Thursday culminated several weeks' planning and many hours of effort to pull off our ward's Eight Cow Woman Birthday Luau. A sister in our ward, whose sister-in-law is the Enrichment Leader in a neighboring stake, gave me the idea after being told what a success it was. At first it seemed a little bit cheesy and gimmicky, but as I thought about the idea of doing something Hawaiian themed, that seemed very fun. In recent weeks, I have heard of many people doing the same thing and ideas for this are all over the Internet.
We had a dinner--Hawaiian Haystacks, of course. Then Tamathy shared the story of Johnny Lingo, which I had written out. I had written it out because I had planned on telling it myself and wanted to get it just right. Then, not wanting to make Enrichment into the STM-show, I asked Tamathy to do it, as she is an excellent writer and orator. She was wonderful, of course, and the sisters were mesmerized by her reading, but I wish I had just given her a brief outline of the story so she could have made it her own. After the reading, we separated for classes that were basically self-reliance things. We made the connection of self-worth and developing talents and self-confidence and self-reliance so that the theme matched the classes.
A month or two ago, when the planning for all the hoopla began, Nem posted about how ridiculous the "fluff" get sometimes with planning for church. She gave a couple of really over-the-top examples in that snarky voice that nobody does as well as Miss Nemesis. The comments generated by the post numbered into the forties or even fifties. People had a lot to say--some in complete agreement, others in defense of at least a degree of fluff. A few people were down right angry about things they'd been asked to do at church. An older and wiser voice of reason commented that everyone might consider stopping their whining and just getting to work. I've been thinking about it ever since, especially since my Enrichment calling sometimes seems all about fluff.
Here are the conclusions I have come to over the last few years:
* The purpose of any activity/program/lesson/meeting/whatever we do in the Church is designed to bring people closer to Christ, or at the very least be uplifting. If the thing we plan isn't doing this, then we must re-think our approach.
* Any activity involving women (of any age) will nearly always be social, unless you are in a ward or branch with serious unity problems. However, not every activity will be spiritual and/or uplifting. If you plan an activity to be merely social, that is probably all it will ever be. If an activity is planned to be uplifting then it can still be social. You rarely get spiritual by accident.
* Enjoying hanging out with your friends is not the same thing as a spiritual experience. It doesn't mean it is a bad or invaluable experience, but it is not the same. (Hanging out is the key word here. Some of my most spiritual experiences have come from one-on-one talking with friends about things that really matter.)
* It doesn't matter how fulfilling your activity is if the sisters' butts aren't in the seats. Sometimes the "fluff" gets them there.
* Some women show their love by doing all of those extras. Our current Enrichment Counselor is a perfect example--teaching, presenting and remembering names make her nervous and tongue-tied, but nobody puts in more hours to make a room look truly beautiful and welcoming to anyone who enters. She is also one of the most Christlike women I know. Being a fluffer doesn't automatically mean that you are shallow or missing the point (this person is a fluffer-nutter) any more than being a non-fluffer means that you get it.
* Tithing funds are sacred, and though your calling shouldn't cost you any money, if you are a person who likes to do a lot of that over-the-top thing then you should pay for it yourself.
* An RS activity should always involve at least some chance to serve.
* Women often talk about needing a "break." The fluff does a good job of helping sisters to feel loved, needed and wanted.
* As women, we might need fewer breaks than we think we do. (Remember how much many of you have expressed a hatred for the word "entitlement.")
Our classes and theme were very uplifting, but the sisters came away feeling treated too. They had each been invited personally, by phone call and invitation (which were fairly labor intensive this time; one of the sisters on my committee said that she wasn't so sure she needed all of the "raffia blessings" she was earning.) They'd had a nice dinner, of which they had to do very little work. They shared their talents, some of which were remarkable and surprising. They each had a candy lei for their necks. They had an opportunity to contribute toiletry items to a local homeless shelter. They had a folder with a cutesy cow sticker (ala picture at the top) on the front and a pencil reading "8 Cow Woman." For the few that brought children, there was a nursery. Their tables were decorated with pineapples and fruit skewers and leis and tiny flip-flops.
It was a ton of work, but at 9:30 that night I was able to honestly say through my exhaustion and the cold I felt coming on, "It was absolutely worth every minute." Because many of the sisters, as they left, took a minute to say, "What a lovely evening," or "I learned so much," or "The classes were wonderful," or "Everything was perfect."
