Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bon Voyage!

I should have written a while ago about the going-away party that we hosted for Chris' foster parents. They are leaving tomorrow to head to Vancouver, Canada to be missionaries to the First Nations people.

A few months back, they had come to visit us while they were in town. She'll probably hate that I am saying this, but Tena mentioned that she would have liked to have had a family and friends get-together to be able to say good-bye to everyone. She said she had dropped hints, but that no one had volunteered to throw such a party. Well, we couldn't let that slide! We decided to do it ourselves. So, for the past few months, we have been trying to figure it all out.

The first thing to determine was the location of the party. We knew that our house couldn't hold everyone. At first we had planned to rent a building in one of the city parks. Then a representative from one of the churches on the guest list called and offered their facilities, tentatively. He promised to call back after he was sure that it would be okay. He never did. Guess that was a no! Then our pastor offered for us to have it at our church. We accepted. And it was a tremendous help.

We had originally planned to have the party catered, but I am very glad that we didn't do that. Their guest list included family, friends, supporters, and six area churches. The Pastors were told that they could announce it to the whole congregation or not, as they chose. Only two of the churches were in contact with me. So, for the other four, I had no idea what the turnout would be. Catering is charged per person, so that would have been disastrous. Chris ended up deciding to smoke some pork. He knows someone that has experience butchering pigs, so he bought two 190-lb hogs. I hate the thought of all of that business and refused to be involved, though I did witness him sawing the feet off. That was enough to make me not want to eat any of it and nearly turn me to vegetarianism! We rented a huge smoker and Chris and his cousin and his uncle spent hours smoking the pork for the party. They ended up with ten aluminum pans of pork. We gave away four pans of meat, only used two at the party, and ended up with four more ourselves. Chris is going to give away some more. We went through one this last week and we are so sick of pork, the rest went in the freezer to be used at a later date! I have never been a big fan of pork anyways!

As for the other food, I had thought at first that I would be the only one doing the cooking, so I planned to bring lots of Sam's bulk items! I had several who had RSVP'd that offered to help with food, so I was grateful for that. When our church offered to host the party, they went way above and beyond being simply a location! One of the ladies organized the women of the church to bring side dishes. We had stressed and worried about how much food we would have because the churches were an "X-factor"--we might have a few people, we might have hundreds! But, the ladies really came through and we had WAY more than we needed, with tons of leftover food (the picture above was taken before more food arrived and there was another small table with more desserts)! The ladies and church took care of so much, providing cups, plates, utensils, tea, coffee, etc. That was a big help and saved us more out of pocket expense! We felt guilty!

The final preparations were for a scrapbook that I had planned to put together for my in-laws. I am only an amateur "scrapper" and rarely have time to work on my own scrapbooks. But, I really wanted to do this. I was at a loss as to how to go about it. I was headed downstairs one day to email my best friend (who is a consultant for a scrapbook supply business and is PHENOMINAL in her scrapbook talents) to see if she had any ideas, when one occurred to me. I decided to make the scrapbook like police files, as though it were a secret mission. I used real file folders and had sections of background info, "intercepted communications" (letters sent by friends and family to use in the scrapbook), and pages that looked like corkboard where I "pinned" photos. I had stressed over it quite a bit because in the invitations that I sent out, I plead with everyone to send letters, stories, and pictures for the scrapbook and gave a deadline that would have given me a few weeks to get everything assembled. At the time of the deadline, I had VERY little. Even Chris hadn't finished his! I nagged and pleaded and cajoled and finally got enough to finish the book. (Billy's contribution page is pictured.)

The party was to be at the end of our vacation week. We had our three-day camping trip/family reunion, then we spent the week getting everything ready for the party, then had the party on Saturday. I think everything turned out really well. We had a good turn-out, but not the hundreds that I had feared! I regret that Jessica (their daughter) had been unable to make it, as I know she was. Their other daughter (Cassie) sang with her husband, and they had conned Chris into speaking. Jesse & Tena had given him an ultimatum: either you sing or you speak--you choose. Well, that was an easy decision!

I had had a dream two nights before the party. I had been worried that I would be so encumbered with taking care of the food that I would miss the little program and I had wanted to take pictures and video. So in my dream, it wasn't a going-away party, it was one of the their daughters' weddings--though in real life, they are both already married. I was in charge of the food and also the photography. I was afraid I would miss the service, so I abandoned the food and sat in the sactuary, snapping pictures. I got wrapped up and forgot all about the food, so when everyone went back to the reception, there was nothing to eat. In reality, though, the food was all there and nothing needed to be done (the ladies were handling everything), so I was able to sit and watch the program (except when Billy had to go to the bathroom).

I do feel bad, though, because later Tena told me that she had barely eaten and then had gotten sidetracked talking with someone and had lost her plate. All of that great food and she hadn't eaten but a few bites!

The kids were pretty good. Billy refused to stay with my mom, insisted on being with me. But he was good and sat on the cooler and just colored. Kimmy made friends with Tena's sister and followed (or led is more appropriate) her around. Arrena had been about to leave with her other grandma when she burst into tears and decided that she wanted to stay with "Gaga T" and "Pawpaw Jesse", as the kids call them. Up until that point, I had been so busy that I hadn't had time to think about saying good-bye to them. They have been in Texas, but we still see them a few times a year. Now, it will likely be 2010 before we will be able to go visit them. And aside from any errant trips they might have to make (they just found out they are expecting a new grandchild!), I think they said they wouldn't be back on furlough for four years. Vancouver is a LONG way away. I will really miss them and I know that Chris and the kids will too. They are the kids' legal guardians, should anything ever happen to us. And the kids adore them! They are Chris' guiding light. They are the only ones that can keep Chris on track and about the only people that Chris ever listens to. And they have always been a source of strength to me. Even when I haven't been able to bring myself to tell them things that we struggle with, I have felt their love and support. I have always felt like they have worried about me and prayed for me and understood me when many people have not. They have also many times seen through the facade that we mask ourselves with and see to the heart of the problem.

We spent the rest of the day with them and reluctantly said "see you later" (Chris refused to say "good-bye").

As for the party, I am so glad that we were able to bless them with it (though much of the credit goes to so many other people who helped in so many ways), but I have to say that I am glad it is over! I was almost glad to go back to work! Almost....

I could never say thank you enough to those that helped. I don't know what we would have done without them. And I don't know what to say to Jesse & Tena for all the years that they have invested in Chris and cared for all of us, for the difference they have made in our lives. And we pray that they can make a difference in the lives of so many others in Vancouver, Canada!

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