Monday, August 31, 2009

You Know They Feel at Home When.....

...they plan a party to be hosted at YOUR house! And we wouldn't have had it any other way...!

Enjoy these photos of the infamous Italian Dinner...

(PHOTOS: 1. Seated for dinner (as you can see, we added 2 benches to accomodate everyone!); 2. Emily & Stephany, setting the table; 3. Table is ready to go!; 4. Girls on stairs, all dressed up for dinner; 5. Girls in the living room; 6. The group on the stairs (where we always take photos!); 7. Marissa making cheesecake (Sarah helped, too!)

NOTE: Click on each photo to enlarge it for a better view!

Last fall, Sarah and Stephany, a couple of the gals in my son's close group of friends, came to see me. They said, "We need your help." "Ok," I said, "what are we doing?" They went on to explain that they wanted to host a dinner and wanted my help. Well, naturally that was music to my ears! The two of them were representing the 'girls' of the gang who wanted to host an Italian Dinner for the 'guys'. What a great idea, I thought! And it was! The girls wanted to host the party here in our home and in our dining room, which also thrilled me! I cannot express how delighted I was that they were comfortable enough to want to have it here! And needless to say, we were thrilled that they were comfortable enough to ask!

We plotted and planned what to serve, how and whom to invite, what date would be best, how to convince the guys to 'dress up' and so forth. I'm not sure who was more excited - the girls or me! They decided what items they would serve and who would be responsible for each. In fact, they decided pretty much everything. It was their dinner and I wanted them to make decisions they would feel good about.

Our plan was to get back together to decide which dishes and centerpieces to use. I pulled samples of my collections so the girls could see what choices were available. The day before the dinner, Marissa and Sarah joined me in the kitchen and I taught them how to make cheesecake. I so enjoyed having the gals in the kitchen with me!

The following evening, Emily and Stephany came early to set up for the dinner. That was a fun time, too. Please see all the photos....

The time finally arrived and all the guests were here. Unfortunately, several from the group of friends could not attend because of work schedules, but the 13 who could attend seemed to have a fun evening. I know Ken and I sure did! We just let them take over the formal areas of the house and we surfaced only to serve, as needed (although the girls had that covered, too), and to take photos. We miss our kids, but we treasure the times we spent with them. We love you guys!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Curb Appeal of Our Homes

PHOTOS: Annie the duck (in her new dress), and Jeffrey Bob the tree)

How is the 'curb appeal' of your home? In other words, is the outside of your home appealing and welcoming to others? Is it pleasant and warm? Does it appear approachable and welcoming to family and friends?

We try to be warm and welcoming once folks make it to the front (or back) door. To help guests feel welcome before they get to the door, we've enlisted the help of a couple of characters (no, not our dear neighbors!) to assist us in this process. On our front porch, Annie the duck keeps an eye out for visitors, wanting to be the first to say 'Hello'! Now, we realize that most people who have these family members (from the 1980's!) have geese, but Annie thinks she's a duck, so we'll just leave it at that. We acquired Annie during the surprise Bed & Breakfast weekend getaway my husband planned for our anniversary earlier this summer. We purchased Annie at that time as a fun way to commemorate the weekend. Ken named her "Annie" in honor of our anniversary. So, when you come to see us, you'll find she's ready to welcome you to our home!

In the backyard, we have another family member we've named Jeffrey Bob. He's full of personality and he changes his look from season to season, as his hair-do (and its color) changes. When the tree is especially full, he sometimes look Jamaican. Other times, he looks a bit older, with thinning up on top.... Jeffrey Bob is visible from the kitchen and breakfast room on the back of our house and he keeps me company as I cook or work in the kitchen.

My friend Donna has a lovely decorative pond in her backyard landcaping. It's relaxing to sit by this little pond, complete with beautiful lillies and frogs (live and not), all in and around her pond. I always think of Donna when I'm out shopping and see ceramic frogs in the outdoor landscaping area of stores!

I have a neighbor who uses an old bicycle with baskets on both front and back which she fills with seasonal items. It's so cute! For the Christmas season, she might have a bunch of weatherproof poinsettias in the front basket and a wrapped "package" or two in the back one. During the summer I've seen fun seasonal items like gardening items and a straw hat in those baskets. What a fun way to decorate the outside of your home! I drive by sometimes just to see what treasures await passersby.

These are all fun ways to show your personality and welcome family and friends to you home. It's also part of the curb appeal of your home. When I sold real estate (in Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina), the quality of a house's curb appeal was always my first thought when looking at a house. It's sometimes very difficult to get a buyer inside a house with poor curb appeal. To sell a house, it's obviously important to get folks inside, so as an agent, I worked with my clients to help them overcome that potential barrier by helping them make the outside appear more welcoming.

I suppose it should go without saying, but the first part of making the front area of our houses welcoming is to keep it swept and free of cobwebs, leaves and critters (well, except for the aforementioned family members). I have found that keeping glass cleaner stored near the front door is an easy way to keep the glass and hardware clean and shiny. Sometimes I specifically go in and out the front door just to see what others see when they visit. When we use the back door or garage door all the time, it's easy to forget to check the front area. (With all the rain we've had last night and today, this reminds me that our front porch needs to be swept!)

Experts say when possible, paint your door a bright, welcoming color. Ours is a bright red door, which complements the gray brick and siding. A bright yellow or deep green also works well, depending on your color scheme. Lovely wood doors can be welcoming, too. Accessories become more important for these entries as the focus tends to land on peripheral items.

Using seasonal color is an easy way to brighten the entry areas to our homes. Obviously, spring, summer and even fall flowers are a terrific and easy way to accomplish this. Use colors that complement the exterior of your home. This summer we again have red flowers, which I love. They are mandevillas and are easy-care and bloom all summer. Unfortunately, flowers sometimes 'lose' their beauty as the summer wears on and the heat takes its toll. Quite honestly, for me, I get bored with some of the care involved after a while, especially with the flowers we have in the backyard. As my cousin, Lynn, used to say about such things: "The new wore off it!" It's true. After a while, I just don't have the interest and energy to keep working the summer flowers... I figure that's why God gives us new flowers for each season! In the meantime, Ken is always faithful to water the flowers and tomato plants that I so energetically begin in May!

I should say that when trying to sell your home, it's important to make it welcoming, but not too personal. Buyers need to be able to see themselves living in the space, not the current owners' possessions. But when we're not selling, just loving our homes and making them warm and welcoming, personalization is wonderful! Does the exterior of your house reflect the personality of you and your family? What does the outside of your home say about you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Matthew (and Parents'!) Update

Let me first say thank you to everyone who has visited, called, emailed, texted and IM'ed us since Matthew left for college. Your support has been amazing and Ken and I appreciate each one of you! I know that it is your support and especially your prayers that have gotten us successfully to Day 6 (but who's counting?!).

