On Hospitality & Dirty Underwear

Because our first Little Bean arrived two weeks early, we were able to make a trip to the North East to attend a good friend’s wedding. Though I wasn’t sure about embarking on such a long trip in the car, we decided to take it slowly with lots of stops along the way. After all, I knew going into it that it would be more stressful for me than for the Bean. And it was, but it was worth it. She got to meet grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and lots of friends as we headed to the Cape.

But that journey isn’t what this post is about.

This post is about the fact that we were away from our house for two weeks. And we left the house in a bit of a jumble, as you do when you’re preparing a two-week trip with a five-week-old baby. Not just cluttered messy, but dirt-under-your-bare-feet-on-the-kitchen-floor messy.

A few days into the trip, we received a phone call asking if an out-of-town visitor could stay at our house for a night. While we were gone. From our jumbled house.

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Lessons from the Land Without Dishwashers (#4)

This lesson is something I know that anyone who is responsible for household chores has experienced. In fact, it’s so obvious that I wonder if it’s even worth mentioning.

#4) The work of community often goes unnoticed.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I don’t really do the dishes very often. So when I do plunge in and make a dent in the pile, or when I empty the drying rack during the day, I get a bit discouraged when J comes home from work and there is already a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, hiding my hard work.

“I did the dishes today, hon!” I proudly announce on those occasions, and then I glance around sheepishly. “Really, I did. Honest.”

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Lessons from the Land Without Dishwashers (#2)

There is a part of me that has been biologically wired to take the reins of projects that are floundering. I really–and I mean really–hate to stand around when there are things that need doing, food that needs baking, parties that need planning, people that need, ahem, instructing. My dad’s family members–his sisters in particular–are also this way, so I think it’s in our blood.

Some people might call us bossy. I say we know how to get things done.

That is my way of introducing Lesson #2, something I’ve had a particularly hard time learning in this land without dishwashers:

2) Just because you don't like the way it's being done 
     doesn't mean you should just do it yourself.

Let’s face it: most of the time, I’d rather just do it myself.

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What Ash Wednesday Is

Most Ash Wednesdays don’t begin with eating peach pie at 3 o’clock in the morning, but this year’s did.

Well, it actually began an hour and a half before that, uncomfortably lying in bed, back pain and pregnancy insomnia keeping me awake. I gave in to my misery and finally got out of bed at 3, ate some Fat Tuesday pie to begin the Great Fast of the Christian liturgical year, and eventually fell asleep on the couch at some point before 5, when the timer light in our living room kicks on automatically. It didn’t feel much like Ash Wednesday.

Later this morning, I ran a friend around town on some errands. She doesn’t have a car and the office where she pays her rent is a few miles from her apartment. It’s cold. The snow and ice haven’t melted. Our car door is really big and heavy, and it’s a chore for a shorter person to pull it closed once she’s inside. We grabbed her breakfast at the DQ drive-through.

Even later this morning, I found out my neighbor was cleaning her house to get it ready for a showing tonight, so I took the remaining pie over to her house, and we split it. Generous portions. The best kind. It still didn’t feel like Ash Wednesday. The Beanster toddled around after my neighbor’s infinitely patient dog.

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When the words are just what you need to hear

My friend Elizabeth makes me think.

I’m pretty sure all truly good friends make us think; the kind of thinking that results in spiritual encouragement. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote something simple to me in an e-mail that hit me right away as just the truth I needed to hear. She said that my kids, my family, they are the community I spend the most time with right now.

And there it was. Truth I needed to hear and reflect on.

My husband was away for five days playing drums at a worship event out of town and on the day I received that email from her, the kids and I were at the end of our second day of not leaving the house. Two days of being cooped up together with temperatures over 90 degrees so the kids couldn’t go out and play.

Preface to what I’m about to say: I love being a mom. My kids bring me joy and fulfillment beyond words. We are overall a happy and loving family. That said, at the end of the second day, I had a headache and my two-year old, who is at the brink of several big breakthroughs (potty training and expressing complex thoughts and such) was particularly cranky. You know how they’re always unusually cranky when they’re about to do something big but haven’t quite grasped it yet. I was down and out. I had all these plans when my husband left; all these things I was going to accomplish. When he got back our toddler would be potty trained, the kids and I would have done several adorable craft projects, gone to the jump house place, spent time with friends, gone swimming, the laundry room would be cleaned and organized, I would have a clear homeschool plan for the school year….. it went on.

I know. Why would a person set herself up for failure like this?

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Ash Wednesday, Ear Infections, & Being a Wee Bit Grumpy

I was not in a very reflective mood today.

