Sunday, May 18, 2008

Aspiration; or What I'll Never Be

You see, there's a problem with having to come up with a title for each post. That is that some bloggers are kind of dorky and will come up with a series of post titles like, "Sophistication", "Justification", and "Aspiration". Or they just can't decide between two super clever titles, so they use them both. Today we've hit a low. I've done both in one post title. But you know what? I'll just bet I keep rolling out these awesome titles anyway. Oh well. They should offer a class, "naming blog posts 101".

But today's title isn't referring to my aspirations to some day be able to make good post titles! Oh no! I'm referring to the fact that we're having company this week and I don't know how to be a hostess. We have visitors SO rarely that I can only imagine what kind of hostess I'll be. Now we live in a house(ish) and have an entire apartment downstairs for visitors (and English classes when there are no visitors)! [Here's the part where you take a hint and decide to come visit us. But if you're going to, don't read on.] We are hoping people will come and stay with us more often. A few weekends ago we had our first visitor...but more about that later.

I have had the opportunity to stay with soooo many people and see all different styles of hostessing. There was a certain family living in Krakow who let us (me, Greg and 1 year old Ewelina)stay with them nearly every weekend and made us feel so at home. There's a family on the East coast who we visit all the time because I have never once felt in the way there, even when the house was full of 4-6 adults and 7-9 children for weeks at a time. Then there are those living on the other side of the country who go out of their way to make sure everything is as easy as possible for me and the kids, and who are willing to plan my entire vacations for me. I also remember staying with people who have a list of rules and are sure to let you know if you aren't following them. That's not very fun. BUT I'M AFRAID I'M ONE OF THOSE KIND!

So our visitor came (travelling MANY hours (12 each way, I think) across the entire country to spend about 24 hours with us and then go back!) on a Saturday evening. We had been sick all week and I hadn't been doing housework, plus the downstairs apartment hadn't been cleaned since we've never used it, so I had to clean that as well. Needless to say I was up to my ears in work. Then I start organizing the toys in the playroom and accidentally start to REALLY organize them (like weekend-long-project organize). By the time I finally finish that, I have about 1/2-1 hour to vacuum the entire house, do laundry, make dinner and clean the kitchen. He arrives while I'm vacuuming and the kitchen has stacks of dishes and the dinner isn't started. Then Greg starts showing him around the house and I realize (too late) that the kids beds weren't made and their pajamas were on the floor (which would have been remedied in 30 seconds if I had done the vacuuming upstairs like I meant to) In the end I ever-so-graciously suggest, wouldn't it be fun to have a late dinner? But you know what? We had a great time with him! We ate dinner (even though it had broccoli and he wasn't a fan) and had lots of fun looking at pictures of his family and video from the days he and Greg were roommates at BYU and were huge dorks. I thought later, that was so fun! Why was I so stressed earlier in the day trying to make everything exactly how I wanted it?

Why do I cringe at the thought of having house guests without everything having been vacuumed and scrubbed the very day they come? If I had tried to make sure everything was just at least tidy when he came, it would have been tons better. Why do I need people to think that I have a sparkly house? Why am I afraid of dirt? Why do I stick so stubbornly to my ideas of how something should be when it just stresses me out and makes me yell at my kids for no real reason?

I hope one day to get it together. My house looks clean enough, and I am able to sit down with the company and visit. I don't apologize over and over that the food didn't turn out or that I meant to do something or whatever. Just leave things as they are and enjoy the company!! Greg's parents and sister will be coming and staying for a few days. I'm writing this posts to encourage myself to be a little more like some of you guys. Thanks for your examples and hospitality!


sarah k. said...

Every time I express my displeasure with my housekeeping skills, people who have been there inevitably tell me that it's part of this life, and that it will end. They always remind me that it's not me, and that everybody else in the house has to do their part, too, and that it's a phase. I know they're lying, but it's still thoughtful.

My mom and step-dad are coming to visit next week, and I'm already starting to panic. If it were just my mom, I'd be OK, but my step-dad is just such a tidy person, and I think I will be mortified the entire time they're here. I plan on leading them on many excursions away from the house.

Erin said...

Have you ever heard that saying "cleaning the house when you have kids is like shoveling the sidewalk while it is still snowing." I have come to accept that a house with kids is a house with clutter and a certain level of griminess. I cleaned the bathroom yesterday and it already has toothpaste smears on the counter and streaks on the mirrors. Sometimes I feel like, what is the point?