(This photo was taken at Summer Orientation several weeks ago, in front of the residence hall where Matthew now lives.)

So many of you have asked about Matthew, so here's a little update....

We helped Matthew move in on Wednesday of last week and then assisted him with some related moving in/college issues on Thursday. We said our goodbyes and left for home, not sure what to expect. Well, God is good. He takes care of us and He answers prayers. As you can tell from my tone (I hope) we are doing fine and life has gone on - imagine that! (And yes, Susie, we DID leave him at Miami! ;-)

Matthew is doing GREAT! He loves Miami University and has begun to adjust very well. He seems to be enjoying his classes so far (he has 6 classes including business, psychology, English and Calculus). He's met a lot of new students and has reconnected with several friends and acquaintances. He knows people there from summer orientation, Buckeye Boys' State and even his People to People Student Ambassador trip to Australia! It truly is a small world! One of his best friends from high school, Trent, is also a freshman at Miami this year.

Matthew is in the Honors Program at Miami and lives in one of the Honors Dorms (which, by the way, is co-ed). His roommate, Patrick, is from Cincinnati (which is less than an hour away) and the two of them seem to be hitting it off well. Trent is on the same floor, in an adjacent corridor. And some of the girls Matthew knows there live on floors in the same building.

Here are some fun tidbits Matthew has shared:

1. His Calculus professor stops about halfway thru class for a couple of jokes. He shares one and the student joke-teller of the day shares one. I love it!

2. Matthew loves his laundry service. Yes, they provide a laundry service (up to 12 pounds a week, I think). Matthew texted me and shared that he placed his laundry in his assigned bag and placed it on "the cable" Monday night about 11:00. After returning from his Calculus class on Tuesday, he was pleased to see his clean, folded laundry placed in a bag and laid on his bed. Amazing!! (Think they make house calls?) I think Matthew has decided to wash his towels and jeans and submit everything else to the laundry service.

3. After only a brief while, he has become increasingly impressed with Miami's Farmer's School of Business (for which Miami is known). He is seriously considering marketing as a major within the School of Business (he DOES take some things after me! :-) I know that regardless of what field of study he choses he will do well. He has drive and ambition and I have complete confidence in him and in whatever area he chooses.

4. Probably most importantly, I can tell that Matthew is making efforts to learn the campus and find out what's available to him and where it's all located. Miami's freshman orientation is wonderful (it's a 4-day event they call 'First Year Institute'). Activities during those days help students immensely, encouraging them to explore the campus. He is meeting people and participating in fun events around campus. We learned he sent an important 'thank you' via email from King Library one day while he was out and about. That was the day before the official orientation at the library, but he was scoping out the campus on his own and making use of the resources there, which we thought was terrific.

Needless to say, being away at school is an adjustment for student and parent. No matter how long we prepare, it's a challenge for everyone. Yet, I take great comfort in my belief that Matthew is where he needs to be at this point in his life. I will always miss him when he's not with me, but I know that he must pursue his passions, and as much as he loves Orrville, well, Miami University isn't here. So, I pray he makes good decisions and I ask God to keep him safe until I have the opportunity to see him again. And I have to say, that quick text or brief IM session with him has meant everything to get me this far. I know he's matured a great deal. Hopefully it's that maturity that enables him to see how very important that contact can be for us as his parents. It's been a little, but oh, so important way that he's been able to show hospitality to us from across the miles.

Easy Hot Fudge Sauce **

I mentioned a recipe for hot fudge sauce in yesterday's blog posting. Upon request, I am including it, below. It's easy and delicious! One batch makes about 1-1/2 cups.

1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
OR 4 (1-ounce) squares semi-sweetchocolate
2 Tbls. margarine
1 (14-ounce can) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
Dash salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt chips and margarine with sweetened condensed milk and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. DO NOT LET SAUCE BOIL OR STICK TO BOTTOM. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Serve over ice cream, cake, anything! Refrigerate leftovers.

Note: To reheat, add a small amount of water. Heat SLOWLY until heated through. Do not let sauce boil; stir frequently to keep from sticking.

** From Classic Desserts

Monday, August 24, 2009

Be a 'Party in a Box'

For those of us who love to entertain, we envision the perfect setting where great planning, delicious food, fun activities and a clean house converge. Sometimes that happens and life is good. And sometimes we wait. We tell ourselves that we’ll wait until the kids are out for the summer, until the kids are back in school, until the kitchen is painted, until, until, until. But if we wait until these things happen or until our house is ready, we’ll never entertain. I know this is true because I’ve been there.

Our family has lived in Orrville for 12 years, but prior to that, we lived in 12 places in 13 years (yes, that’s right- 12 places in 13 years!). Hard to believe, I know. It’s hard even for me to believe it when I look back on those years, but it’s true. Ken only worked with a couple of companies during that time, but because he was in management, we had to 'move on to move up', as I have referred to that time of our lives. Believe it or not, I don’t regret a single one of those moves; I felt each one was the right decision at the time and if we had to, we’d make those same decisions today. Fortunately, all (except the last move) were prior to our son, Matthew starting school, and many were before he was even born. (Matthew began first grade in Orrville and graduated here earlier this year. Based on our early history, we are very proud of this!)

Because we lived in so many places, much of our early married life was literally life in transition. It seemed that by the time I got the house to a point where I was comfortable having people in, we were on the road again! We made and left many friends in those years. You’ve read my thoughts about how I feel I’ve neglected some of those friends through the years. As Barb, one of those old friends recently said to me, “Vanessa, you can’t worry about that. You were just trying to keep your head above water.” And while true, as one who loves hospitality and entertaining, I have regrets about much of that….

But, I digress! What I want to say is that I have learned the best way to overcome that is to simply BEGIN! Start somewhere! My best friend, Linda, was merely an acquaintance when she helped me to see the importance of doing just that. Although we had once worked at the same place, I did not know her. We actually met Linda and her husband, Brad, when my husband and I were invited to a small get-together at the home of mutual friends (Ray and Wanda) for ‘game night’. We all had so much fun and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Later that school year, all our sons (of the three couples) played baseball together on the high school baseball team. We really got to know each other at the games where we cheered on our sons’ team!

