Wednesday, June 30, 2010

torrid food love affair gone wrong

It's the stuff of dream and nightmare alike. The food equivalent of one man's trash is another's treasure. Something you have consumed and loved, licking your fingers of every last bit of it, even while you're crouching hip-deep in the hall closet so no one can see exactly what that thing is on your plate.

You know you have at least one ill-advised food choice. Maybe several.

Here's mine. Imagine, if you will, the most fragrant white bread. Homemade with mom's steady strong hands. The crust a golden brown, the inside a most powder softish white. Cut a slice of it, thick. And toast it until the whole kitchen smells like a slice of heaven. Slather it with melty butter and sit it on a white dinner plate. And then this: the creamiest white sauce, made with whole milk and butter and a little bit of flour. Stirred and thickened in a saucepan. Generously peppered and salted. The mixture bubbling softly and slowly stirred in the pan. And add to that...

A can of tuna.

(Yes, keep going, you read that right.)

The tuna is mixed with the white sauce and warmed over with bubbling thickness until it is all combined together and then you pour this concoction over the toast. And eat it.

I'm not ashamed. Growing up we called it, very creatively, TUNAFISH GRAVY ON TOAST. It was delicious. Absolutely positively beyond-the-pale magnificent and I don't know if my favorite part was how my mom would sprinkle some more pepper on top of the whole concoction or how I could surp up extra bits of the tuna-yummy white sauce gravy stuff with a thick piece of toast. I would just spoon that stuff on, over the toast like a weird backwards world version of pancakes and syrup, and then cut it up in little squares with my knife. I'd eat all the edge pieces first, the thicker bits with the crust--- saving the last square from the center of the bread for last. The most tender and buttery piece almost melting into the tuna gravy. Oh damn. It was heaven.

I'll stop a minute so you can gag or laugh or just cry.

I know what you're thinking: TUNAFISH... GRAVY... ON TOAST? And now you're sort of dying, wondering if we can even be FRIENDS now, right? But I submit that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU has a shameful love affair with something similar. Something so repulsive, so weird, so beyond the accepted norm that you don't normally even think about what you're eating, let alone talk about it.

But today, my friends, we are SO going to talk about it. I want details. Whether you eat it weekly or only once-upon-a-time, I want to hear all about it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

you're welcome

What happens when you go into physical therapy on Friday, in tears, complaining of weird and intense shoulder/neck pain that has switched to the complete opposite side of your body?


Jon the physical therapist sends you home with a towel wrapped tightly around your neck.

(And then you note that "throat towel", while not something you've ever considered as a fashion option for yourself, is, in fact, REALLY NOT something you can "carry off".

When Jon suggests that maybe you should wear the throat towel while you're tooling around Costco with your husband, you politely decline.)

Monday, June 28, 2010


1 painful neck/back/shoulder
1 wee 2-year-old girl antsy for a mommy that will move and bend and pick her up

Wisk in:
A generous handful of medical advice limiting movement, typing, running, yoga, reaching, grabbing, moving in general

Let sit for a week and watch the mixture begin to bubble and toil, friction in irritation.

As bubbles rise to the surface of the mixture, reach out for advice from the most sweet and wonderful Minions.

Read through each bit of perfect advice.

Fold them individually, one-by-one, into the mixture.

Allow them to slow the simmer---- cool it down, mellow it, sweeten it until the mixture is no longer a black angry mess.

If any tears are shed, make sure to capture each one and add them to the mix.

Continue to fold in the thoughtful advice.

Watch as the mixture begins to resemble cream.

Soft, marshmellowy, light-as-air cream.

Sprinkle with fresh perspective.

This is what it was like, that gift you gave me last week. Thank you for it. Thank you so very much.

Friday, June 25, 2010

so glad you didn't become a bum

My sister Kimmie, me, and my big brother Curtis, who is the subject of this story.

(There is the business of yesterday's post and your beyond-fantastic comments and emails, but I'm taking a brief pause in the Wallowing Fret for the following...)

When I was around seven or eight, my older brother Curtis would tease me mercilessly by telling me he was going to grow up and become a professional bum. He didn't use the word "professional", though. He just told me that he was going to become a bum. And then, in typical youngest sister fashion, I would cry.

Most of the time one of my parents would be summoned into Curtis' bedroom (by me and my wailing) and I'd do my level best to tearfully demand that they tell Curtis he simply was not allowed to become a bum. And that would be that.

Instead, they usually laughed.

