Engagement Parties. And the Importance of Showing Up. Haphazard Lifestyle Advice: How to Wedding, Part 4


{I originally wrote this at the beginning of September, but, you know, things happen. I’m publishing this now, out of chronological sequence for events in my life. So, you know; the timeline is off, but whatever. Most of me is “off” anyway, so it may be more authentic this way, anyway.}


Alrighty, friends; I’m about to disclose everything I know about  parenting, friendship, and being a real, live community, aimed at caring well for each other.





This is the same thing as “love one another,” just using different words, but sometimes we get confused about what love looks like. Or what love does. Or who Love is. So I thought it might be helpful to spell it out a little, in case you, like me, sometimes need instructions.




That is all.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

The End


Or maybe a few more tiny words on this subject, as follows:

It’s been a week, friends.

A long one.

A lovely one.

A week I didn’t see coming.

I flew to Hawaii for my kid’s engagement party — the one she and Chandler planned with their college people —  because I decided suddenly I didn’t want to miss it.

It was a last minute gathering, really. They planned it only a few days in advance. And I gave myself the Usual Chat. The Be Responsible convo. The “Your Budget Can’t Afford a Trip to Hawaii” reality check.

“Beth,” I said to me, “you cannot be there for everything. You have to let them do some things on their own. You really don’t need to invite yourself to Every Event.” But I had a Moment. And I wanted to buy them flowers. And see them play on the beach on the island where they met. I wanted to breathe their joy deep into my lungs. And I’ve lived long enough to Listen to my Heart. So I texted my children — the one who’s already mine and the one who will become mine — and asked if I could come. Also, I bribed them by promising leis and to take them out to eat, and God knows one of the best things about parenting Poor College Students is their susceptibility to bribery.

“Can I come?” I asked. “I WILL BUY YOU FOOD.”

“YES, PLEASE,” they said. And, “WE WOULD LOVE THAT.”


Now, I will tell you an important truth here: there is nothing I want more in all the world than for my children to include me in their lives. But I have also learned from watching the masters — my own parents who had to create the entire system from scratch because their parents … well… sucked at this — that the only way for your children to want to include you rather than be obligated to include you is if you wholly, completely, transparently, vulnerably accept them as they already are and CHAMPION THEM OUT LOUD for those very things, praising, loving and respecting them for being themselves.


When there is conflict, hash that shit out. All the way. Uncomfortably. Take a fearless inventory of the ways you have wronged them. Believe them when they tell you they’re hurt rather than defending yourself. Apologize for the ways you’ve caused harm. Because you are human, and you will misstep, and they are watching, and they will learn How to Human by following your lead. They will learn how to be humble. They will learn how to be open. They will learn how to listen. They will learn that apologies are survivable and healing and critically important for healthy relationships.

Then do this over and over until you have communicated to them times infinity — for decades — that you will do Whatever It Takes to have an authentic, whole relationship absent the quiet disapproval and subtle judgement and residual hurt that poisons so many parent/child relationships. Let them know through words and actions and showing up again and again (and again and again) that You Have Their Backs and Will Defend Them to the Death. <— This cannot be a one-time conversation. This has to be consistent and reliable. Perpetual.

You can say you love your children, friends. You can believe you love your children. You can actually love your children. You can be willing to die for your children. Your children can wholeheartedly believe that you love them. And you will still never, ever have a close relationship with them until you show your children — in the ways they need to be shown love — that you love them. 

This is all parenting is, really: show up for each other. As much as possible. As early in their lives as you can manage. As often as you can. In big ways, sure — I mean, the Grand Gestures are always nice — but in small ways especially. In small ways most of all. In tiny little touches, and with ongoing effort. A text. A thumbs up. A “hey, I was thinking of you.” A “you’re important to me, just F Your I.” A “that sucks” when they’re sad. —> The benefit of the doubt when they’re squirrelly or mean. <— A look inside their heart to see and remember that the only thing any of us want, truly, is connection and to be found precious and worthy of infinite love. Acceptance. Inclusion. Making sure that all of Your Places also welcome them fully so that Your Places can become Their Places. You know? Opening up your whole world so it can become their whole world, and so they know they’re safe and loved with you, everywhere and always.

