Monday, January 11, 2016

Trip to Rexburg + I won a thing!!! + Aging. (It happens.)

In September or October or some month in the past I spontaneously took a trip down to Idaho with a former early-morning seminary student of mine (shout out, Spencer Transier) who was going there to forge his destiny and stuff.

I was going there because my parents had just moved into an assisted living facility. Which, in case you were wondering, really sucks.

The drive down was great--uneventful and nice and picturesque, like any good road trip should be. Here's a poor picture from the drive:

I'm always amazed I haven't been tapped to work for a magazine with photos like this.
 
Oh, side story: at one point I was introducing Spencer to Radiohead (which I viewed as part of my responsibility as his former seminary teacher, obviously) and in order to give context to the brilliant progression of their musical output over time I was like "well, you know "Creep" right?" expecting him to know exactly what I was talking about. And he didn't. So I sang the chorus. "Cuz I'm a creeeeep, I'm a weeeeeeirdoooooo . . ." Still nothing. Then I was like "Really Spencer? It was one of the most popular songs of 1995. How have you never heard this?" And he was like "Josh, I was born in 1995."

And that's when my soul died.

Guys, Spencer isn't some junior high student. He is a returned missionary. He drives. He's done years of college. He is old enough to drink. Maybe. I can't remember. The new mission age thing throws me off. But the point here is that I might have never felt so old as I did in that moment. And for a man three gray hairs shy of officially being salt and pepper and three years shy of his 20 year high school reunion, that's really saying something.

Anyway, we got there, and a bunch of stuff happened that I have trouble remembering because it all happened months ago, but I'll try.

Highlights:

I walked around campus and visited the old haunts from when Lolly and I were there together. You know, last century. Literally.

Lolly lived in this apartment. I ate dinner with her and her roommates almost every day my Freshman year.

Here is the Snow Building (music), where I spent a lot of time my Freshman year. It looks the same as it did in 1999.

I spent a lot of time wandering the campus after a long run at the track. It felt so familiar and peaceful, and was really wonderful. Lots of good memories.

Later that day, we went to visit the assisted living facility where my parents are living. It was hard. The facility was nice though.

 My sister Jenni and I during the dinner they served us at the assisted living facility. We are Klassy.

 This picture of my dad feeding my mom breaks my heart and fills me with joy all at once.

After that we went to a park nearby to hang out with my dear friend Sarah Dunster. She and I have been writing friends for years, Skyping to workshop poetry and beta reading one another's stuff, and when I told her I was visiting my parents in Rexburg at the assisted living facility she was like "Josh, that is next door to my house. I am looking at that assisted living center from my window." I couldn't believe it. It felt moving to me, and very synchronistic. I feel a lot of comfort knowing that she lives near them while I can't. Anyway, she could only come to the park for a few minutes so I didn't get a picture of her, but I did get some of the rest of us.

 Mom and Dad on a bench.


It was such a beautiful day that Jenni and I decided to go walking through the park with the kids. The air was autumn-crisp. Her kids were chasing, playing tag. Jenni and I talked about life and about what was happening to our family. As we walked I saw some swings, and couldn't help myself. I hopped on, and it felt so refreshing to fly through the air like a kid again. I couldn't contain my childlike laughter as I soared higher and higher--it felt so freeing and wonderful, like I had accessed a part of me long forgotten. Jenni pulled out her camera and snapped some photos. "You're gonna love these," she said, and I was glad she thought of it. She sent them over to my phone and when I looked at them, I couldn't stop laughing. I don't know what I expected to see (something youthful? something carefree?) but it definitely wasn't this:


 What whimsy!


Such childlike wonder....

And/or I look like a disabled koala bear that's about to sneeze.

One of those two things.

The rest of the shots were also hilariously awful:


 That swingset's about snap old man. Go home.

 It's tragic that such genuine, childlike laughter could look so awkward. 

 My favorite part of this one is the shadow--somehow that shadow so perfectly captures the ridiculousness of the giant man-child soaring through the air above it.

I don't know why, but that moment of freedom and childlike wonder which I thought would be so beautifully captured on Jenni's phone and then the way the actual pictures bitch-slapped back to reality was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Absurdity is fun, I guess. And humor helps to process pain.

Here's a picture of me looking relatively normal. To restore balance to the universe.

