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When I talk about invitation, I tend to focus primarily on the responsibilities of the person doing the inviting. The reason for this is that they tend to have most of the power in this conversation, so they have most of the responsibility.

There are other people in this conversation, though, and they also bear some responsibility. Like all relationships, the host-invitee relationship is two-sided.

Today we are focusing on what it means to show respect as the person invited.

It basically boils down to two things:

  1. Respond.
  2. Having responded, be true to your word.

Regarding response –

RSVP. Do it. Yes or no. It’s just not hard. Here’s the process:

  1. You receive an invitation. Congratulations! Someone wants you around for something!
  2. You answer the question – “Do I want to attend?” Be honest. If your answer is “meh” or some deep-seated feeling of dread, go ahead and say no unless it will ruin this relationship to do so (and you also care whether or not you ruin the relationship). If you are already feeling wishy-washy in what is probably that first, most-enthusiastic-you-are-ever-going-to-be-about-it moment, go ahead and decline so that you are not tempted to back out later (i.e., flake – see below).
  3. You answer the question – “Am I able to attend?” Pull out the calendar (and the budget, if necessary), and see if you are available. All the desire to attend in the world is moot if you cannot feasibly make it happen. For example, I might really want to go to my friend’s baby shower in Seattle, but I probably cannot afford the airfare. Or I have a wedding that same weekend in Dallas. So the answer (sadly) is that I must decline.
  4. Answer yes or no. I know that Facebook provides a maybe option. And I confess that I have been guilty of using it. But from the host’s perspective, maybe is a useless answer. That tells them nothing. You have basically said, “I see your request for a response, and I am intentionally not responding in any helpful way.” If the answer really is maybe – i.e., you have to check on something and get back to them – it’s probably better to leave it blank until you can confirm a real answer. Please do so as quickly as possible.

It really is that simple. Yes or no. Make your choice, and the earlier you can make it (so that they’re not having to scramble to go to the store when you suddenly say yes the day before), the better.

After you have made your choice, stick to it. We have all been on the receiving end of a flaky friend, so we all know how much that experience sucks. Respecting the host means trying not to be the cause of that experience.

First, let me be clear on what flaking is not.

It is not flaking to call and say, “I have to cancel. I’m sick.” This is presuming, of course, that you are actually sick. Otherwise, not only are you flaking, you are also lying. You’re flyking, which is the worst possible way to flake.

It is not flaking to text and say, “I have to cancel. ______ is throwing up blood, so we’re going to the ER.” That is an emergency. Please skip my dinner party to take care of that. Also, when you get a chance, text to give me updates, because I’m a worrier. Also, don’t text and drive [/end PSA].

Depending on the event, I would even go so far as to say that it is not flaking to OCCASIONALLY say “I am sorry. I had the worst day at work today, and I cannot be around other people one second longer.” Because there are some people who insist on rigidly sticking to a schedule, even though they come into it knowing that they will have a terrible time, and these people often ruin the good time others could be having with their obvious sullenness. Don’t be that person. You get a pass. Go have a nap or a beer with your TV.

You do not, however, get a pass every week. Frequent flaking inevitably sends a negative message. The message might differ slightly depending on various factors (e.g., type of relationship, length of relationship, etc.), but it ends up sounding something like, “You are not important to me, and I do not respect your time.”

[Aside – frequent declining might also give this impression. If you want to avoid that, but you really cannot fit their specific plan into your schedule, propose a counter offer. Pick another time to hang out so that they know that, while you can’t make their specific event, they are still important to you.]

Basically, the encouragement to not be a flake comes down to respecting your host and respecting yourself. Decide who you want in your life and behave accordingly. If you are making plans out of obligation rather than desire, please reassess your decision to do so. Contrary to popular belief, it is not nicer to string someone along, making and canceling plans with them until they magically pick up on the hint that you really don’t like spending time with them. Some people will never get that message, and the ones that do will resent you for it, because in the long run, it’s really a jerk move. It’s better to make a clean break, even though it might not feel better at the time.


