Things About the Whelm

"I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be - whelmed?" - Chastity, 10 Things I Hate About You 

it's a long road to... somewhere. 

I am some level of whelmed right now.  I am overwhelmed with the amount of mental and emotional energy that I'm supposed to be putting into a lot of things right now, but I am underwhelmed with the payoff of said things in the near future. Sure, they're investments in the bright and beautiful down-the-road, or whatnot, but being an instant gratification kind of a girl, I find myself making up for the over and the under whelming by avoiding it all and throwing tantrums. Does being caught right in the middle make me just whelmed? Or is it cabin fever? I feel bad calling it that since I get out to do more cool things than a lot of people I know, and I really can't complain. Even so, here I am, discontent as always, complaining.

All the energy goes out, nothing comes back in except some piddly paychecks and well meaning criticism. It's frustrating. I'm not even sure what to look forward to because nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed. It's Friday. For some people, the weekend means a break. For me it means more work and instability than the other days. I've grown to distrust weekends with their shiny attractiveness and poor followthrough. They're just like every other day of the week. Disappointing. They just keep coming and going and I am stuck running in place on the slimy log of time as it rolls in the sludge, trying not to fall off into the pit of despair.

The problem I have, according to some of the self-help books I am reading, is two fold. 1) I give too many f***s about things I shouldn't (i.e. everything), and 2) I bought into the bull crap that life is supposed to be good, or pleasant, or that happiness actually matters. I'm trying hard to give less f***s. But I still can't understand why we're here if we spend the few years we have just being miserable so that we can die. And here we circle back to the meaning of life and ages-old rhetoric of "bringing glory to god" "being a good person" "making a difference" "earning a mansion in heaven along streets paved with gold and choruses of angels lining them - but no dogs because animals don't have souls" kicks in. Blagh. Meh. Poop the duck.

I want a life full of happiness like warm crusty sourdough bread with way too much butter and swirling glasses of dry red wine. I want dogs. I don't want to be a 'good' person. I want to make people laugh. I want to be a memorable person.  I want to be making moments that make the meh days manageable.

For awhile, I was on the 'no bad days' band wagon. But I've realized that that ideal is just as unrealistic as streets of gold or being a good person. There are bad days. And bad weeks and bad months and bad years. Like my brilliant baby brother says, if all days were perfect, there would be no perfect days. It's ok that some days are bad. As long as some days aren't. I am trying to focus more on the 'no wrong turns' philosophy, that tells me that even meh days are serving some purpose down the road. Even if it takes EONS of suffering to get there. Meanwhile, here I sit, in The Whelm, with my bad days and my misguided ideals and misplaced f***s, waiting for something that I haven't quite identified yet. Probably sourdough bread.

Things About St. Valentine

Before you write off Valentine’s Day as another invention of American corporations in the quest for perpetual revenue from mass produced greeting cards and several thousand tons of seasonal candy, take a moment to consider the long, if not convoluted, history behind the holiday. Long before it was chocolates and diamonds and fancy dinner dates, Saint Valentine’s Day became a celebration of enduring love.

Valentine of Rome was a Christian saint in the 5th century who was martyred in 496 AD for his faith. He was buried on February 14th, and the anniversary of his death was observed by the Catholic Church after he was canonized. According to legend, Saint Valentine wore an amethyst ring embedded with the image of cupid. He officiated at the illegal Christian weddings of Roman Soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, as the Emperor Claudius II believed that married men did not make for good soldier material. It was said soldiers would recognize him by his cupid ring and request the performance of his secret nuptials. The amethyst later became the birthstone for the month of February, and is said to bring love. St. Valentine is said to have cut hearts out of parchment and given them to the soldiers that he ministered to, beginning the tradition of heart shaped cards.

Eventually Valentine was imprisoned for his Christian ministry, and while in jail, he is said to have healed his jailer’s daughter, Julia, from blindness. A letter sent from his jail cell to the girl was signed “from your Valentine”, perhaps the first Valentine ever sent. After his death, Julia planted an almond tree with pink blossoms near his grave. The almond tree is still symbolic of undying love and friendship.

The Catholic Church removed St. Valentine’s day from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, but the holiday was well rooted in tradition across the globe by that time. Speculation has tied the holiday to the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalia, a three day celebration of fertility in mid February, but there has been no traceable connection to this observance and the later resurgence of the romantic theme appointed to February 14th by poets and lovers who were far removed from Rome’s pagan roots.

The first romantic association with the church holiday of St. Valentine’s Day wasn’t until nearly a thousand years later, when Geoffrey Chaucer, the English poet, penned the verse: For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make. ["For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."] Later, scholars would argue that the Valentine he referred to was not Valentine of Rome, but the feast of St. Valentine of Genoa, who died nearly 100 years before Valentine of Rome, which was observed in early May, a time more likely for the mating of birds in Britain.

