The Lost Art of the RSVP

With the holidays upon us, I have had occasion to experience anew a baffling and troubling habit of our society.  I am calling it the “lost art of the RSVP.”

Let’s set the scene.  A mom of several children decides to host a Christmas party for the other moms and kids they know.  She enjoys parties and isn’t doing it out of a sense of obligation or pressure.  She creates and hands out printed invitations for a weekday afternoon, a time likely to be less busy than a night or weekend.  Then she plans a menu, simple food but with lots of kids you have to make plenty.  She prepares a few activities to keep the kids busy, and of course, spends hours cleaning her house.

She puts an RSVP date on the invitation, but as that date draws near, she has only heard from two or three women.  At least one of those says “maybe.”  Eventually, she starts texting the other invites, asking if they are coming.  “We’ll try” is the most common response, followed by no response at all.  A couple of people explain their families long list of foods they don’t eat, starting with refined sugar, and suggest they can’t come unless you have gluten free/paleo/vegetarian options.  After several days of cleaning, baking and preparing for this party, with her kids excited too, the day arrives.

One person is on time.  Two more are late.  The rest, who said “probably” or “maybe” or even “yes”, don’t show up.  They don’t text that day or anytime afterwards.  Later, the hostess might find out they were shopping, or at the park.  While it was nice to have those few guests over, it was hardly the party she spent so much time, energy and even money, planning.  It was just a glorified play date, with lots of left-over food.  Not to mention all the special foods she prepared for those with special requests, several of whom didn’t show up anyway.

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Inviting a person to one’s home should be an occasion for generous and joyful hospitality and fellowship, an enjoyable holiday experience to bless one’s friends, where we request the pleasure of another’s company.  Instead, inviting others to our home has become an “option if nothing better comes along,” an occasion where attending becomes a favor to the hostess.  Often she must pursue the guests for responses, and almost beg some to come so that there’s more than one person coming, so that all her hard work and generosity will be worth it.  All this, because she wishes to bless those around her.

What has happened to the beauty of hospitality?  Why is it that opening our home to others, instead of being met with gratitude, has become on occasion for neglect, rudeness, thoughtlessness, and downright rejection?  Why are we so unwilling to respond politely and to commit wholeheartedly, and instead hold out for something better?  Why are people too busy to enjoy each other’s presence, but instead prioritize only themselves, or default to whatever requires little effort?

These situations happen all throughout the year, and have become so common that they are made light of.  What used to be common courtesy has apparently become an extraordinary act of virtue, which few seem to practice.  But why does this happen?  All the time, I hear people, especially moms, complain that they are lonely, isolated, friendless.  Yet when offered hospitality and friendship, they don’t have time for it.  Many don’t even have time politely decline.

In our modern age, when répondez s’il vous plaît requires no more than a quick text message, why do so few extend this common courtesy to others?  Everyone’s lives are “so busy,” and people are quick to complain when they are not “treated well,” but where is the respect for other’s time and feelings?  Sadly, this lack of manners and kindness cannot be blamed on secular culture, as everyone I know who has done this to me has been a Christian.

This Advent and Christmas season, let’s try to practice the “art of the RSVP.”  Let us see invitations for what they are: an act of generous hospitality on the part of another.  Let’s try to respond promptly and politely, either yes or no, not maybe.  Let our yes be a commitment (barring sickness, etc.), and let us do our best to arrive on time to events.  If you feel lonely or isolated, take advantage of opportunities for fellowship!  Be open to friendship and then cultivate those relationships that attract you.  Reciprocate hospitality.

Finally (I say this for myself more than anyone) let us have the courage to continue offering, to continuing being vulnerable and opening our hearts and home for hospitality.  Each of us has much to give, but in the giving we leave ourselves open for rejection and pain.  So let’s pray for the grace to keep trying, to keep seeking until we find others who wish to build a community based on courtesy, generosity, and gratitude.

