Monday, July 15, 2019

Both True

I took part in an event this past Saturday that could only be described as:

  • Ridiculously HOT
  • Buggy
  • Exhausting
  • Nerve-Trying
  • LOUD
  • Sweaty/Stinky
  • Did I already say - Exhausting?

But that's not completely true.  The event could also be described as:

  • Hilarious
  • Eye-opening
  • Bonding
  • Heart-warming
  • Joy-Filled
  • Laughter-Filled
  • Delightful
  • Memory Making 

So which list is actually the truth, you may ask?  Well, I must honestly say - BOTH.  

Last weekend, Frank and I were in charge of the four Schreck grands for about 24 hours.  Spencer-8; Abby-6; Zach-4; Ava-2.  Yes!  We lived to tell about it.  Some of you host your grandchildren for full weeks at a time.  You hold amazing "Grandparent Camps."  I've seen your pictures on facebook and I applaud you.  

Frank and I approached our 24 hour assignment with the same intensity of focus used by navy seals for a covert operation.  We carefully laid out our plan of containment.  We discussed multiple entertainment options.  We evaluated our own strength and compared it to the fortitude of the four we were overseeing.  By Friday, we were ready!

Bedtime was a no brainer.  On my second visit to bedrooms filled with wiggly giggly children I put on my best teacher voice and said, "Noni does not want to be stern but rest is important for your body.  You must go to sleep if we're going to enjoy tomorrow together.  So now, I'm getting stern!  Go to sleep right away, please.  No more talking!"

Can you tell I had practiced?  How did it sound to you?  

For those of you who think I was over the top, please consider the following.  I love snuggling with my grandbabies.  I'm all about ice cream and later bedtimes than usual.  But Frank and I only have two laps between us.  The Schreck children are four energetic, highly motivated children who each have a plan of action at all times and who will each grow up to run something sizable someday.  My speech was somewhat motivated by fear that we could be overrun at any moment.  

I'm teasing, of course.  But we DID want to create a fun memory with these babies who rapidly grow every time we turn away then look back at them.  Spencer was the two-year old mastermind just yesterday.  Now, he's excited to be almost as tall as my shoulder.  Time Flies, friends!

We opted for a local entertainment option, Bok Tower Gardens.  It was the perfect choice.  They've recently opened a children's exploration area which is Amazing!  (We'll be taking the Smith children next week sometime.)  Frank and I were both pleasantly surprised by the fore-sight and planning that had gone into this creative exhibit designed just for children.

The oppressive FL heat was still a factor so we moved slowly from one section to the next.  But the magnificent canopy of trees offered shade.  And each exhibit offered such interesting,  hands-on activities that the participants forgot the heat momentarily. 

The walk to the center of the gardens was a bit taxing.  We had to keep promising the view would be worth it.  And just as hope was waning, we broke into a clearing and could see the massive tower constructed of pinkish marble.  Breath-taking, even for a four year old.  "Yook, Noni!  You see?!" Zach was awestruck.

The highlight wasn't the tower, of course.  It was the fifty-cents we spent on fish food for the swarming koi in the moat surrounding the tower.  The well-fed fish looked monstrous to two-year old Ava.  And Spencer kept warning everyone, "Don't stand so close!  You could fall in!"  Abby wanted to bring home a couple of them.  

Papa dutifully pushed the stroller we had packed down with items for our picnic lunch.  Then he gladly carried children too tired to walk any longer.  We seized on short teaching moments through out the day.  And yes of course, we ended our time with ice cream and even shared a peach milkshake.  Fruit and dairy are such important elements for every diet, don't you agree?

John and Joy had made arrangements for us to trade out with a sitter for baths and bedtime the second night so Frank and I could be ready for Sunday morning.  When he and I pulled into our driveway after handing them off, we just sat quietly for several minutes.  Then we smiled at one another with satisfaction.  We had made it.  

We had already invited nine guests for Sunday lunch and I still had a lot of prep work to do.  But I did Nothing!  I sat on the couch until bedtime then put on PJ's and fell onto my own pillow with a sigh of contentment.  

Frank's hometown paper used to end the local news section with this, "A Lovely Time was had by ALL!"  I believe that's true of our stinky, splendid, HOT, joy-filled adventure.

How about you?  Have you spent time with your grandchildren or perhaps have special memories of time with your own grandparents?  Please share with us in the comment section.

Monday, July 8, 2019

"Hawley Day Inn"

I hope each of you is enjoying a WONDERFUL summer season!

It seems to be hot everywhere - even in Alaska and Europe.  Places typically associated with the ability to take daily strolls along cool, lovely paths enjoying magnificent scenery.  Not so this summer.  I hear reports of people sweating all around the globe.

My constant refrain here in Florida these days is simple, "Hydrate, People!  Hydrate!"  Frank sees me coming and doesn't say hello; he simply announces how many ounces of water he's already consumed.  I nod and go on to the next person.  (That may be a bit of exaggeration but you get the idea.)