After this, we had dinner at a Mexican Restaurant. It was really difficult. My mom struggled the whole time. But it was very nice to be together.
I had some really healing, beautiful things happen this trip. It was wonderful to be with my parents. Going to church with my dad was soothing--the way his ward was already reaching out to him (in part because of Sarah's advocacy in ward counsel before we got there) felt comforting. And then the last night I was there, my dad,  my brother Chris and I all had dinner together. We talked and laughed and ate really good food. It was cathartic. 

The next morning Spencer came and picked me up, but before he did I was able to spend time with Chris. I talked to him and gave him a blessing, and it was really really clear to us both that he and my parents were supposed to be there (he lives in apartment close to them), and that even though it was hard, God had some important things planned for all of them.  

I'm very glad I was able to make the trip.

I'm also really, really, really glad that I'm on Friday #2 of 2016 and I am on track of keeping my goal of writing a post every Friday.

Go me!!!! 

2016--I will OWN YOU.


Oh, PS, an awesome Weeder named Wendy Simmerman posted this link on my Facebook page yesterday, and I realized I forgot to tell you all about something important. I won a thing!!!! A year ago!!! And now I waited so long to tell you that the contest is open again!!!! Because that's how I roll!!! (If you click on the title it will take you to a PDF that I think is free, so you can read the actual piece. It was based on a blog post I wrote years ago, so it might sound a little familiar to some of you.)

(For the record, the plan is to write these things on Friday and post them on Monday--you know, when people are avoiding their horrible jobs all day more apt to have an online presence.)

All right. Finis.



Friday, January 1, 2016

At the outset of a really big year...

This year feels big to me.

I'm halfway through being 35. Maybe that's why. If there is any youth in me left, I feel like it's about to eked out in the next few years, like the last blobs of toothpaste in an almost empty tube. I still look almost young, but my hair has started to gray. Wrinkles are coming. I sleep less.

Nobody prepares you for 35. There are no after-school-specials about what it's like to be wedged halfway between young-adulthood and middle-age. There are no road maps for this time--when the early thirties somehow feel so young and vibrant and nearly-linked to your twenties, yet your later thirties feel so adult and serious and nearly-linked to your forties, and you are smack dab in-between both of those worlds

It's hard to describe, I guess. But the feeling of it is starting to make me take things seriously.

I take this new year very seriously because of it. I'm starting to realize so many things. Life goes quickly. Youth fades fast. Energy dwindles. Aches increase. Responsibilities threaten to overtake all of your hours. At this age, the future is now less of an amorphous, seemingly endless expanse of possibility in front of you. Instead, you have begun to inhabit that space. There are other dreams still, but if you aren't careful, they begin to take on a different timbre--less pie-in-the-sky and filled with hope, and more realistic (aka, pessimistic).

I don't care for that. I choose to continue to believe in the power of my dreams. Even the most scary of them.

I have been feeling recently like I'm in the middle of some kind of bridge, or some kind of transition.
I feel it right now, while my family is all together for the holidays. Right now, most of the people I love on this planet are with me still. It feels flimsy and temporary--but also like an amazing gift. It feels like this very rare chunk of time when nearly all of the people I deeply care about are still breathing, eating, living--still accompanying me on this rock. Admittedly, I haven't experienced much death in my 35 years, and I feel lucky (and also a little bit ill-prepared). My parents are both still here. All four of my siblings are still here. Lolly's parents are here. All of her siblings are here. All of our respective children are here. My best friends are still here. Most of the people I love with all my heart are still with me.

I know how lucky I am for that. And I have a sense how temporary it is.

I don't mean that to sound morbid. This is not some prediction of calamity or tragedy, though certainly no human soul will escape those bogeymen.

It's more like this: last week I was in Coos Bay and I was spending time with my Mom's mom. She is 92. She is spunky, articulate and refined. She is a farm-girl who wished to leave that behind her when she grew up, and so married my grandpa. He was more urbane and academic and provided well for her, and she never looked back. I sat in her little house on the bay, and I played the violin for her on one of the instruments my grandpa made. I sat talking to her about her daughter, my mom, who is dying. And it occurred to me that besides some of her children and their progeny, all of her people are gone. No siblings. No aunts or uncles. No parents. No spouse. And she will soon lose her second child.

She is, in so many ways, alone. The last vanguard of our clan, a relic and a gift to her descendants, but largely alone in this world. She has no peer-group, no contemporaries. They are gone--all of them.

