Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beat the post-holiday (and beyond) blues

Choppers has a split second of post-holiday blues

Dogs bounce back from being down in the dumps fairly well. Other critters, not so much. Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list of what to try when you need to pole vault back to chirrupy cheer.

#1: Pick one guilty pleasure. Indulge. Briefly.
I pile on the whipped cream.

For you, it might be a glass of wine or a shot of vodka. But the phrase "I need a drink" is absent of promise to me because alcohol disables my system like sugar in a gas tank. Which by the way is a myth, according to Google. Better to seek revenge by pouring water in your arch nemesis' tank. We have not strayed too far off-topic: revenge is a guilty pleasure.

But back to phrases that don't personally apply. Take "comfort food." I only wish I could take comfort in food. Maybe if my nose hadn't been put out of commission by Zicam nasal spray, I might occasionally wax poetic about some culinary obra maestra. See also: Why I won't blog about food.

It's whipped cream for me when I want to indulge, and none of this fat-free abomination, either. I order a daiquiri for the whipped cream, and the hubs polishes off the rest of the drink.

Since we've mentioned him, here's his guilty pleasure. I know of no other American so devoted to fruitcake. That missing half is all his handiwork in one sitting. He was so content after that he fell asleep on the couch at 7:30 p.m.

Random Tip #2: Seek the light. Just don't demand that it shine on you all the time.

This is obviously best done outdoors in daylight, but if you're a shadow-craving vampire like me, that wonderful invention called electricity is a godsend. Is it blasphemous to mention vampires and God in one sentence? Thirty wet noodle lashes.

When you're not constantly chasing the spotlight or worrying about whether the light flatters your complexion, you can better enjoy the beauty in other beings.

When we began walking for exercise, the hubs would get stressed about the fading light. "We only have an hour before sundown!" he'd say in a panic, forgetting he married a vampire who does my best work at night. To appease him, I tote the trusty point-and-shoot. That LCD screen is a marvelous thing. It works to calm a 58-year-old as well as a six-month-old grandfella. Husbands are just little boys whose outsides have grown bigger. Gotta love 'em.

The scarcity of light at night can be an opportunity for greater appreciation.

Indoor light can seem just as magical. You need to see it with the right eyes. Some days, a trip to this upscale grocery is no less transportive to me than a tour of a mansion for sale. My floors are never this polished, my light fixtures never this dusted. And the food samples are divine!

Store window displays are an excellent go-to source for escapist light. They're portals into a make-believe world. Much of marketing is making people believe, after all.

A personal blog functions like a store window. Sometimes I'm so into my own illuminated space in cyberspace I believe my own good-news press. It's not quite the same as being delusional; there's reason and intention in what I display.

It's the most effective antidote to the withering disdain tossed my way by certain folks of the bossy persuasion. They don't know me like I know me, and now like you know me. They don't know everything, they just talk like they do. Do you have people like that in your life? (Who doesn't?)

Perk-up Tip #3: Spot the whimsy.

This is the bottom of a garbage bag. It reminds me of the top of a circus tent. Even household chores hold surprises. I would advise peeking before the bag is filled with banana peels, egg shells and moldy cheese.

Seek in the everyday what philosopher Sam Keen called "release from the mundane—a winged existence." Seek it in the here and now.

When I was negotiating my last day job, a well-meaning acquaintance advised me to hold out for the most vacation time I could swing. I told him I would rather take steps to ensure I enjoyed each day on the new job than try to stockpile days to escape it.

That's a treehouse in the upper left picture. But so is the one on the right. It might be the most imaginative fire escape ever designed, serving an office building for no-nonsense professionals. To me it's a treehouse for grown-ups. I see it each time I park at my massage therapist's. I imagine how the privileged professionals might be using it in non-emergencies. Maybe they step out on the stairway for a cigarette break; maybe they tryst before clocking in. When that jungle vine is in bloom this spring I might hold a photo shoot within it featuring my etsy fairy garb. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys will join me in spirit. I will make it my treehouse in my way.

A few yards away is this Rapunzel turret. Just sitting in someone's back yard, not feeling out of place or time even though it's in the middle of downtown. You can pretty much spin any fairytale or horror scene around this. The lovely thing is you get to decide what it—and anything else for that matter—means to you. That's a luxury when you feel not much else is under your control. It's the feeling of helplessness that gets most people down.

Pithy Tip #4: Decide what it means to you.
"Assigning meaning is a human ability. It's usually exercised in snap decisions, first impressions, and unfortunately, gossip-mongering. Discovering true meaning is a function of the intellect working in harmony with the soul, usually over time."
Scrollwork, in Say What? The Malady of Malarky
So that was weird, quoting myself like that.
"You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are. Interpret your own experiences. All experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them."

— Creativity expert Michael Michalko
Final Tip: You don't need nine lives. Just yours. Live it.

Pretty Kitty sitting pretty
When you compare your life to someone else's you're bound to favor the other person's. That's because we only see what's on display in the store window. But everybody suffers, Buddha taught, even those who seem to us to be richer, more educated, more privileged than we are.

