Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Sober Girls Guide To Throwing A Fabulous Party

Sober Girls Guide to Throwing a Fabulous Party - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
Over the weekend we hosted our third annual summer party - a two night epic extravaganza that includes watching the sun come up, laughing until your face hurts, and dancing in the barn. The only rule: No Kids Allowed. We didn't keep track of official numbers but my best guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy people - all of whom left their inhibitions {and children} at home to join in the festivities.

It was a riot.

And the most-asked questions I received were, "how can you stand it?" and "why are you so calm?"

Drinks all around. And 'CHEERS!' 

And then there's me, sitting at the fire with my never-ending mug of tea.

I don't remember ever making a firm, conscience decision that I would not be a drinker and when people ask me why I don't indulge I really don't have a great answer for them aside from 'wine tastes like vomit' and 'the smell of beer is revolting'. Apparently this makes me fascinating to the large community of alcohol consumers who don't understand how one could stand being among a crowd of 'drinkers' while not being one themselves.

I don't judge people for their choice to drink. I do judge them if they become an idiot. And thankfully we have a crowd of friends who did not behave like idiots - they just came and respectfully enjoyed the safe space we provided. They made a lot of noise but noise doesn't really bother me. {People throwing up on my rhubarb would.} 

Why was I so calm? 

Because that's who I am. I am a calm, patient person - which makes me a perfect hostess, I suppose.

I also follow a very simple formula for making a huge party really simple: Music. Fire. Toilet Paper. Stripped down to the basics, that's all you really need - of course there are a few more tips I can pass along and expand upon...

1. No Kids. Be very clear when you're inviting people. I am wildly uncomfortable with exposing my children to drunkenness {whether people are being idiots or not} - other parents have their own views on this and that's their prerogative but as far as I'm concerned No Kids reduces my stress by a hundredfold and saves their unnecessary exposure to adult behavior and language.  

2. Space. Without the outdoor space we are so lucky to have, a party like this could never happen. If you live in a studio apartment in New York City this will not be something you can accomplish without stress {and a visit from the boys in blue}. Between the yard and the barn we had more than enough room for people to park, roam about, set up tents, barbeque themselves some lunch...Aside from using the washroom there was very little reason for people to actually be in our house and so, at the end of it all, I had little more to do inside than sweep the floor. {Hallelujah!}

3. Be friends with amazing musicians. Live music is part of the big draw for our party. We set up a sound system and it's an open invitation for anyone at anytime to get up and play their instrument of choice. We plan nothing and so when music happens and it happens well it's basically magic. One of our neighbors {see #6} wasn't comfortable coming over to a crowd she didn't know BUT she sat in her living room with her door propped open late into the night and enjoyed the free concert filtering across the lawn. Of course, you can just run a playlist through some speakers and you've got an instant party soundtrack BUT there's just something about live music, isn't there...?

Sober Girls Guide to Throwing a Fabulous Party - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

4. Have a huge fire pit and lots of wood. I adore a campfire. I love to watch the flames. I love the conversation that is sparked when you form a circle around the crackle and the pop. I love the way it makes my clothes and hair smell and how, when you need a break from the LOUD MUSIC in the barn, you can slip away to the calm of the flame and still enjoy the music without permanently damaging your hearing.

Sober Girls Guide to Throwing a Fabulous Party - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak5. Bring Your Own Beer, Bites, & Bed. I was very clear: I will provide the space, the rest is up to each guest to see to their own needs. There's no way we could afford to feed seventy people or keep them in enough whiskey to last a weekend and we were not willing to condone anyone driving away in their cars. And so we opened our backyard for tents and our driveway for car-sleeping {which seems horribly uncomfortable but surprisingly it was the option most people went for}.

6. Tell {warn} your neighbors. That's just what considerate people do - with a full-on invitation to come over and join us or come over and tell us to quiet down if things get too loud. Luckily, we have amazing neighbors who just shrugged and said, 'no big deal - it's only once a year.'