This loss is something that happens. It is a matter of course. It is part of the cycle of life on this planet. It is natural and filled with grief and tragedy, because it's also filled with love, and it is the fate of every human who lives enough years: we eventually lose our tribe.

But I am at the opposite end of that. I am an adult looking over that precipice. All of my tribe is still here. We all sit before that great cliff and enjoy one another's company, and I can see how all of us will eventually leave one by one. But we haven't yet. We have a few precious moments left where we are all together, where we can all sit in a room with each other and eat and laugh and be a unit. But it will end, slowly and gradually, in a natural progression of loss. And I can see that somehow. I can see how lucky I am to be where I am at this dot on the spectrum of time. I have my tribe now, and it's beautiful, and it simply cannot last.

I'm so grateful for that gift, and I'm so grateful that most of my family decided to be together this season.

So yes, this is a new year. And I feel the weight of my own humanity. I feel the power of my internal forces urging me to bravely fling myself towards my dreams--even the most terrifying ones--and I also feel the temporariness of that endeavor--the fleeting nature of the seconds and minutes and days that remain at my disposal.

And so I will do it. I will run toward the realization of my dreams, bumbling and tripping and falling all the way. I will not be deterred by the bruises and cuts and scrapes along the way. I will rebuke shame and its internal voices. I will be brave and do hard things. I will take risks. I will do the things I feel called to do, even the ones that leave me breathless with fear. I will speak instead of remaining silent. I will create, and then create again. I will throw my hat into the ring over and over and over in the endeavors I care about, even after met with many failures. I will take care of my body, and I will eat good nourishing food, and I will spend time with my wife and daughters and siblings and dear friends because I know that our time together is finite. I will do the things I love, and observe the beauty around me. I will work hard and play hard and rest well. I will make self-care my clarion song, so that my filled cup will overflow into the lives of as many people who thirst as I can reach. I will give and I will love and be brave and vulnerable. And I will tell jokes and laugh and celebrate and have fun throughout it all.

I am so grateful to be alive, and I'm so excited to see the wonderful things this year holds. I have the feeling this will be an exceptionally big year--probably with really high highs and really low lows. And I'm excited for it all.

Thanks for being there. Happy 2016.

Here's a picture.


We are very excited for 2016!

Oh wait. Just remembered that we took a fun one last night.
Right after the ball dropped! Happy New Near! 


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Birthday

This is another sad post about my mom. Today's her birthday.

BTW, I have another post I'm working on about my trip to Rexburg, which was a really great experience. But before I finish that, I felt the desire to post what I wrote on my Mom's Facebook page today. It is so weird to write on the Facebook wall of a person who cannot read it, yet is still alive. I will never get over how strange that feels.
_______________________________________________________________

You are 60 today Mom.

I have actually dreaded this birthday. A few years ago, when we really started to lose you, I had a horrifying, irrational wish (because that's how grief works): I hoped you would leave us completely before you turned 60. My reasons maybe make sense only to me--your child.

I wanted people to know.

I wanted, when I told this story, for people to understand how early you were taken from us. For some reason, the thought of saying you passed in your fifties made me feel like people would "get it." People would automatically say "Oh, that's so young! And such an unusual age to die of Alzheimer's..." Imagining being able to say you left us in your fifties made me feel that people would immediately recognize that what happened to you was traumatic and devastating. Whereas, it felt to me that saying 60 or 61 or 62 would lead people to think "Oh, she was elderly. It makes sense that she died of Alzheimer's, just like my grandma did."

They wouldn't know.

They wouldn't understand that you have been gone for so many years already--that you missed the end of your eldest child's twenties, and the end of your youngest child's teens. They wouldn't know that none of your grandchildren were able to meet you as *you* nor that so many will likely not meet you at all. They wouldn't understand that you were taken from us so early--decades before you were supposed to leave us. They wouldn't know that your own mother, at the age of 92, has a mind still largely functional--can still walk and talk and write and be witty. They wouldn't understand my loss for what it is.

I'm still not totally sure why that felt important to me. But it did.

And yet, now you are 60.