At one of those games, I made the suggestion that we should all get together at our house sometime. While I was trying to think of a good night to do that, Linda, in her ‘act now’ mentality (I call Linda our ‘party in a box’), suggested we get together after the game. That night!... On the way home!... At OUR house! Now, I keep a pretty clean and organized house, but I generally like to KNOW when I’m going to have eight extra people in IMMEDIATELY after a game, with no notice or planning whatsoever!! My friend Wanda, has teased me for years, telling me that I need to be more spontaneous. Well, I shocked them all that night when I said, “Why not?!” So, I ran it by Ken just to be sure. As expected, my husband who is my greatest supporter said, “Of course! Let’s do it!”

So, we did a mental check of what snacks we had at home, stopped by the grocery store for a few more things and then headed home where we were greeted by the first attendees of our impromptu party! Talk about a last-minute gathering! And it was a blast! We all had such fun! Our friendships with these couples only deepened. The next year we even went on vacation together with our families. And it REALLY began that night, when Linda invited herself and everyone else to our home. Everyone should have such a best friend!

I have to admit, these two couples are our ‘go-to’ friends when it comes to ‘easy’ entertaining. Whether we go to one of their houses or have them over at our house, it’s easy and comfortable. We’ve had all sorts of no-fuss events, like a Christmas party where our gift exchange was in the form of a ‘white elephant’ game (where each one brought a wrapped “gift,” something they had been given which was not only no longer wanted, but was never wanted in the first place. It’s a great way to get rid of something and a fun way to do it!) Easy! We have had game nights, and watched videos of Christian comedians, and even grilled pizza for a 4th of July celebration. Easy-to- please, easy-to-be-with friends! We all need those kinds of friends!

So, knowing that we all have some of these fun-loving, impromptu friends, how can we do impromptu entertaining without stressing out? Here are 10 quick suggestions, things I’ve learned to help me (the ultimate planner) with the ‘spur-of-the-moment’ get-togethers:

1. Make the food plan easy. Grill burgers, arrange a quick potluck, even order pizza. It’s the company, not the food that’s important.
2. Keep easy foods on hand. I sometimes joke that I like to visit my friend Sam (a.k.a. Sam’s Club!). At warehouse clubs you can find all sorts of easy foods to keep on hand. Cheese and veggie trays as well as sandwiches and quick-heat appetizers are always available there. Even their desserts are yummy. Bite-size cheesecakes and cream-filled popovers are frozen, but thaw quickly for an easy dessert. Now, I prefer to make all these things homemade, but again, quick is the name of the game for easy, no-fuss get-togethers.
3. Plan a game night. There are so many fun and easy games for a mixed group of friends and families with kids. Try Apples to Apples, UNO, or some of the other tried-and-true favorites. As your friends to bring their favorite games, too. Usually snack foods and sandwiches are easiest for these nights. (We always have potato chips, pretzels and crunchy snacks available thanks to Shearer’s, where my husband is plant manager. BTW, if you live locally and haven’t tried Shearer’s company store, you’re missing out! Lots of ‘seconds’ make for easy – and inexpensive – party snack food items!)
4. Plan a movie night. What’s easier than popcorn and apples for feeding everyone at this easy type of get-together? Add a bag of Junior Mints and Twizzlers and you’re good to go!
5. Set up a tentative time each month or quarter to get together. Then you have time to think about it a little in advance, assign foods, drinks, etc. If you or your friends have specialties or their own go-to foods, have them just plan to bring those. Linda makes a delicious homemade macaroni and cheese and we all love knowing we’ll have that at any gathering where more than desserts are served! Wanda is a terrific baker and anything she brings is always good! (Her cinnamon rolls are awesome and I request those whenever possible for early-day things!)
6. Meet at the park and enjoy a picnic. No one has to prepare their home and everyone brings enough food to share or maybe just items for your own family to enjoy. We live in a small town but we have a couple of places where we can pick up a bucket of chicken and joe’s (oven-fried potatoes) for an easy lunch or supper.
7. Just do dessert. Homemade ice cream and seasonal fruits are real crowd pleasers. How about s’mores? Easy, easy! I sometimes make brownies (homemade sometimes, box anytime!). Serve with Vanilla Bean ice cream and my easy hot-fudge sauce for a yummy dessert.
8. Keep needed items ready. Store paper plates, plastic utensils & cups as well as napkins in a large Ziploc bag for a quick grab-and-go to the picnic table or family room, wherever your party is congregating.
9. Keep homemade cookie batter in the freezer for easy cookies in a hurry. I’ve tried a variety of recipes for use in this way and I’ve never been disappointed.
10. It’s in the bag! Keep easy and fun activities ready to go in a bag or bin. Outside activities like yard darts, bocce ball or corn hole are always big hits. Bottles of bubbles keep the smaller kids happy. Why not add a few coloring books and crayons, too? Inside, a variety of games keeps everyone happy. Board games are a must, although Guitar Hero and Wii are always a blast in a group setting, too. Some group games are useful, but so are individual task-type games and puzzles. Years ago we used to have a puzzle set up to work on as the mood struck. Why not dig one out of the closet today? You’ll be surprised at how many of your guests (and family members) cannot resist placing a few pieces!

Most importantly, be a ‘party in a box’ person like Linda! Be willing to make those calls, invite your friends, and enjoy the time you have with them. Life is too short and circumstances are rarely perfect, so let’s make the best of today by making some memories with those we love and whose company we enjoy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

Now don’t get me wrong: I hated to see Matthew leave for college. I have been preparing for this for almost as many years as I have been helping him prepare to go to college! Yet, this last month, although it zoomed by, also dragged by – for us and for him, too, I think.

I dreaded it with every part of my being, yet I knew it was inevitable. It was going to hurt like crazy, and although I knew the pain would be very real, I just wanted to get it over with. Ken (my hubby) said, “Yeah, it’s like ripping off a band-aid.” (And there you have it: a peek into our 25 year marriage. It takes me two paragraphs to explain a thought that Ken communicated in seven words!)

We tried to squeeze every moment of goodness out of those last weeks, days, minutes…. And then, in warp speed, the time to say goodbye came way too soon. Yes, it was hard, very hard, and we cried. But then we saw compassion on Matthew's face for our hurt and it made him seem so mature. And we also saw resolve there and the confidence he exuded. We took comfort in all those things, knowing that he truly is ready, just as we have known for a very long time.