I know, right? (And before any member of my family butts in here and insists that I'm telling the story wrong, I will remind them that this is my blog and my dedication to a big brother who took special pride in WATCHING ME CRY. Because I was too worried about him.)

Sibling stuff is weird, man.

Of course he didn't become a bum. He became a husband and a father and a well-respected professional person in his chosen field of work.

I'm proud of him.

But I don't know if I've ever told him that.

Sort of like he never told me that he wanted me to cry over his chosen vocation of bumdom to show my love. (At least this is what I'd like to believe...)

There are a lot of years that separate us. By the time I was conscious and a relatively functioning member of the family he was up and out and off doing older stuff like dating and working and getting on to college. Every once in a while Stacie and I would convince my much older and obviously cool brother to drive us somewhere. I don't even think we cared where he drove, so long as it was just the three of us in the car. He made us feel awesome.

I can honestly say that I forgive him for making me cry all those times.

And I can honestly say that he still makes me feel awesome, just knowing him.

Happy birthday, big bro.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


"And you think God isn't? You think He can't appreciate tragedy and horror? Life, with all its miseries and joys, is a story---or rather a Story---with God as the listener, and we mortals as the plot. Doesn't it make sense? And doesn't it explain why we can't keep the Bone for more than a moment, why the dream has to end so another can begin? Who could enjoy a Story where everyone was perfectly happy?"

"Crazy," said Luther, after this speech. "I was right. You philosophers are all crazy. I pity you, if that's what you think of God."

For a third time, Ruff would have laughed if he could.

"Pity me?" he said, crunching a chicken bone contentedly. "No, don't waste pity on me. The lesson of Everydog, the meaning of life, whether you believe it or not... it holds me up, elevates me. In the most terrible of times, with everything turned against me, I can marvel at the knowledge that my struggle is part of the Story. And I still suffer, that's part of the Story too, but the suffering is balanced by wonder... and my times of happiness become even more wonderous.

"No, don't pity me. Pity those who can't understand the Romance of the Bone, can't see the purpose behind the up-and-down plot of their lives... pity yourself, if you can't, other dogs if they can't, or cats, or sparrows, or Oh the beasts of the field, or even the Masters.

"Yes... even the Masters."

- Matt Ruff, Fool on the Hill

I've been in a funk for several days over my sedentary self. Common stress relievers like reading and writing and getting out of the house on a good walk with Bean and yes, running, are all off the list of possibilities because they are on the NO NO list.

The Wallowing Fret keeps me circling the drain.

Then I started thinking about the above passage from Fool on the Hill. I was in the midst of re-reading it when Whimsy Moving Restrictions took residence. I went back to look at that passage just a little bit ago, and this one:

Yet George's despair did not remain pure for very long. Even in Hell, common sense and optimism sometimes find a voice. -Matt Ruff, Fool on the Hill

And here's where I'm going to push it--- push myself to find common sense and optimism. But I need your help. I have tried to figure out what this whole extravaganza is supposed to teach me, and I just draw a big fat BLANK. I don't get it, don't understand it, and quite frankly, don't think I have the capacity to process it right now. So if you're willing, can you help a Whimsy out?

Take a turn to tell me a platitude. Tell me that I'm supposed to slow down or that I'm supposed to learn to appreciate my health. You just can't repeat something that someone else already said. The comment that I like the best will recieve a special blog post DEDICATED TO THEM. Like, with nice stuff said... and stuff.


(And if this post doesn't generate some comments I may have to bury myself in a very deep hole.)


(I was being funny in the above parenthetical. Like, sarcastic funny. Not bitter and dark.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

chocolate cures all

I jest.
But some people in our house take chocolate very seriously.

Very very seriously.

As you can see.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm a pain in the...

I don't know when it started exactly - maybe four months ago? Maybe six? Just like that, Bean would present herself ankleside whenever she encountered the smallest owie, pointing to the hurt part, demanding it be kissed. In those months I've kissed countless toes and fingers and elbows and knees and noses and foreheads and ears and even one time when she requested that I kiss her Huggie-diapered bum.

It's a fantastic formula, really: she gets hurt, I kiss the hurt, and then she moseys on her merry way, happy happy happy.

I've wished more times than I can count for that same magic formula for our adult owies: the hurt feelings, the miscommunications, the worries, the mis-steps and the mistakes. The pains we feel right here, deep down inside. I'd like to ask for a magic kiss to make it better.