What tips would you give to the person on the receiving end of an invitation?

Today’s (and next week’s) installment of my Invitation to the Table series is a sneak peak at the Feast e-book (coming…eventually…to an e-reader merchant near you). For the next two weeks, we are going to talk about respect, because it’s not always just about whether you are invited or not.  Sometimes, it’s how you’re invited that counts.

Today, I am going to discuss how to be respectful as the person doing the inviting.

The behaviors that constitute respect can differ from person to person. What I consider respectful of my time (i.e., give me adequate notice) might not be as important or even feasible with someone who likes to be more spontaneous. So even with the following guidelines, keep in mind that you might have to adjust your tactics for the individuals involved. Invitation should be as much – if not more – about the invitee as it is about the inviter.

Showing respect to your guests is threefold:

  1. Respecting their time
  2. Respecting their needs
  3. Respecting their decision

First, let’s talk about time. People are busy. We may not like that we are busy, but the fact remains that we are. So the first part of respect is trying not to stress the guests out any more than their life already does by waiting too late to invite them. You don’t have to give people six weeks notice to have them over for dinner, but three days might be nice. Having a party? Send out the original invitation a month in advance. You can send a reminder the week of the party if you think people might have forgotten, but respect their time enough to give them a chance to plan ahead if they need to do so.

Another aspect of respecting people’s time is fighting the urge to talk it to death. I know it’s tempting to post every detail of the planning process on Facebook and Instagram feeds. And people will click “like” and encourage you when you do this.

But I’m going to go ahead and say what a lot of them are thinking, even as they click – there are such things as too much information and too many questions.

I appreciate one or two reminders. I appreciate directions to the event and generally knowing what to expect and specifically knowing what I should bring. I do not appreciate (read: I despise) ten thousand pictures or “Aren’t you excited?!?!” queries or ten reminders (seriously – who is that forgetful? And if they are, do they not have a calendar in their phone that could remind them and save the rest of us the pain?). The extent to which you badger me about your party is inversely proportional to my ultimate desire to attend.

Next – what are their needs? This isn’t always an easy question to answer, because a party’s existence is probably a result of the planner’s own needs. You have something to celebrate. You are launching a new business, and the kickoff needs to build your clientele. You haven’t seen them in a while, and you miss them. There’s nothing wrong with any of these motivations.

But what about your guests?

Celebrating a birthday or new baby or new marriage are usually incentive enough for friends and family to attend, particularly since these events traditionally involve cake. But if you are having a destination wedding, maybe keep in mind that some of your guests may have to choose between attending your wedding and buying appropriate clothes to wear to it, and getting you that fancy blender on your registry. No matter what they decide, remember to be gracious.

If you are having them over for dinner, what would they like to eat? Are they allergic to anything? Do they have special dietary needs? Do they recognize pot pie as the abomination that it is and would have a hard time being nice about it if you inexplicably chose to serve it?

If you are launching a business, how will that business serve them? I have been a direct sales consultant and have attended enough direct sales launch parties to last a lifetime. Your friends may be excited for you, but unless you are prepared to be satisfied with their one-time attendance and a token purchase, you need to make it all about them. And the truth is that your friends who don’t cook probably will not ever host a Pampered Chef party. Accept this, and again – be gracious.

Last, listen to their answer (or lack thereof).  Some people will RSVP with a “yes” right away. There are a myriad of other answers you may get, though. Learn to pay attention to them.

Most people will either not RSVP at all (I have feelings about this – tune in next week) or will RSVP “maybe.” Correct interpretation of these (non)replies can vary greatly. If it’s for dinner or something I obviously need a head count to plan for – I assume no if there’s no reply.  I will follow up with the aforementioned reminders, but I will fight the urge to overdo it just to force an answer. For a casual party where one more (or one fewer) attendee won’t make much of a difference, I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing it, but I still don’t expect to see them at the party. That way, I am not disappointed if they don’t show up and pleasantly surprised if they do, making it easy for me to treat them respectfully either way.

