Sunday, January 04, 2009

Coffee, Cream, and Cronies: Renee's Birthday Party

Twice in one week I had a hilariously refreshing, great time with sisters in Christ. The first was on Monday night when Laurie gathered a gaggle of us together to catch up on what God's been doing. Sounds serious, and much of it was, but throw in a trio of Kare(y)ns and listen to us cackle!

The second was last night. I had a rather impromptu, surprise dinner party for my friend Renee'. I had asked her a week ago to give me the names for 4 or 5 girlfriends she would want to have dinner with, and she said, "I don't think I have any girlfriends left." It made me laugh, but she was in the doldrums. She said I was the only one she could think of. Malarkey! I knew better. Pondered a few days taking her out one-on-one for dinner, but after praying, I knew in my heart she needed good, old-fashioned girl time to cheer her up, and who among us doesn't need to hear we're loved?

I called her Tuesday and made plans to take her to Applebee's, just the two of us, since she couldn't think of other friends. Fast forward to Thursday night when I started calling her friends (who are also mine, but not as close; they all attend one church, I another. We've all taught at some point together.) Everyone who didn't have something planned already said "yes" on the spot. Cheryl, Liz, Kathy F, Kathy K, and Pam all agreed Renee' needed a party in her honor.

Renee' loves coffee. Addicted is more like it. Even her daughter, Maggie (one of my Inklings),can't make her subjects and verbs agree without caffeine. So Theme Girl here decided to make coffee the theme. On short notice, it was easy for guests to pick up gift cards for her favorite coffee drive-thrus and convenience stores, or a bag of coffee and flavorings. I gave her a mug that says "Friends Forever" that has the verse "a friend loves at all times" scrolled on the inside. The funniest card, Pam's, said something about "at our age , our bodies are still temples...even if the steeples are pointing in the wrong direction."

My centerpiece came together fast. I needed it cheap, simple, and girly. An etched vase with greens begged for new flowers, but I didn't want to buy some. (I mean I didn't want to spend money on them!) While thinking of conversation-starters to write on coffee filters, I scrunched one up when it ripped, and --eureka! --it looked like a rose. Marie Osmond's 1970s song "Paper Roses" popped into my (aging) head. I quickly made three white coffee filter roses and nudged them into the greens. Flanked the vase with a pair of Irish coffee mugs filled with real coffee (lightened with creamer) and floating tea lights. I had brown/tan/creme striped ribbon sort of figure-eighting among the three centerpiece things.
(For the record, I nixed the conversation starters. This group needs conversation enders.)

Guests arrived between 6 and 6: 15, but Renee' didn't show till 7:15. Not to worry, we're a self-entertaining bunch. I made a large, thick paper placemat that we all signed and Renee' loved it. Didn't even spill soup on it.

Menu: Rainbow Bean Soup (would've been butternut squash soup but the store had none), Chicken Caribbean Salad, Boiled and Buttered Potatoes, Portuguese hot rolls, and coffee cake. It all tasted good, but since everyone was so hungry, they ate faster than I could serve things up, so they ate salad THEN chicken THEN potatoes in a rather off-beat sequence, but no one complained. The chicken was a bit dry, but that was from trying to time it for Renee's arrival. Say no more. The best cake I've ever had is the Sock-it-to-Me Cake that my daughter Sarah made, but presentation suffered : when I turned it out of the Bundt pan (either it wasn't cool enough or hadn't been sprayed generously enough) I joked , "Hey, Renee' , ya know, when you're over 40, even your birthday cake falls apart."

We shared some serious moments about how Renee has been a dear friend.
1. She has either hosted a party for one of us or our kids at some point.
2. She has brought food to the ER when we're starving and cashless.
3. She has babysat for us.
4. She has come to our parties. (She came as a Renoir lady for my 40th; a real hoot!)
5. She has always listened, without judging, and reminded us to forgive our offenders.
6. She has never appeared flustered or put out in the least, no matter how many people are in her house or how late they've stayed. To feed so many so often, she owns five Crock Pots. She calls herself Crock Pot Queen.
7. She can be counted on to make us laugh.

We laughed a whole lot last night. Liz brought a new game called "Last Word." Pam, the oldest among us, had a hard time catching on, and every time she messed up, she'd raise her arm and say, "Ten years, girls, ten years." I knew she meant it would be us in ten years , but I just had to ask, "Is that how long it's going to take you to catch on to this game?"

Stephen took a picture of us as a keychain keepsake for Renee'.

Everyone kept saying this was so much fun, we've gotta do it again. Whose birthday is next month? Cheryl! The thing is they say none of them could have as much uninterrupted time as they got here (Paul generously took the kids out to dinner, then sequestered the boys in the basement to watch playoffs, while Sarah was out babysiting). The last person (Renee') lingered till well past midnight. She said, "Thanks, Zo. This was so much fun. I really needed it."

And then, in ture Renee' fashion, she asked, "Do you have a travel mug and could I get some of that extra coffee to take with me? I'm going home to cook now. I've got a bunch of people coming to my house for the Ravens game tomorrow. I need the caffeine."


Laurie Lynn said...

How extremely sweet!
I think your party was a stroke of genius; having it, and the way you "threw in together"! I love the use of coffee filters! God is good and I'm rejoicing in they way He used you!!! I know we haven't formally met, but I'm sure I can say, your friends are blessed by your friendship!

zz said...

Thanks, Laurie.

Laurie Lynn said...

One more thing;
After I read this I was reminded of a post you wrote back in Aug. '07 "Hungering for Deeper Relationships" about hospitality...
I was especially struck by your last paragraph. I have the same visions. "Talking about life, love and the pursuit of God" while "changing diapers, over a tuna sandwich and chocolate cake" or while folding laundry is so surely much more what true hospitality is about! Oh, that we would realize the value of hospitality and realize it is more than "entertaining"! I remember being at a very hospitable busy Mom's home (5 kids jr. high to college age). We sat among the piles of laundry and folded together. Later, she showed me around her newly remodeled upstairs and as she showed me the bathroom, she said, "Oh! I've been meaning to clean this toilet!" So she grabbed some cleaner and a brush and did so right then! I'm not sure how to describe it, but later I was touched that this was true hospitality. Being invited into a godly (and honest and normal and imperfect) woman's home and shown, not perfection in "entertaining", but true hospitality; true life "busy wife/mom" fellowship! Yeah, that's where I want to live, but sometimes preconceived ideas of hospitality including some kind of homemade near perfection is a lie I get hung up on! (Sorry for blabbing on!)

Laurie Lynn said...

Please don't block me from commenting! I know you didn't literally write or mean "changing diapers over a tuna salad and chocolate cake!" (That's just gross!)I sort of misquoted you!
Forgive me?!

I can shut up!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had fun! :)

zz said...

LL- that's hilarious AND gross the way you misquoted (but I didn't catch it visually the first time). Did you have trouble commenting or are you just afraid I will? I mean, I never have used that feature and certainly wouldn't block you. AFter all, if it weren't for a scant few regulars commenters, I'd wonder if anyone was still reading. Thanks for leaving me notes! Changing diapers over tuna. That image won't leave my head soon. :)

Laurie Lynn said...

Nope I didn't have trouble commenting, no problem there. I meant since I was rambling on and
accidently writing gross things you might block me as a commenter!!

I know what you mean about wondering if anyone is still reading! I posted about that here:

God bless you!