Dear Helen: Aaarghhh! What does one do with visitors who arrive early? I’m not talking about the occasional party guest who shows up while you’re still making hors d’oeuvres, but out- of-towners who announce that their schedule has changed and they’ll be showing up on a Thursday instead of a Friday! This happened last weekend, but we have other guests coming for the holidays. These particular folks had given us a place in Maui for a few nights earlier in the year, and we’d like to enjoy their hospitality again. But I was nowhere near ready to see them. The house was a disaster because my son had had buddies over and hadn’t cleaned up as promised. – Hassled Hostess
Early guests get what they deserve. Instead of warm greetings and a welcoming freshened home, they get to see the tumult, grit and detritus of life. Woe to those who give no warning and just appear. They should be handed an apology and sent out to a movie or a hike, and told not to return until evening, when you’ll be ready to greet them in the spirit you’d prefer, or perhaps sent to go grocery shopping, equipped with some cash and a list. For folks who signal that their plans have changed, say simply, “Ours have not. We’re not ready for company till evening, so here are your options: Amuse yourselves until dinnertime. Come tell me stories of your trip while I tidy up. Work on dinner prep while I get the place ready for company.”
As for your son, give him incentives to clean up after his buddies. You can use cash or consequences, but he should not get a free pass. Personally, I’d hand him a toilet brush and tell him to get started ASAP.
Dear Helen: Last week I saw some nasty-looking graffiti near my mailbox, with what could have been a Jewish star. I thought about covering it with black spray paint but decided to ignore it. Not a good choice. Last night someone sprayed a bottle of “Not Tonight Deer” (a foul smelling concoction that prevents flowers from becoming deer food) on my porch. I cleaned up but I am concerned. This seems too small to involve the police, but I’m female and the only Jew in my particular neighborhood. I am on good terms with all my neighbors and their children, and this is not a gang-oriented neighborhood, though there has been more graffiti lately at the bus-stop area. Threatened?
Whether this is directed personally at you or not, you should definitely not count on denial to solve the problem. Talk to your neighbors and see if any of them have had similar problems. Walk your block to see which, if any, other homes have been tagged. An upswing in graffiti may mean a shift in gang activity in your neighborhood. It may be a passing thing, or it can mean they are settling in. Petty acts of crime such as vandalism are always unsettling; they are considered criminal mischief by authorities.
Call your local police and ask them to look at the graffiti. The specific visuals may mean more to them than to you. Ask them if it is OK to cover it over with street-colored spray paint, so that the “victim lives here” mark is removed. Ask what cues would have them patrol the area more regularly. If you have neighbors with dogs that bark in the night, ask them to call for a patrol when they do. If the acts continue, install motion sensor lights and perhaps a camera, plus an alarm system if you do not already have one. If all else fails, get a dog. Folks with alarms and dogs are less likely to be hassled.
A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem-solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist (kabbalahglass.com). Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and subscribe to the blog at kabbalahglass.com/blog/