Wednesday, June 30, 2010
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
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
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
(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.)
(Or not. BECAUSE I CAN'T PICK UP A SHOVEL TO DIG A HOLE.)
(I was being funny in the above parenthetical. Like, sarcastic funny. Not bitter and dark.)
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
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
Monday, June 14, 2010
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
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.
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
(These are just the ones we've kept over the last year... seriously.)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
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
Friday, June 4, 2010
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
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.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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.
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).
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