Practical Hospitality: How Clean is Clean Enough?

Let’s talk housekeeping. Not ordinary housekeeping. Not “Do the Laundry on Wednesday and Clean the Bathrooms on Fridays” housekeeping. But, rather, “Friends are Coming Over Tonight, and We Need to Get the House Ready” housekeeping. What exactly, in that scenario does “get the house ready” mean?

This is an important question, because how you answer it determines: 1) How free you feel to have people over; and 2) How crazy you make yourself and everyone in your household prior to your guests’ arrival.

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Two Years Later: A Before and After

Two years ago today, demo began on our house. You can read about it here. At the time, in my naïve, foolish, little head, I had visions of us speedily and efficiently transforming this house into a home in a little over six months. Just like you see on TV. Oh, sweet innocence of youth.

Three general contractors, mountains of debt, anxiety attacks on the regular, and about 600 martinis later, I’m still making my peace with our decision to buy and renovate this house. Our little guy is helping, though, and the more we fill this place with memories of him, the more peaceful I’m starting to feel about it all.

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One Year Later: An Update…Of Sorts

If there were a contest for laziest Catholic blogger, I’m pretty sure I’d win. It’s been so, so long since my last update, and so, so much has happened, that I’m at a bit of a loss about where to begin.

Probably the best place is with a word of thanks to all of you who offered such kind words of consolation after I wrote about our struggle with infertility and who have been praying for us ever since. At first, I tried so hard to thank everyone individually, but eventually I just got too overwhelmed, by the sheer volume of comments and messages and by life in general, which, if it’s been anything this past year, has indeed been overwhelming.

As some of you know, I’m currently under contract with Emmaus Road to write a book about the house renovations (working title is Don’t Paint the Subway Tile! Lessons in Love, Sin, Gin, and Grace from a Real-Life Fixer Upper). I’ll be starting on it in just a couple weeks, so thoughts about what I want to say are filling up my head. I have lots of those thoughts, but so few are what I had in mind when I originally came up with the book.

Don’t worry, though; the gin recipes haven’t gone anywhere. They’ll still play a supporting role in the book…even a starring role in some parts.

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Renovation Lessons: God is God, I am not.

Greetings from the land of dust, fumes, and noise. It’s been a while. I know. I’m sorry. It’s been a rough few months, though, filled with delays, setbacks, and unexpected problems (and lots of writing to pay for those unexpected problems). I haven’t blogged about it all because I figured you people have better things to do than listen to me whine. Today, though, in celebration of our mantles and bookcases getting installed and the picture rail going up, I thought I would do some whining with a theological point (and a few progress pictures, thrown in for good measure).

For starters: The Mantles (still in need of finishing trim, but in place at long last).

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Dining In the Time of Dry Wall Dust

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. If, however, you want to make Him do more than laugh, if you want to make Him double over and fall down on the floor in stitches, write a book.

In it, be wise. So very wise. Combine the writings of the saints and Scripture with practical examples and tips from your own life about how you personally Do The Wise Thing.

Admit, ever so humbly, that you don’t always follow your own advice. But give the advice just the same.

Before the book is even off the presses, God will be in hysterics. And you will find yourself nearly incapable of following a single word of your own advice.

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Day Drinking In the Rubble

Living through a major renovation teaches you all sorts of things about yourself.

For example, spending day after day, working and planning, eating and drinking, talking and resting in the same shadowy 450 square foot space, unable to invite anyone over for dinner or even a drink, has taught me that I would make the world’s most crashingly awful hermit. If I tried really, really hard, I might last three days—three dreary, miserable days that would inevitably end with me being kicked out of the hermit club, and all the other hermits cheering with glee since I’d spent those three days repeatedly breaking out of my hermitage and sneaking into theirs because I wanted a chat…and variety…and space.

Self-knowledge: I am a women who needs lebensraum. The lack of it makes me a little tick-tick.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone to keep you company in a bombed out, post-apocalyptic shell of a building, I am your girl.

Despite my love for beauty, order, and floors that don’t have 4’ x 8’ holes in them, I have discovered that I have a surprisingly high tolerance level for filth…and rubble…and 4’ x 8’ holes.

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The House: Week 1 (Part Deux)

Welcome back!. Today, we’re continuing the tour upstairs. Yesterday, for those of you just joining us, we covered the downstairs. I hope, after seeing that, you got offline and thanked God that you live in a home without bathtubs on the back porch. To us, that is the stuff of which dreams are made.

Although (drum roll)……Demo has finally begun! Yay!!!! Our wonderful contractor’s schedule finally allowed him to turn his attention to this project, and as I write, men are banging away downstairs. I couldn’t be more pleased with all the dust and noise. I’m sure that will change, but right now, as far as I’m concerned, the more destruction happening below, the better. A contained dynamite blast would be best of all.

Once it’s safe to take pictures down there, I will. But, for now, let’s go upstairs. As you’ll see, I’ve put zero effort into staging the rooms. My apologies.

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Leaving Home

I hosted the first party in my Steubenville home on January 2, 2005. I’d only closed on the house a few hours before, but that didn’t stop me from calling up a half-dozen friends and inviting them to join me for dinner. We ordered Chinese, laid out a blanket on the floor of the empty living room, and ate off paper plates. It was a glorious evening.

I hosted my last party in my Steubenville home this past Friday night. There were too many of us to sit around the table, so we ate in the living room this time too. Only, there’s furniture there now. Life has gotten more comfortable over the past 12 years. The food has gotten better too. For the occasion (introducing my home’s soon-to-be-new-owners to some of my closest friends), I cooked one of my fanciest and easiest pasta dishes. Guests sipped martinis, and we all ate off my pretty English china. It also was a glorious evening, albeit with a touch of melancholy.

Looking Back

Twelve years ago, when we ate Chinese on the living room floor, there was the promise of more parties to come. On Friday, the promise was gone. In its place, however, was gratitude for parties past.

There was gratitude for Thursday Night Dinners—my once weekly dinner parties where children ran wild through the house and dozens of grown-ups found seats wherever there they could—sofas and chairs, basement floors, front porch railings, and garden beds.

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