Trying To Put the Sweet Back Into Sweet 16

Sweet Sixteen Birthday Balloon[1]For a short month, February sure was hopping with lots of activity.

After our heartwarming experience on Valentine’s Day, Ashley and I had another important milestone to plan and look forward to— her Sweet 16!

I knew her feelings were mixed about this special birthday. The divorce, all the non-stop tension in our home and the resulting upheaval in all of our lives had put a damper on her spirit.

Ashley’s main concern (and a legitimate one at that) was whether Dick and I would be arguing at her party. I assured her that I would not be starting or participating in any quarrels with her dad and I hoped he would also call a “cease-fire” during the celebration.

As much as I wanted Ashley to feel excited about her upcoming soiree, she was reluctant to make any plans.  Even though we picked out a date, nothing else was getting done.  As the date of her festivities was quickly approaching, I had to get the ball rolling.

On of my close friends suggested several local restaurants as possible venues for the affair.  After phoning them all, I narrowed the list down to two. Ashley had the day off of school for President’s Day so we went to check out the one that was closer to our home.

After viewing the room and talking with the manager, we both agreed that this would be the perfect place for her party. Before I booked the room, I told Ashley that we should let her dad know about our plans.

*I was trying to be the mature adult in this situation and set a good example.

That night Ashley and I informed Dick that we had found the place for her Sweet 16, showed him the menu and told him that I would be reserving the room the next day.  Immediately he wanted to know how much this would cost because he said he didn’t have a lot of money to spend on this affair.

I held back from saying that he always made sure he had more than enough money for his “affair” with Juanita.

For crying out loud, this was his only daughter and this special birthday only occurred once in a lifetime.  I couldn’t believe that he had the gall to actually say this in front of Ashley. No wonder she wasn’t excited about her upcoming birthday.

The following day I reserved the room. Almost immediately after I got off the phone with the restaurant, Josh called to tell me that Mom’s Weekend at his frat was going to be the same weekend that Ashley’s party was planned for.

What was I going to do?

I didn’t want to miss either event, nor did I want my son or daughter to feel that I was picking one over the other.

A very close friend of mine came up with the solution: Move the Sweet 16 from Saturday night to Friday night and spend Saturday and Sunday with Josh. I talked it over with both kids and they were fine with this arrangement. The restaurant also had no problem switching the date. All was good again.

All of a sudden, I had way too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. At least by focusing on something positive and fun, my mind would be taken off of Dick’s disgusting behavior.

I reminisced about my own Sweet 16 and what a great day that was for me. I wanted Ashley to feel the same way about hers. Unfortunately, her circumstances were a lot different than mine were.

However, this is the reality of life—things don’t always turn out the way we hope or envision. We have to take what we get and make the best of the situation.

With that thought in mind, I decided to throw Ashley the  best party I could—one she would look back upon and remember with the fondest of memories.

So what could we do to entertain a room full of teenage girls that wouldn’t cost a lot of money, be different from the usual, occupy their time and attention and be creative and interesting?

It hit me out of the blue that instead of playing BINGO we could play ASHLY (okay it was close enough!) On my computer, I made a sheet that looked like a BINGO card. Across the top I wrote A S H L Y. In place of the free space, I put a picture of Ashley. Needing numerous copies, I decided to run over to my local print shop and had them professionally duplicated.  Then Ashley and I came up with a list of about 100 things that described her including such things as her favorite foods, activities, singers, movies, television shows, etc. After gathering all this information, I got busy filling out each sheet making sure that I used completely different words or phrases on every page.

Like I said, I needed something to take my mind off of my troubles and this was certainly taking a lot of time and creative thought!!! For awhile, I could care less about Dick and his antics.

Trying to figure out what should be used as “ASHLY” chips to cover the cards was another issue. After much deliberation, I decided that since this was a Sweet 16, small wrapped candies would be perfect. After carefully analyzing the size and number of squares that needed to be filled on each card, I figured out that Hershey Kisses would not only look adorable, they would also be a tasty treat as well.

Next was deciding what kind of containers to place them in.  I wanted to make sure that everyone had  enough markers to cover their sheets, Ashley wanted to give cosmetic bags as her take-home gifts to her friends. I went on-line and found attractive mesh ones at the Container Store in black, silver and white. The price was right too!