This weekend had me feeling bruised and blue, my body and soul aching for a light of some kind. Now I should say that this post should be about fathers, the way they have blessed my life with their light, with their goodness, with their guidance. My dad Winston and his innate and wonderful Winston-ness; my late father-in-law Dan--- his sweet smile, his desire for our happiness above all things; my father Buddy, the lengths he has gone to know me and my family - the gift he has given us of his presence in our lives. And Chip, my dearest dearest Chip. What to say about him except this: a weekend when he should have been the one receiving the pampering, instead it was him serving me --- being my actual arms and hands. It was him cleaning out the cat box and making lunch for Bean. Him emptying the dishes and loading the dishwasher and cleaning up the toys in the living room exactly forty-two frillion times. It was Chip who bathed Bean and did all the laundry and made dinner. He made most of his own Father's Day dinner (I did the jello and the cupcakes). And at the end of the day it was Chip asking if I was doing okay, praying for my well being and a quick recovery.

Here's what happened: at my first physical therapy appointment on Friday I received the following orders:

No reaching.

No grabbing.

No lifting.

No computering.

No reading.

No yoga.

No stretching.


No running.

I was told I could fold washcloths but not much else when it comes to laundry.

I was told I could walk but not run.

I was told I could stand but not sit.

I was told that I needed to be very, very, very careful.

And then the dude told me that things were going to be just fine. As long as I followed his rules.



I went home utterly depressed and told Chip the good news. (HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DUDE! I AM UTTERLY USELESS, COME HELP ME GET MY SHOES OFF WILL YOU?)

Maybe not exactly.

But it was close. I have been declared a sad and witless lump of something that once resembled Whimsy.

But thanks to Chip: down but not out. This dumb thing with my neck (it turns out, a pinched nerve and some extreme muscle spasms), I have no idea how long it's going to be like this. I have a wild hope that if I adhere to these ridiculous and totally impossible guidelines (I am a MOTHER of a TWO-YEAR-OLD with a husband WHO TRAVELS FOR A LIVING) for, like, the next week or two, that I will magically get better and be able to get back to living my life in a reasonable manner.

I have been cranky about this turn of events. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I am already breaking the rules by laptopping it for y'all. (However I can safely report that I am flat on my back, offering the least possible resistance to my neck that I can.)

So we return to Chip, to fathers. To what they do. They do the work. They don't complain. They pick up the toys for the frillionth time and they make the chicken nuggets and they do the laundry while their wives look on offering ridiculous and pointless suggestions (don't forget that sock!). They are wonderful gifts in our lives. Mine certainly is. I should know.

And he also offers me magic kisses that make it all better. A pretty amazing deal, if I say so myself.

Friday, June 18, 2010

weakly in review

So hi.
We went out of town for a couple of days mid-week.
Up to the San Juan Islands.

Chip had work to do.
Bean and I? Lots of running around and playing.

Meanwhile my neck/shoulder/arm situation has returned with a raging angry vengence.
I went to my doctor on Monday.

She is sending me to physical therapy.

Much like boot camp.

I feel like I'm being shipped off to scare my shoulder into submission.

Do you think it will work?

How was your week?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

a ferry rescue in four parts: part one

While playing with her buddies, a casualty overboard... deep in the darkest recesses of the ferry bench seat.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

a ferry rescue in four parts: part two

Help comes in the form of a fluorescent-vested ferry worker and a rusty coat hanger.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

a ferry rescue in four parts: part three

Standing by for our downed team member. (lots of alcohol wipes)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

a ferry rescue in four parts: part four

Dusty and cold, but triumphant.

Waiting for a bleach bath when we get home.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


In the beginning, I listened to Coldplay when I ran. Sad strummy music, music that pushed my melancholy forward and out so that I was running through it, using it as fuel. That's how it was at first: inner strife and small personal tragedies to knead in my mind, little betrayals and the sadnesses they impart used as propulsion through muscle conditioning. More often than not, I cried through lap after lap: my heart breaking until tears flowed more easy than sweat.

Coldplay's Fix You would come through my earphones on that last lap, when I could push myself no further, when a single mile was incomprehensible to my tired body. I'd listen to the lyrics, knowing they were meant for me, knowing that I was going the distance for me. To try to repair something broken inside of me.

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

This is when I would cough and sputter through those last strides, eyes red and puffy from the crying. Breath exploding in painful bursts.

I ended each batch of running with a bruised body, legs like lead drums.

