Day: February 11, 2012

A Note on Party Planning and Making Friends

So I had originally put this post with my  Valentines Swimfest post but it was getting too long so I separated the 2.   They kind of go together.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love party-planning, entertaining and being with my friends.  Ever since I was little I have loved gathering people together and coming up with fun activities.  I love meeting new people, hearing their story and making friends (maybe because I’ve never really had a boyfriend friends are more important than ever in my life).

What’s the key to making friends? I’ve recently figured out a key piece in the puzzle.  It is being willing to share your heart with another person.  People sense a a guarded heart.  You just have to unabashedly share yourself with others and they will be drawn to that honesty.

Any real friendship requires great risk but even a fun friendship requires some sharing and vulnerability to be a success. That’s what I believe at least. I am SO grateful to all of my friends.  Thank you!  I hope I give half as much to you, as you give to me.

Friendship is hard work but remember when we were little and worked so hard to get into the right group or make a new friend?  Why do we expect it to be any easier as adults? (Well, hopefully it is a little bit easier but sometimes I wonder!).  Friendship takes work.  It ALWAYS risks REJECTION but it is worth it if the friend is worth having!  If someone is critical or resists your friendship you may want to ask the question- why do you want to be their friend in the first place?

It always helps to go to places where people have similar interests or backgrounds.  While I have a diverse group of friends, there is usually some common bond that unites us.

Most importantly I work hard at my friendships.  I always have.  I learned from being bullied as a child to cling on to the people who love me. I have lots of flaws but I think I can confidently say, I am a good friend.  I am loyal.  I am kind.  I want my friends to be happy and if you are my friend you know me- the good, bad, and everything in between.  A few years ago I tried to think of a single thing that my friend Camille didn’t know about me.  I couldn’t think of one.  That’s just the way I love. (I can also be petty and vindictive but I’m working on that.  Not close to perfect yet!)

Planning a party is an entirely different proposition.  If this is something you want to do, here’s some ideas.

In party planning, go to as much effort as you want to go to.  Unless you are a senators wife or on a reality show most of us don’t NEED to throw parties.  It should be FUN!  If you get joy out of putting together a goodie bag, go for it (hunt around, you can find deals!). If you enjoy making a tablescape look pretty, do it.  If you value a perfectly made meal, make it. If you like making handmade invitations, make them.

Don’t expect others to enjoy things as much as you do, and don’t do it expecting certain results.  This ALWAYS leaves a person feeling disappointed.  People’s praise is never effusive, nor their gratitude gracious enough.  Entertaining is usually the most fun when it is looked at as a service you are doing to provide joy to others.

One of my dinner parties literally changed my life….

While I have certainly shed a tear at a burnt cake or craft that went wrong, it is also important to have a sense of humor.  As Ina Garten says ‘you can always order Chinese takeout and serve it on your best china’!  It’s supposed to be fun.  My first swimfest I sent out conflicting restaurant addresses so half the group went to different places.  While embarrassed it was an honest mistake and everyone laughed it off.  Most of the time I find people are just grateful that you are trying. There is nothing more annoying than going to a party where the hostess is critical of herself all the time or constantly complaining.  A little venting may be appropriate but isn’t the idea of a party an escape from reality?

Also, recognize your own limitations and then figure out solutions.  If you have kids, build your parties around them.  If you don’t have room for 15 people, plan the party somewhere else or invite 5.  If you don’t like big groups, don’t plan a party with big groups.  There is nothing saying everyone has to be a socialite.  Companionship is what matters.  Human contact is what matters.  Also, always give your guests as much time and as many reminders as possible.  Its just a fact that people are busy and will forget (and so many don’t RSVP!). It’s so easy to remind people these days that why not?

Human beings respond very well to traditions.  Whether it is book club every month or a super bowl potluck, people build relationships based on traditions and memories of love.  It gives security in a world that often feels chaotic and out of our control.  (Maybe that’s why I like planning things.  It gives me a sense of control in this insane world I live in).  My sister and I used to do a potluck the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  It was a tradition for 3 or 4 years while we were in college and it was fabulous.  We learned how to cook a turkey, our friends experimented with family recipes, and we all watched a fun BYU football game.  It didn’t last forever as people moved but it was a great tradition.

Having a strong theme usually helps (holidays make this easy).  The Swimfests have been a success so far because I have planned them at a time where most people can come and most of my friends are swimming anyway (Saturday morning).  If you are a Mom, plan a brunch when kids are napping or a playdate and everyone can bring a pie or a cookie exchange. Whatever, make it as easy as possible for people to attend and have a theme.

Recognize that your guests are your guests.  They aren’t a burden you have to deal with.  They are a blessing in your life.  If you have to make a cookie gluten free or get raspberries instead of strawberries because someone is allergic, that is OK.  We learn a lot in life from making other people happy and thinking of their needs above our own.  It is the time’s when I am always happiest, even if it is something as simple as picking out a swim cap or selecting a book my friends might like.

As I said in my Swimfest post, you will have your share of failures.  Even Ina Garten has had her entertaining failures.  You will have parties where nobody comes, where nothing turns out right.  You will wonder what’s the use?  Again, I had a party once where nobody came!  Don’t give up! Keep trying.  It is worth it.  At least it is worth it to me. (Remind me that when my next party tanks.  I’m on a high right now!)

