Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trinity Formal 2014

Happy Memorial Day weekend - and all my thanks and gratefulness who have served our country to preserve our freedom.  

This year, the Trinity Formal landed on Memorial Day weekend.  That seems like it would be a risky move in terms of getting everyone to attend, but there were 33 couples present, which seems like a very good turn out.   For us, Memorial Day weekend has most recently been a laid back affair at either the Schillings home or ours.  These last two years, Traig and Michael have been off bear hunting, so Michele and the girls came down to join us.  And, even though I guard this time with just family very selfishly, we went ahead and agreed to give up four hours on Saturday evening to continue this tradition of taking their Formal portraits.  And, of course, we were very glad we did.  

This is my favorite venue so far.  It's owned by the grandparents of a Trinity alum - in fact, she recently got married here.  She was kind enough to extend use of the property to these current residents of the house owned by First Baptist of all girls.  The interior of the barn was gorgeous- and the property was just as phenomenal. 

An overview shot of the exterior of the barn.

We were just able to get the two Formal coordinator's, Emily and Ashley's pictures taken when the bus pulled up bringing the rest of the crew.  As is tradition, the girls ask the guys to this event in elaborately creative ways, and the residents usually don't know the destination.  They were told, however, that this would be a little bit more formal than year's past (which I love) - so the dresses were a lot longer this time around.  

Our best group shot in the six consecutive years we've been doing this.   BEAUTIFUL people!

And such lovely ladies!

Then the individual couples' photography began.  The couples each had a 3 minute time slot, but unfortunately, it was thrown way off because the group photo was never taken into consideration as far as time.  That always make it a little tense - knowing Ashley was hopeful to have everyone completed before the 7pm dinner.  We did our best though - and for couples with fun ideas, we threw out the time limit and tried to accommodate.  

For the most part, I stood by John's side, suggesting poses, or rounding up the next in line.  But, occasionally, I looked around for shots with the long lens on the older camera.  This was one of those.

I loved this girl's dress - and her hair was in a great updo - I'm pretty sure Mikayla would want to duplicate that exact look if given the chance!

Ah precious Danielle - your laugh is so uplifting!

The girl on the left in this picture is Lindsey Bills.  She was the girls' Harlow counselor for Mid School Camp - known as Sunny D - such an aptly chosen name based on her disposition.  She is a REMARKABLE young woman that was diagnosed the day before Thanksgiving with Lymphoma.  She courageously endured 8 rounds of every-other-week chemotherapy and believed all she had left was radiation treatment, when she found another lump.  Sure enough, this cancer is aggressive, so she is now going through another round of higher intensity and frequency chemo.  This week, many of her friends in the house gathered as her head was shaved.  She is a LIGHT to all who know her and I'm positive the extent of the impact her response to this adversity will not be fully known until Heaven.  She's a survivor and we all know will come through victorious.  Shortly after this pic was taken, her friend took her home as the chemo was messing with her stomach - but what a testimony that she took such an effort to make it out here with her sisters from the house.  

Another dress and "look" I loved-

Ah, Jacob Jacobson and Ali Mertz.  Sigh.  When we first met Jacob, we declared him to be one of the best "future catches" among the young men we had met.  How perfectly fitting, then, that it would be Ali Mertz, daughter of Dave Mertz, director of Camp Harlow, that would claim his heart.  They've been dating since the fall and I couldn't be happier for the two of them.  What a special couple.  

I loved that this gal wore cowboy boots - so perfect with the tractor!

This young man is an officer in the Marines - as well as the brother to our dear Amanda from TNL.  Keith has been dating Erika for a couple of years now, and while their future might be a little murky with specifics given the status of his future deployment and her grad school, there's no doubt to any of us that they will make it work.  

What a radiant couple!

These two were a hoot!  Sam is a favorite of ours, and his date, Alia, was thoroughly enjoying his infectious humor and "life"....

This is Ashley, with her date, Daniel - that did the "lion's share" of work to make this Formal the best we've been a part of so far...

This couple is Matthew and Tiffany - known better to us as Kahuna and Flamingo from Camp Harlow.  Another couple that will probably "go the distance" - they were here just to assist in serving the meal and whatever else needs to be done.  How great is that?

Yay for Cully to finally make it to a Trinity Formal - in his senior year, no less.  His presence was due to the (creative and on stage at the Talent Show) invite by the other, younger, Mertz daughter, Natalie.  She's a freshman this year.  Just friends at this point.... ;)

Needless to say, we didn't complete the pictures before dinner was served, but it really wasn't an issue as we just snagged a couple at a time - I love how this barn looked with all the lights. 

This is the gal, Rita, that owns this property and was so generous to extend it to the group.  Emily and Ashley to her right and left were the organizers of this event and they did such an outstanding job.  

