Friday, May 31, 2013

Learning the non-art of hospitality

What my kitchen really looks like

I'm not sure about you, but it's a great temptation of mine to want to look like I have everything together all the time. As a bit of a perfectionist (Tom would laugh at "a bit"), I don't like people to see my weaknesses, and I like to do things well.

But the thing is, being a perfectionist stops you from being able to really open yourself up to people. It means you're less likely to be spontaneously generous, because you want that home-cooked meal to be perfect, or you feel you can't give that thing away without wrapping it nicely first. And it means you tend to intimidate others and make them feel like they have to have everything together to be around you.

I know I've stepped into houses where everything is perfectly aligned and dusted, and thought, ok, I can never have you around to my place. Or times when I've been embarrassed to give someone a lift in my messy old car.

But what is this communicating to people? And what does this mean about my heart?

Recently I've been forced to put my anxieties around having it all together aside and be OK with reality. The first incident occurred when Tom decided to invite some friends of ours over without warning. I was delighted to have them over, because we'd been meaning to catch up for ages, but I wasn't so cool with the 5mins notice.

Because they were coming straight from church to our place and Tom needed to buy some extra food to make our planned dinner go further, I had to drive one of them to my house while the guys went and bought  food. I couldn't even steal 2 seconds to pick up the washing off the floor, or sweep up the kitty litter in the bathroom. I actually felt quite worried and stressed on the way to the house wondering how bad we'd left it.

As we drove towards home, I expressed my embarrassment to my friend, and she kindly told me how she's had to learn to be less worried about how her house looks, or the meal she's cooking when people come around, so that she can be more hospitable. Her empathy instantly made me feel OK about the way our house looked as she stepped in the door.

That said, I couldn't help but sweep up the grains of kitty litter Iggy had flicked around the bathroom.

And then today, I met a friend and her kid at a local cafe for a coffee, which was nice because I didn't have to think about tidying up. And then just at the end of our coffee she asked to come for a walk back to my house so she could feed her baby. Of course I said yes, but once again, there was an element of anxiety about the state of our apartment. As we walked in, I picked up that jumper, explained away some mess and apologised for the state of things. She kept assuring me it was fine, but I felt pretty embarrassed, still.

It's really quite silly, because I know when I go to other people's houses I don't judge them if their lounge room isn't arranged at perfect right angles and I actually feel more comfortable if the environment isn't so squeaky clean I feel like I'm destroying the zen. And yet, no matter, how much I remind myself it's the act of hospitality and the friendship that matters, I still angst about this stuff. Gosh I can't wait till I can get over myself and be OK with the mess that is me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cross-cultural moments in front of the TV

For those who don't know, my husband (wow sounds weird writing that) is half-British, half-Singaporean/Chinese. He only moved to Australia 4.5 years ago, making him only quasi-Australian at best. I'm always astounded, though, at his knowledge of Australian politics and the things he knows about my country that I don't.

But his knowledge definitely wears thin when it comes to watching television. We'll often have cross-cultural moments, like last night.

Tom had switched on the ABC and we were watching Margaret and David's At The Movies. At one point he commented on Margaret's appearance. Shocked by his lack of respect for her, I said "She's an Australian icon!" To which he replied, "Who is she?" I had to stop myself from coughing up my tea, before replying, "That's Margaret," in a very matter-of-fact tone. Still puzzled, Tom said: "Oh, Margaret." "Yes," I replied, "of Margaret and David." And that was that.

The night before it was an advertisement for Celebrity Apprentice featuring Dawn Fraser. Tom asks, "Is that Malcolm Fraser's wife?"


I look forward to the many years of cross-cultural confusion ahead of us, and the time when it might be reversed, if we ever end up in the UK.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When cute kittens turn infectious

Iggy in ignorant blis

So about two months ago, we got a cat. It was a bit of an impulsive decision, but not entirely spur of the moment. The mistake we made was visiting the shelter "just to have a look". People, don't do that, just don't. You will return home with a kitten.

Anyway, it was all cuddles and playful bliss until Tom found a bald patch with flaky skin on Iggy's chest the size of a 50c piece a few weeks ago. Apart from saying eww a lot, we felt compelled to look after the little guy, so took him off to the vet. Well that was a mistake. People, don't do that. Listen to your mum who is a nurse and knows stuff and tells you to just get some fungal cream and anti-dandruff shampoo from the chemist. Listen to her. After our ill-advised trip to the vet we were back home, $160 poorer, without any confirmation of what our little kitty was suffering from and an order to wash everything in sight, just in case. Oh and they told us to get some anti-fungal cream from the chemist (like Mum had suggested). Being a rainy day and dryer-less, off Tom went to the local laundromat to wash ALL OF THE THINGS. 3 hours and $35 dollars later, everything was fresh as a daisy: couch covers, doonas, blankets, sheets, even the carpet.

A week passed and we wondered how we were supposed to keep ALL OF THE THINGS clean ALL OF THE TIME. Our kitty didn't seem to care about his red hairless patch, and he just kept licking the cream off as soon as we put it on him. And we still didn't know what was wrong with him. The results of the zillion dollar test they were running hadn't come back yet.

A few days later, and a phone call to the vet confirms it's ringworm, a highly contagious fungal skin infection. We'll need to come back to the vet to get an elizabethan collar for him to stop him licking the cream off - $5.80 thank you. Oh and be careful, because you could get the infection from him.

So for the last two weeks, our five month old kitten has been wearing a cone of shame 24/7, having anti-dandruff baths every third day and has been basted in anti-fungal cream daily. Meanwhile, every 20 minutes I google ringworm just to freak myself out again at how easily it can spread to humans. My awareness of every itch is surprisingly directly proportional to my time spent googling.

But the kitten is cute. And we love him. So it's ok.