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.

Growing Pains

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Sitting at a family dinner this past Holiday season I was struck by a conversation centered on growing pains. At the table was a 6 month old baby girl, and her mother mentioned to the group that her first teeth growing in and how she was teething and in pain. Then the conversation turned to a 60 year old having pain in her feet as she did simple things like cleaning and laundry. Then my cousin mentioned when he was 10 or 11 how much pain he was in for a couple of years, simply growing! Growth spurts do that to tall people.

I’m only 5’1″ and except for 1 or 2 achy nights in 5th grade, I didn’t have many growing pains as a young girl. At least not physically.

Emotionally and spiritually is another story.

This past New Year’s I got pretty, pretty happy. So happy that I don’t remember falling to my knees a couple of times throughout the night. Club and street- if I were sober I would have gawked at the drunken girl with a pink flower in her hair, unable to stand in her high heels or walk straight.

My soreness the next morning prompted my question to my friend, “Alison, did I fall last night??”

“Yeah. You did. A bunch of times,” was her simple reply.

Pain. Pain in my body, but mostly pain in my heart for being that reckless and careless to my limits with drinking and numbing out the other pain that got me to that point. Anesthetizing my heart with too many glasses of wine and mixed drinks, all the while dancing to loud music, and picking up random guys, points to more than just a cray cray New Years.

“What’s wrong with me?!” I’ve asked myself a few times this week as more bruises showed up on my knees, legs, and a distinct hand print from a man that left purple marks on my forearm as whoever he was picked me up.

Growing up isn’t easy. It’s painful. From little baby teeth, to achy joints just from growing, to aging bodies that we hear about from our elders.

But the pain that’s not so easy to see… that we hide away with a smile, or stare blankly at the wall depressed, that keeps us up at night in worry, that makes our hearts ache, that makes us cry silently in the shower so no one else will hear… it’s those pains that I’ve almost gotten used to throughout my middle school to post college years.

It’s those pains that I want the most freedom from.

It’s those pains that I want to escape.

And I KNOW, without a doubt… I’ve learned the lesson enough times… I can’t just numb those pains with a bottle, fake laugh, and kiss from a stranger in the night. It doesn’t work.

No, no. These pains need something, Someone much stronger and more powerful than too many drinks and stranger’s lips.

The reality is after a night like New Years, I realize how desperate I really am for an answer to my aches and pains. Heartache and growing pain. It’s not easy, but there is a way to heal…

I think like losing weight, or training for a triathlon, or working up in a career, all of which are slow, daily processes… the growing pains of the heart and spirit can be healed, but it looks like a slow process of turning to God, giving up the crap instead of just “dealing with it”, and being okay with good days and bad days. It’s a battle and a marathon, not a walk in the park.

Healing, freedom, and escape come through the Man who gave His life on a jagged cross, and then rose 3 days later for me and for you.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

That’s Jesus talking. That He came to give life ABUNDANTLY. I know the destruction substances can cause. I’ve experienced that from the thief. But I feel like it has been a while that I’ve experienced an abundant life through Him… almost like I don’t deserve it.

I have about six New Year Resolutions for 2017 (in 2016 I didn’t make any), but my main resolution is to let Jesus have more of my heart. To trust Him like I used to when I was a little girl. To let Him take the growing pains and make them something beautiful. To discover with Him this abundant life that He came to bring. That I’m worth it to Him.

And though like training for a triathlon or getting ahead in a career, the process of letting Jesus take control of my growing pains might seem slow some days… we will make it together. And that will be a beautiful thing.

To 2017.

To an abundant life in Him.

Twisted Paths…

…Sequel to Thirsty. (To get the full story first read “Thirsty.”)

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As you shamefully stare at the ground in exhaustion and since you don’t have the capacity to look around you without crying, all your thoughts turn to your feet. You notice for the first time you are only wearing one shoe. “Where is my other shoe?” you think, snapping to attention. Have you been so numb on this Path that you are just now noticing your pathetic appearance? You slip off the single, ruined black pump you have made your journey in thus far and hold it close to your body as you frantically claw the dirt and peer in the bushes around you for your other beloved high heel. A classic Cinderella moment and you realize your life is a cliché. With tears stinging your eyes because you are just plain exhausted and can’t keep it together anymore, you lift your eyes from the ground and realize that you have been abandoned. You have no way of calling for anyone. No cell phone, no purse, and no id– You blame yourself; you were shameful, prideful, confused, insecure, and downright too drunk for anyone to care anymore. So they all left you. And you deserve it; you could have prevented it. And now in this empty space you realize for maybe the first time that you need help.

