Holiday Archives

Thanksgiving Thursday Therapy: family love allows family pathology


“Going home, at whatever age, offers going back, regression. And the fight against family during these return trips is therefore a displacement of the fight against regression. We don’t want to admit the weaknesses in our characters and the hungers in our desires. We don’t want to admit that we have not ‘grown up,’ and so blame the family both for bringing out the worst and then for not indulging it enough…

The debilitating energy loss strikes everyone alike as if a communal power outage. Everyone caught in repeating, and resisting, old patterns. Nothing changed, after all these years! … These moments attest to the capacity of family for sharing – in a common soul or psychic state, and for containing the regressive needs of the soul.

No one is at fault, no one is kicked out, and no one can be helped. In the paralysis lies the profound source of acceptance. Grandpa can go on grumbling, brother attacking the administration, sister introvertedly attending her exacerbating eczema, and mother go on covering up with solicitous busyness. Everyone goes down the drain because family love allows family pathology, an immense tolerance for the hopeless shadow in each, the shadow that we each carry as a permanent part of our baggage and that we unpack when we go back home.”

–James Hillman in A Blue Fire

Photo: Josh Wedin

3:00 a.m. July 5th

So quiet it wakes me up.
No carnival noise in the distance.
No cover band music.
No backyard fireworks!

No crowds of people streaming past the house.
No utterances from noisy drunk people.

No birdsong.
Not even a crow.
Too early for bird happy hour.
I hope they weren’t too badly startled by all the backyard fireworks.
Well, of course they were.
Loud noises cause panic flying in birds.
I hope they are all OK.

After three minutes there is a noise.
A car.
Or is that a motorcycle?
Or maybe that red two seater thing seen all around town as of late?
I fall back asleep.

Happy July 5th!


Photo: Howard Ignatius / CC BY NC 2.0 via Audubon

Father’s Day: Remembering

wedding2“We attend the hushed memorial service for a dead friend and find the list of his achievements moves no one in the assembly, but the atmosphere does quicken in the crowded room when his daughter speaks of all the many things he loved and everything and everyone he held in his affections. The dogs, the chopping of the wood, the homemade telescopes, the sunsets from the porch, his daughter’s children, the jokes that enlivened the long meetings at work. There is laughter, surprise, revelation. Suddenly we know who we have lost… Death is not impressed by what we have done, unless what we have done leaves a legacy of life; death’s tide washes over everything we have taken so long to write in the sand. What is remembered in all our work is what is still alive in the hearts and minds of others.”

Speaking of which, here is the reflection I wrote about my father that was included in the funeral bulletin insert. It was accompanied by a bluebird drawing my daughter made but unfortunately you can barely see it in this scan. I didn’t think to scan the original at the time and, appropriately, it is now buried with him.

Above quote from David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity



is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a-priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.

Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is privilege; that we are miraculously, part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.

To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks. To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To see the dawn alone or later in the crowded evening to sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions; to intuit inner lives beneath surface lives, to inhabit many worlds all at once in this one world, to be a someone amongst all other someones and all other things, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything strangely, happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witness all at once.

Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We meet the dawn or we meet others at the table as part of another or another’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative might mean we are simply not paying attention.

from ‘GRATITUDE’ From Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
© David Whyte 2015

Happy Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day Shower

TrophyMomBridal and baby showers are all well and good. But it occurs to me that there is a glaring oversight in the shower industry: we need empty nest showers for mothers. The shower could occur on the first Mother’s Day following the youngest child’s departure from home.

There is more of a need to stock up after they leave home than when they are babies.

Here is a list of items the kids use almost constantly, and therefore I can almost never find when I need to use them (your list will vary, of course, especially if you have sons, which I don’t):

  • Scissors.
  • Nail clippers.
  • Pencils that don’t have orange or yellow lead. Normal pencils can never be found. Orange or yellow pencils can always be found because you can’t see what you’re writing when you use them, so they are useless.
  • Pens. There is light at the end of the tunnel for this one because I have started taking the kids to UW Bookstore a few times per year. You can buy individual pens there and test them out in the store. Passing on my pen addiction to them is one of my great joys as a mother. They love picking out their own pens and now don’t borrow mine as often. Whew.
  • Cloth napkins – when the kids were younger they were appropriated for all manner of uses, such as blankets for dolls.
  • Measuring tape – this was usually pressed into service as a leash for stuffed animals. Currently my daughter’s pet rabbit loves to chew it if he can get near it.
  • Hand trowel for gardening. When we had a sandbox these tended to get borrowed for sand play…and buried and never found again.
  • Computer paper.
  • Cell phone charger. In addition to constant borrowing pet rabbits love to chew these too. Argh.
  • Ponytail holder and bobby pins.
  • Tissues (especially travel size packets).
  • Lip balm.

This list is substantial enough that one of my ongoing fantasies as a parent is the surprise appearance of an overflowing box of all of the above items someday. When my imagination is really getting carried away I envision what it would be like to walk around my house during the course of the day and find each of these items in the exact spot where I last left them. A mother can dream.