Listen. I have no desire to pretend I’m perfect in the parenting arena. I can occasionally, from time to time, equate my Task List with Loving My People. Don’t get me wrong — I’m pretty damn good at letting my kids know how thoroughly they’re loved. BUT ALSO, I drop balls all the time. I’m basically standing in a vat of dropped balls. It’s a Ball Pit around here. I am DROWNING IN BALLS. I’m behind on at least 47 parenting tasks right at this very moment. School started 10 days ago, and there’s paperwork I haven’t finished, permission slips I haven’t signed, calls I haven’t returned, and emails with presumably important information I haven’t read. I’m scrambling, and I’m behind, and I often feel like an ass and a failure because of it. I am often afraid I’m not loving my people well BECAUSE OF ALL THE BALLS ON THE FLOOR. But — and THIS IS IMPORTANT — DO NOT CONFUSE THE TASK LIST WITH SHOWING UP.

Do not confuse Checking the Boxes with Loving Your People.

Do not confuse Ball Juggling with Loving.


Is accomplishing the To Do list part of loving your people? Yeah, I guess, but it’s the smallest of all the pieces. Which is very hard to accept for those of us who’ve believed the lies of the western world. We LIKE To Do Lists. We LOVE to point to all the Things We’re Doing to prove our worth and our love for one another. And, yes, tasks have to be done and we should totally get credit for doing them — I prefer trophies, as a matter of record — but let’s not confuse doing the dishes for our family with grabbing a distressed child and cradling his face in your hands and reminding him he is BEAUTIFUL, and SMART, and FUNNY, and PERFECTLY HIMSELF which is ALL HE HAS TO BE, EVER, and that is Always Enough, and you love him to the ends of the earth.

You know?

You know.

In conclusion,




I promise you, it’s worth every second.





P.S. I just want to acknowledge here that I know it’s not always possible to show up IN PERSON. Like, it’s not always possible to hop a plane to Hawaii. My bank account strongly agrees. But it’s ALWAYS possible to show up metaphorically. To be there emotionally for your people. And that’s the most important. That’s where it’s at. 

P.P.S. Not to steal the spotlight from my stunning children, but my favorite photo from the engagement party is of Aden and me. I wasn’t going to share it with you. It feels kind of mean to the bride-to-be. But I also don’t think we should to hide our gorgeousness under a bushel, you know? We need to let our light shine. 

When being photogenic is your spiritual gift, it would be wrong to keep it to ourselves. #WWJD, amirite?

P.P.P.S. This was originally supposed to be a post on how to throw a pretty (but also very inexpensive) engagement party. We threw Abby and Chandler one in August before they went back to school. But then I got sidetracked, monologuing about showing up for each other. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 


So here it is, in brief.

Pretty Party, Tip #1: Throw it at your house. Even if your house, like my house, isn’t always perfectly neat or tidy or lovely. Make SOMETHING pretty, and ignore the rest. It’s about the PEOPLE, friends, not about perfection. Besides, imperfection is a gift you can give to your friends. 

Pretty Party, Tip #2: Something pretty, you say? For A&C’s wedding, I’ve started collecting silk flowers at Goodwill. We used them at this party to make a flower ball backdrop. And we made 2 other balls with moss we stripped off oak trees at the farm. Balls. BOOM.


Pretty Party, Tip #3: With apologies to all the AMAZING bakers out there who (deservedly) charge big bucks for gorgeous cakes, I buy mine at the grocery store. Just like I was ecstatic that mismatched socks became a legit fashion trend when my kids were little (WINNING), I am overjoyed that “rustic” or “boho” are party trends. For this cake, I bought 3 cakes — 2 lemon filled, 1 raspberry — at Safeway for $5.99 each. I would’ve picked just one flavor instead of two, but they didn’t have 3 of one flavor, so I improvised. When I got home, I scraped the icing off the edges (see also: “rustic”), piled the 3 cakes on top of each other, and put the whole thing in the fridge so it would stay stacked and not melt and crash. Then I put a bunch of (on sale) flowers in the cake. 

Voila! Fancy cake for $24.96 (including the flowers.)