In the peripheral of your vision you notice one other on this Path of Lonely. She looks miserable too, trying to keep warm with a tattered woolen blanket and dirt stains on her once pink cheeks. You know that if you don’t approach her, you will never speak to each other. SO you can either walk past the figure huddled on the side of the path, or you can walk over in hopes of getting at least a conversation. And if you are really lucky, if you are vulnerable first, she might share her tattered blanket with you. Oh, to feel warm again! You just feel so, so cold; it is worth being vulnerable, you convince yourself.

You realize that the girl huddled in the tattered, torn woolen blanket on this Path of Lonely is crying. When you ask the girl what her name is, she doesn’t know. And you realize that you too have forgotten who you are. But in that, you have found a connection, and suddenly you don’t feel quite so lonely. You sit next to her gingerly, and ask in the quietest of voices, “how did you end up here?” Because when you try to think about how you yourself materialized to this spot, it is just too painful. You purposefully blocked out the spiral downward that led you to this desolate place where the air wreaks of heavy, grey heartbreak.

She says she had been on the same Path as you, don’t you remember her from The Path of Fun and Freedom? You shake your head in dismay as you tried to remember everyone who danced and laughed on that first Path together. The jokes that were tossed back and forth, the teasing, the feeling of “Untouchable” as the crowd made its way further down the Path, the forest starting to grow in, making it harder to see all the Friends. Then, the crew had to make its way single file, instead of walking as a crowd. You couldn’t remember this girl at all. She said she wore a white dress and crystal crown in her hair. You still couldn’t remember as you reached up for your own crown that must have fallen off somewhere in this Jungle of Confusion.

Her story continues that when the forest closed in around the group, the Path got harder to see. It became darker. The roots made people trip and fall. Many got left behind. She herself was left behind and when she finally heard voices again, she followed them to the Path of Fake. She was sad, hurt, and confused that they left her. But she covered it with a smile and choked the tears back. Everything was fine. Her leg had been bleeding from the tumble she took, but she tore her dress to make a bandage. She knew that even though it would scar, at least she was with the group again. They camped there for a few days and ended up becoming bored and frustrated with each other, so they tromped forward and found themselves further down Path of Fake. Some tried turning back, but it was too late. The Path swallowed everyone.

She tells you, it didn’t take her long to become so exhausted with this lifestyle. Of defending herself against the verbal abuse and names she had gotten used to hearing since she was a child. She was tired of hiding the anxiety of where this Path was leading them, and the downright achy feelings deep in her heart and mind that she no longer wanted to be with the group. Somewhere, from deep inside the black well of her heart, the still small voice echoed up that she was not designed for life like this. The girl declared with passion and energy she was done! Over it! Tired. Grieved. And scared.

It took a long time, but she distanced herself from everyone. She had tried it their way, the pretense of rapport in a society of ill people who were just plain lost. And the more she stuck around them, the more she fell, her lucent white dress and crown accumulating dirt to the point where she was unrecognizable. And this, the girl leans in with a whisper, is when she forgot who she was. Everyone was so malnourished and tired that only took care of themselves. There was no other energy to be spent on anything else. She started getting sick, unable to keep up with those in the group who still tried faking their fun with drugs, alcohol, musty cigarettes, and casual sex. She teeter-tottered on a balance of trying to find her own way when no one was looking, and still not wanting to end up like this, alone. How could she sever relationships, no matter how ugly, with people she had walked with for so long? Could she make it without them? She didn’t want to be alone. She tried relating to these people for so long. How could she just give it all up for something unknown?

Thirsty.