The July 4th festival in Monona is the highlight of the summer for my family. It’s when I turn myself into an ATM machine and the kids go on rides, play overpriced games, beg for cheap jewelry at the art fair and I indulge in as much people-watching as possible.

This year I somehow found myself playing two of the overpriced games, which was a first for me. There was a new game this year – Angry Birds. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of time (cough, cough) playing the computer version – there’s something therapeutic about pummeling pigs and bricks with angry birds – I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play real life Angry Birds. Loading plush Angry Birds into the wooden slingshots and knocking over plush pigs was almost as satisfying as the computer game. At least I got two plush Angry Birds key chains as prizes to show for my efforts, unlike when I play on the computer.

Then somehow my daughters thought I should play the game in which you throw three fastballs at a target and win a prize every time.  38 mph was my best speed and the carnie said “you’re consistent.”  Translation: “You throw like a girl.” At least the kids got oversized inflatable bats out of it. Later at home I looked on Google and found out the highest recorded fastball for a female is around 80 mph. I calculated that the last time I actually threw a fastball with a real baseball with all my might was probably way, way back when I was 17-years-old and I was playing catch with my 12-year-old brother. Each time I would catch his fastball it felt like my hand was on fire, even though I was wearing a mitt, so after our session I walked away somewhat wistfully, knowing I would never be able to play catch with him again, as he had reached the point where he was too strong for me.

On Sunday morning I took a walk along the lagoon, across from the carnival, before it opened. It was a very peaceful walk until I reached the portion of the lagoon where the hole-in-one competition is situated. There were people hitting golf shots onto the small makeshift green in the lagoon. I immediately gave the lagoon a very wide berth, knowing all too well how golf shots can go far astray. I started thinking how ironic it would be if I would get hit by a golf ball while on a quiet lagoon walk, when all the times I played golf as a young’un I never got hit by a golf ball. Immediately a golf ball landed just a few feet from me.

I was disappointed that my favorite photographer, Cassius Callender, wasn’t at the art fair this year.

The fireworks were fun, as always, and it’s a treat to make the one minute walk home after the fireworks and sit and watch everyone else drive by.

Monona Festival 2010 Wrap Up

On Sunday afternoon two of the three ATM machines at UW Credit Union were out of cash and I did my part to help empty them. So that’s one indication the Monona July 4th festival was a success.

We showed up right when the carnival opened on Friday afternoon, which is my favorite time to go, as it’s not crowded then.

It sounds like the IHM fish fry on Friday night was a success. I helped make the coleslaw for it so I got a glimpse of the extraordinary work involved in such an endeavor.

The high point for me was the art fair on Sunday afternoon.

I loved photographer Cassius Callender’s photos. Especially this one of Lake Monona taken on a foggy morning shortly after sunrise on August 14, 2008:

His prints are reasonably priced and I intend to order one of that photo. There’s free delivery to Madison area residents. Be sure to check out his Flickr photos too.

I also admired Steven Raiser’s photos. Unfortunately his website link doesn’t work so I can’t show you his photos. We purchased a magnet of his photo of the two sandhill cranes. I was especially taken with his photos of fall leaves. And of koala bears (he’s from Australia).

The biggest coup was stumbling across the aprons at the Apron Gallery booth. My oldest daughter love to cook so we purchased one of the full length aprons in a retro print. The Apron Gallery will soon have a booth at the Madison Craft & Gift Shop on Monona Drive.

Another high point was watching my youngest daughter (age 6) ride the Hurricane and Round Up (G Force) for the first time ever with one of her big sisters. She had a delightful time and wanted to ride the Round Up again and again and again. Next year we’ll have to take her on wrist band day so she can do that.

And, of course, there’s the requisite pile of huge inflatable toys from the carnival games. It always amazes me how these inflatable things last for months and months, whereas a $50 toy would break much more quickly than that.

Going to the fireworks always makes me glad that I live so close to the park. It looked like the threat of rain kept a lot of people away from the fireworks show. It was a good time and, as always, the fireworks kept going off in the neighborhood well into the night, but somehow I got to sleep, so I could rest up to work the next day and replenish some of the cash I drained from the UW Credit Union ATM machine over the weekend.

Happy Independence Day

See you at the fireworks.

Photo from Tom’s One Room decorating blog.

Memorial Mile

As much as I like the Memorial Day parade in Monona, especially seeing the war veterans…

The vintage cars…

My kids joyfully collecting candy…

And Tammy Baldwin sashaying down Monona Drive…if you didn’t know what the word “sashay” meant, all you’d have to do is look at how Tammy walks diagonally during the parade and you’d see sashaying in action:

Tammy Baldwin at Monona Memorial Day Parade 2010

As pleasant as all these things are, one can’t help but think about how there is still a war going on.

There are 5480 markers in Olbrich Park right now, through June 5, in honor of those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

It’s too easy to overlook the statistic of 5486 fallen soldiers, but this sobering Memorial Mile helps us remember their sacrifice.

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