One of my greatest pleasures at Blue Monarch is introducing our residents to new and exciting experiences. For instance, every year it's our tradition to take the residents to a "fancy" dinner at Opryland Hotel. (We look for folks to sponsor this event in case you're interested...)
The ride there is almost as fun as the dinner. "What fork do I use?" is one of the most common questions, which usually brings up a reference to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. One year we clearly didn't get the fork thing figured out because someone at the table thought it made sense for each person to use a grouping of silverware, which included your two forks and your neighbor's knife and spoon. That makes sense. So as that pattern traveled down the table, it cheated the person at the end, of course. Otherwise it was a pretty good idea.
Another special event is when we get all dressed up and frilly and make our annual trip to Tea on the Mountain in Tracy City. If you haven't been there, you might have passed it and never imagined that inside that unassuming white concrete block building on the corner is a tantalizing tearoom, much like you might find in British Columbia. Dainty tea sets are displayed on tables covered in beautiful, lacy tablecloths. And you are treated to a never-ending supply of wonderful, bite-sized sweet and savory treats delivered on a 3-tiered rack with a bottomless cup of hot tea.
This year our staff members drew names to see which residents would sit with them at the table. Naturally the ones I drew were especially nervous because they didn't want to slurp, break or spill anything sitting next to the person they considered to have the most authority. Cassie and Samantha sat on either side of me and Cassie looked like she was on the verge of hyperventilating. She couldn't have been more nervous.
I heard someone say that people often make connections through imperfections and that's so true. I knew exactly how Cassie felt. Years ago when I first met my former husband, I was invited to Christmas dinner with his family. His world was much different than the one I was accustomed to so instead of folks wearing their favorite faded jeans for Christmas dinner, the women in his family wore strapless, formal gowns and the men wore coats and ties. There was a staff of people in the kitchen who quietly delivered food on silver platters and in crystal bowls to the beautifully laid buffet that sat alongside the elegant dining room table that comfortably seated fourteen.
Since I was a guest, I was invited to be the first in line at the buffet. I was horrified (much like Cassie and Samantha were the other day). With no one to watch for direction, I made my way through the line of food and was delighted to discover roast beef and mashed potatoes. Good. I could handle that, although I thought the bowl of mashed potatoes was surprisingly small, which surely meant they were bringing out more in a minute.
I put several slabs of beef on my delicate china plate and topped it with a huge mound of mashed potatoes. Then I made a well, of course, in the middle of the potatoes and filled it with ample gravy. I looked for someone to quickly refill the bowl with more potatoes. Surely they would, since what I left would never be enough for everyone.
Much to my surprise, when I took a big bite of my potatoes I immediately discovered it was not mashed potatoes - but horseradish! (Who had heard of such a thing?) Naturally I was completely mortified and I painfully proceeded to eat the pile of horseradish as if I intended to eat a big helping of it all along - with the well full of gravy. My eyes filled with tears and my sinuses opened up in ways I never knew possible. I thought I would die.
So the other day when I saw Cassie panic and turn fifty shades of red when she accidentally slurped her soup, when she clinked her cup a little too loud, and when we thought her asparagus soup might come out her nose when she laughed, it was wonderful. She went into that experience scared to death. But you know what? She enjoyed herself, she learned a lot about proper etiquette, she tasted foods she had never seen before, and she broadened her horizons in the meantime. The world doesn't look the same to her now.
It turns out it's the willingness to step out and try new things - and laugh at yourself in the process - that gives you the courage to take the next step. Cassie was not the same person when she put down that teacup and walked out the door. She was braver, smarter - and a thousand times more confident. It's all about conquering your fears - even if it's a mountain of horseradish or a cup of hot tea. And that's what Blue Monarch is all about.
Returning to old friends and stomping grounds is rarely successful after rehabilitation. We pray that each new and exciting experience makes the old world look less and less appealing.