’s exhausting but fleeting. In her newest book, Loving My Actual Life, Alexandra Kuykendall reminds me that my life is happening right now.

 

Alex takes nine months (the length of a school year; the length of a pregnancy) to practice noticing and loving her actual, messy, right now, in this very moment life. She looks for areas that need more intention and she experiments with how to love that part of her life more. Everything from technology to meal planning to passions is covered.

What I love most about these experiments is that they’re relatable. Alex is a mom of four, so the backdrop is that of family, but the premise and wisdom is for anyone. Take time. Notice. Learn. Love where you are. They are experiments that reflect Alex’s particular life, but they are also easily transferable. I think we all could use a social media reset. And, we certainly can all think of nine areas in our own lives that need more intentional noticing.

 

Alex’s book is conversational and funny. Her stories are woven with universal messages and she is gracious – with herself and her readers. This is, after all, actual life and actual life means failing and trying again and having experiments go in different, unforeseen directions.

Loving My Actual Life releases tomorrow, May 3. I’d say, order a copy in time for Mother’s Day! But, I’d also say, order a copy for any friend – married, single, mom, grandma, kidless. This is a book for all of us, because we all need to love our actual lives.

What are ways you love your actual life? If you could pick an area to work on, what part of your life would you want to love more?

As part of Alex’s launch team, I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.