I don't know when it changed. Over time I started adding new songs to my playlist, songs with a stronger beat and faster tempo. They helped me to keep pace with the building speed, each lap leading to a growing number of daily miles.

Lately I've been listening to a bunch of vintage stuff from high school: old Joy Division and New Order, some stuff from The Cure and old school U2.

My feet pound evenly on the treadmill, keeping time with my breathing. I think about the months that have passed, how I've done all this work and am seeing a difference in my muscles. I feel stronger than I have in a very long time. I can bend and twist and reach and grab--- I feel this body starting to flourish under my careful attention. After all the crying and the tears, after swimming through all the sadness, scooping it out with my hands and leaving it in forlorn piles along the wayside, after the excuses and the wheedling reasons why I couldn't/shouldn't/didn't have time/didn't have energy/didn't have the capacity--- after all the no's and the can'ts and the never-in-a-million-year's--- after all of it, I've come to this place where I can quietly shed miles and breathe in deep.

When New Order's Ceremony comes on, I revel in the steady pulse. It offers me a perfect stream to push my legs and feet into motion knowing that this time things are different.

This is why events unnerve me,
they find it all, a different story.
Notice whom for wheels are turning,
turn again and turn towards this time.

All she asks, the strength to hold me.
Then again the same old story.
World will travel, oh so quickly,
travel first and lean towards this time.

Oh I'll break them down, no mercy shown.
Heaven knows it's got to be this time.
Watching her, these things she said,
the times she cried,
too frail to wake this time.

Oh I'll break them down, no mercy shown.
Heaven knows it's got to be this time.
Avenues all lined with trees,
picture me and then you start watching.
Watching forever, forever.
Watching love grow, forever.
Letting me know, forever.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

terrification in three easy steps

Step 1: Bring your husband and 2-year-old to Costco.

Step 2: Try on several pairs of sunglasses which make your child laugh out loud. (Huge self esteem builder, there.)

Step 3: Insist that your husband try on some awesome aviator sunglasses.

And.... scene.

Monday, June 14, 2010

seeking: childhood wonder and strange horticulture practices

I woke yesterday from dreams of lollipop trees - plump globes of rustling green perched atop impossibly straight sticks.

We had lollipop trees on Raymond Avenue. Every year I'd watch the city crews gather in their orange trucks; clippers and chainsaws ready. They would spend a couple hours at each tree, pruning branches, cutting unruly strands back until a perfect sphere remained.

They looked like fake trees.

Trees fashioned from toothpicks and clay.

The kind of trees I draw for Bean, knowing that one day she is going to do the same--- add a few red circles for apples or speckle them with bits of pink: spring in the lollipop forest.

There's a sense of unreality to my childhood, a place so long ago it might as well be fiction. And when I write about it here, the lack of recognition and resonance echoes back, a childhood that I can't give to Bean. It's too far away, with the roaming groups of children and the summer twilight games of tag. Ice cream trucks we could run to without worrying over razor blades or drivers' faces in photocopy warning of sexual offense.

Stacie and I would meet each other around the corner-- a place we'd measured to be the equal halfway distance between our houses. I was ten. I can't imagine letting Bean do that now, seeing her small retreating silhouette shrink to nonexistence.

It's hard for me to understand that Bean is going to reminisce about her childhood just as I do mine. Hard for me to comprehend that she will wrap these days in wistful wonder because the future world which will surround her children will be that much more incomprehensible.

My parents grew up in a time of homemade cakes and Sunday car rides. Cow pastures and daily chores at 5am. No one locked their doors. Dad's whole street shared the same phone line.

I grew up with Karen Carpenter, 8-track tapes, saltwater sandals slapping hard on concrete. I remember asking Tony in fifth grade why he had his house key tied on a string around his neck.

This is the world I'm giving Bean: daily treadmill runs while she watches Sesame Street, playdates and bouncy houses, a car seat with side airbag protection. Homemade cookies and games of catch on the driveway. There are lollipop trees on the horizon, I can see them there, just off in the distance.

Friday, June 11, 2010

how weird family traditions are born

It started with Bean and Chip. Whenever he did bathtime with her, they'd do this funny noise-making session in the bathroom mirror after brushing her teeth. I didn't witness it for a long while, only listening from a nearby room. I'd hear them both go quiet for a few seconds and then a little burst of synchronized mumbling from the two of them. I had no idea what was going on.

Then one day I witnessed it firsthand - the two of them dipping forward into the mirror three times with their tongues sticking out, making this noise: LA LA LA, LA LA LA, LA LA LA.

