Party Tips Your Mama May or May Not Have Taught You

As I walk out adulthood on a new level… married, making “couple friends” with my husband, hosting parties and attempting to be a good guest at other events… there are a couple of “tips” I wanted to get out in writing to remember for myself and also share with others. Some lessons I’m learning on my own through experience and some I’ve gleaned from my mom through the years.

In particular, this summer I’ve had flashbacks of memories of advice my mom gave me about going to and hosting parties and picnics. And a couple of these tips I realized on my own that are important to have an easy, fun time at social gatherings like picnics and barbecues.

  1. Bring a dish you know YOU will like to potlucks and parties

So many times through the years, I’ve arrived to a picnic or potluck and looking at the spread of food my eyes (bigger than my stomach of course) have grown big with disappointment as I looked at all there was to eat, yet nothing appealed to me. Allergies, food sensitivities, and general preferences can keep a lot of people from eating “just anything.” When it comes to parties, you will have a more enjoyable time knowing you can put something on your plate that you prepared and know you like, especially if you have a longer day out planned.

I made the mistake of counting on food at a party once and brought a dessert that I knew would be enjoyed by most people (No Bake Cookies anyone?). Well, when it came to the main course, I was stuck with a plate of fruit and salad that I had to pick through to avoid the cheese tossed through it (lactose intolerant over here). I could have had a more pleasurable meal had I not just considered dessert, but also a more filling main dish or side dish of my own to bring that I knew I would and could eat.

2. When hosting a party, share what you’ll be providing in advance

This relates to point number 1. It’s just polite to share what you’ll be serving or providing in advance so others can make plans if they have allergies or food preferences that are different. They can bring a side or main meal that appeals to them. Don’t assume that what you like everyone will like. Let others get in on the fun and share… I know people enjoy sharing recipes and food, it’s part of what makes humanity so great, sharing a meal together. Let others get in on the process and give proper notice so they can plan on their end.

3. If you can leave a topping on the side, do it

Things like cheese, croutons, nuts, etc. can make the difference of someone eating or not eating a food at a party. If you can, leave the easy toppings on the side that people can choose to put on their portion.

My Jamaican husband makes some of the spiciest food for other people. I’ve always loved spicy foods, and love his cooking, but not everyone can handle it. We have learned that his cooking is too spicy for some group events and decided we can add some spice for flavor/ effect, but if we want it “extra spicy” (aka traditional Jamaican flavor), then we need to keep the hot sauce and peppers on the side. Once it’s in the dish it can’t be taken out. Similarly, I have an aunt who always says at events, “Now there’s no salt in this, so you’ll want to add your own amount that you like.” She knows people may have sodium problems or just don’t like foods as salty, and that’s totally fine. A salt shaker is always there to add more.

These are a few tips that I’ve applied to my own life this summer. Events centered on good food are important and fun, and when the food goes well, the party goes well! What other tips do you have for potlucks, picnics, and barbecues? Summer may be closing out soon, but fall socials and the holiday season are just as important to remembering food tips for yourself and others.

When Change Becomes Overwhelming

I’m in a season of life where I’m reclaiming peace and stability after months of non-stop crazy!

Getting married, moving to my husband’s country (during the pandemic); new schedules and routines; saying goodbye to old jobs and working through processes of new ones; new beds- yes sleep is huge and even the bed you’re in makes a difference in your day and feeling overwhelmed or not; new grocery stores- where do you find basic things that should be simple but aren’t in a new place?!; new places to sit down and do work- this matters for connecting with people and being able to work well; new relationships- who are my friends anyway? Who will really understand when they aren’t even in my physical world, just digital??… and THEN moving back to my original country only to do it all over again.

I’m three months into another huge change and I know I’m not the only one who has felt like a pin ball, bouncing from side to side and up and down with the craziness of life.

Change can be overwhelming. It can be emotional. It can take a toll on our thoughts and mindsets. I’ve learned that besides leaning on the Lord, who helps get me through overwhelming times, I can do a few active things that help me stay on track and regain focus on what’s important just for today.

Today what can you do?

Today what changes do you need to make to feel better about where you are at?

Forget about tomorrow or the next day or next week. What can you do today?

Here are three things I’ve learned that I can do, and perhaps they will help you too!