And at that moment, we knew that we were, too. That doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult days and moments, but we do take comfort in that we are all ready for this next phase of our lives and we embrace it, anxious to see what God has in store for all of us.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Brower House

Like many of you these days, my husband and I are seeing our son off to college very soon. He’s our only child and has been the center of our world. How do we just leave him at college? Isn’t that a strange thought….we protect and nurture our kids, try to keep them well and happy and then we just….leave them? I imagine Ken and I will be able to accomplish that small, yet world-sized task…..we’ll see. One day soon I’ll know and then I’ll be back in touch to let you know how simple a task it proves to be.

In the meantime, I've been reflecting a lot lately and I wanted to share a poem with you Matthew wrote for an assignment in Junior High. As I understood it, the students were to use an acronym with their last names to create descriptions of their home lives (or something like that). What follows is Matthew’s version of The Brower House as he saw it at that time (which was probably about 2004):

The Brower House

Trees rustling in the backyard
Hot stove cooking dinner
Evenings drinking iced tea

Basketball court in the driveway
Room full of posters and jerseys
Once used things in the basement covered in dust
Wake up to the sun in the morning
Entering the garage driving the red minivan
Raking leaves in the fall

Hamburgers on the grill
October flowers blooming near the street
Under the roof when it rains
Smell of candles burning
Everyone in the house on Christmas

------Written by Matthew Brower

I love this poem and I have copies of The Brower House all over the Brower house! Although I would love to see his description of his life as it is now, as he prepares to leave for college, I don’t have that luxury. I wonder, too, like all parents wonder - what his life will be like in the future. I don’t have the luxury of that, either.

All I can do is send him into the world and pray that in the last 18 years his father and I have helped prepare him to face the challenges, lessons and joys that await him. My prayer is that he will be a man of integrity, that the values and morals which are such a part of Matthew will give him the strength to make decisions that he’ll be proud to recall as his. I also pray he has the compassion to value others and never see himself better (or worse) than anyone else. I hope he’ll have the work ethic he has witnessed in his dad and the love for others I hope he has seen in me. I pray he will find the passionate vocation he so desires and especially, the love of his life, the one God has already chosen. I hope he will value friendship and will continue to be a good friend to the many who grace his life now and in his future. Most importantly, I pray he will seek God’s will and direction for his life. I know that’s the true key to happiness.

And I hope he calls, e-mails, Skypes and texts his mother often. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Monday, August 17, 2009

It Didn't Turn Out As We'd Planned

My friend and college freshman roommate, Joyce, was admitted to the hospital last Tuesday morning. The good news is that she appears to be healing – slowly; the bad news is that she’s still in the hospital.

Things certainly did not go according to plan. You see, I had plans to meet with my long-time friends, Joyce and Lynnette earlier last week for a reunion. We were freshman roommates (in fact, there were 5 of us – yes, 5 of us in one room our freshman year at BG!). We had planned to meet last Tuesday at the Morning Glory Suite, the Bed & Breakfast where they were staying, with plans to have lunch and enjoy the wonderful shops of Berlin, Ohio.

On the appointed morning I got up early, excited to see my old friends! I had breakfast and was enjoying my morning coffee when I got a call. It was Lynnette and she had news: Joyce had to be rushed to the hospital in the wee hours that morning, as they thought she was having a heart attack. Because of the incredible pain in her chest they called 911 and were taken by Rescue Squad to Union Hospital in Dover. I joined them a few hours later in Dover, where after extensive testing, we learned Joyce had a lacerated esophagus. She had been eating the previous evening when a piece of chicken had gotten caught in her throat. While coughing repeatedly, trying to dislodge it, her esophagus had literally torn about 8 inches! No wonder she was in so much pain!

I sat with my friends at the hospital to keep them company during those difficult hours. Joyce was in immense pain and was hours from home in a town she knew nothing about (and was really ticked off that because of her predicament, we were not going to be able to ‘do lunch’ and shop!). Lynnette was exhausted from the lack of sleep and the worry of having to share the news with Joyce’s husband and kids. Since they all live several hours away in the western part of the state, they were truly away from home. It was bad enough to even be in the hospital, but to be in a hospital so far away from what was familiar was difficult for both of them.

I have been worried about my friend, too, but I felt then, as I do now, that she’s in the care of a knowledgeable, competent physician. Not knowing exactly how to comfort them last week, I tried to just be present and offer our home to Lynnette as well as Joyce’s husband. In the meantime, we sat in the hospital, trying to be advocates on Joyce’s behalf, and seeing Joyce, even while sleeping, in immense pain.

As crazy as the circumstances were, the best part of the situation was that we were able to visit – truly visit – and catch up with each others’ lives. Even Joyce, during the time the strong paid meds were effective, chatted with us in her hospital room where we were a captive audience for each other. That part was really good and we all enjoyed the opportunity that presented itself in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Joyce is still in the hospital and will be until at least this Wednesday. The last test was discouraging, as it showed a leakage from her esophagus into her chest cavity. The prayer is that the esophagus will heal itself soon so that open chest surgery at Cleveland Clinic can be avoided. Although we know Cleveland Clinic offers awesome care, having open chest surgery is not how we wish to test that belief, so please join us in praying for Joyce’s quick recovery. She has a daughter, Allison, who will be moving in this week as a freshman at the University of Toledo. A younger daughter, Kristin, and son, Tim, will be starting school in the coming days, too. It’s very difficult for Joyce to know she’s hours away from home in a hospital bed where she can’t be with her kids at this time. Joyce, a teacher herself, is planning to venture back into the classroom this fall, after a break from classroom teaching.

This has been a difficult time for Joyce and one which has tested her patience and endurance. Yet, I know she believes God has a hand in all of this and He knows best. She and her husband gave my son, Matthew, a beautiful silver key chain for graduation with one of her favorite Bible verses. The verse is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” The timing seemed uncanny for all of us. It was a wonderful reminder that God really is in control and we need to relinquish that control totally to Him, knowing His plans for us are always better in the end than our own...

On a final note, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to share the hospitality shown to my friends by a business down in Amish country during this time. One of the wonderful things to come out of this time was the hospitality shown to Joyce and Lynnette by their Innkeepers of the Morning Glory Suite. My friends had gotten to know the Innkeepers, Wade and Carol Mullet, the last couple of years, but they were amazed by the kindness and generosity shown to them by these folks during this last week. Because Lynnette accompanied our friend to the hospital in the Rescue Squad, she had no transportation for herself at the hospital. Carol and Wade brought Lynnette’s van to the hospital and then Carol sat with Lynnette for a while before I got there during those first hours when Joyce’s condition was unknown. Carol also called to check on them and left them thoughtful messages.