You know where this is going, I'm sure.

Um. Yeah.

Every night, post bath, the whole family gathers 'round the mirror and goes LA LA LA, LA LA LA, LA LA LA.

Whatcha got for odd little family quirk things?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

potions in bottles

On her second birthday in March, Chip figured out that Bean had road tripped approximately 11,660 miles. She had stayed at more than 30 different hotels and flown to more than 14 cities. "Well-traveled" is not a phrase we throw around lightly.

It goes without saying (maybe?) that I have done the equal amount of travel with Bean: the car trips, the naps in the backseat, the snacks in a large brown grocery sack. We have been on countless flights together - negotiated security, taken our shoes off and put them back on, carried little baggies into the conveyor belt.

And the hotels... the check in and check out, making sure the air and heat are in working order before unpacking the bags, countless travel yards and portacribs, bringing our own crib sheets from home. Scrubbing the bathtub with a baggie of Comet. Packing the tiny refrigerator with water and tubs of yogurt. Stocking the diaper bag with wee boxes of cereal from breakfast (Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Shredded Mini Wheats, Raisin Bran). Grabbing bananas from the manager's reception. Setting up Bean's sleeping quarters in the bathroom, in the shower, in the living room, behind the sofa, behind the chair, on the other side of the bed, in the entry way, in the second bedroom, in the closet.

But beyond it all - beyond the travel scars and the road rage and the hundreds upon hundreds of different beds, what I bring home from these trips are the memories. The weird stuff. The funny moments. The smiles on Bean's and Chip's faces. They fill my heart until it is full-to-bursting with shared warmth. I walk inside our house, put down the backpack, and breathe deep from the trips that we've taken. The feelings I experience, the growing we do as we tread the distance, our house is filled drop-by-drop from each trip.

Oh, and the itty bitty teeny tiny so-small travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner and lotion. Sometimes mouthwash and shower gel.

(These are just the ones we've kept over the last year... seriously.)

They are one of my favorite things, if we're being honest here.

I love the shrunk size and the shrunk label and the too-tiny little caps. I love that each bottle is filled with different concoctions of soaps and scents and lotions.

And I have favorites of the favorites. Which I'm going to tell you about here.

Like the fact that Red Lion does Bath and Bodywork's Coconut Lime Verbena shampoo and conditioner. Yum.

There is the very-hard-to-come-by, only-carried-in-small-boutique-hotels, Aveda. I love me some Aveda. I carry the lotion with me wherever we go and it's almost all gone.

But there were a group of products that I have dreamed about for two years. A little pile of Davies Gate tubes of amazing smelling goop that we got at the Residence Inn when we stayed in Philadelphia. I carefully used them so sparingly, just on special occasions. But they smelled SO GOOD. Like mango and peaches and almond. Heaven.

But there was a problem: no more to be had. Because Residence Inn is a Marriott property. And Chip isn't a Diamond Ultra Black Unobtanium member with Marriott. He stays at Hilton. They know his name.

So I watched my small stash of Davies Gate bottles dwindle. The last drops of lotion used for a special night out. The last puddle of shampoo used when I was feeling particularly terrible, in need of a pick-up.

Then came the day a few months ago when Chip announced that he was joining Marriott - spreading the points wealth, if you will. And bells went off in my head chanting a chorus of Davies Gate-Davies Gate-Davies Gate-Davies Gate.

But Chip didn't have a chance to stay at a Residence Inn. Not a single one.

Until this last trip.

In Boise.

And you know what? We STOCKED UP.

Three trips down the hall's worth.

A special venture down to the second floor where I asked the housekeeping person if I could have just a few more of those little bottles of lotion oh please please?

I am happy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

things I don't understand

Justin Bieber's hair.

Chip's singing imitation of Eddie Vedder covering the opening song for Super Why.

Why Bean says GOPEN instead of open.

This overly used phrase on any of The Bachelor / The Bachelorette franchise shows: I really feel like we have a connection.

While we're on the subject of The Bachelorette: the crying weatherman on last night's episode. (I KNOW I shouldn't have even been watching it - and normally I don't watch it, but there was nothing on, and I was waiting for Chip to come upstairs so we could watch a movie, and... oh dear. There is no excuse. But I watched it. And the weatherman dude CRIED. Because the other guys were laughing at him.)

Michael Jordan's current facial hair configuration choice.

If any of you can shed light on any of the above, please do so. I'd greatly appreciate it, because I? Am totally clueless.