We had two quick shots taken of us right before we left - and they happened to turn out not so bad.  =)

As is also the tradition, John was able to edit and upload all of the pictures before he went to sleep, so the girls would be able to see them upon waking up.  We hope they are happy with them - for sure, it's a special honor to be asked to do this and preserve these memories on their behalf. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This Time, It's a Tuesday Night Gathering...

But given it was Heather's last time to hang out with our life group, we were all more than happy to accommodate the change in schedule. 

Sabai was chosen again as the restaurant destination of choice - here's a picture we took after our meal.  Steph and Whitley were there during dinner, but it took forever to even get our check, and then, when we were asking to split it 6 ways - well, no one denied Steph when she suggested she get Whitley home.   (Elaina was out of town at a conference, so she couldn't make it). 
As is often the case when they are around, the babies kind of stole the spotlight during dinner.  It's really hard not to be enamored by their smiles and charm...

Once we finally got that bill settled, Heather asked if we could return to our house to play "Just Dance" on the Wii.  Given that the activity involves public dancing - which is one of those activities that produces high amounts of anxiety for me to consider doing, I was reluctant.  But, for Heather - I sucked it up and proved how horrible I was with the first two songs as the obvious loser of the four dancers was me each time.  But, then, a beautiful thing happened... we put in a country version of "Just Dance" - and despite laughing at how hokey the moves were - I came out with the highest score.  I guess it just proves that I'm good at bad dancing... =)

I asked if we could build a fire and do s'mores.  We never got around to doing that at Heather's party, and that is a very sweet memory each year to share with these ladies.  I'm so glad we made it happen.  As soon as I got home from the restaurant, I whipped up a blackberry cobbler and it was ready as well to indulge in along with the s'mores gooey goodness....

We ended the evening by each of us praying over Heather - for her journey across country with her mom that they are both excited for as it will be a two week vacation trip, for how her parents will adjust with her absence here in Oregon, and for how she will adjust to life in Boston. 

And, since we are on the subject of prayer - I sure would love some as per direction to what this "group" will look like in the coming fall.  It's sounding like Darcy and Amanda will both be moving an hour north to Salem and that leaves too few of us to continue on our own when those of us that are left so frequently have valid reasons for not being able to make it on any given night.  I'm trying to hand this over to God completely - to not try to find a solution that makes my heart feel okay.  This whole group began 5 years ago because God asked me to do something I wasn't comfortable doing and it turned in to the most amazing experience and friendship bonds - now it's time I listen and be willing to act upon His leading again. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Heather's "Boston Bound" Party

You know that scene in "Charlotte's Web" (I'm thinking of the original animated movie as I write this), where Wilbur the pig has waited patiently and longingly for Charlotte's babies to hatch, and then when they do, they all "fly away"?   They are excited to find their new place in the world, and eagerly chant out, "Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!"  And, then, Wilbur is left there, forlorn and downcast, believing he's been abandoned - 

That's kind of how I'm feeling.  And, I'm Wilbur.  As Julie flies off to Hawaii, Kenjon reports to North Carolina, Kaela returns to Portland, and now Heather gets ready to embark upon a new life in Boston, these very special "extended family members" have flown the nest (not to mention many other special people) - and are following the call as to where God wants them to go.  We are infinitely proud of those that have left, but it doesn't make it any easier to get through.  

In fact, it kind of sucks.  I will admit to some not very "Ephesians 4:29" dialogue going through my mind as I went through pictures to find over 200 to print out for Heather earlier this week.  There will be quite a hole in our lives with Heather gone.  

This sign was decorated by Julie when she was here two weeks ago in anticipation of this event.  Even though she couldn't be here to honor Heather, she contributed.  The "signs" are all locations Heather will be stopping at along the way as she makes the road trip back east with her mom. 

There had been mention of rain in the forecast, but at 6pm party start time, the sun was shining and it was a perfect 70 degrees.

But, based on previous experiences, we were prepared with lots of blankets that I had processed through the washer and dryer for just this occasion as the nights get chilly fast. 

We asked the Whites to come over early, and were delighted that one of our next set of guests was the Gilchrist family with two and a half year old Wyatt.  These two had never met, but as you'll see in the following pictures, they became fast friends.  =)  It was absolutely adorable and delightful to watch them interact and play with them. 

Whitley tends to get shy and coy with new "boys" that she meets - very endearing. 

Grant, Wyatt's dad, fed Wyatt this hot dog.  He'd come up and just gnaw on it....

Oh yeah, Heather is supposed to be the star of the show... =)
She chose to hop on the trampoline with Whitley for awhile when she got overwhelmed with emotions from the evening (which started upon her entry in to the house - apparently she saw John and just started crying...)

This party was one of the most "anxiety-producing" in terms of invites.  We knew we couldn't pull off a "Surprise Party" as finding a date that worked for everyone was super important.  We also needed all of Heather's input as far as who to invite.  So, I asked her best friend, Kelli (who couldn't be here), to work on getting the list of important people to me.