And instead of feeling cheated of some strange, grief-based numerical anecdote, I choose to feel grateful. I am grateful that I saw you last weekend, and that I was able to hug you, and that during the three days there was one moment of partial lucidity where you seemed to recognize me for who I am. I choose to be grateful I can still hug you tightly and feel your warmth--the same warmth that comforted me as a little child. I choose to be grateful that we are all still with you, learning from you. I choose to be grateful for the Lord and His timing--for surely if he knows the fall of the sparrow, he certainly knows when to take home a majestic, wonderful woman such as you.

I choose to trust that in the end, all will be made right--and that all that seems so broken and fractured and upended now will be rectified. I choose to celebrate you and all that you are. I choose to delight in the days or months or years you have with us, and I choose to savor these last remaining moments of your presence in my life on this planet. For, what a gift that is! Although you cannot speak, I choose to celebrate the pieces of you that remain: your neverendingly cheerful disposition; your laughter and your tears; and most of all, the shimmers of faith and gratitude that, through all the disaese, somehow break through, reminding me of the essence of your soul.

Happy birthday Mommy. May this year bring you many moments in which you can bask in the presence of those you love, and may it bring you anything else the Lord needs you, or us, to experience.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strange, the things that bring out the grief.

A sentence, transcribing my mom's journal.

She says "I'm going to miss Relief Society, but I'll be back soon enough. . ."

She is 25. I've just been born. She has been called to be in Primary, and she is excited to be working with the kids for the first time in years, but she says she'll miss being with the other sisters in the Relief Society.

But she'll be back to it. Soon enough, she'll be back.


Soon enough.

But what about now? What about now that she is in a memory unit? What of her current "calling"?

She won't be back. She won't be back to Relief Society soon enough.

She won't be back to any of us soon enough.

My heart is breaking.





Friday, October 9, 2015

Sometimes Saints Swear


Hey! I'm posting again like the champion blogger that I was always destined to be. YAY!!!!!

I have a few things to post in response to my last entry, because apparently I can't blog about anything except blogging itself. That's how the professionals do it, you see... (false)

The truth is, this post gets really serious, and is all about who I am as a blogger and as a person and what you should expect from me. It's something of a refresher course for those who might not know me well. Buckle up, because I get a little passionate, but it's all stuff that needs to be said.

How to begin?

Okay, so remember the time I made a joke in the middle of the night three days ago about sending an inappropriate picture of my body to an advertising group and them confusing it for a deflated party balloon?  And then remember how the day I posted it I talked about seeing an actual picture of a deflated balloon on the WWW (translation: World Wide Web) but decided not to post it because I'm a respectable human being who doesn't post stuff like that on his blog?

Screw that. Here's the one I found.

I couldn't have taken a more perfect picture for that joke if I tried. Amiright???
Image source: here

The reason I suddenly feel it is imperative to post this picture is twofold.

First, the day I posted the joke, an awesome Weeder named Leisha Mareth delighted me by finding another picture than the one I found and posting it in the comments on Facebook, and it was so hilarious I decided then and there that I needed to share it. (I also concluded that the Internet is totally crazy, and you can find ANYTHING there.)

But before I shared hers, I felt it only fair that I share mine. Kind of an "I'll show mine if you show yours" type of thing, if you know what I'm saying...

You ready for this?

Yes. That just happened.
Dear Internet, I'm sorry I can't source this picture. It was posted to Facebook.

Somehow, she found a deflated balloon picture that was even better than mine. 

Which begs the question (except that it doesn't beg the question because "begging the question" is a philosophical fallacy referring to an attempt to prove a premise using another premise that itself requires proof and yes, I am a huge huge huge nerd why pray tell do you ask???)--ahem. As I was saying. It begs the question: just how many pictures of deflated balloons looking like human anatomy exist on the World Wide Web?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it--(yes you, with the nose)--is to find a deflated balloon anatomy pic that is more hilarious than either Liesha or me and post it in the comments here or on Facebook. 

Consider the gauntlet thrown down.  

Side note: My favorite part of challenges like this is the haunting possibility that nobody will take the challenge and I will experience the awkward shame one feels when he says something like "yeah, I'm sure I'm not the only one in this room who still wipes boogers on the carpet sometimes, right?" *chuckle chuckle* followed by complete silence while everyone looks around awkwardly leaving you hanging as the seconds tick by and you try to figure out how to recover and then you blurt out "Oh, yeah, me neither!" and it totally works. 

(No. It doesn't. It doesn't work at all.)