Monday, June 7, 2010

gummies for president

I am mounting a campaign.


Or at least my family's vitamin-consumption needs.

How did I not know they existed until a short few weeks ago?

I got some for our resident carbivore, Bean.

Gummy vits to introduce actual VITAMINS into her diet of brown food (all carbs, all the time).

Of course I needed to try them first.

Make sure they were edible.

And they were.


Quite sure, edible.

Yummy, even.

Perhaps delicious.

A few days later I found some gummy vits of the adult variety.

Snatched them up, the largest bottle.

Also delicious.

And then I found some gummy vitamin C at Trader Joe's.

Snatched up, no question.

And also: delicious.



While in the vitamin aisle at Trader Joe's I was surprised to see

gummy veggie/fruit bits.

I have no idea of their purpose (beyond the already-covered-bases from the children's gummy vits).

But snatched up anyway.


And yes, at last, of course, also sampled by yours truly.
It's becoming a sickness.
I'm searching for the gummy version of anything
and everything.
Gummy calcium?
Gummy ibuprofen?
Gummy Benedryl?

A bonifide gummy habit.

I may kill myself with vitamin kindness.

Friday, June 4, 2010

semi-sweets for the sweet

When the glass is so clear I can see every swirl and eddy in the water, I am sure of myself. I am calm. I am not fretting over pointless worries.

When the glass is clear, the words come easily. There are things to share and things to say and a good way to say them.

There were so many gifts of that kind of clarity throughout the joy experiment.

Some of my favorites:
This one from Bzzzzgrrrl--- a small little bit of feathered joy, a surprise and a delight.
This one from Hannah--- I love how she put so much thought into something I lobbed out into the universe, forming an equally thought-provoking response.
This one from Alicia--- raw, honest, brave, insightful, and she really digs deep to find joy in the darkest place.

I got an email yesterday afternoon from a friend that had me closing my eyes, giving thanks for her careful response. For your reading pleasure, the very sweet Anonymous:

I have found joy in realizing that I'm not who I used to be. In many ways, I'm better in spite of the things I'm dealing with and perhaps because of the things I'm dealing with. Progress in myself encourages and inspires me. I'm learning that I can be calm in the midst of a storm. I'm learning (again-- how many times have I learned this lesson? How many times will I have to keep learning it?) that although a lot of mortality involves suffering, pain, great discomfort, tragedy, and similar emotions I don't even know the names of, these can all be lessened with love. With surrounding myself with creature comforts. With being gentle with myself and reaching out in love and gentleness to people around me. And the love, comfort, gentleness, and connections with other people all help me to keep moving through the pain of being human.

You wrote about cemeteries and the relationship between joy and sorrow, darkness and light. And you expressed beautifully things I've thought about myself. There have been many times in my life that have taught me that joy is not all sweetness, happiness, hearts-and-flowers. Noooo. There's an edge to it. It's not milk chocolate; it's dark chocolate. But just as I prefer the lingering complexity of dark chocolate in my mouth, I'd rather have the complexity of joy in my life than just plain milky sweetness. There's some truth missing if all I get is the sweet, and as sadistic as it seems at times, I'd rather have truth with pain than no pain and partial truth.

There is wisdom here, and also a chocolate metaphor (much better than my weird food metaphor from yesterday). That's a total win in my book.

Which also means that my sweet Anonymous is the winner of my favorite post---- (I'm bending my own rules because I can). So she will be receiving a Whimsy Care Package (should we trademark that phrase?).

Thank you all, again, for playing and for being willing to follow me (again) off the edge. Here's to a weekend of dark chocolate wonder.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

joy intertwined in daily life, day 11: on graveyards and weird food metaphors

Sunday found us at the Preston Cemetery, a small quiet spot in rural southern Idaho--- calling it our family cemetery wouldn't be too far from the truth. With Memorial Day on the horizon, we made the family pilgrimage with mums and other flowers in hand.

A brief glimpse into a life that so many of us don't live anymore--- Memorial Day is for remembering.

The cemetery was spotted intensely with color - each grave decorated with pots of flowers, families standing in clusters. We gathered and talked from one gravestone to the next: grandparents and great grandparents, an aunt, an uncle, a few cousins. Their memories brought forth as we talked about each one. My mom said that my great grandmother loved pansies (there were some left on her grave, we guessed who might have put them there).