To put it in as nice a light as possible, I’ll say I was grumpy.

And my child has an ear infection. So she’s grumpy, I’m grumpy, we’re just one big grumpy family.

Due to her contagion, she couldn’t go into the nursery at church, so for our Ash Wednesday service, her dad held her out in the lobby with one ear cocked toward the sanctuary to listen in. Sitting in the back pew, I could hear her chirping and squirming and dropping her toys, so I didn’t focus very well on the scripture passages of penitence and remorse.

And, like I may have mentioned, I was a wee bit grumpy. That may have distracted me a bit, too.

When I took my shift with the Bean, I decided to head home before the ashes were imposed. No need to remind me that I was dust and to dust I would return.

I already felt like dust.

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On Hospitality & Dirty Underwear

Because Little Bean arrived two weeks early, we were able to make a trip to the North East to attend a good friend’s wedding. Though I wasn’t sure about embarking on such a long trip in the car, we decided to take it slowly with lots of stops along the way. After all, I knew going into it that it would be more stressful for me than for the Bean. And it was, but it was worth it. She got to meet grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and lots of friends as we headed to the Cape.

But that journey isn’t what this post is about.

This post is about the fact that we were away from our house for two weeks. And we left the house in a bit of a jumble, as you do when you’re preparing a two-week trip with a five-week-old baby. Not just cluttered messy, but dirt-under-your-bare-feet-on-the-kitchen-floor messy.

A few days into the trip, we received a phone call asking if an out-of-town visitor could stay at our house for a night. While we were gone. From our jumbled house.

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Hypocrites, Hospitality, & Doing It Anyway (the follow-up)

Soon and very soon, Lent is coming to an end. I’m sort of in denial about it because, quite frankly, it hasn’t felt very Lent-ish this season to me.

Let me digress for a moment: Sometimes we need to keep reminding ourselves that it’s okay to feel this way and  that it’s good to be honest about it, instead of trying to pretend we’re cultivating something we’re not. As I emphasized to the class I taught on the liturgical year at church over the last month, one of the beautiful things about living seasonally, about living the church year, is that it helps us to remember that the story will get told again next year. Sometimes we need to tell The Story to each other, and tell it to each other, and tell it to each other, over and over again. That’s what community does. We remind one another of the story we claim to live. But sometimes people die on Christmas day, and there is little feeling of joy during the season of Christmas. Sometimes babies are born during Lent, and there is little feeling of penitance. We keep on keeping on anyway, and we look forward to the next season.

I haven’t felt very Lent-ish for a variety of reasons, only one of which is the big zinger of being 8 months’ pregnant.

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The Land without Dishwashers

When we first wandered through the house that was to become our permanent home, a few things stood out to me. One of them was the green linoleum in the kitchen. Another was the charming archways between the downstairs living areas. Another was the unfortunate bathroom situation upstairs—a bathtub less than four inches from the front of the toilet bowl, for example, making it impossible to, well, sit on the toilet.

What I don’t remember is whether it struck us, during that first walk-through, or the second, or the third, that the kitchen did not have a dishwasher.

Maybe we noticed at the time and decided it didn’t matter. Maybe we thought we’d remodel the kitchen someday and be able to squeeze one in. Maybe.

Regardless, our little, green-lineoleumed, oddly-shaped kitchen does not have a dishwasher or room to add one. As a result, one of us spends a great deal of time in front of the sink, washing dishes, and the truth is that it’s rarely me. (This qualifies as yet another reason why my husband is awesome.)

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Well.

Folks around here say something I’ve come to love, a word that seems to me to stand in for a panoply of things. It’s the word well. (I should write it like this: weeell. To hear it correctly, be sure to drag it out and make it multisyllabic, kind of like “wail” turned into “way-el.”)

I used to think that it was an introductory word, leading to something else. But it’s not. It’s a thing unto itself. In fact, I think it is a word of solidarity, like if you’re sharing something that you’re going through that is hard, someone might respond with “Well.” And that’s it.

So, Friday and Saturday found me hanging out with an amazing group of creative writers at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. It was a great time. Encouraging. Inspiring. Reminding me of all the things I do love about being a creative writer. Ah, yes.

But.

But there was this one woman, a fellow conference attendee, who fate would have it ended up sitting with me at lunch on Friday and being part of my small-group poetry workshop. I refuse to go into details here about the situation, partially because I have already vented to more people than it is polite to admit, but let me just tell you that she drove me so crazy that, trying to deal with how much I was seething after interacting with her, I drafted a poem called, “I can not be Jesus to her.”

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