The heat may keep some people from traveling but we have friends coming in from all over the country next month.  Not literally to our house but to Orlando.  It's the year our denomination gathers and this time it's in our area.  We've already started making plans in order to connect with as many people as possible.

That's what makes the Frank Hawley family happy.  Connecting with other people.  We've found there's just so much to learn and so many memories to rehearse and so many commonalities to discover and so much LAUGHTER to be shared.  Why wouldn't you connect?

Frank and I sat down together earlier this year and had a serious conversation about connecting.  We've always enjoyed hosting people.  We know the best conversations happen among small groups.  We enjoy helping others connect, too.  So why not launch out on a bold adventure?  We determined to invite each member of our church leadership team to lunch  At our home.  Before the end of fall.

Now for some, that may not sound bold at all.  Let me clarify.  We made a list and realized we have almost thirty couples who would need an invitation.  That's a lot of chicken dinners, people!

Frank and I decided the smartest approach would be to invite them to Sunday lunch.  Longer day for us but it gives us Saturday to clean and set up.  We've developed a standard meal.  Roast, potatoes and carrots in the crockpots.  I also do bread and drinks; everyone else brings a side dish of their choice.  Simple, I know but it's about the connecting, not impressing.

In fact, I had to eat a bit of humble pie with the group we hosted yesterday.  You see, my dining room chairs have taken a bit of a hit recently.  I even bought another six chairs from a friend who was downsizing.  When two of those chairs lost a front leg suddenly, it left me short.

Our dining table easily accommodates eight.  (An answered prayer from years ago.)  But we didn't want to waste two spots just because we're waiting to get the extra chairs repaired.  So, we brought in the metal folding chairs usually reserved for family gatherings.

When I put the finishing touches on the table settings Saturday evening,  it was lovely.  My blue and white dishes were accented on a yellow table cloth and highlighted by navy napkins.  Each serving dish had a proper utensil and a slip of paper telling what it would hold on Sunday.  The house was clean and a lovely hand towel waited beside the sink in the guest bathroom.

But the seating looked hodgepodge at best.  In fact, Frank was a little concerned and offered a couple of options that would have involved mammoth effort or money we hadn't budgeted.  I waved it off by saying, "They'll only be aware of the chairs for a few minutes; we'll be sitting in them pretty quickly.  It may even make a couple of them feel more comfortable."

And that's exactly what happened.  They all arrived right on time.  Everyone started talking.  We put the food on the table.  We blessed it.  Everyone took a seat and voila, the chairs disappeared . . . completely.

Now, I must be honest and admit that I had a faltering moment Sunday morning as I scanned the table one last time before leaving. The thoughts came quickly, "This isn't as nice as I'd like it."  "What if they laugh at my jumbled mixture of chairs?"  "What if someone tells a friend how pitiful my chairs looked?"  (I'm just like every other woman on the planet.  I want people to think well of my home.)

At that moment, I had to take my thoughts in hand and rehearse the REASON for the lunch.  "It's all about Connecting; plain and simple. Where we sit has nothing to do with how we'll interact."

Armed with that reminder, I marched off to church confident the day would be good.  And you know what, it was.  Each couple had a wonderful time.  There were new friendships formed and we had a sweet time praying together at the end for our church to continue connecting and moving forward together.

During the six years we lived in Ocean Isle Beach, NC, our home was full of company during each summer season, especially.  One family would leave just as another was arriving.  We lovingly referred to our home then as "Hawley Day Inn - Where Everyone is Welcome."  Maybe we're reclaiming that title. 

The main reason I wrote this post today was to offer a nudge.  Many of you also enjoy connecting with people but you have NEVER considered inviting others to your home because it doesn't look like a magazine.  Pish Posh!  (Great term I learned while visiting England.)  Invite them anyway.

Don't be robbed of a wonderful experience just because your home isn't perfect.   They're coming to see YOU, not your carpet.  My dear friend (and co-grandparent) Linda, waited a long time to renovate her kitchen.  When Joy and John went home last Christmas the new kitchen was stunning and everyone celebrated.

But we knew Linda had never slowed her steady stream of guests while waiting for the reno to get underway.  Scores of people continued to find comfort, companionship and acceptance while sitting around her table.  (I know, because I got to experience it too.  She and John are great hosts.) 

If you aren't up for a full meal, invite some friends over for dessert and coffee.  Use paper plates.  Encourage them to bring their favorite creamer to share.  Do s'mores around a fire pit outside and have everyone bring their own chair.

Bottom line is this, if you've always thought you'd like to branch out and have someone over - do it!  Call today and set it up before the end of summer.

I have it on good authority, you'll be glad you did.  Blessings for all your summer adventures.

What would be the fun name of your home if company came frequently?  What memories do you have of visiting a friend whose home looked loved and lived-in rather than perfect?  We'd all enjoy if you share in the comment section.