Some people will RSVP with a “no.” Take this as a definite decline. Do not try to talk them into it. Do not harass them by demanding that they tell you why. Their true answer might be that they just don’t want to because that fills up the one free night they have that month, but they may feel obligated to make up an excuse because you have pressed them for a reason. Awkward.


These general concepts translate to other types of invitations as well. If you are inviting someone to share their voice or be part of a process, you still need to respect their time, their needs, and their decision.

Are you giving them ample time to prepare their thoughts and make their decision, or did you spring it on them? Giving people plenty of time to decide (not to mention arrange their own busy schedule, secure childcare, familiarize themselves with the event and other participants in the event, etc.) is imperative if you want them to know that they are on your first-choice guest list.

What’s in it for them? Pay attention to the impression you are making. Are they invited because you value what they have to say, or are they just invited to serve your agenda? If the former, what specific things are you doing to communicate that it’s their voice you want, even (or better yet – especially) if it is a dissenting one. If the latter, reconsider your priorities. People are not props, and it’s disrespectful to use them as such.

And finally, respect their decision. Your platform/event/blog series/committee might be enriched by their voice in a way that no one else could do it. You might think they are the perfect person to join. But you don’t get to make their life decisions. Just because the match seems perfect on your end, that doesn’t automatically mean that it works for them on their end. They may decline because they have a prior engagement. They may decline because they have said yes to so many other things, and they know how to set healthy boundaries for themselves. They may decline because they don’t think it’s a good match and they just don’t want to do it. Their reason is not your concern (or your business); their answer is. Hear it; believe it; respect it.

What are some ways you have been respected (or disrespected) by someone who extended you an invitation?

I woke up this morning feeling like I was in a nest. And not in that nice, cozy, baby bird sort of way.

I woke up in the midst of piles.

My whole apartment is a collection of piles. I have a pile of books on my nightstand. A pile of laundry waiting to go into the washer. A pile of clean towels waiting to be folded. A pile of boxes ready to be recycled. I’m very organized, if you choose to view my piles as a filing system.

I do not choose to view them that way. They’re overwhelming and they inspire me to feel like I need to run away, which is unfortunate since home is the place I really want to be most of the time.

A lot of friends are doing 100 Days of Making/Seeing/Doing on Instagram. I like doing things like that. It’s creative and helps create or strengthen a particular habit. I really want to do it, but my muscles get tense just thinking about it. It’s not just because my creative energy is focused on finishing Feast (1,000 words a day until it’s done. It’s so close I can taste it.), or because I’m doing the April Love challenge (because really – how much time does that take?). It’s mostly because the things that I can think to create would just create more piles. And no.  Just no.

Because I could do 100 days of art journal (because seriously – so many plans, so few completed pages), or I could deal with the pile of supplies that are taking up the space where the art journal table is going to go. And I could do 100 days of knitting squares that I would then thread together to make a cute throw, or I could organize the yarn so that when I do make it, it goes more smoothly.

What I really need to do right now is 100 days of de-piling and de-crapifying the apartment. The thing I need to create right now is space.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m starting today and spending each of the next 100 days taking something OUT of the apartment. And on days when I bring something into the apartment, I will take an extra thing out, because otherwise, I’m just exchanging old stuff for new. That doesn’t undo the piles; it just makes them look different.

I expect that it might look worse before it gets better. I also expect that all days will not be equal.Some days, the most I will be able to accomplish is taking out the trash. And some days, I might have pile build-up in my car, because I’m not making twenty trips to the donation place a month. But it counts.

I haven’t decided exactly how to document it. I don’t think it’s going to be on Instagram, because even if there is some odd duck out there who wants to see 100 days of “here’s the 78th pile of my stuff in a row,” I am certain that I don’t want my profile page to be a lot of bags and boxes. I might post the occasional spectacular purge. I might do a weekly update here. We’ll see.

There is more than one way to love a body.