Whatever the reference really meant, Valentine’s Day was securely established as a celebration of love on February 14th by the beginning of the 15th century. Following Chaucer’s lead, French and English poets latched on to the theme and over the next 200 years, references to Valentine’s day, featuring birds and romantic love surfaced across Europe. The oldest surviving Valentine came from Charles, Duke of Orleans, referring to his wife as his  “very sweet Valentine” while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the 1400s: Je suis desja d'amour tanné, Ma tres doulce Valentinée… Even Shakespeare gave a nod to the holiday in Hamlet in the early 1600s.

Mass productions of romantic poetry, cards and love notes was well underway in England by the end of the 18th century, and in 1847, the first commercially produced Valentines were available in the United States. It wasn’t until the late 1900s that the traditional note giving escalated to chocolates and jewelry. This became a trend in the United States when the candy and diamond industries saw potential for growth. It is estimated that over 190 million Valentines were sent in the United States in 2015, not including homemade exchanges between school age children. The average amount spent on a Valentine’s day gift in the US last year was $131.

However you choose to observe (or not) the festival of love that is Valentine’s Day, the story of St. Valentine, perhaps embellished over the years, is a good excuse to let the ones we love know that we are thinking of them. It’s also a good chance to break out the scissors and glue stick and show our love with a little bit of creativity and personal attention. Maybe we don’t need diamonds and puppies to tell our Valentine’s how much they mean to us, but since the middle ages, we’ve been using poetry to get our point across. The cliche “Roses are Red” rhyme began in 1590, with Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene, but was adapted into a nursery rhyme in 1784 from Gammar Gurton’s Garland:

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou are my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you

Things About A Chicken

Juniper the Chicken - Belmont Goats

I am not a chicken fan. Not, that is, unless it is breaded and deep fried, or sautéed in butter, or slathered in Alfredo sauce. So I guess what I mean is that I am not a fan of chickens that are alive. They smell weird. They’re dirty, and I have residual nightmares of the chicken coop of my childhood home from whence proliferated numerous horrors. To this day I cannot eat brown eggs. Irrational? Yes. Do I care? No. 

But today I heard a chicken story - a story about a chicken, that nearly moved me to tears. I have a couple of friends whom I admire greatly that are chicken lovers. We’re talking chickens on the dining room table that are still alive and will not, under any circumstances be eaten by any one, ever. Chickens who have sweaters knitted for them and sport names like Frida, Russell Wilson, Bilbo Schwaggins, Betty and Bacon. (Because Bacon and Eggs, get it?) Anyway, these chicken-loving friends of mine have tried very hard to humanize the dirty, feathery, beady eyed little producers of all manner of grossness but have been largely unsuccessful with me - or so I thought, until today, when I got caught up in the story of Juniper.

Juniper is a hen. A garden variety, brown and black speckledy hen. She was part of the menagerie at this place in Portland, Oregon called the Belmont Goats. On their website, Juniper the hen is described thusly:

“Birthday unknown. Joined in March of 2014. We have 14 pet goats; they have 1 pet hen.”

Leave it to Portland to have a goat farm/petting zoo/therapy center in the middle of the city. The Belmont Goats is all of that and more, boasting a herd of 14 goats and one hen. Until today.

Sometime, in the middle of last night, someone broke into the fenced area that is the Belmont Goat Field and made off with Juniper. With the hen. Because as weird as Portland is, it’s also still Portland. A call for help went out in the morning when the fowl play (ahem…) was discovered, and all of the Facebook Lands were bereft. Juniper became an instant celebrity. Even I, the un-liker of chickens, especially plain brown speckledy ones, was moved to the verge of tears.

“Folks, someone broke into the Belmont Goats field next to Wattles Boys and Girls Club on 92nd & Harold last night. All of the goats are present and accounted for and don't seem any worse for wear but Juniper is missing. Juniper is our very loved, very patient and friendly chicken. She sleeps in the barn with the goats.” the volunteers who take care of the Belmont Goats, or more appropriately, are taken care of by said bovidae specimens, spread the news far and wide, and if social media gets around anywhere in the world, it gets around Portland, and quickly.

The fence assailant/hen-napper left a donation of human excrement at the park, which I would assume some forensically trained hipster was hot on the brink of testing for DNA, but thanks to the power of the Facebook grapevine, and Lord knows how many shares later, one of the volunteers' neighbors found the chicken at a transit station more than three miles from the Goat Field.

If I felt foolish that I nearly cried when I heard that the goat-pet hen was lost, and that the worst was assumed of her fate, then it's safe to say that I was utterly embarrassed by the tears of joy that literally overtook me when someone posted a picture of Juniper on someone's lap in somebody's car, homeward bound and safe. It’s a chicken. But her bright, beady little eye stared defiantly off into whatever direction it is that a chicken looks, scoffing at the mischief maker(s) who would have been her undoing. Not this hen. Not in this town. Not a chance. Juniper just knew, strutting in that odd chickeny fashion across the lightrail platform a jillion miles from her 14 goats, she knew that one of her many friends would find her. And they did. 

I am not a fan of chickens. Or goats, in particular. But I will be watching the Belmont Goats and their social media just in case that DNA comes back and the chicken snatching pooper is brought to justice. And hooray for Portland. Thanks for making me feel like there is still magic in the world. You stay weird. Welcome home, Juni.

Search This Blog