The second reason that I felt it very important to actually post the picture was a comment I received via email from a Weeder. Now, before I share this comment, I have to say that literally almost every response I received on my post the other day was positive, warm, beautiful and filled my heart with joy. No joke. It actually filled me with joy. I had felt scared to post after so long,  and I am so thankful for all you people for somehow still being here with me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for still reading. Thank you for being kind and generous, and for saying the exact right things to help me feel your love and support. 

This community is a blessing.

Also, I must say that I have no doubt whatsoever that the person who sent me a message is a sweet, wonderful, amazing human being, and I really appreciate the intentions behind what they were saying. Really, I do.

That being said, their comment made me want to douse myself in gasoline and set myself on fire with frustration. Their comment represents one of the things I hate most about blogging and humans and myself and my own sensitivities and religious culture.

I've decided not to share the actual email itself because it was sent to me privately, and I can truly see its good intentions. I don't want the sender (who I assume will be reading this) to feel embarrassed or ashamed--really don't feel bad, friend. I know your heart, and I'm not angry at you. But your message has made it clear that I need to clarify some things.

I will summarize its basic message (this is not an exaggeration, btw):

Your last blog post makes me concerned about you. It had gay jokes and swear words and it destroys the image that I have in my mind about you as being a righteous man. Seeing that post makes me question your church life and your marriage and your mental health. You are changing from when I started reading your blog--for the worse--and I am sad for you and very worried about you. Please seek help.

Getting feedback like this makes me feel two things. First, it makes me feel very grateful that people are concerned about me--it is touching to know that people want what's best for me. 

But secondly and more importantly, it makes me extremely extremely frustrated, and allows me to see that I need to make a few key concepts clear, because if I got this message from one person, he or she surely represents more people who feel the same way. 

Here is something that I wish I could effectively communicate with my life:

Human beings are complex, beautiful creatures. They cannot be put into boxes. And when you send me messages like that, it makes me feel like you want to put me in a box. 

You cannot.

I am many things. Things that might seem contradictory to you.

I am a gay man. Yet I am a Mormon man. Both of these things co-exist.

I am deeply religious. Yet sometimes I say "inappropriate" words. Both of these things co-exist.

I write passionately about incredibly deep subject matter of a highly spiritual nature some days. And other days I write silly, absurd posts about funny things and make crude jokes because they make me laugh (and I firmly believe that some days you just need to look at the absurdities and cruelties of life and choose to laugh.) Both of these things co-exist.

The theme goes on. I am deeply faithful, and I am crass. I am deeply empathetic, and yet sometimes painfully honest. I am kindhearted but sometimes brutal. I am tender, but sometimes bitingly sarcastic. I have a deep, meaningful inner spiritual life and am very much in touch with spiritual things but sometimes I watch rated R movies. *the crowd gasps in dismay* I read scripture and say prayers every single day of my life but I also research serial killers and depraved accounts of abuse in my spare time sometimes too. 

I drink Mountain Dew. A lot.

I am not ashamed of these things. These things make me a human being. These things, and more, make me unique. They make me who I am.

I am unconventional, and I had an experience last night (which I can't share) that showed me yet again that, at least with me, the Lord doesn't view my unconventional, "inappropriate," poorly mannered habits (that are a part of my personality) as a liability. He uses them to bless the lives of others, sometimes in very profound ways. God doesn't want me to fit into some cookie cutter picture of human perfection. He wants me to be me. That is a line from my patriarchal blessing even. I am told to "reach out in love" and to "be myself" as I interact with others.

The truth is, I come by these things naturally--perhaps even genetically. I come from a long line of amazing individuals with profound connection to God. And I also come from progenitors who are crude, blunt, funny people who are unconventional and uncouth. These things are a part of my heritage, and I am not only not ashamed of them, I am proud of them.

