Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hospitality & Dirty Baseboards

When my husband and I first got married, we had a steady stream of visitors. A few times a week, we'd have company -- sometimes invited, but more often than not we'd get surprise guests. 

Back then, I didn't worry about being embarrassed by a messy house. We lived in a teeny-weeny two-bedroom house that was a snap to clean. Plus, with just the two of us, nobody was painting marshmallow fluff on every door handle or strewing underwear in the foyer.

After our first child was born, we moved to a bigger house. It was more work to care for a baby, maintain the house, and keep a full-time job, but it was manageable -- and we still had company. Some of my fondest memories are of a couple neighbors who didn't even bother knocking. With regular frequency, they'd throw open the door and yell, "Are you dressed? Put something on 'cause I'm coming in!"

A few years later, we moved again, but this time into a fixer-upper at least 75% larger than our previous home. And we had another baby. All of a sudden, there didn't seem to be enough time in the day for basic things like keeping my children clean and fed, meeting work deadlines, or even showering on a daily basis. Housework? Hah! Home improvement projects? Hah hah hah! (wiping tears from eyes) The truth is, we've only just mostly finished a flooring/baseboard project that we started FIVE YEARS ago.

In fact, during the last four years, we really haven't invited anyone other than family or very, very good friends over (i.e., people who have no choice but to love me). This is partly because I haven't felt up to de-stickifying every surface 60" or lower (and then being too tired to carry a decent conversation) and partly because we have so many unfinished projects that we only need some cheap beer cans littered about to complete our late 20th-century frat house decor.

Lately, though, I've really felt convicted about being so unsociable. This began awhile ago when I was visiting a friend who is hands-down one of the most hospitable people I know. She has a gift for making people feel at ease, and her house is an oasis of warmth, serenity, and comfort. We were having a lovely, lovely visit, when I noticed her baseboards. Her dirty baseboards. The moment was a revelation. In addition to liking my friend even more, I knew I couldn't care less if she'd had grape jelly smeared across the wall. I would still be having a lovely time.

I suddenly realized that I'd bought into the nonsense that gets billed as hospitality. A lot of shows and magazines seem more than happy to dictate what kind of centerpieces I need, what to serve, how to serve it, how to make place settings and parting gifts, and what my house should look like, and... Well, if you've ever watched Martha Stewart or read Fine Living, you know what I mean. Real hospitality, though, is not something you learn from shows and magazines. To me, it's simply about serving others with an open heart and being generous with what one has. You can't make or buy that. Even better, it never has to be cleaned!

Thinking back to those early days, I don't recall anyone who stopped dropping in simply because there was dog hair on the floor. I don't think anyone ever quit visiting just because they didn't like what was on the menu that day -- even if it was just humble toasted peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Please, don't misunderstand. I don't want to knock anyone's efforts at creating an pleasant, hygienic environment or a special meal. However, if I had to choose between my friend exhausting herself by scrubbing up and down and cooking up an elaborate feast or just spending time together -- I would choose the latter every time. I think (at least I hope) my friends would make the same choice when it comes to me.

So to anyone who's reading this, I give you fair warning. I may have dust and toys all over the floor. I may not give you a tour of the house because of dirty laundry in an upstairs bathroom. However, if you want a cup of tea and conversation, the door is always open.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love,
in honor giving preference to one another...
given to hospitality.
Romans 12: 10, 13

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Production Figures for Easter

A couple of years ago, we visited Hershey, PA, and I really enjoyed reading all the facts and figures about how much candy Hershey produces, how much sugar they use, and so on. For Easter, I thought I'd do some research on Easter-related production figures. Here are a few interesting facts.

According to the National Confectioners' Association:
  • Each Easter, 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made.
  • Each Easter, 16 billion jelly beans are produced.
  • Additionally, in preparation for Easter, five million marshmallow chicks and bunnies are produced every day.
For those of you who can't get enough of those Cadbury Creme Eggs, I found these tasty tidbits on Cadbury's website:
    • The Cadbury Creme Egg plant at Bournville, UK, can produce more than 1.5 million eggs per day.
    • If you laid all the eggs made on the Creme Egg plant end to end, they would stretch 12,000 miles -- all the way from the Bourneville factory in Birmingham, UK, to Sydney, Australia.
    Peeps lovers may find it interesting to know that1:
    • Peeps are the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy. Americans buy more than 700 million Marshmallow Peeps each Easter season.
    • As many as 4.2 million Marshmallow Peeps, bunnies, and other shapes can be made each day.
    • In 1953, it took 27 hours to create a Marshmallow Peep. Today it takes six minutes.
    Naturally, a tremendous number of resources are required to produce all of these Easter goodies. Just Born, the company that produces Peeps, has over 500 employees in the Bethlehem and Philadelphia, PA areas. According to, Cadbury employs 67,700 people. also provided this interesting Easter figure. There are currently approximately 2.1 billion Christians in the world.
    • According to an Al-Jazeerah interview with Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity every hour. This is 16,000 Muslims converting every day, 6 million Muslims converting every year. 
    • I've also read that 10,000 Chinese and 5,000 Indians convert to Christianity each day.
    This production is largely the work of just one man who lived, died, and rose again approximately 2,000 years ago.

    Happy Easter everyone!

    He is risen. He is risen indeed.



    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Jantar by Tiago Hoisel

    Recently, I discovered a blog by Brazilian artist Tiago Hoisel. I love his caricatures, particularly this image, titled Jantar.