Beyond that, the Mullets had availability at their Inn during those first few days Joyce was in the hospital, and they even offered use of their lovely Bed & Breakfast to those staying with Joyce. Lynnette spent the remainder of her time here with my family, but the amazing blessing offered by Wade and Carol was a godsend for Chris, Joyce’s husband. He was able to stay at the B & B at night, where he could sleep and shower and then spend the days with Joyce at the hospital. Thank you, Wade and Carol, for your generosity! We pray God blesses you richly for your kindness! (What was it we said about "Trusting in the Lord....?")

If you ever have the opportunity to stay at a Bed & Breakfast in Ohio’s Amish Country, I hope you’ll give the folks at Morning Glory Suite a look. Please check them out at Their accommodations are absolutely charming and the view is beautiful! Even more importantly, though, the Innkeepers exhibit the personal service, care and attention that one would hope to find in a small Inn. You won’t be disappointed!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hosting Away from Home

No matter how much planning and effort we put into hosting someone at home, sometimes it’s nice to host away from home, where, let’s face it, it’s easier! We had the opportunity to do that a few years ago when we rented a beach house at the Outer Banks. My cousin, Lynn, and her husband and two sons joined us for a couple of days while we were there.

It was fun and liberating at the same time. I didn’t have to worry about cleaning the house, because it wasn’t our house! The house was huge and beautiful and clean, although the windows could have used a good washing – yet I wasn’t responsible! What a concept! I loved it!

And although I love to cook, sometimes it takes a lot of planning to prepare for guests for a few days. Not at the beach! We had snacks at the house, ordered pizza and enjoyed the local restaurants. I could get used to that kind of entertaining!

A year later, my husband, son and I met my dad and stepmom at a cabin in Hocking Hills. Again, I didn’t need to prepare our house because we just enjoyed being together at the cabin. It required a little more planning, since when we go there, we take towels, games, etc. It also required a little more planning in the food category, since restaurants are few and far between. It’s hard enough to get a cell phone signal there, let alone a decent restaurant!

Yes, hosting away from home can be carefree and relaxing. I have to admit that many times when we’ve hosted family and friends, I’ve been more stressed than carefree. I’ve sometimes worked so hard to prepare that by the time our guests arrive, I’m too tired to enjoy their company. Has this happened to you, too?

Even worse is that because I’m stressed, I'm not especially "hospitable" to my family – my husband and son. I get frustrated that they aren’t moving fast enough to help or that they can’t just read my mind! (Can’t they see that the powder room needs clean hand towels and that the floor in the kitchen where I’m cooking could use a once over – again?!) And then the guests arrive and ….quite honestly, I’m feeling a little less than hospitable and welcoming because I'm worn out! Worse than that, I am feeling guilty that Ken and Matthew saw the worst of me when I’m trying to extend the best of myself to others! As much as I love entertaining and having others in our home, it makes me feel hypocritical!

Along those lines……it’s taken me years, but I have learned the best way to avoid this is to prepare as far in advance as possible. I try to break down the errands, shopping and cleaning into pieces instead of trying to do everything in the 24 hours before guests arrive. And I’ve learned to prepare as much food as possible before that 24 hour period. I take great comfort in having a freshly prepared cake stored in the freezer, just needing to be thawed (amazingly, some freeze very, very well. I learned this about 17 years ago from my dear friend, Kim Bahr, from Durham, NC. Thanks, Kim!).

Through trial and error, I’ve learned that a variety of recipes can be frozen and ready for use in minutes. I also love to keep cookie dough frozen and at the ready to welcome the little ones (as well as the big ones who are cookie-lovers!). No one needs to know that I froze that dough last week, only to bake fresh cookies minutes before guests arrive, right? Most importantly, it works like magic and the house smells great! (More about this process in a future posting.)

Ok, back to hosting away from home…

Let’s not forget, too, that hosting someone away from home is as simple as treating someone to dinner out. Again, stress-free and easy are the selling features here. You don’t have to clean the house, buy groceries or prepare anything. The only thing you need to make is the reservation! Depending on where you take your guests, sometimes that isn’t even required.

My dad often showed hospitality in a very special way in restaurants. Many times we would be out with my parents and they would see friends or business acquaintances in the restaurant. I would see my dad call the waitress over to our table and I knew what he was doing: he was making arrangements to pay for the meal of the friends he spotted elsewhere in the restaurant. My dad loved to treat others in this way. He was a very generous man and loved to extend his version of hospitality. On occasion my husband and I do this. It’s as much a tribute to my dad as it is extending hospitality to friends.

After my dad passed away four years ago, we made several trips to Tennessee to take care of some things at the house where he had lived. On one such visit, two of my aunts who live close by (for you avid readers, I am referring to the aunts who can still shop anyone under the table!) called to see if we needed anything. They also wanted to make dinner for us. We thanked them, but declined their offer, not knowing what kinds of things we’d get into at the house. I just didn’t know how emotional I would be and I didn’t want to commit at that point. They understood. A little while later, they showed up at the house with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a bag of “sides” to round out the meal. They wanted to drop off something for us to eat when we were ready. They checked on us, provided for us, and then left us to deal with our issues at hand in our own way. It was the most wonderful gift! Who would think a bucket of KFC could be such an extension of hospitality? That day I learned that we can extend a gift of hospitality in yet another way!

How can you plan ahead to enjoy hosting friends and family? Can you prepare a favorite dish or two and refrigerate or freeze for later? Can you enlist the help of family members in a fun and non-threatening way? Or, can you splurge and take your guests out for a meal and make the entertaining easy? Even take-out pizza, when shared with those you love and want to be with can be a meal fit for company. Of course, remember you can always extend love and hospitality as my Aunt Juanita and Aunt Sue did with a bucket of KFC!

Remember to enjoy the moments you have. If you’re comfortable and relaxed, your guests will enjoy their time more than if you’re stressed and frazzled. Sometimes letting someone else prepare the food is the best plan of all.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hospitality I Saw Growing Up....

My parents were experts at making others feel comfortable in our home as I was growing up. Although not spotless, our house was reasonably clean and what I now think of as casually cluttered. My mother was always more concerned about what she was going to make us for supper and who might be joining us than the mundane household chores. I have to admit, though, the messiness was sometimes a source of embarrassment for me as a teenager, and I was often motivated to pick up before having friends over (obviously, my mother was smarter than I realized!).

The clutter, though, never seemed to bother anyone else. In fact, few others even seemed to notice. Even though I had no brothers or sisters, we frequently had friends over to visit - sometimes several times a week. We often had people stop by unexpectedly (a common practice in the South) and just as frequently, had friends and family in for dinner. My mother was a wonderful cook and was known far and wide for her desserts as well as her meals. I honestly believe many of my dad’s friends and business associates just happened to stop by early evening sometimes, hoping to enjoy some of my mother’s amazing home cooking.