My dad has been a bishop and in a stake presidency and worked for the church education system his entire career ending it as the Institute Director at a university, and he is the person I learned how to have a sense of humor that pushes boundaries from. He is funny and crass and compassionate. He says things some judgmental people might deem "inappropriate" and does and/or watches things some judgmental people might deem "inappropriate." Yet, do you know what he has been doing for the last 9 years of his life? Can you even begin to comprehend the level of his devotion to God and other humans? Let me fill you in: he has been taking care of my mom as she dies of Early Onset Alzheimer's. He has been with her every single day, and he has cleaned her feces and has hand fed her her meals and has watched her body and mind deteriorate even though the stress of it is literally killing his body and now half his face is paralyzed and he started going blind in one eye. He just moved into a care facility with her (even though she's not even yet 60 years old), and is doing so because he found one of the only facilities in the West that will allow him to live in the same room as her in the memory unit. He left his entire support system and moved to a tiny town in Idaho so that he could keep the promise he made her that he will be by her side until the day she dies. He is a saint, and a man of God, and one of the best people I have ever known, and you are not going to look at me and tell me that because he has said a few swear words or told some unsavory jokes that his standing in the eyes of God is compromised because that is, if you'll pardon my french, complete and utter bullshit.

He is a whole, complete person--multifaceted and nuanced. And his crassness doesn't detract from anything. In fact, it complements his spirituality and makes him relatable and human. It is that very crassness that has allowed my dad to touch people's lives. It is that same sense of humor and crudeness that has allowed him to be human and relate to people, and touch thousands of students over his decades-long career in a way that, without his being himself, would have been unachievable.

And more importantly to my story, it is that same openness and realness and crassness that made my father relatable to me. It was what allowed a 13 year old boy to know that he could come out to his dad as a homosexual and not be judged. Do you think if my father was uptight and proper and well mannered and offended by crude words that I would have felt comfortable telling him that I was attracted to men at the age of 13? I'll answer for you: NO. It was this very openness and realness and crudeness that allowed me to be real with him, which in turn has allowed me to become the man I am today, writing these posts, saying these sometimes inspiring things that have touched you. 

Don't try to put people into boxes. Don't judge people for their choice of diction (words are just words, people!) or for the things they do that are on your own, personal, culturally derived "list of things that are inappropriate but that are found nowhere in scripture that I kinda judge people for." If you do that, you will miss the boat. You will miss what humanity is really about. You will miss the diversity of our populace, and you will miss out on knowing amazing people, and it will be your loss.  
In closing, I want to be very clear.  On this blog, I will often write spiritual, moving things. I will also make jokes about human anatomy, and I will be crass, and I will say things I find funny. I will do it in the tradition of the Weed heritage, and I will do it because it is who I am, and I am not ashamed of who I am. On this blog, I might post pictures of balloons that look like penises, and I might say words you don't choose to use in your personal life, and I might describe truths you find to be uncomfortable in ways that are honest and graphic. I might talk about sex. I might talk about flatulence. I might say things that you find offensive. This is what my blog has always been. Heck, during its first year (2010) I held a giveaway and the prize I gave away was a vibrator that I won in a white elephant gift exchange. This stuff is not new. THIS IS HOW I ROLL. And contrary to what this person's email insinuated, I am actually no different now than I have ever been on this blog.

The logo at the top of the page here says that I am "all kinds of real." I intend to live up to that motto. I always have, and I always will. This is what allows me to be a good therapist and a good writer and a good father and a good husband and a good friend. This is who I am, and how God made me, and I know that He is most proud of me when I am fearless and bold and open and authentic and vulnerable. In this space, I plan to share who I am. I am not ashamed of who I am.

I am going to be me. Crude, crass, deeply spiritual, empathetic, nerdy, funny, happy, real me.

And if you can't stomach this idea, I will not be offended. If it's too much, please, choose to read something else for both our sakes! Seriously, no hard feelings. I get it. To each his own.

You might feel pretty open minded and chill, but chances are that one of these days, I'm going to make the joke or say the thing that offends you. But if you're game, I invite you stay. If you're open, I invite you to sit with with me, and sit with your discomfort. I invite you to challenge your own notions of propriety and your assumptions about manners and what makes a good person. I invite you to continue to challenge your ideas of sexuality. I invite you to ask yourself what theses things really mean to you, and I invite you to sit with more complexity and ambiguity.  But most of all, I invite you--each one of you--to continue to be a part of this beautiful community of imperfect people living good, solid lives and sharing with each other because, though I've been absent for a few months, it is one of the most rewarding communities in my life.

Thanks for being there guys. 

(Oh, and PS, don't forget about the deflated balloon contest! *crickets chirp*)



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This is a post I wrote in the middle of the night.

And then I woke up and read it and it amused me. So here you go!