Everything. I take that to mean the spiritual and the social. The formal and the fluff.
I think with RS especially, sisters need incentive to get out the door in the evenings. An activity claiming to be for all the sisters should have something for everyone because everyone's needs are different--a chance to serve, a chance to socialize and a chance to learn something.
These are going to be valuable lessons for me as I head into the next phase of my life. Last Sunday I was asked to have a new calling. I was initially told that it was to be the Beehive Advisor. I was over the moon. I loved this calling when I had it years ago. (All my girls have now gone off to college.) I thought, "No more party planning! A chance to teach and do the thing I'm the best at!" When I spoke to the president Thursday night, however, she corrected me. I am to be the new second counselor, not the advisor.
Time-wise there is not much of a difference in the two callings. Being in the Young Women's organization is always a huge time commitment, regardless of your calling. However, the difference between being a counselor and being an advisor is that I will rarely be teaching and instead will be planning activities nearly every Wednesday night. Like mini-Enrichment. Every. Stinking. Week.
I know that every calling in the church is an opportunity to teach, but I was so looking forward to the security blanket of the lesson manual. My creative juices feel really dry right now. And these girls will need a lot of love--two of them in particular. I hope the lessons I have learned during my last 3 ++ years with Enrichment will translate into my new calling.
On a lighter note, my Hawaiian-themed activity this week got me thinking about something new to try food-wise. There is a restaurant in town called "Ron's Island Grill." As far as I know, it is only here but there are three different locations in the city. Plantboy discovered this place about a week after we moved and it has been a favorite ever since.
Their specialty is teriyaki chicken over rice and this forms the basis for most of their plates. Plantboy loves their red curry version of this with vegetables. It is really delicious. Last night we got to talking about it and decided that we could at least make an approximation. The result was fantastic, loved by the whole family, and is a recipe that will certainly make the regular rotation.
At first glance it sounds like a lot of work, but total kitchen time was probably only thirty minutes, even if some of the stuff has to cook longer than that. It is a meal that you assemble in layers, so everybody gets exactly what they want. Even better.
I started with 4 chicken breasts in the crockpot (we wanted leftovers) and a half a jar or Kikkoman's new teriyaki sauce. It is much thicker than their original, more the texture of barbecue sauce. There are three varieties of it and any one will do. The chicken cooked on low for about 3 1/2 hours until it was tender and shreddable. Plantboy did a combination of shredding and chunking.
This teriyaki is the basis for the rest, and it would be delicious and completely easy on its own just over rice, or BBQ sandwich style on a toasted bun, with maybe a slice of pineapple. Yummy. Still, Plantboy and I are very rarely able to stop at simple, so we decided to kick it up a notch.
At Ron's, he likes the red curry topping over the teriyaki, so on the stove, I mixed a cup of coconut milk, a generous tablespoon of peanut butter and a few tablespoons of red curry paste. I whisked all this together until it was warm and then turned it to low until everything else was ready.
We stir fried carrots, broccoli slaw (you've never bought this stuff? Look for it; it is brilliant in just about anything), red and green peppers, and celery for just a few minutes until everything was crisp-tender. Use whatever veggies you have on hand--mushrooms, green beans, even water chestnuts would be great.
On each plate, we layered rice (we used brown--easy to make, but takes about 45 minutes to cook so plan ahead), teriyaki chicken, red curry sauce and vegetables. The kids just ate chicken and rice, but they slurped it up. Even the baby Hoovered his because we cut the chicken in small enough pieces that he thought he was just eating rice.
For garnish we used a little bit of sweet, flaked coconut and I put chow mien noodles on mine too. (STM likes her chicken crunchy.) The fresh pineapple was left over from Relief Society, which was definitely a fringe benefit of heading up the committee. Isn't this meal lovely?
To conclude, as everyone has been waxing poetic about spring this week, I thought I'd throw in a picture of my little ones in the garden. We've grown by two planting beds this year and I am already dreaming about fresh produce.
Our spring break is this week, and so far rain is forecast until the middle of the week. If the coming of spring is characterized by the crocuses we have all been so fond of photographing, then spring break is characterized by the packs of teenagers driving too fast down my street and girls wearing flip flops and tube tops.
And, yikes, I just have to say it: tube tops are horrible in any size but just obscene in a double X.