7. Buy toilet paper. Because that's a lot of bottoms potentially in need of your facilities and to run out would be...well...embarrassing. We had hopes of building an outhouse but the weekend was upon us before our outhouse was more than a hole in the ground behind the barn. Maybe next year...

8. Hashtag it. As the first people arrived we brainstormed together and settled on #RusnakBarnSmash - it didn't really take off like we hoped it would...but there's always next year!

Sober Girls Guide to Throwing a Fabulous Party - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

9. Relax. Invite people you can trust and then you'll have nothing to worry about. They're adults. Trust that they'll carry themselves as such. Worry won't change a thing. Relax. Sit by the fire. Enjoy the music. Be proud of what you've done {as you sip your tea and grin across the sparking flame at your friend on the other side}.

What about you? Do you have any experience throwing a big party? What advice would you add?

Monday, July 13, 2015

From The MRI Waiting Room

The Church In The Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak excerpt
It's amazing, isn't it? How a fresh space can make words flow?

Last night I sat in an uncomfortable chair under horrible lighting and took the eighteen minutes my husband spent behind closed doors being scanned to write a new little scene.

It goes something like this...

Joseph watched the girl disappear into the darkness, his breath creating a foggy cloud on the glass at the very place where her face had been. He thought of her eyes, of their depth and the curiosity they reflected, and he thought how their colour was the very same colour he saw looking back at himself any time he looked in the mirror.

“What is it?” his mother asked, putting a hand on his shoulder and causing him to jump.

“Nothing,” he said, turning away from the glass but taking the memory of those curious eyes with him. “Just a raccoon, maybe.”

“To bed then,” his mother said, following him up the stairs and waiting patiently while he used the bathroom and brushed his teeth. “Goodnight, my love,” she said when he emerged. “Sleep well. May God guide your prayers.”

“Yes, Momma,” Joseph kissed her on the cheek and moved to back away from her but she clasped her hands on either side of his face.

“I love you more than life,” she said, her face cast with strange shadows.

“I know, Momma.”

“You are my world.”


“Sometimes I don’t know if I am dizzy with the spinning or dizzy with the lack of it.”

Joseph said nothing. He didn’t know what she meant.

“Love is the greatest and the heaviest gift,” she whispered, leaning in to kiss his forehead.

“Goodnight, Momma,” Joseph said. He could feel the rumble of a car coming up the driveway and he watched as her face changed with the realization.

“Goodnight, JoJo.”

He slipped into his bedroom and shut the door, hearing the familiar sound of the key turning in the lock and her bare feet padding down the stairs to answer the door though there had been no knock.

Joseph stripped down to his undershirt and shorts and lay across his bed, staring at the ceiling. Downstairs his mother giggled. He felt sickness in his belly. He grabbed the nail from his side table and turned it over and over in his hand as he traced the shadows of his room with squinted eyes.

Bed springs groaned. Another giggle. Joseph flipped over and buried his face in the pillow, pulling it around his ears to drown the sounds that liars make, squeezing his eyes shut tight enough to conjure up the image of the girl at the window. He focused on her face. He breathed in her image. He scratched at his arm and thought of her eyes and drifted to sleep with her on his mind and his mother earning her breakfast on the opposite side of the wall.

Monday, July 6, 2015

And The 'Stolen Moments' Winner Is...

The best way to be your best self for others is to give yourself room to breathe.

I have stared at that mantra all month long and I still feel exhausted to the end of myself. Generally I'm quite good at carving out space to feed my soul what it needs to carry on. I cherish those quiet moments at the end of the day when the children are sleeping and the moon is winking and I can rest my weary feet and lose myself in a mindless program or a brilliant book. I long for stillness in chaos and silence in mayhem and clear skies in stormy weather.

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. My life is rich with living. But in the busyness I have lost those things that make me who I am. I NEED the stillness to remember what I need to be the person I want to be. 

I barely managed 1000 new words on my manuscript throughout June. I feel stagnant. I feel algae collecting in my corners and that's depressing.

I haven't created with my hands in...goodness...I don't know how long. This makes me sad.

I haven't had a second to sit at the piano or pick up my guitar or pack a picnic and sit by the water. 