Alice jumped through the grass, kicking her legs high and running from gravestone to gravestone. She picked a yellow mum before I could stop her. And when I tried to prevent further flower stealing, my cousin Kristen stepped in and gave her one (From Kristen: "It's always easier to spoil other people's children. You have to be a good example and tell her to do the right thing. I get to give her flowers from Grandma. We all win, don't we?").

We took pictures as we mingled in monuments for the dead.

I have always loved cemeteries. They comfort me. The air is thick with memories of love. If you stop in a quiet cemetery and close your eyes, you will be able to feel that love grown thick and soft as moth wings. It will brush by your face with a whisper.

The dead do not haunt cemeteries, at least I don't particularly believe they do. But maybe they stop there from time to time to glimpse their loved ones, to offer hope and company to those they left behind.

These were my thoughts on Sunday evening as we drove back to my parents' house. I wasn't sure how to tell you about the visit in the context of this experiment to excavate joy. I decided to let it percolate for a little while.

What I came up with is another memory from the weekend with mom and Winston: a barbecue at my sister's place (her family just moved to a town about an hour from my parents', this was our first visit). The house was bustling, alive with the sound of kids and conversation. We ate things like baked beans and tri-tip and potato salad. There was chocolate cake with thick fudgy frosting. Bean was surrounded by cousins and utterly fascinated by all these people who wanted to kiss her.

It was a nice afternoon, a good way to spend the evening--- but as we drove home, I felt melancholy creep over me. A disconnect.

I spent the entire afternoon with my family, but left feeling like it was the briefest of brushes by, that it wasn't enough, that we didn't talk about the most important things. That I didn't say I love you, I miss you, I want to know what you're thinking about. I do miss my siblings. I miss having a face-to-face conversation of the whispered contents of our hearts (I don't know the last time we did that). I wish I could invite them over for a slumber party so we could stay up late and talk about what's on our minds. What's really there--- the worries and the hopes and the fears and the secrets we'd love to share with each other if only there was the time and the inclination.

As Chip drove down the freeway and I tried to keep Bean awake, I thought about how difficult it is to write about family, that no matter how sweet your words there can always be a dark thread that is misunderstood. No matter your intention of conveying love and ardour, you can mistakenly (and literally) hurt the ones you love.

The good and the bad, irrevocably intertwined. We can be surrounded by loved ones and still feel lonely. We can be standing in the middle of a graveyard, marinating in grief gone by and the loves who left us behind, and still feel totally content. Joy and pain, sweet and sour, dark and light. It's how I've taken seeing joy: no matter the circumstance, it is always embedded in something else. There's a line of a Stephen Dunn poem that comes to mind, "I acknowledge there is no sweetness / that doesn't leave a stain, / no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet..."

I imagine joy and darkness wrapped like some kind of cosmic bacon/filet mignon delicacy. (Don't ask me to identify which is which in that metaphor... it's just too weird.) But there it is: what I've gathered from this experiment.

Tell me, what have you learned? Anything new that you gathered along the way, or something you re-learned that you'd forgotten? A favorite moment to share? I'd love to hear from you.

But before then, two promises.

I promised I'd pick a favorite post from one of the participants and that person would receive a Whimsy Care Package. That, my friends, will be announced tomorrow--- because today is the last day of the game and so I still have some posts to read.


I promised that if you stopped by today (THURSDAY), I'd give you a treat, which is this: I have a story for you. But I will only tell it in private, because it's awesome and also somewhat embarrassing. So. If you email me today (THURSDAY ONLY, NO EXCEPTIONS), I'll email the story to you. Chip tells me that it's worth it. When I told him the story, he laughed so hard he cried. whimsyattack AT gmail DOT com.

And one last bit---- I'd be remiss if I didn't recognize the joy that these fine ladies brought to me during this little dip into joy. They entertained, they inspired, and they helped me to remember that we're never alone in anything we do. Just wonderful.

Eight Twenty Eight


One Day at a Time

City Mouse Country

Four Molnars

Midnight Rambler

Hannah's Song

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

joy in the white space, day 10: on pain relief and worries (post edit, upon further thought)

We left my parents standing in their driveway yesterday, their hugs warm on our shoulders. It was a bittersweet goodbye, as always--- anxious to turn toward home, but feeling that pull of familiarity that only exists in your parents' presence.