Whoever was around at mealtime was assumed to be eating with us (my husband and I are also like this - I guess some values are with us for life). When someone had dinner with us and commented on some food my mom had prepared, she always remembered. She also remembered when someone mentioned a favorite food, and when they came back, sometimes she would make their favorite dessert (even if she had never tried it before) to surprise them. Ironically, the "experts" tell you never to try a new recipe on guests! Yet, she made many people feel so special because she cared enough to take that risk. She made each person feel so special and so important.

I should mention, too, that my mom was known for her homemade fudge. I had a cousin, Susie, who went to a different school and who loved to have my mom make fudge for her for bake sales at school. She would come with the ingredients and my mom would make her some of the amazing fudge she was known for. I can still see the platters of fudge on the counter! I guess that's why I still love it so much today. Now, there are lots of great fudge recipes, some very easy and one that my mom called, 'the cook kind'. That was the fudge recipe on the back of the Hershey's cocoa box that had to be cooked to the 'soft boil stage'. That was the best fudge!

My dad was so proud of my mom's cooking, too! As long as I could remember, she was always a stay-at-home mom, her priority feeding us. Regarding meals at our house, my dad would jokingly say to guests, "I buy it (the food), but I just can't get Irene (my mom) to fix it!" Obviously, he was kidding because he could not have been more proud of how she cared for him and all the others who graced our home.

Once, early in their married life, my dad would tell co-workers that he was going to Irene's Place to eat, inferring it was a restaurant (he didn't tell them that Irene was my mom!) One guy said, "You're always talking about this place and how great the food is there, but I've never heard of it." My dad promised to take him sometime. When he brought that first person to Irene's Place, the guy was taken aback that it was my dad's home! My parents are both gone now, but they used to tell that story and laugh heartily!

So, there we were in our casually cluttered home with family and friends stopping by at random, joining us for meals or “at least a piece of pie.” My dad was also very welcoming and loved having people in the house. When they invited someone to stay for supper, and the person acted as if he couldn't say, Daddy would say, “You might as well stay. We’re gonna charge you for it, anyway!” Oh, how I miss my mom and dad!

Yes, the more the merrier was the mantra at our house and ours was a welcoming home where my parents made others feel wanted, like they belonged. Beyond that, folks were made to feel like they were special in our house. My husband and I try to extend that same hospitality to our friends and family. As you now know, it is most often our son’s friends. We have a group of them who often stay overnight and we love it. They are great kids and we try to let them know they are always welcome.

We often make big country breakfasts with biscuits and gravy and the works. During these mornings, I always remember my mom, standing at the stove, make the perfect gravy. Sometimes, we make pancakes or French toast and bacon instead. And sometimes it’s a groggy morning for everyone and we just have cereal. But we always try to have something each kid likes. For example, one of “our boys” loves bacon, so when we make it, we make plenty of it. One loves chocolate milk, so we try really hard to always have chocolate milk in the house. And of course, each one has a favorite snack or cereal. My husband, who does most of our grocery shopping, is wonderful to keep each one’s favorite things in the house. He’s as generous with his wallet as he is with his time with the kids.

And we always try to have enough for at least one more person at the dinner table. I’ve told our kids they are always welcome here. If they come at dinnertime, there is generally enough extra for one or more (we have only one biological child, a son who’s soon to leave for college, but we “claim” a number of these kids as our own). But, if there isn’t, not to worry because we keep a stash of quick things in the freezer for dinner. They know they can always have something to eat, no matter when they stop by.

So, extending our home to our kids is not doing anything fancy; rather it’s just treating them like the family we feel they are. Welcoming them with a smile and a snack or a meal, telling them to make themselves at home, and telling them to be careful when they have to leave is all a part of letting these kids know they are precious to us. In many ways, we are just carrying on the example my parents set so many years ago....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Granny's Spoon Rolls

My husband's grandmother, Della Maude Hawkins, shared a recipe with me many years ago for a quick bread that she called Spoon Rolls. They are delicious and I thought you would enjoy trying these light, flavorful rolls. Granny is gone now, but her recipe remains a favorite of ours, and the recipe is often requested by company.

Granny's Spoon Rolls
4 cups self-rising flour
2 cups lukewarm water
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cooking oil

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a tightly-fitting lid (like a Rubbermaid or Tupperware container); refrigerate overnight. Spoon into greased muffin tins (until about 3/4 full). Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, until lightly browned. Makes about 2 dozen.

*Use a large bowl, as mixture expands in the fridge.
**This batter will last 2-3 days in the fridge. Just make as many as you need for a meal and keep the rest for later.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The BEST Baked Potatoes (like Red Lobster's potatoes)

I've gotten lots of feedback from the cobbler recipe, so I decided to post a recipe for baked potatoes that I think you'll also enjoy. This is really too simple to be called a recipe, but it is delicious. In fact, I was given this preparation method from a waitress at Red Lobster who told me this is how the restaurant prepares their baked potatoes. Since my family has always been a fan of those yummy potatoes, I tried it and we all LOVED them! In fact, I haven't made baked potatoes any other way since, and that was years ago!

It's so simple...

1. Scrub baking potatoes well; cut away any bad places. Poke with a fork in several places, so that steam can escape (it will help the potatoes to bake more evenly). Let potatoes dry for a few minutes on paper towels.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush potato lightly all over with oil.
3. Sprinkle with sea salt (a medium crystal is best, but coarse or fine is often all that's available at our local store. In that case, I prefer fine, as it adheres better.)
4. Bake in a slow oven, about 300 degrees for about 2 hours. Turn halfway and rotate pan in oven also.

NOTE: Do not cover. Just place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake. I sometimes place a sheet of foil under the potatoes for easy clean-up, but I never cover each potato (like I used to), because foil keeps the moisture inside and the crust won't crisp properly. Potatoes in foil will also lose their salty crust. If you want to bake and transport (like for a supper swap), I found it best to place the potatoes in a deep casserole after baking to transport. Cover with parchment paper or paper towels instead of foil.

One last thought - I sometimes make extra potatoes to use for a meal the following night. Just refrigerate leftover potatoes after cooling. To prepare for a second meal, slice the potatoes (skin and all) into fairly large slices/pieces (maybe 12-15 pieces for a good-sized potato). Brown in a little oil and/or butter in a pan on top of the stove for DELICIOUS fried potatoes! Season with salt and pepper to taste and turn frequently to prevent burning. They are already fully-cooked, of course, and will brown beautifully! We have even used the grill to prepare in this way. Just spray a grilling pan with cooking spray or oil and place on grill. So easy and so good!