She did, but I quickly realized I didn't recognize about 1/3rd of the folks on the list, and it might be hard to track them down when I didn't even have last names to work with.  I contacted Kelli, Kelli contacted Heather, and we got it solved - but even with last names, trying to track down strangers can be tricky.  Fortunately Facebook Messaging lets you reach out to people that aren't your friends - so I put it out there to as many people I could with lots of imploring that "Here's the guest list, please spread the word so that everyone at least knows about it" - even if they can't make it, I felt it was really important that those special folks in Heather's lives knew that she wanted them there.

Based on the plethora of people that showed up at our house last night, it was indeed a success in spreading the word.  But, it was probably the worst case of uncertainty we've faced when hosting.  We've definitely gotten used to this age groups' lack of consistency when responding to events.  It doesn't make it any easier to deal with though.  Nor does knowing its their "M.O." help with my frustrations when trying to figure out how much food to make, "extras" to set out, chairs needed, and so on.  That was all second in priority for me, though, in that the bigger issue was just having them here - or making sure Heather wanted them here - for Heather's sake.  I was practically stalking people - even Instagram Direct to see if we could get some answers for attendance.  Sadly, and ironically, Kaela seemed to have a much better idea who would be there then I did, as the host.  It all turned out in the end - many sets of people showed up that I didn't even know had for sure gotten the message, and some other folks didn't show that had RSVP'd that they could come....

On the positive side, I've definitely learned my lesson on my own lackadaisical responses to events (especially ones involving food, emotional gatherings, or elaborate prep) - and hope to instill a little tutorial on the what to do's and what not to do's for the kids as they set off to face a lot of these occasions in the future.  

Perfect size group when all was said and done - with so much to offer in terms of stories, memories, and tributes to Heather. 

Things started off pretty funny - especially input from the guys - lots of stories about her fake boyfriends, ex-boyfriend (now married to another best friend, Emily), and even the "fake kiss" that stands as her "most embarrassing moment".

Heather started getting emotional in response - and then the fire took over her spotlight and attention for a few moments.

When she started talking again, she got pretty choked up and I made a point of giving her the "I don't know what to do for you - awkward touch/pat - maybe I should just spoon with you" announcement (all based on past stories).  It was a funny moment, but this picture barely made the post - in fact, I've learned another lesson - if you make the bold move to sit by the guest of honor, make sure you've got a nice expression on your face 24-7, or don't sit there....  I'm pretty sure I have apple pie in my mouth, and my face looks like I've consumed the entire pie.... ;)

This girl is so radiantly beautiful - inside and out. 

The time came for Heather to receive a very special present put together by Kaela.  A huge book of letters and pictures from all the folks invited to the party (even those that couldn't make it).  It was priceless.  (And again, I look thrilled in the background.... #forlornphotobomb)

When Mikayla and I went through the pictures earlier in the week, Mikayla felt the need to get something for Heather just from her.  She searched up and found a mug with owls and scripture on it - all PERFECT for Heather.  It was one of those, "I wish I'd thought of that" sort of things.  Mikayla was ecstatic when it arrived in time Saturday morning in the mail - and presented it to her after the book was presented.

And, then, Mikayla cried - which was nearly the undoing of both Heather and I - such a poignant statement of the impact she's made in all of our lives.

Fortunately, we chose that time to do some group prayer.  The guy praying in the foreground is Jackson Darland - the oldest son of the family Heather lives with.  His prayer was powerful and a huge revelation of the impact Heather's had in his life.  He's typically not an openly-sharing-of-intimate-feelings sort of guy, so this was another emotional undoing for Heather.

(And, let's just address the fact that Brayden seems to feel like praying with his eyes open is the holier route to go...) 

I got past my occasional hesitancy to be touchy-feely to full-on clutch Heather's hand.  John honestly did feel like these shots were worth taking during the prayer for Heather to fully remember how much she's loved.

And, then, things got light-hearted again.  A slew of people flocked to the court to play volleyball.  Initially, I was bummed I wasn't there when it was starting so I could participate, but then upon watching, Mikayla and I both agreed that it was probably best.  A lot of really tall guys towering over the net to slam the ball down and block - and a lot of "illegal passes".  It was fun to watch the outrageous fun they were all having (Brayden represented the Rileys) - but, I did suck in a breath every time one of our balls flew over the fences.  (Control people, control!!!)  Sorry, neighbors - between the ball assaults on your back yards, the exuberant chatter on the court, and the high wattage light, you probably weren't loving us last night.  Fortunately, these kind of events only happen 3-4 times a year.... =)

A final shot of the Rileys posing with our Heather.  Fortunately, we know we'll see her again before she leaves, so for us, it's not good-bye yet....

Undoubtedly, many more pics to come from Kaela's camera angle....