June was a month of doing for others.

Perhaps I can claim a little more of July for myself...?

http://selfbindingretrospect.alannarusnak.com/p/giveaway_8.htmlWhen I decided to run my June Giveaway, my mission was to inspire others - you - to never forget how important it is to carve out space for yourself. We are all busy. We all need room to breathe. I may have failed at my own challenge but it was thrilling to check each day and see the simple ways others were claiming space. It was truly inspiring and all I can do is holler a big fat thank you to each and every one of you who participated - because this means that even in my own failure I have succeeded!

I am blessed to have a tribe of SelfBinding Retrospect supporters. You each mean so much to me - that you would set aside time in your day to read my words - that's so amazing!  {In fact, one of you shared that your Stolen Moment was coming here to read this blog! Gah! Talk about making my day!!!} And so, my other motivation for running a giveaway was to say thank you to all of you true supporters - perhaps you don't comment or share, perhaps you just quietly read - but whether you're a loud advocate or a silent cheerleader, my statistic counter tells me you've been here and WOW! that motivates and inspires me.  SO, I wanted to offer a small token of thanks. I wish I could give each of you a gift but frankly, I'm a writer - I can't afford it! 

What I wasn't prepared for were the Giveaway Trolls. These selfish little gremlins cast out their nets, seeking out any and all things they might enter with no thought to who or what the giveaway is for. I watched them there - chewing away at the corners of this kind little gesture I was trying to make AND THEY MADE ME ANGRY! Who do they think they are? And what kind of life are they living if all they do is troll the internet looking for free stuff?

And then the little angel on my shoulder said, "Perhaps this is what feeds their souls. Perhaps they are sad and lonely and winning a pretty little Stolen Moments gift pack would be the exact motivation they need to pick themselves up and do good things."

So then I stuffed some chocolate in her mouth {angels LOVE sweets!} and told her to hush and "Once a troll, always a troll!" and she nodded thoughtfully as a little dribble of chocolate leaked down her chin and she ruffled her feathers and gave me a wink as if to say, 'yes, yes, you know best!'

And so, on July 1 when I logged into the giveaway program and told it to pick a random winner and it brought up an ugly, green, scaly troll, I said NO WAY, clicked 'disqualify' and told it to pick someone else. 

Perhaps that's dishonest. Perhaps that's breaking all the rules of the Giveaway Commandments.

But I don't care.

This giveaway was for you.

And you are not a troll.

You are pretty and funny and kind and gracious and every other nice thing I could say about someone.

You don't smell like a swamp.

When I saw the name of the REAL, DESERVING WINNER I had to giggle.

Heidi E.

My sister.

And perhaps it's not fair that my own sister would win.

Or perhaps it is.

Because has anyone else been more supportive of this blogging adventure or my writing pursuits? Who else will text me at 11:00 pm to tell me I wrote 'your' instead of 'you're' {and you thought I was just a natural grammar genius!?!?} Who else would go sit at a different table in the coffee shop because I 'really really just need to focus on writing right now'? Who else always clicks 'Like' as a gesture of encouragement or participates in Thrift Blitz episodes or sends virtual high-fives when she enjoys what I share?

Yes, she is my sister but she's also my friend and a friend of this blog and she deserves any minutia of a stolen moment she can find.

The entry that won her the pretty prize?

"Locking myself in the bathroom, sitting on the floor and closing my eyes."

If you knew her - if you knew the whirling dervishes that keep her life in constant {adorable} chaos - you would know that this stolen moment, as ridiculous and silly as it is, is deserved and precious.

Heidi, I hope this gift will allow you a little more peace than a bathroom floor!

This week we have Saturdays chili cook out/barn party to clean up after, six baseball games, a nine-year-old's birthday, and a family reunion - but for now I'm going to hit publish on this post, take my book and a cup of tea and go sit in the hammock until Heidi texts me with a spelling mistake.

I have eight days of work left before three glorious weeks of vacation. I am holding my breath for that beautiful moment when I'll finally be able to breathe!
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