Pretty Party, Tip #4: Speaking of flowers, buy whatever’s on sale. When we had this party, roses were discounted at our grocery store for $6.99/dozen. I bought 6 dozen of the neutral tones and then used one bunch of eucalyptus (also $6.99), one bunch of burgundy mums ($7.99), and blackberry vines (free from my yard) to create lush-looking arrangements. $56.92 for flowers total. I’m not sure I could’ve gotten even one of those vase arrangements for that if I’d gone through a florist. 

Pretty Party, Tip #5: Check Goodwill for vases and cake stands. These are all from Goodwill. The most expensive of the bunch was $5.99, and we’re reusing them all for the wedding. Vases and cake stands, $22.95. 

Pretty Party, Tip #6: Buy your food and snacks at a cheap grocery store. We have a Grocery Outlet near us, and I LOVE it, even though it’s much maligned by some of my friends. We were able to serve several gorgeous cheeses, prosciutto, berries, nuts, veggies and dips, Belgian chocolates, etc. for under $100 total. 

Pretty Party, Tip #7: Invite pretty people. 😉 

And finally, Pretty Party, Tip #8: Serve easy beverages. We had bubbly wine (Grocery Outlet again) with mix-ins folks could customize (Orangcello and Huckleberry Liqueur) and ginger ale and sparkling cider for our alcohol-free friends. 

A pretty party doesn’t have to be an expensive one, and it’s not cost prohibitive to celebrate people well. 😘 

P.P.P.P.S. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up — especially mine — but I think the latest anti-depressant may be WORKING. I’ve been able to access my brain part of EVERY DAY for a WEEK, friends. Please cross your fingers, say all the Hail Marys, and wave in the dark with me. ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ 

P.P.P.P.P.S. Did you know I run a small number of retreats each year? I do! One of my very, very favorite things to do is hang out with members of our incredible, worldwide community and offer rest and respite from our regular lives. I would LOVE to have you join me. {Note: we’re more than 90% full for November, but if you’re hoping to attend that retreat, we can still squeeze you in! Feel free to contact Maggie, retreat registrar, at petersonm1@spu.edu if you have any questions about registration.}

Click here for general retreat information.

Or, if you want to head straight to the registration pages, you can register via my farm website, CAIRNS FARM:

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5 responses to “Engagement Parties. And the Importance of Showing Up. Haphazard Lifestyle Advice: How to Wedding, Part 4”

  1. I just love all of this. The pictures, the truths, the reminder that pretty parties don’t have to be fancy or expensive or anything.

    Also, the kids look SO HAPPY. Which makes me happy. Which seems odd, given that I don’t even know them. 🙂

  2. I needed to hear that today, to remember that the to-do list is not the sum of how you love your people. Also, to be honest: it’s so SO big that list. Can we count it as a bit of love nonetheless? because somehow, i’m drowning in balls and really trying hard to do the list. And I would really love it if clean clothes and dinner on the table every night and raincoats for schools counted as love.

  3. Thanks for this post and ALL the posts you’ve been publishing. I’ve had a brain crash, like yourself a few weeks ago, while I was reading your post I realized what was happening with me. Thanks for that gift. And I’m learning to maneuver my way around everyday tasks and my family.
    This post is so helpful in giving me ideas and encouragement on my own parenting challenges, and party planning!! You are so awesome, Beth!!
    Always wanted to ask you, why the name of your farm, Cairns? I’m an Aussie girl living in VA, so was intrigued naturally.

  4. You are one heck of a party planner girl! Beautiful, just like you! As a gal who LOVES a bargain and doesn’t have time for looking, these tips are PERFECT! I do recall being a young bride on a budget and getting my flowers done by the local grocery store.
    Congrats on continuing to look for the right combo to help your brain, and fingers crossed this one continues to work!! Taking care of you to tend to the ones you love is awesome. xo

  5. Fantastic post (and what great phootos!). And huzzah… maybe… for the meds? That would be lovely. I’ve sent a few of your recent posts to my sister, and she says your descriptions are spot on. Thanks so much – I try to be there for my sister when she struggles, and it can be hard to get a feel for what she’s going through. I’m sorry you’re going through this, but thank you, thank you for sharing.

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