The point is that you are an awesome hostess because you make people feel very welcome, you are great at conversation, and you are fantastic cook. Wish I could visit you!

jonesfamily said...

It sounds like you could use a little prozac. I'm telling you, it works wonders! But, as you know, since I've been taking these drugs, my house has become a hard hat area. There's got to be a middle ground!!

Actually, I am like you in the sense of worrying (and not in the sense of actually doing anything about it). One thing I have observed with Su and my friend Natalie is that at the beggining of all their hostessing it seemed they felt like us novices (stressed out). Now it seems like they know what the most important parts of hostessing are, like making the guest feel comfortable, and then they do that. So, first thing Su does is make sure we know where our "space" is so we can settle in and find our place in the house. Second, travelers are almost ALWAYS hungry when they arrive. So, Su has some sort of snack ready to eat (even if it's leftovers, which are always delicious anyway) and meals are not hard to come by. The other thing is she kind of goes on with her life and you just kind of follow along with her. Which makes you feel like you're not intruding as a guest or that you have to keep busy doing something. Mom has been here enough that now I don't even clean when guests come. But I still don't have any of those important things down! = the worst hostess, as you know.

jonesfamily said...

And here's something you might like doing since you like cooking, and getting recipes like my friend who does this. My friend has her guests cook one meal of their choice while they visit. She says she has gotten some of her favorite recipes that way.

gramalee said...

We are all truly different! NEVER NEVER EVER ask ME to cook! I can't the think of a more cruel way to treat a guest. I know Lisa and Nancy SAY they want to cook at my house but then I would have to remember where my pans are and ... what a pain! Besides Lisa we would miss that alfredo 5-buck pizza. Remember?

Lisa said...

Thanks so much, everyone for your advice. Or advices, as Greg used to say up until recently. You guys are all great!

Sarah - best of luck with your visitors! I feel your pain.

Erin - Thanks. I hadn't heard that saying. It's more like shovelling the walk in a blizzard! And I would love to practice my lack of skills on you guys! Hey!! It seems Nathan mentioned that you guys might be coming to Poland sometime in the next year or something...?

Anne - That was so helpful to know! Unfortunately I didn't follow it that well! When they got here their area was ready for them and the house was almost as clean as I wanted it, but I hadn't started dinner. They ALWAYS stop and eat something on the way, and decline whatever I've made, anyway, but not this time! They hadn't eaten in like 5-6 hours! Then they had to wait another hour for me to make the African Peanut soup, which I thought they wouldn't like anyway! But they did. Fyooh! (How do you spell that?)

Mom I mean gramalee - Ooooooooh! Chicken alfredo pizza!! Oh how I MUST try making that! What was on it? Chicken, alfredo sauce, tomatoes, maybe red onions...what else? HEAVEN!

Pam said...

You are your father's daughter when it comes to embarking an a quick clean up and then turning some aspect of it into a major project. I'm not complaining, mind you. Things that I'd never touch get very clean and organized.

RE a less than perfectly clean house when company arrives: I read a magazine article once as a teenager -- Good Housekeeping or something. I didn't appreciate it then, but I do now. The woman wrote about her husband's college girlfriend coming for a visit. The woman slaved and slaved to make her house look perfect. Even though her husband hadn't laid eyes on the old girlfriend for over 10 years, she felt she needed to show that he'd married well. The old girlfriend arrived. She was nice. They had a relaxed and friendly visit, but after she left, the woman saw that beneath the couch on which she'd been sitting and in plain view of her guest was an old, moldy orange peel. At first she was mortified and then she thought about it a little more and decided the orange peel probably helped put her guest at ease. She wasn't coming up against super-housekeeper, but just another woman doing the best she could. She decided that at the very least, she'd probably made the other woman's day. Our house is never perfectly clean -- it probably gives every visiting "housekeeper" a sense of superiority; but I hope it's comfortable and friendly -- and moderately hygienic...

Alive to the extraordinary said...

I always feel at home in your home!I'm glad you no longer feel the need to have the whole house spotless (Only all the bits we might see :) ) when we come and can stop and visit with us ... after all, we come to see you, not a spotless house!