I’ve learned to expect that with book club 2-4 people almost always come, and I look forward to seeing those girls.  It is not a failure because my expectations are appropriate.  I enjoy spending time with 2 or even 1  of my friends just as much as I do a group of 15 swimmers.  I love bonding with people, the human connection.

I LOVE this idea of a party planning workbook where you keep track of ideas, things that worked, failures. Great!

Finally, just for the record- I HATE surprises, surprise parties, whatever, and I’m not just saying that to be coy.  Please don’t ever plan me one.  Half of the fun of it for me is looking forward to the event and helping make it special.  That may sound crazy but its the way I have always been. No surprises!

Valentines Swimfest

In Utah we are so lucky to have a great group of US Masters Swimmers.  I know it sounds corny but they really are a family, that has never been anything but supportive, kind and most importantly FUN!

I’ve got great friends including my swim friends.  In December I wanted to do something to thank my swim friends for all their support, so I came up with the idea of a Christmas Swimfest.  This was just a fun get-together where we could swim, play games, get to know one another and have fun.  It was a great success.  So much so that I decided to do it again:

A Valentines Swimfest!

Team Photo after saltines relay!

It was without a doubt the best valentines I’ve ever had!  We had a good turn out and all the trimmings of a great Swimfest (yes, I’ve invented a whole new term- one life goal checked off my list!) including matching swim caps (King and Queen of Hearts caps got for .99 each- thank you swimoutlet.com), workout planned by Josh and then fun relays!

Esther, Me and Renee

I have always loved playing games and even more- orchestrating games. Naturally I love relays!  We did 4 different relays.  Each relay had 2 teams.

First, we did a t-shirt relay (red shirt for the holiday, of course!).  In this relay you have 2 over-sized t-shirts and after 25m’s you must give the t-shirt to the next swimmer.  It was harder than you’d think.  You have to tread water and take the shirt off and put the shirt on.  One group got out of the water.  That was a smart!

Goody and I before the t-shirt relay
Renee and Esther trading the t-shirt. It was hard!

Second, was a kickboard relay where each swimmer kicks 50 meters and passes his or her board to the next person and they must add it to their own, so with 4 on each team, the final swimmer has 4 kickboards.

kickboard relay
Team 1 before the kickboard relay. Esther, Kate, Goody and Josh

Third, we did a saltine relay.  For this relay each person swims a 50 meters, gets out of the pool, eats a saltine cracker and then whistles.  Once they’ve done this the next swimmer can go.  It was really hard! The chlorine makes your mouth dry and then the saltine cracker makes it worse.  It was fun!  I had to basically hoot my whistle.

Chris with the dreaded saltines!

Fourth, was a ‘race car’ relay.  The idea is you have to dive under water and run a matchbox car along the line at the bottom of the pool.  Once you are out of air you go to the top and the next member of your team (who has been following you) must take a turn until you complete a lap.  First team done wins.

After the relays we cleaned up and went to a diner that was close, Left Fork Grill.  It was a great find!  A terrific bargain and good food.  A place I would never have gone to without my friend Josh’s suggestion (he had never been there but saw that it was close).   How fun to have a greasy spoon type place close by.  Delicious! I broke a few rules and had buttermilk pancakes, eggs and sausage…yum!

At the Left Fork Grill. Yum (and open 24 hours a day. This could get me in trouble!)

I had such a good time!  It was exactly what I needed- just fun with friends.  Plus, we had 2 new swimmers come which is always great.  Welcoming others into our little swimming family is my way of paying it forward because I felt so welcome back in August at my first clinic.  I really feel the Swimfests is an inspired notion because it is an easy way to introduce people to swimming without the intensity of a meet or open water swim.  Not everyone is as gutsy as me (Can I say that without sounding cocky?) and coming to a party is low pressure.   One girl, Esther, came this time who has only had 3 lessons and she was awesome!

You know the saying ‘no man is an island’?  Well, if he is I will swim out to him!  I need friends.  I need support.  I don’t want you to think I have great success with all my parties.  I have had get-togethers where no one, zero people, came. As discouraging as that can be (and I shed a tear or two!) you just have to push through it and keep trying.

Companionship is worth the price.  Having a little fun is worth the price of a few failures. Believe me, this week, it was so worth the price. Don’t give up! If you don’t click with one group, try another, keep going.  Like anything in life, it takes effort and sacrifice to make friends (and no, the ‘ah ha’, ‘meant to be’ friend has only happened to me once- thanks Emily!) but if you are open and honest and work at it, somewhere you will find  kindred spirits- even if it just one great friend.   I promise!

I am now looking forward to the next Swimfest- they have St.  Patrick’s Day caps after all!  (It makes sucky holidays so much more fun!). We had a great idea to do an Easter Egg hunt in April! You’d have to think of a way to weigh down the eggs but how fun!  I love a project!

I had a great time making goodie bags for the swim.  Something fun to focus on after a hard couple of weeks.  I even made my own valentine, which was designed by my super talented friend Joan.  Go to her website!

How fun to design your own valentine! Happy Valentines Day Everyone!

It was just a great time and I have a big smile on my face today!  Thanks friends for the great swim!

Here are some more photos of the day:

Our new friend Esther!
A great picture of Renee taken by my friend Kate
Gords and Josh. They both led the clinic at my first open water swim. You might call them Swimming Ambassadors!