“Love your body! Strip away the things that hide you! Be proud of how you look!” The woman behind the table on the campus lawn can’t hide her disappointment when I take her flier, thank her for what they’re doing, and then walk away, still fully covered from neck to foot. “Your body is beautiful – you don’t have to be ashamed,” she yells as I walk away.

That’s true. Thank you, random stranger, for the compliment (and the reminder).

But my skin is the color of almond milk, and it is sensitive to chemicals. So I can expose it to the sun during my twenty-minute trek across campus to prove to you that I love it. I would probably enjoy the feeling of the sun and the warm wind…for about ten minutes. Then I would burn. First my shoulders, then my arms, then my legs. I cover them because it’s hard to find a sunscreen that doesn’t break me out (at least one that doesn’t cost a kajillion dollars an ounce – that, I save for my face). I love my body, so I protect it.

Sometimes, body love looks like covering up.

“Do you want a brownie? Come on – you know you do!” The resident waves his hand over the plate he’s holding, causing the amazing smell to waft in my direction. It’s the week before Christmas, and he has been practicing. He wiggles his eyebrows, clearly proud of his baking skills.

They smell delicious. I kinda do want a brownie.

But I remember that I am having dinner with a friend this evening, and that about an hour after I eat that brownie, I will feel sluggish and get a great big dose of the physical don’t-wannas. It only takes a few moments of reflection on how feeling that way will make me want to cancel my dinner plans and take a nap instead. So I say, “No, thank you. They smell fantastic, though. Good job!”

Sometimes, body love looks like saying no to things we want.

“Are you sure you want to wear that? It’s a little…sheer. Don’t you want to dress more modestly?” We are getting ready to go out, and it’s the first time she’s been to the club with me. She is nervous, but she doesn’t want to say so. It’s interesting how insecurities come out.

I know she’s anxious and that this comment isn’t really about me, so I swallow the lecture on how modesty is not a measure of how much skin I’m showing. I look in the mirror, and I like what I see. It’s the end of summer, and I can see the definition in my arms that inevitably happens after three months of lifting toddlers full-time. And this is the only shirt that is clean that shows off the tiny coffee cup that my friend drew on my shoulder earlier that day. And I look adorable. So I decide that context matters. Intention matters. I reply, “It’s fine for the club. But you don’t have to go sheer. You wear what makes you comfortable.”

Sometimes, body love looks like showing it off a little.

“Where do you want to go for our one-on-one?” It’s Friday, and it’s been a hard week. It’s balancing two jobs and having fever and the world is discriminatory and awful and oh, by the way – Jesus is dying today.

So I recognize that my mood is not about food. Not really.

But kinda.

The cereal I had for breakfast was filling, but the salad I picked at for lunch was lackluster and unsubstantial. Why did I even bring lunch to work with me, especially one that I knew would be so disappointing? I know my body and its needs, and I knew the sad salad would not satisfy any of them. I am as hangry as I was before I ate it. It doesn’t help that I have a great supper – a veggie frittata on a bed of baby spring greens – planned for tonight, the very thought of which is making me salivate as I type this.

So where do I want to go? Hypnotic. Comfort food, right next to Cultivar’s really good coffee.

Chicken biscuit, get in my belly.

Is this the healthiest choice I could possibly make? No. Will it feed my soul and brighten my day and help me avoid the inevitable food coma that the huge donut I really want to eat would cause? Yes. And fried chicken is good funeral food, so while it seems silly to type that, it seems an appropriate meal for Good Friday.

Sometimes, body love looks like the occasional indulgence.

I’m reading Embracing the Body by Tara M. Owens, and what has captured me so far are the stories of Jesus and the ways he used his body to comfort, heal, protect, and nourish. He used his body, and it didn’t mean the same things his culture thought it did. He touched people (and allowed them to touch him) in ways that were deemed inappropriate. He accepted kindness from and dined with people he wasn’t supposed to be seen with. He loved righteously and physically. He loved as God incarnate. He loved as God with us.

Sometimes, love looks different than we expect.