1. Make Lists

I am a HUGE fan of lists. I like seeing things laid out so that I can focus on priorities and CROSS THINGS OFF as I do them. This makes me feel like I’m being productive and getting things out of the way that I no longer have to think about. Lists are simple, but once you have the details of your day down on paper, you can breathe a little easier knowing you aren’t forgetting things and you can choose what’s most to least important.

Groceries, cleaning, phone calls that need to be made… what is in your head that needs out? Save energy by writing it down and crossing things off one-by-one.

2. Open Up

Overwhelm isn’t limited to schedules and to-do lists. For me overwhelm has included everything from learning to work in a new space to relating with new people again. It’s included processing decisions of moving to new and old countries. It’s included big and small changes that has impacted every facet of life imaginable.

I’ve learned to pick a few trusted friends and open up to them when needed. Sometimes, you just need a listening ear or someone to vent to as you move through each day. That’s okay. It’s good to know who you trust most and to keep those friends close.

3. Let Go And Say “No”

Lastly, but makes a big impact in periods of busy change and overwhelming days, is to get back to the basics and let go of the rest. I cannot show up for some of my friends in this period of life the way I could in other times, and that’s OK. I’ve had to let go of volunteer work that I loved and groups of women I connected with. Again, getting to the basics of let’s just do what we need to TODAY will allow you to choose what to say “yes” to, and what to say “no” to. Let Go, say “No” and focus on the basics in order to simplify life.

All in all, life can be managed well. It doesn’t have to feel like Pin Ball. It can go smoothly and make sense. And in the meantime, there are things we can actively do to get to that place we want to live and be, with Peace and Joy, instead of overwhelm.

Creating Our Own Clouds

Photos by Chris Lawton and frank mckenna on Unsplash

I’ve learned recently something all too true, and somewhat scary… we often in life create our own clouds, our own pain, our own drama.

There was a situation recently where I had a choose to do or not do something regretful, and unfortunately, I didn’t choose wisely. I chose a chaotic storm of events that has filled me with sadness and grief ever since.

What was I THINKING?! I’ve asked myself for weeks. Not that I condone living in regret and shame—there is no reason to replay a series of bad events over and over. But I did and do need to process alone and with those closest to me—what is going on and what led to me making one bad decision over a different good decision?

I created my own clouds, my own STORM really, and didn’t have to.

But then, I realized the hope. I didn’t have to.

I actually had the power to not walk into that decision. I had the power to choose differently. Which means I have the power to choose differently the next time.

Sometimes when there are clouds over our lives, clouds that keep us bogged down, we need to recognize that those painful things that “happen to us” aren’t really happening to us at all, but are a series of choices that we could have made differently. And when we can realize that difference, we become empowered.

We become empowered to see joy in pain, to learn, to walk through the steps of making the wrong right again.

Creating clouds and storms can honestly grow us, if we let them. It’s time to recognize we have a choice and to let those painful things change us into more wise and mature people. Kinder. More loving.

Storms, clouds, and chaos. It’s time to stop worrying about what we did wrong. Or for some it’s time to stop playing the victim. Instead, we need to see where we have control, and need to take control back into our own hands, learn from the pain, and let sun shine on us again.

The Death and Life of a Single Seed

Planting, weeding, digging in your garden or flower bed… Typical summer activities that I’ve been doing more of recently and they reminded me of a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She was talking about planting seeds in her garden, and how a seed, being covered with soil, is almost like a burial. Then, in time it transforms completely, and becomes something new. The seed, now a seedling, breaks out of the earth into new life.

This is a beautiful picture.

A burial. A death. Transformation. Life.

We ourselves go through many life-changing, transformational events. And often these events begin with a “death” …an end of what was before we see the light of positive change and growth. New seed coming through the earth.

Examples of this could be relationships, bad habits, or a big move from one city or country to the next… before we see fruit of change and new life, there is often a death.

Death doesn’t always mean the end. It doesn’t always have a final say. Like the burial of a seed in the ground, life takes root and hold in that dark place and THEN we see it, popping from the earth slowly through the growing stages and taking full force of color, life, and fruit.