 

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The heat in the room, the pounding music that thumps your heart, the drinks that you’ll down because of how thirsty you are. It doesn’t matter who the guy is, as long as someone is telling you the words you want to hear. That you are beautiful, desired, and worth it; that he’s never met anyone as funny and cute as you. If you were to check in with yourself and think, instead of simply feeling how good this charming stranger’s hand feels on the back of your neck and that his flirtatious words sooth a dry spot in your cracked heart, you might realize how deeply unsettling it is that a stranger can have such an emotive effect on you. Your heart is broken, and you don’t even know it. And you are willing to do anything to feel the love you deserve. Even through the combined magnetism and repulsion, disconcerting push and pull, feelings of anxiety and excitement of his lips on yours. But is this really what you deserve, is this really what you want to feel, a confusing mix of precious and worthless?

Bodies are packed against each other. Trying to sway and move to the music. Drunken arms cling to the seductive figures behind them. Guys grope anyone with the boldness to wear a thigh-high dress. Girls stumble in their sparkling high heels, splashing you and everyone around them with sticky, sweet alcohol. Your dress clings to you from sweat and other peoples’ beverage, and for a second you think, “I wasn’t made for this.” All you want is to be alone, safe, in the fresh air that the cool night offers. You silently long for the quiet solace that the twinkling stars in the black sky whisper down to you. You languish for two moments of reality, without someone physically pushing past you as if you are just an object in the way. But. The thoughts are fleeting as the noise is loud, the beat is deep, and you remember that the guy behind you is judging everything you do. Your moments of being kept in his arms or abandoned on the dance floor to the ocean of men around you hinge on how you move your body against his and the witty comments you throw back to his seductive manners. So, you shake off the annoyance, pain, and all thoughts of relief with a flip of your curls, a sassy dark-lipped smile, and another swig of bitter alcohol. And the drink does exactly what it is supposed to. As it takes away the pain it also dulls any faint hint of the still small voice inside that wants you to desperately know, there is more to life than this. This is not your destiny. And yes, you do deserve love. But not like this. Not from a provocative pub rat that captured your attention with a free drink and hot breath on your cold skin.

This still small voice is asking, telling, pleading for you to listen. But when the pub rat’s hand moves to yours and the other pulls you close, what becomes reality? The reality is you are scared, and the still small voice is so far away as you put the glass to your lips once more. You know you should stop, but you’re just so thirsty. And you forget to ask yourself, is a drink with this guy, a sloppy sweaty kiss in the night, worth the shame and regret you know you will feel in the morning? Or did you forget, that the last time you did this- the last time you allowed someone to make you feel important for two minutes in the night- you woke up feeling so empty and lonely that you were scared to be alone for fear of what might happen? Did you forget?

You know people are watching, but they are all doing it too. After all, this is why people came here. For a kiss and a word and a moment to feel the love they deserve. And you forget to ask yourself is this what love is? His hand moves to your thigh and suddenly it’s too much. But you laugh, because if you don’t, he might leave you. And then you will be alone because you don’t know where your friends are. And since you are insecure, you keep dancing and drinking, drowning out the war of voices inside of you as he pulls you even closer to himself, doing things to your body you would just rather not remember. So you drink to forget and drink to be encouraged. He doesn’t know, no one knows, not even your friends of the pain that you feel.

Ahh the friends, and there is another word that lines up perfectly on this Path of Fake you find yourself stumbling down quickly. The friends who just an hour before said you were beautiful, hot, sexy and damn it if you don’t deserve the best guy tonight. So they left you in his arms, because clearly this attractive beguiling guy, with one thing on his mind, is the best you can do. You and your friends had kissed and hugged each other, giggling as you painted your faces with red, pink, and all manner of colors and shapes around your eyes; covering the God-given “blemishes” that you don’t want the world to know about. And as you drank wine and posed in front of the bathroom mirror you told each other, “This, this is how I want the world to see me.” This is as close as you will be to a model on a magazine cover, and so you pursed your lips and flashed your cameras, hoping for a thousand likes online to boost your confidence in the fake appearance you all so carefully wrapped yourselves in.

Wait a second, you think. When did the Path of Fun and Freedom become the Path of Fake? And where are you now, oh child dancing in the night? When did you end up on the Path of Lonely and Alone? You were untouchable. Right? You were dancing with the crowd in laughter. But how long ago was that? Ten minutes, weeks, months? Did you lose the crowd on Path of Fake? Were there that many twists and turns in the tunnels of your heart and mind that everyone left you to Path of Lonely?