There is more than one way to love.

I am linking up at Tara’s blog with others talking about their embodied experiences during Holy Week. There’s some good stuff over there. Come and see. 

[Public Service Announcement: This might get rambly, but it’s spring. So really?  I’m happy if it makes any sense at all.]

I am participating in Susannah Conway’s April Love challenge on Instagram (and also probably a little here, too).  Because I need it.

aprilllovetheme2

I need April love.

It’s hard for me to see beauty in the spring. Not because it’s not there. It’s everywhere. It is literally blooming all around me. Joy and the promise of peaches (which – let’s face it – are pretty much the same thing as joy) are abundant.

But spring is my dark season. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in springs gone by. It’s a season of mourning for me. But it’s also Easter, which is celebration. And it’s the busiest time of the year at work, so there’s no time for wallowing. There’s this constant battle of melancholy that I have to repress just to function.

[And I know that I’m lucky to still have the ability to push through and function.  Some people don’t have that luxury. Some people require medication and loads of professional help and still have it a lot worse than I do. So I’m grateful, too. It’s a confusing, mixed bag.]

Also? I’m pretty sure that every year, Spring tries to kill me.

The following picture perfectly captures my relationship with the natural world during spring:

photo (29)

Notice that it’s a little blurry.This is what the process of taking this picture was like:

Me: Oh, almond blossoms! How pretty you are! Let me get a…

Gust of wind and dust: Nope. *blows suddenly up my nose*

Me: *sneeze* *cough* Just.  One.  Picture…Please!

Wind: *BLOW* Behold my mightiness. Oh, hey there, pollen! Long time no see!

Pollen: Hello, my old friend. I hear you have a job for me!

Wind: All in her face. Up her nose and in her eyes, if possible. Really get in there.

Pollen: I’m on it! *flies in my face*

Me: Come on, wind.  Could you stop blowing dust and pollen on me for one minute. I just want to take one… *leans closer to almond tree*

Wind, Pollen, Dust, possibly the Apocalypse: She’s getting too close!! She might start enjoying it!! Make it hit her in the face, team! *swarm* *attack*

Me: DAMMIT! WHY ARE THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS TRYING TO KILL ME?! WHY?!?!!

I know – complaining about the weather is not super productive. It’s the adult version of a temper tantrum. It’s not like the wind, pollen, and dirt are going to hear me and say, “Oh, that’s an excellent point you make. Our bad. We’ll go away now.” Complaining changes nothing, other than possibly making me a less pleasant person to be around.

[And for those of you spring lovers who are feeling high and mighty right now, feel free to replace “wind, pollen, and dirt” with “snow” or “ice” or “cold” or “cloudy skies” or “rain” or “heat” or “swarms of bugs” or whatever one could possibly find to hate about fall. You may have good reasons for feeling how you do (as do I), but you are not innocent in this. Don’t even try to pretend that you are.]

In recent years, I’ve become a proponent of temper tantrums. If I could whisper that, I would. It seems scandalous to say. I was never allowed to throw them as a child. My mother would not approve.

And I get that. Temper tantrums are embarrassing. They are socially awkward. They’re demanding. They halt everything within earshot. They pretty much put conversations and lives on hold until they’re over. They’re selfish – an attribute so maligned that we go to great lengths to deny the reality that we just…are. And temper tantrums tend to reveal – not conceal – that reality.

They’re also honest, and that’s healthy. I mean, if tantrum is your constant state of expression, maybe see a professional who can help you talk it out or assess whether your chemicals have gone awry, because that level of frequency might be indicative of super high stress levels which, over time, are not healthy. But to be alive and awake and active in this world is to be periodically pissed off by something or someone in it. Whether you are two or seventy-two, I wish you the grace to say so. I wish you the grace to rage.

But.

You know what else I’m a proponent of? Getting up off the damn floor when you can. And right now, I can. So I’m going to look for ways to love April, even though it’s hard, and I’m going to see how others are loving April, too.

Join us?