But what I didn’t realize in conversation with my friend, that occurred to me recently is: the new life only takes root and produces beautiful fruit under the proper conditions. That little seed needs water and soil for nutrition and growth, and energy that only comes from the warmth of the sun in order to grow and change. The seed will just stay buried, dead in the ground with no hope if not for the beauty of perfect conditions that help move it from one stage to the next.

I think it’s the same for us as humans moving through the world. In order to take root for the new life waiting for us after each burial, we need the proper conditions to thrive. We need kindness and love from and for others. We need self-care and forgiveness of self and others. We need warmth from family and friends. Without these things, we may just remain stuck, buried, or live with anxiety.

Assess where you are at now in life. Where are you in the death to life to fruit producing process? Maybe it was the change of having a house full of kids to being an “empty nester”. Is this new stage in life something you can thrive in? Or will you remain buried with memories in the past wishing to have things as they were?

Maybe it’s the end of a job. As you move on to the next thing will you transition well with excitement and joy, or will you carry resentment if the old job didn’t end well, or fear of the future as you move on?

Seeds of life that carry fruit for the next season will need to go through that burial process. And maybe you won’t see light right away. But the key is to build the proper conditions around yourself to make that transition possible.

Maybe you’re in a season of thriving. The seed you buried cracked and grew. It’s producing fruit and you know you are just where you need to be in life. That’s a beautiful thing. Sow into the people around you and be sure if they need fruit, shade, and someone to lean on… your life can be a safe haven for others. You never know when you might hit a winter cold and need those same friends around you to walk you through the change if it happens.

Seeds, death, life… change, transformation, fruit… beauty, healthy conditions, pouring into others. There are seasons of burial and change and the process can seem daunting, depending on where you are at. But there are also seasons of fruit and life. Joy to be had. Life to be lived.

I’ve had many hours to process when working in the yard/garden through the warm months of spring and summer so far this 2021 year, and I’ve been able to reflect on not just what is happening in the stage of life I’m in, but also the conditions to be able to walk through it well.

I need to pour into healthy relationships and practice forgiveness of self and others if I’m to break out of the tomb into the new life I’m looking forward to next. It’s only with the proper soil conditions and water to help me grow that I know I can move up and truly transform. And I know I’ll be able to. Life is coming… I’m breaking out of the soil I’ve been “buried” in. Planted in. And as long as I keep that soil well-watered with the forgiveness to let go of what was, my next stage and phase will get here, just like spring planting always yields summer fruit. This is my picture of the beauty of the death and life of a single seed and the transformation that’s coming.

How to Handle Embarrassment With Class

We ALL have embarrassing moments in life, times we may think we’ll keel over in shame or embarrassment. Even writing this, I can feel what embarrassment brings… my face warming up, heart starts to race, red splotches taking over my neck. It seems a little crazy, the impact of missing social cues, messing up with family or friends, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. But this physical reaction and the mental-emotional impact of those times are more of a gauge for how to walk through life well, bringing joy to people around me. Embarrassment can lead to new ways of engaging with and relating to others better next time.

After a number of embarrassing moments in life recently, I have a few tips for how to get over embarrassment swiftly and with class.

  1. Apologize.

If you were in the wrong at all in a situation, and that’s where the embarrassment stemmed from, staying humble and apologizing in the moment, or after the fact, will go a long way. And it’s a classy move that other people will recognize and look up to, rather than down on you.

2. Reset.

There is no reason to replay or live in something embarrassing that happened. Life is life, and honestly that moment may turn into a great story later on. More than likely, whatever you did that you think is so embarrassing will be forgotten soon after it happens. Hit the reset button and move on from the situation.

3. Let Go

I’m a firm believer that the only opinions that truly matter about me are the Lord’s and my own… and maybe my husband’s opinion matters too. But whose opinion of me doesn’t matter are that of my co-workers, friends, and strangers that most embarrassing things happen with. If we live up to everyone else’s standards in life, I’m sure we could be embarrassed easily. Let go of opinions and thoughts of other people, and live with assurance that you are doing GREAT in life despite embarrassing things that you might say, do, or that happen to you. You are in process and allowed to live life, goof up, and handle awkward social messes as they come—despite embarrassment.

Handling embarrassment with class can be done. And we can learn from embarrassing situations. We can learn how to relate better with people next time and how to be more prepared for when something embarrassing happens. Don’t let those embarrassing moments trip you up longer than they already have, and stay humble in the process.