Please let me know how you like potaotes baked this way! I love your feedback and comments.

Friday, August 7, 2009

You Can Now Leave A Comment....

Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much to everyone for your support of this blog!! The response has been wonderful!

I understand some folks were unable to leave a comment previously. I'm sorry about that! I think I have this setting fixed, so please try again!!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you again for all your support,


The Hospitality of Support Cannot be Overstated...

The year my mother died was the most painful time of my life. It was 1993 and we had moved from North Carolina to Ohio. My husband had requested and was granted a transfer with his company so that we could make our desire to be near my family a reality. Our son Matthew was only a toddler when we moved to North Canton that year, where we knew no one except my parents who lived just over an hour away.

Not quite two months after the move, we were getting settled and making adjustments to the cold Ohio climate when my mother died suddenly from a massive heart attack. At only 53, my mother was gone. She was my biggest supporter and best friend. I had longed to live near her again, especially as our son grew older.

Her death that April, so soon after our move, was very nearly unbearable. Somehow, with God’s grace and Ken's unfailing support, I managed to care for Matthew and get through the summer. Looking back, it’s all a blur and I barely remember anything that happened during that time.

As the holidays approached, I was an emotional wreck. My mother had always spent time with us every year sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just the thought of facing those holidays without her was not only emotionally difficult, but it was physically painful. My heart literally ached - I felt pain in my chest whenever I thought of her. How would I ever make it through the Christmas holidays?

And then my friend, Vickie, from Durham, North Carolina where we had lived, used the mail to cross that distance for me that year. She knew my mother and how close we had been. She knew I was hurting and yet, with a job, a husband, and a young child of her own, she couldn’t be with me during those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, she did the next best thing - she sent me mail every day during that holiday season. Yes, each day our mailman delivered something from Vickie. Sometimes it was a note or letter, but more often than not, I received some little package from her. The packages held a note and a little surprise. I don't remember what all the surprises were, but I do remember they were as simple as a sweet-smelling drawer sachet or a chocolate candy bar. But there was something from her every day.

The support Vickie showed me that year was worth more to me than I could ever express. Just knowing that she cared enough about me to purchase, prepare and mail an item each day was the most incredible gift. It was God’s reminder for me that I still had people who loved and cared about me. My mother, who was my greatest fan, was gone, but I was shown a love so like that of my mother. Vickie’s long-distance hospitality was a priceless gift. I will always count the love she showed me during those weeks one of the greatest gifts I ever received.

The gift of support cannot be overstated. Last year my friend Wanda needed to have some hospital tests done and although she’s a nurse, she was apprehensive about going to the hospital for testing alone. Her husband needed to be out of town, so she asked another close friend, Linda, and me to join her for the testing. Linda and I were so glad that she expressed her concern to us and that she had asked us to accompany her. Although we did not go into the testing room with Wanda, she knew we were close and that we were praying for her. We prayed that she would have peace of mind and that the diagnostician would find any abnormalities. When Wanda joined us after the testing, she had a calm, peaceful demeanor and was so glad the testing was over. She expressed just knowing we were there, waiting for her and prayerfully supporting her was a calming gift for her at the time. Fortunately, the tests were normal, but knowing we were there for her was a comfort. I had experienced that kind of support in a similar way years before with Vickie.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know many who are facing a challenge of some kind who could use our support. Do you know an elderly person who stresses when going to the doctor? Would she find comfort in knowing you were there with her? Is there someone without family or friends nearby who would love some company – even for a little while? How about the elderly person down the street who has difficulty mowing his yard or clearing snow from his driveway? What kind of small kindness can you extend to him today? Maybe for you it’s a friend or neighbor who just had surgery, or even a new mom, overwhelmed with the responsibilities she now encounters. How can you extend the hospitality of support today?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In Honor of "The Office" Gang....

This morning my husband and I received an email from the college our son will be attending. It's an online newsletter we've been receiving, and in this edition was an article titled, "Seven Steps to a Smooth Move-In Day." Wow! That was a surprise to see early in the morning!

Yes, we are 2 weeks away from the big move-in day. In honor of Matthew and all his friends who will soon be leaving for college all across Ohio and neighboring states, I am posting an article I wrote last year about this time. It's too close to write about now, so I'll let that article speak for itself.

(PHOTO: Matthew and his friends taken at his 18th birthday surprise party last year. Matthew is at the top of the stairs, on the left.)

The Excitement of Hospitality

I’m so excited. It’s not my birthday or a holiday, but it is a special day. Tonight is the season premiere of the TV program, The Office. Now, I enjoy The Office, but more importantly, I enjoy what it brings: teenagers -- more specifically, my son’s friends.

For the last couple of years, a group of 10-12 kids assemble at our house nearly every Thursday night during the television season of the program. My husband and I love it! We love seeing these kids and although they get together at other times, we know we’ll get to see them during The Office season.

My husband, Ken, and I have been talking about the gathering since we saw previews for the premiere. This morning I confirmed with Matthew, our son, that he was having the group in (They never plan anything in advance. To know the morning of is really good, since this is about as far in advance as they plan.)

I said I’d make some food. "I’ll make brownies," I said. My son said, “You don’t have to make anything.” (Translation: Thanks, Mom. That’d be great!)
So, I’ll make some things and get ready to greet their smiling faces at the door. They’ll all go downstairs to the Matt-cave (a.k.a. the family room in the basement) and Ken and I will look at each other and smile, thrilled that our kids are back.

Then, we’ll have a straggler or two who had late shifts at Buehler's (our grocery store) or Dairy Queen, and we’ll usher them to join the others. We’ll hear the roar of the welcome, “Marissa!” or "Nick!" and then chatter and then quiet, while they watch the show. Every now and then we’ll hear raucous laughter as they share a moment of humor together. Ah, the stuff memories are made of….

We’ll check on the kids, offer more food and smile at all the shoes at the front door. I’ve often wanted to photograph the shoes because they are a composite of those who are downstairs: tiny little flip-flops, belonging to some of the gals; larger sandals many of the golfers wear to the golf course; and a variety of sneakers, all sizes, colors and styles. Yep, we’ve got a conglomerate of kids down there.

I’ve contemplated what it will be like next year. Our son is a senior this year, as are all the kids downstairs. Ken and I know the hard part is yet to come. When our only child is away at college, all these kids will be gone, too. It will be a double whammy when they graduate. I hope I’ll be ready.