Matthew 22:1- 10 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 

 

 

Everyday Gratitude: wk. 5

 “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”    Job 1:21

  • Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of four daughters.  I bless your name, as we returned to Philadelphia last week, to visit the grave of my firstborn, Mary Catherine.  I thank you for the precious gift of her life, of the witness we provided that the life of a tiny baby has infinite value and worth.  I thank you for the amazing and unknown nurse who baptized her in the OR, when I was under anesthesia and Bobby wasn’t allowed in.  I thank you for her beatitude in Heaven.  I thank you for sustaining me through the early months of grief, and for blessing us with more children.  Amen.
  • Lord, I thank you for the chance to rest after a long week, when all the girls rested and let me rest on Friday afternoon.
  • I am thankful for time in the car to talk with and listen to Gracie.  I love hearing her “read” a story to her sisters (she knows The Very Hungry Caterpillar and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by heart).  She makes up silly, sometimes elaborate, stories, then tells me she’s just kidding!   Like her dad, you never know what ridiculous things she’ll come up with next.
  • I am thankful for Cecilia’s sweet and infectious baby laugh.  She laughs a lot, because everything amuses her.  She is definitely my happiest, most fun baby yet!
  • I am thankful for Theresa’s snuggliness early in the morning.  Generally, she is independent and busy, but in the morning, and occasionally throughout the day, she gets affectionate and acts so very sweet.
  • I am grateful for a special day with my husband on Saturday, as we attended a diocesan workshop for couples on Prayer and Communication.  The talks and insights where very interesting, inspiring, challenging, and a few times, profound.
  • I am grateful for my parents now living close enough to come spend the day with the kids on short notice, for continuing, beautiful warm weather, and sunny days.
  • I am grateful for the chance to go apple picking with friends, and begin making all things apple!
  • I am grateful for good books to read, making time for reading to myself, and to the girls, and for the opportunity to teach Gracie to read.
  • Finally, I thank you Lord for the challenges, tension, waiting, and change of my life right now; through this time, please help me hear and discern Your will.  Amen.

Everyday Gratitude: wk. 4

“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God,
and in all things give Him thanks.”
 St. Teresa of Avila

  • After the first day of school went so well last Monday, the rest of the week was challenging.  Cecilia didn’t nap as well on Tuesday, but school still went fairly well.  Then the rest of the week I got sicker, as the kids (thankfully) felt better, so we didn’t do much else in the afternoons, after our morning activities.
  • I am very thankful for the new activities and friends we’re making, to get out of the house and have new experiences.
  • I am thankful that the lawn in finally mowed; the tall grass I had to call someone, but Bobby finished the back yard.
  • I am thankful Saturday was a productive and busy day, and Sunday we relaxed and visited one of the local Civil War battlefields and cemeteries.
  • I am thankful for the lovely fall weather, a few nice walks, and our quiet little neighborhood.
  • I am thankful the first week of school is over, and it went relatively well, and I have more confidence now that I can homeschool smoothly.
  • I am thankful for cold medicine and for finally feeling better.
  • I am thankful for my husband and my beautiful daughters.
  • I am thankful that all the people I know personally in Florida are safe after Hurricane Irma, and I pray for all those adversely affected by these hurricanes.
  • I am having trouble discerning the “providence and wisdom of God” in several matters lately, especially bills and my lack of a job, but still trying to persevere and “give Him thanks.”
  • And I would also be very thankful for any prayers of others this week, as we remember our first born, Mary Catherine, and visit her grave tomorrow.

JEI: Mom Self-Care…or Wait, I’m suppose to take care of myself?

1. What is your mom beverage of choice?

I love cocktails. Rum and coke, Irish cream or coffee liquor and Scarlett O’Hares (Southern Comfort and cranberry juice) are my favorites. 

But for everyday, I’ve become a coffe drinker from necessity, although I love tea in winter. And I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. 

I use mason jars outside because they are safer!

2. What do you do to relax?

Ummm.  Honestly, it doesn’t happen often. But I like to read, I’ve been coloring more, (LOVE the free coloring pages from Nancy at Do Small Things with Love!), baking (relaxing for me but bad for my waistline), and scrolling Instagram (I find it much better than Facebook, because my feed is filled with babies and beautiful pictures, instead of political memes.)  
3. When was the last time you got away with girlfriends or alone (and the grocery store does NOT count)?

Last Thursday! Drinks and dessert with a girlfriend. My baby is six months now, so I can get out by myself again. 

JEI: Chores…or Things that don’t really get done around here. 

1. What chore should you be doing now instead of answering this question?

I’m currently nursing the baby, so technically I shouldn’t be doing a chore anyway. But once I lay her down, I should be doing laundry and dishes. 

Who needs to do chores when there’s cute babies to play with?!