Earlier in the day, dad took me to his chiropractor/acupuncturist buddy to try to clear up my continuing back/shoulder/neck/arm disaster. (Laying in a darkened room, soothing tinkling music playing softly in the background, about two dozen acupuncture needles protruding from various parts of my body, I realized that I'd missed a truly wonderful blogging opportunity--- to write about all the different things I've tried to get rid of this stupid back pain. It could have been EPIC... in my mind, at least.)

I realized that the joy I've been talking about for the last ten days, the joy that's hidden in the cracks--- for all my declaring that it takes work to find, I think I understood something yesterday: that it really can take actual WORK to find. Like, you take a moment that is tied up in frustration and stress and aggravation, and you have to pick through the strands with your fingers to find even the smallest piece of joy, an edge that is gilt in silver thread. And your fingers may get raw and bloody from the digging, but if you keep at it, the little glimmer of joy comes free and you see that it's a whole stretch of the shiny stuff just waiting to wrap you completely in warmth.

Extracting joy.
Pulling it from the wreckage of a bad day, or a bad moment, or a bad memory.
Fingers raw and ragged, but triumphant.

Tomorrow I'll be wrapping up the experiment, but you can be sure we'll revisit it from time to time. Please stop by tomorrow for the festivities, you seriously don't want to miss it (there will be a TREAT for each one of you that visits on Thursday, scout's honor).

Post Edit:
As soon as I finished writing this last night I packed up the laptop and fell promptly off into restless sleep, the special kind of sleep reserved for too-hot hotel rooms. Morning found me a little cranky and irritable. I was thinking about this post and how I left it unfinished, but couldn't put my finger on the solution (what needed to actually be said versus what I did, indeed, say--- are we keeping up with my inner dialogue crazies?).

Then I got Alicia's comment acknowledging what I'd said here--- and I realized what it was, that I, too, am guilty of coasting through some of the search for joy. Not every day. But some days. Maybe even a slim majority of them.

Here's what I think: there are things we have in our lives, if we are very lucky (and most of us are). We have people who love us, a roof over our heads, food to eat, creature comforts in enough quantity to feel belly-full and content. We have beauty surrounding us, in one form or another, and it doesn't take too much to stop and revel in it, even for a small moment. These things give our lives meaning. They give our lives purpose. They give us joy. In even the bleakest of circumstances (I'm thinking of YOU, dear Samwise), it doesn't take much to listen to the quiet gurgle of a small little girl blowing raspberries in the background.

The things that we find lacking cause a particular form of grief and gripe, whether it is a life free from physical pain or a baby to hold or a job that will be more fulfilling or a sack full of money. I think it's normal and human for the concept of what we lack to be foremost in our minds. I can honestly say that the thought of what I need and what I want cross my little mind far more often than they should.

But it's pretty darn easy to stop myself, take a breath, and say--- Dude. I shouldn't be feeling so terrible. I have Chip and Bean and fuzzy kitties and a lovely home. I have (insert the so-called GIVEN JOYS as described above)____________. And in this time of counting joys, of trying to extract them from the detritus of a bruising day, it's those given joys that I often go to as a landing strip.

They are there, no question.
They are beautiful, no question.
They are fantastic blessings and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have them in such abundance, no question.

But they feel...... easy.
Too often taken for granted and counted on as a day-brightener when the real work of digging for joy in the muck is left undone.

And that's what I wanted to say with this post originally. I don't know if this whole experiement has been a mind-blowing success because I've peppered you guys with the obvious answers more days than one. But I do know this: there have been the briefest moments when I got down on my knees and dug in the dirt clods and found something worth saving. I think, if I rescued even one thing from a bleak field, one thing to bring inside my heart and polish it for safe keeping, I can say that this has been a worthwhile journey.

I'll say the same for you, if you don't mind. If you have allowed yourself to peer under a dusty worry and found something worth saving, if you have given yourself a minute to sift through the trash and retrieve a small bit that has grown bright and shiny in your keeping, you've done well. Really, really well.

My buddies in the experiment:
Eight Twenty Eight
One Day at a Time
City Mouse Country
Four Molnars
Midnight Rambler
Hannah's Song

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

joy in a brief pause, day 9: pigtails and pompoms

This was a full weekend.

Full to the brim.

So full, in fact, that I am at a loss for what to say.

For today, at least.

There certainly are things to say, especially about this journey in extracting joy.

But for today, let's pause on pigtails. They are joyful things, aren't they?
And when they're swirled up into little curls of sweetness--- I'm not sure there is a word for that level of goodness.

So with that, I'll leave you until tomorrow.

But before you go - check out these other folks who have been playing along---