The invitation series will return next week. Today, what I am inviting to the table is 10,000 mgs of vitamin C, ibuprofen, and my weight in fluids. I shall defeat this fever with sheer force of will. And orange juice.

Well, it’s here. Spring. My nemesis. And I feel bad talking about how much I despise it, because:

1) People are so happy, and while none of them cared to spare my feelings when they were endlessly (soul-crushingly, tediously) whining about my beautiful winter, I just can’t bring myself to do the same (most of the time, that is, because clearly, I’m having no problem doing so right now).

2) I literally feel bad. Spring brings out all my allergies, so working up a nice rant uses too much energy – energy better spent trying to breathe and stop itching.

I have the good drugs, though, so at least there’s that.

And at least it’s not summer. Yet.

But rather than focus on what I’m not into, let’s talk about what I am into.

My favorite thing I did this month was turn 40.

photo (28)

The weather was nice (and by “nice,” I do mean rainy, overcast, and mid-50s), so that was my birthday present from Jesus. We tried out a new breakfast place – Crickles and Co. – and it was amazing. Everyone basically purred through the whole meal (the biscuits – omg, get the biscuits!). After a very leisurely breakfast, a few of us went to Barnes and Noble and browsed for a while.  Then I went home and spent the afternoon my favorite way – reading and napping. I woke up refreshed and ready for my birthday dinner at Greenhouse. Then we went to my sister and brother-in-law’s house for cake and coffee. The cake was coconut and pineapple, and the coffee was strong. And Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer came on the music mix right as we were about to cut the cake, so they sang the chorus instead of the traditional happy birthday song. Tammy’s explanation: “It fits. You’re halfway there. Halfway to death,” which was hilarious and pretty much my favorite thing anyone said all day. We then watched The Whole Nine Yards while everyone recovered from/embraced their food coma.

It was a great day.

What made it even more enjoyable is that I didn’t worry about the planning. Rather than try to make it this huge event, I picked a couple of places I wanted to go and limited the guest list to people who had asked what I was doing for my birthday or who regularly include me on invitations to theirs (and I kept adding people all week, because I am old and forgetful – an excuse I plan on using a lot from now on). So the group stayed small enough that I didn’t have to make special arrangements or reservations. It was relaxing in both planning and execution.

And then, of course, I have enjoyed spending time on other days with people who couldn’t make it. I have had outings and been treated to so many dinners. I love March.

Another fun thing I did this month is the Wicked Wine Run. Or rather, the Wicked Wine 1K mosey, in my case. It took place at the Lost Oak Winery in Burleson, and we had a lot of fun. Two of us dressed up like Pikachu and a unicorn. I wore a headband and funky socks (not pictured).

photo 3 (1)

That’s my way to race – with four wine-tasting stops. Actually, the energy of the race atmosphere makes me want to train for an upcoming 5K, so starting on April 26, I begin my training, and I am actually excited about it. We’ll see how that goes.

In entertainment/arts news:

  • I’ve been binge-watching The Mindy Project. So many people have recommended it, and I finally heeded their recommendations. It did not disappoint. I love this show.
  • The Angry Women Blog. This blog understands me. I will be submitting posts to it within the next few months.
  • I tried watching Entourage. Meh. I am four episodes in, and I can’t decide if I’m actually bored with it or if, after hearing the HBO sound, I’m just disappointed that The Newsroom doesn’t start. But after four episodes, I still can’t think of a single moment that got any sort of enjoyment reaction from me. So I might have to throw in the towel on this one.
  • This has been a good reading month. My top three recommendations are The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (I’m about to start #3) by Laini Taylor. So good.

My favorite thing I made to eat was lasagna with spinach and goat cheese (instead of ricotta.  DO IT.). It looked like a bad accident:

photo 1 (4)

…but it tasted so good.

And my favorite non-coffee thing to drink was this tea:

photo 2 (4)

It might actually replace Earl Grey as my favorite. It’s that good.

So that was my March. How was yours? I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – you should join us!

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