2. Do your kids have chores? If yes, what’s your chore system?

Nothing regular enough for a system, although I’d like to create a chore chart this fall. Right now, they pick up toys under my supervision, they love to “sweep” zand my almost five years old pits her dirty dishes in the sink. 

My Cinderella

3. If someone gifted you a housekeeping service, would you use it?

Absolutely!  I might save it for pregnancy, but I would LOVE a housekeeping service, especially for the bathrooms and dusting. 

Mother’s Day Moments

photo(11)Before Mother’s Day this year, I was trying to remember what we’ve done the last few years on Mother’s Day.  Neither Bobby or I could remember…  So, I’m capturing the moments this year, to look back on, because it was a lovely day.   The weather was warm and sunny, and the fields, mountains and yard are lush and green, with columbine and dogwoods blooming.  My mom had been staying with us for two weeks, while recovering from foot surgery, and my dad was here this weekend, to bring her home on Monday.  We all attended Mass at Christendom, and then came home to a yummy Mexican brunch, courtesy of my dad.  It was even a quiet, adults only meal, as both the girls napped well this afternoon.  I tried to nap too, but just rested a little while, then went outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.

My mom and I relaxed by the “pool” (baby pool) with drinks and our books, while the girls played in the pphoto(14)ool, grass and play set.  Theresa loves splashing in the water, and also climbing up the slide and then sliding down backwards.  Gracie ran all around the yard, kicking the ball with Boppa, and playing with our baby chicks.  We had talked about going somewhere for a picnic this afternoon, but in the end just picnicked in our backyard.  After all, the view from the backyard is better than most places we could go.  Bobby made dinner; pulled pork sandwiches and coleslaw and potato salad from the store.

Later, after the girls went to bed, we prayed a Rosary and chatted with Mom and Dad.  It was a cozy, blessed day.  Time with those I love; my own mother, and the girls who make me a mom.  My dad and husband worked hard to make it a relaxing, special day.  Thank you, Lord.

For the Love(s) of a Mom

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*Note: I wrote this post for a contest on another blog.  The good (or bad) thing about the internet is that although it was not chosen for that blog, I can post it myself!  Anyway, I thought it was a good start for my own blog, where I expect to write only occasionally.

My driveway is lined with Burberry Pear trees, which don’t bear fruit but do produce the most amazing display of snowy white blossoms every spring, resulting in our own “White Way of Delight.” The trees are blooming now, with green and pink dogwoods also putting forth flowers among them. As I walked beneath them with my daughter, enjoying the warm sun, soft breeze and beauty of spring, I think of how blessed I am to be surrounded by people and things that I love. It’s so easy to get caught up in the messes, and chores and responsibilities that occupy much of a mom’s time. But seeing and appreciating the beauty and the blessings are necessary for me to love being a mom.

I love my two beautiful daughters. I love seeing the wonder and excitement as they discover new things, and enjoy new experiences. The smallest objects can fascinate them, like a worm or a puddle, or a weed. Children notice the little things in life, and as a mom, I would do well to observe these little miracles with them.

I love the view from my home. It’s so easy to focus on a screen, or on the messes and chores indoors that are endless. I have found it so important to get outside, or at least look outside, and soak in the beauty that surrounds me. I am incredibly lucky to view the Shenandoah mountains and hills spreading out in every direction from my backyard. But even if it’s just a single tree in the front yard, or a little bed or pot of brightly colored flowers, I think every home can have beauty out the windows. And birds and squirrels are generally everywhere. Stopping to watch them can be a fun distraction, and often I see more birds than I recognize, when I look out my windows.

I love to bake. Making something that nourishes our bodies also nourishes my soul, as I find stress relief and relaxation in baking even a simple loaf of bread or a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And when I’m really stressed, and I’m inclined to bake far more goodies than are good for us to consume, I can just share them with someone else. There are always families with new babies to cook for, or older people to visit or just friends to share with. Giving something I’ve made myself always feels like such a wonderful act of love, and everyone always needs good food to eat!

I love when my family is all together, myself, my husband, my girls, and we’re hiking or playing or gardening or reading together. I find myself in frequent awe of how much laughter and amusement children bring to life. I think how quiet and boring life was before I was a mom, and I wouldn’t go back to that for anything. But it’s hard, and sometimes I find it very important to put into words why I love motherhood, to remind me on the difficult days that this life, this beautiful, crazy life, filled with laughter and tears, noisy kisses and lots of hugs, has filled my heart with more love than I have ever felt before.

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