    Jantar by Tiago Hoisel

    As I studied the details of this work, I really began to appreciate the artist's smart use of perspective.

    Viewing this hilariously wacky family through the eyes of the boyfriend, Hoisel has allowed us to assess and poke fun at these people. However, at the same time, this family is sizing us up as well. Judging from their expressions, the gun pointed at us from the painting, and the stuffed ex on the wall, I get the feeling we may be coming up short.

    I like that we don't get to actually see the boyfriend -- just the skull and crossbones detail on his wristband. It's enough of a clue to let us imagine what the rest of him looks like. In my mind, I see a kid who thinks he's the height of cool and fashion, but who may be the exact opposite of what Generalissimo wants for his daughter. Actually, jantar means "to have dinner" in Portuguese, and I sense that's exactly what Dad is about to do -- but he won't be eating the bird.

    I love how Hoisel cleverly and humorously conveys the disparity between how we see ourselves and how others see us. It made me wonder what other people think of me.

    To be truthful, I'm not concerned with whether everyone likes me or not. I can't please everyone, and I have to live with myself at the end of the day. However, there are certain things that I would like most people to be able to say about me. For instance, do I come across as being trustworthy? Am I patient and tolerant? Am I helpful? Am I at least trying to develop the characteristics that I want?

    What about you? What do you hope that others see in you?


    P.S. I do hope you visit Tiago Hoisel's blog. His caricatures are very fresh, very smart. Here is another image I want to share just because it really cracked my boys up.

    Piracicaba by Tiago Hoisel

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    The Prodigal

    Do you ever make up stories about people you don't know? I do it all the time. I'm not talking about gossip or slander, but I do fabricate entire histories to help me feel better about certain people.

    For instance, let's say that a man (yes, it's a man because everyone knows men can't drive) cuts me off or stops short. This is where my imagination kicks in, and I start to wonder why he did what he did. Maybe his mind is elsewhere because his mother is in the intensive care unit and dying of some rare blood disease. Now he's rushing to his daughter's school. The little girl apparently fell from the monkey bars and broke several vertebrae. His wife is unavailable having tragically died in childbirth, so he's been called. He's also about to lose his job manufacturing incandescent lightbulbs now that they're illegal. With all this happening, it's no wonder he can't concentrate on his driving.

    See how it's done? Without a shred of road rage, I've killed or maimed three of his family members and destroyed his livelihood. However, I also feel really bad for the guy. Honestly, how could a person not feel sympathetic?

    Today, I was pulling into the Shop Rite parking lot and saw a young man approach an older gentleman. I then witnessed the older man give the younger one a quarter. Next, the young man walked up to my car and explained that he was trying to catch the bus and asked if I could give him fifty cents. He looked rough, but he was exceptionally polite and clear-eyed. I gave him the fifty cents. Then he headed toward someone else.

    Now I've never even seen a public bus in this neck of the woods. I don't even know if we have a bus system here. This made me wonder. Exactly which bus was he trying to catch? Where was he going? How was he reduced to his present situation? What destination could be worth the effort of collecting small change from complete strangers in a parking lot, in the rain?

    Frankly, I don't care to speculate about most of those questions, but in my mind, I have the answer to the last one. I can think of only one place worth such trouble, worth swallowing one's pride for. He must be going Home.

    The Prodigal Son Returns
    by Soichi Watanabe

    And the son said... ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    To Everything There is a Season

    In the past, I have been described as being "more dude-like than most dudes." I'm not sure what that means exactly because I'm not into sports or cars or anything loud/greasy. On the other hand, I do lack a certain amount of sentimentality. In fact, if there were an award for being unsentimental, I might win it. Also, I tend to be coldly logical in a way that a Vulcan could appreciate. That's why I have trouble understanding what happened this morning.

    For reasons that defy any rational explanation, I've been unable to pack up the baby's outgrown clothes for charity. At first, I tried to convince myself that I was saving them in order to make a quilt out of my favorite dresses. It wasn't true, of course. Many of the outfits in there had fabric unsuitable for quilting. A few were so stained, I'd have to do some very creative cutting to use them. But I couldn't find it in my heart to let them go, so for a year, the pile of outgrown clothes has been growing to very unsteady heights.

    Finally, this morning, I admitted to myself that I wasn't going to recycle any of the clothes. I couldn't bear to cut into those tiny skirts and ruffles. But there were some super sweet outfits, many of them worn only once or twice. It would be a shame if nobody used them, so I started bagging them for charity.

    I don't know what happened, but something inside me snapped. I just started weeping and sobbing. I don't know why. I never had this trouble giving up the boys' clothing -- or anything else -- for that matter. Have any of you moms out there experienced this? Or am I just being weird and hormonal?

    I confess that I kept a couple of outfits -- Babystyle's coming home outfit and a dress she wore on her first Christmas. Even so, looking -- even thinking about those bags of clothes makes me cry. Even now, I'm resisting the urge to go upstairs and rescue a few more cherry-printed frocks.

    God must have known that I could take only so much, because shortly after I was done packing, the postman delivered a package. We love hiking when the weather is nice, and the baby backpack carrier I ordered last week had arrived. The delivery created an exciting diversion for Baby Walkabout and me. We had a great time adjusting the straps and giving it a test run all over the house.

    Yes, Juicy Turkey Baby's first year is almost over (sniffle), but there are good times ahead, too.

    Bubbles, One Week Old
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