When there was sufficient money in the checkbook, (a constant issue for me since this divorce process started) I ran over to the location nearest to my home and snagged up several in each color. After calculating how many Hershey pieces I would need, I comparison shopped on the internet and discovered that Sam’s Club had industrial-sized bags of Kisses that would be cost-effective and supply me with just the right amount of candy!  Who would have ever imagined this was going to be so complicated and time-consuming!

When all the supplies were bought and accounted for, Ashley and I got busy one evening filling each bag with 25 Kisses. The end result was awesome! I was happy with how sophisticated they looked and marveled at my ingenuity!

Ashley was getting excited about her party. I was overjoyed. Without any prodding from me, she made up a trivia game about herself and got busy coming up with interesting personal tidbits that her friends would have to guess at.

Next we focused on buying prizes for her games. Every time we ran an errand, we looked for all the things teenaged girls craved: nail polish, lip gloss, body butters,  bath gels and lotions. I knew we had found great stuff because whatever we bought, Ashley insisted that we get a duplicate so she could have one as well!

I told Ashley that when I was 16, at our parties we used to have a friend write down on a cloth napkin everything that we said while we were opening up our presents. It was then read back to the guests stating this was what the party girl would be saying on her wedding night. After all these years, I still have the one that was made for me. Every so often, I take it out and  read it. Unfortunately, what I said on my wedding night wasn’t anything close to what was predicted years earlier. However, there’s no reason to rehash all that now! After much coaxing, I convinced Ashley to do this at her party as well. She wasn’t overjoyed with the idea, but appeased me and went along with it. This gave me something else to do: buy a nice cloth napkin and a permanent marker.

Ashley needed something special to wear to her party. One night about a week before the gala, we ventured out to the mall. After spending several hours going back and forth to the same few stores over and over again, she finally picked out an outfit that she actually liked.  All this activity left us famished so we stopped for a quick bite to eat. Our dinner conversation turned to the divorce and how stressful it was for all of us. I told Ashley that when this would finally be over, I would sell all the jewelry her father gave me and buy myself a pair of diamond stud earrings. Ashley surprised me by saying that when the divorce would be over and done with, she would buy herself an “Open Heart” necklace. I was so stunned to hear this. I told her that she definitely deserves something special for living through all this hell and I will buy the necklace for her. She didn’t argue.

Everything was falling into place quite nicely. All that was left to do was order the cake. Ashley requested chocolate with strawberry filling and whipped cream frosting. The bakery added a special touch by decorating the top with an assortment of miniature-sized candy bars— more sweets for the Sweet 16.

As I prepared, shopped and took care of all the last-minute details, Dick got busy doing what he did best— making everyone else miserable.

When the party plans and the trip to visit Josh were confirmed, I called my attorney and told him that I needed money for these events. He told me that he would talk to Dick’s attorney and would make sure that Dick would give me enough cash to cover all the expenses.

At the home front, things were transpiring a lot differently. The day before Ashley’s party, Dick informed me that I would have to pay for the party with the money in the checkbook. He refused to use any of “his” money for his daughter’s party. Even though we both agreed and signed the court order several months earlier which stipulated that the money in the checkbook was supposed to be for my expenses and not family events, Dick decided to make up his own “order” and refused to comply.

I placed numerous frantic calls to my attorney. In addition, Dick didn’t give me any money to cover my trip.

In a  daze, I called the restaurant and I was informed that they don’t accept personal checks as payment.  The day of the party I had to run to the bank, withdrew all the money we had left in the account and prayed that the amount I had covered the cost of the party.

I called back the restaurant and asked how we could keep the expenses down to the amount of cash I had. The manager told me that he appreciated that money was tight for me and he wanted to make sure our party was a success, so he gave me special rates on our menu items. I was so humiliated. Inside I was seething. I couldn’t believe how low Dick was stooping.

As far as my trip, I was on my own financially. Fortunately I had a little money put aside from a few market research focus groups I recently attended.

As the day progressed, I had to keep reminding myself not to let Dick get to me. I needed to stay focused on Ashley’s party and how wonderful everything would turn out.

After all of my hard work, Dick was not going to put a damper on the evening’s merriment.



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