Maybe they will take pity on us and visit when they return home for a visit. When our son went to Australia on a People to People Student Ambassador trip for three weeks last year, several of these kids stopped by to see us. It warmed our hearts that they were checking on us in Matthew’s absence. Hopefully, they will continue to do that. Maybe they’ll even stop by to watch The Office during Thanksgiving break.

I’ve learned so much about hospitality with these kids. They are happy to be welcomed. Sometimes they are talkative and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they just want a place to hang out with their friends. With the peer pressure kids face today, we are happy to provide that place. We know where they are, what they are doing and that they are safe. And we love seeing their smiling faces and hearing their excited voices as a result of being with their friends. In many ways, hospitality is about welcoming others and creating memories. We hope these kids are creating memories that will truly last a lifetime.

--Written October, 2008

It has been our pleasure to know these terrific young men and women. They have enriched our lives so much and we treasure the memories we have with them. We wish them the best of everything life has to offer and we know they will accomplish great things in the years to come.

I hope they know they are always welcome here and we look forward to future visits when we hear about college roommates, challenging classes and majors being pursued. Most importantly, I hope they know they are loved.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What I've Learned About Hospitality from Others

Hospitality is so much more than providing a sofa to your cousin passing through town for the weekend. Providing hospitality can create memories that last a lifetime. I have been blessed to experience the hospitality of many through the years and I hope I’ve learned from these experiences.

When I was a college student at BGSU (many, many years ago), I was invited home over Easter weekend with a friend who lived in Sandusky, Ohio. I’ve lost touch with Mary Stepanic and haven’t spoken with her in many years, but I will never forget how her mother made me feel so special that weekend.

A loving and attentive mother, Mrs. Stepanic had prepared Easter baskets for her two college-age kids, home for Easter break. And she made one for me as well. I felt so special and included that day. It was a thoughtful, simple act of kindness and it was one I have never forgotten. My basket had Easter candy and eggs and a perfume stick that I used for a very long time. Every time I used it I remembered the thoughtfulness behind the gift.

We usually think of hospitality involving home cooking. My Aunt Juanita and Aunt Sue, although good cooks, extended hospitality in a different way. When I was growing up, my aunts who were raised in Virginia, had migrated north to the Windy City along with scores of others in the 1960’s looking for stable work outside the coal fields. They found it in an automotive plant and worked there for decades. They welcomed family from the south to visit them and when we did, oh what a visit it was! They took us shopping to all kinds of great stores we didn’t have in rural Virginia and they treated us to great meals at many restaurants.

Although you’ll often hear that as a houseguest, taking your hosts out for a meal is a way to show gratitude for their hospitality, in my family, we did it backwards. Taking guests or “company” out to eat was a way to entertain them and make them feel welcome. Well, my aunts certainly made everyone welcome! We had everything from White Castle’s to Mexican cuisine, as I recall (mind you, this was 35 years ago...). And shopping, oh my! Those aunts can still shop even the most enthusiastic shoppers under the table! And they would take us anywhere we wanted to go. What great memories of those visits.

A few years ago my husband, Ken, was asked to speak at a national Toyota conference in C’oeur d’ Lane, Idaho. I was his guest for the trip. They wined and dined us and treated us like royalty. We were taken shopping, treated to a dinner cruise and given massages. Boy, does Toyota know how to treat their guests! What was most memorable for me, though, was that when we arrived back in our hotel room every evening, in addition to finding our bed turned down with lovely little mints on our pillows, we also had a present waiting for us! We were given a variety of gifts, including a small, original watercolor painting. What a wonderful surprise and thoughtful gesture!

We have since entertained and using the example set by Toyota, given our guests little presents each night. It was a fun way to make our guests feel special. It reminded us how special we felt at our getaway a few years ago.

Gifts need not be expensive, just thoughtful. When you’re out shopping throughout the year, buy little items and store them in a gift closet or drawer. Then, when you have occasions to use them, you’ll be prepared and for very little money, can make a wonderful memory for a visiting guest.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spreading the Word....

Hello Friends!

Some of you have arrived from an email you received and others from a Facebook prompt. However you arrived here, thanks for visiting!

As you will see, I will be teaching a variety of Customer Service and Home & Hospitality courses soon at WCSCC and at Heartland Point. If this is an area you're interested in, I hope you'll consider attending. I would love to see you! If you know of others who might be interested, I hope you'll pass along the info and the blog address...

Please share any comments. I'd love to hear from you.


p.s. Thanks for visiting - I hope you'll come back soon!

Reconnecting With Old Friends

I have to admit, I am new to the world of Facebook and was a little hesitant to join the craze. Finally, last week I began adding to my profile and connecting with some local friends whom I had not seen in a while. That, of course, led to lunch with my friend Tina, and other interesting reconnects! It was fun and I was hooked! This Facebook thing is addictive!

And then....last night while checking new emails on Facebook, I was surprised - no, shocked is a better word - to get an email, out of the blue, from my dear friend Barb (Shuman) Fehl from college! I had last seen Barb about 15 years ago when some friends had a reunion and we all got together in Bowling Green (I graduated from BGSU in 1983). But, Barb and I had lost contact through the years, with all the relocations our little family has had. In recent years I had tried, to no avail, to reach Barb through the usual means (internet and Google). So, when I got a Facebook message from her, I was so, so happy!

You see, Barb had an amazing influence on my life. We met as college freshmen and I was so blessed to know her! I saw for the first time how cool it could be to be a Christian AND a college student! She had an amazing group of Christian friends who welcomed me with arms and hearts wide open. I will never forget the love they showed me and the positive influence they had on my life. I have such fond memories of Barb and the fun times we shared on the 3rd floor of Harmon Hall in those days! I will always remember the love and hospitality she and her family showed me when I visited their home for the weekend in Upper Sandusky all those years ago! Hospitaliy from a quarter of a century ago is still fresh and alive in my heart!

I am meeting again next week with two other college friends - Lynnette and Joyce (2 of my freshman roommates). We have had the opportunity to reconnect a few times over the last few years. Not long before his death, my Dad surprised me by reconnecting on my behalf with these gals! What a priceless gift he gave me! It was during a time when I was so busy with work, family and home that I let many friendships go unattended. I am not proud of this, but I am proud to say that it was my dad who facilitated the reconnection with Joyce and Lynnette and I am so grateful for it! In the time since losing him, I have come to realize more and more just how important all those friendships are to me. I don't want to lose connection with these friends again.

I am so grateful to have re-connected with these old friends! With whom have you lost touch? If you would like to reconnect, what's holding you back?