This past year boosted me to the peak of contentment. I cannot remember having felt this grateful at any other time of my life. Yet the path that led me here began with a life-altering loss, a loss which has not been restored in the conventional sense.

Perhaps because contentment is so new to me, I had to ruin it with guilt ("I don't deserve to be so happy when there are so many people suffering.") I felt compelled to set up measures of progress and success, which I then downplayed as fleeting when I did achieve them. I let it get to me when I heard the hubby summarize my status to his friends as "so happy to stay home," as if my ballroom dance instruction, freelance editing, clothing design shop on etsy and amateur photography on flickr do not exist—do not, in fact, contribute substantially to my fulfillment, if not my pocketbook.

God always finds a way to snap me out of this uncharacteristic funk. A little perspective restores me. This time it came in the form of a reply to a comment I made on P.S. Jones' blog, Diary of a Mad Freelancer on Dec. 9.

She wrote, "I sometimes sit at my sewing machine and dream of having my own indie clothing line. You're living my not-so-secret dream."

By golly if that doesn't make me sit up and want to keep on keeping on!

How has this year treated you? Do you have a surefire way to catapult out of the doldrums? Share in the comments section!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Warm and fuzzy, if you can dodge the spit

(Part 2 of Wherefore art thou, Whimsy? Part one here.)
It is good for the soul to seek out beings of an opposite disposition. It will keep the sediments of sameness from clouding your judgment. If you find a commonality between you, you have made your piece of the universe seamless.

Alpacas and I could not be more different, apart from the tendency toward curly locks. They congregate, I separate. They are curious and trusting, I am jaded and not easily swayed by a baby carrot. They tread lightly on their softly padded feet; I pound the ballroom floor on my callouses. I only hope it did their gentle souls as much good to be around me as it did me. We have whimsy in common, I think.
Alpaca with Ruff by Beaumont Studio.
She blogs at
Either the arsenic in my apple juice is firing up my synapses or I am channeling the noble wisdom of alpacas.

At any rate, the hubs and I had entertained notions of retiring on acreage with alpacas some year. As I am wont to do, I sought to test the firmness of this mattress of dreams. So our caper in the Whimsymobile was navigated partly by caprice and partly by my Practical Inner Child Who Grew Up to be a Pro Fact-Checker.
Scrollwork Photography

The mistress of the alpaca concubinage summoned the males: "Boyzzzzz!" In a few minutes we were, as my sister likes to put it, "drowning in cuteness." I resisted the urge to cup each face in both hands and buss the nose. You could bury both hands in that coat and not see them for days. And those eyes! Puppy eyes have nothing on them.
Gang of Alpacas by jilliBird on etsy. See more of her work at Jillian's website

Five fun facts
Scrollwork Photography

  • It takes 11 1/2 months to make a baby alpaca. Imagine being hormonal for that long. It's a good thing alpacas hum. Omm...

  • Almost every alpaca is registered like a car, using a blood sample as its "license plate." Makes me glad the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't require my blood every time I buy a car.
  • Alpacas go to the bathroom together. If one goes to the poop pile, the rest get in line. I'm more impressed by the fact that they get in line. Where I grew up, humans didn't get in line to board public transportation; we elbowed everybody out of the way as best we could. Also, it might be hard to keep regular office hours when one gets the urge. But they're pack animals, not corporate critters. A rare case in which those two classifications do not overlap.
  • There are two kinds of alpaca, based on the coat: Dolce & Gabana and Goodwill thrift. Just kidding. The Huacaya ("wha-KAI-uh") have curly, fluffy fiber. The Suri ("SIR-ree") have long Rastafarian locks. Ya man.
  • They have no hooves and no upper teeth, which make them kinder on the soil and grass. But perhaps not so good as paid endorsers for toothpaste.
Bonus trivia

Q. What are alpacas doing when they are having an evening pronk?
A. Bouncing about like reindeer. Not what it sounded like, eh?

*These facts were from the kind folks at Silver Thunder Alpacas (which I have only visited online but where I have also felt welcomed.)

Sugar Maple by Michelle's Fiber Art on etsy
Alpaca fiber is touted to be warmer, stronger, softer, lighter than wool, and not itchy. It can be dyed just about any color. Possibly the only thing it cannot do is be spun into gold.

Our thanks to Lilly of the Valley Alpacas

The hubs was quite taken by a particularly affectionate one until the ranch mistress warned, "That one spits." This was taken the split-second before the hubs clamped his jaws shut and backed away.

Animals that spit: archer fish, spitting cobras, horny toads, llamas...and some alpacas. You wouldn't suspect that an animal giving off such a docile vibe would have it in him. Good on them for not being doormats. Maybe we have something in common after all.
How to guarantee that the alpaca you bring home does not spit
If you were an alpaca, would you be the spitting kind? Would you give up your upper teeth in exchange for those liquid pools they have for eyes? And are you now or have you ever been the kind to go to the ladies' room the instant one of your girlfriends heads that way?