So, I haven't posted for four months, and I just got word that my advertisers are like "listen, we're good." And I was like like "what do you mean?" and they were like "can we just be friends? You know, friends who don't advertise on your blog anymore because you don't post?" And I was like "but I'll miss you and the $30 a month you send me for doing absolutely nothing. Can't we reconsider?" And they were like "Uh, we'll pass." And I was like "I'll throw in one blog post a month..." and they were like "tempting, but we're gonna go with bloggers that don't suck at blogging." And I was like "Are you sure though?" and they were like "yeah" and I was like "FINE" and they were like "stop emailing us pictures of your children. We aren't friends anymore," and I was like "do you want a sexy pic?" and they were like "we're calling the police" and I was like "JUST KIDDING. Can't you take a joke? Don't you know about sarcasm? Also, don't click on the jpg I just sent." And they were like "Wow. Why did you send us a picture of a deflated party balloon?" and I was like "RUDE. I had just gone on a run."

30% of that conversation didn't really happen.

ANYWHO. I'm flying solo is what I'm saying. 

Hey, unrelated, anyone interested in advertising on a blog where nobody posts? 

So listen.

You know how Facebook does that thing where you get a list of posts for like the last eight years that you can "time-hop" to because they want you to feel all nostalgic and also old and also sad that your kids are growing up and also really glad you have other people named Whitney Shafer shop for you now so you don't look like an idiot? Turns out that because I used to post here a lot and then link to Facebook, I've been reading a lot of my old humor posts, and do you know what? That was freaking fun. 

I like to have fun.

So, here's the set up. I have thousands of readers who (in my head) want to read posts about how gay I am and stuff. But all I want to do is make inappropriate jokes and be silly and say occasional swear words and I'm like WHERE'S THE MIDDLE GROUND???

It's like when you are stuck in a job as a telemarketer and all you really want to be doing is being booed off the stage of a local nightclub that has an open mic night for comedians. 

No, that's not it.

It's like when you are in church and all you want to be doing is not being in church.

Wait, no. Not that either.

I don't really know how to explain this. Other than to say that tonight, in the middle of the night, I have felt the urge to write a humor post again. And it has felt really good and fun. And a lot of the real stuff that's happening in my life is so traumatic and hard and inexplicable that I just can't talk about it. And also it's somber and sad, and officially not good or fun.

So, in closing, the three of you who have read this are now on notice: The Weed is back. And he's not getting paid. And he's tired of not swearing. And he's also tired of being serious all the damn time. And he's also tired of writing this mediocre post. And he has some hope that as he does this more, it will get easier again. But he also fears that this might be the last thing he ever writes on this blog, too. Because that's how his brain works: each step forward feels like the beginning of something awesome, or the last step off the cliff. And it's hard to tell which. 

Also, he needs to go to bed because he's too tired to think straight. (Which is why he's gay. Ba dum CHING. See that? Tied it into the gay stuff like a champion. Looks like I just found the middle ground. I am ridiculous and nobody should be my friend ever really good at this blogging thing!)

Good night. 

Oh wait, first, a random picture for your enjoyment:

Date Night! 

(PS, I REALLY REALLY wanted to post a picture of a deflated heart-shaped balloon I found on the World Wide Web because in the context of this post it might actually be one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen--but I decided against it because in the daylight hours, I make proper decisions. #winningatlife)



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lots of things feel full circle (Alexa Joyce Weed)

In May of 2006, we had our first baby. Anna.

She was tiny.

Now, in May of 2015, we have had what we know to be our last baby. Alexa.

She, too, is tiny. And I mean tiny.


Hi. I'm Alexa Joyce. One of the smallest humans on this planet.


Just like Anna, she was a five pounder. The nurses would come in and start freaking out over the cuteness of her miniature body. (I can understand that, because they are used to seeing her counterparts. Turns out a five pound baby looks a lot tinier than a nine pound baby. Weird.) 

She also looks tiny being held by a 9-year-old. To wit:


Nine years separate these two. And now our family is complete(ly full of little girls).


As was promised in a blessing years ago, the delivery was incredibly easy. As in, the doctor who delivered the baby actually remarked "this was the easiest delivery I've ever done." There was a nursing student there witnessing her first birth, and everyone there was like "Uh, don't get used to this. This is not what labor and delivery is usually like . . ." There was no duress. Lolly didn't even have to push once. They put her in the stirrups, and suddenly, we were looking at a tiny human being. It was fast and  crazy and joy-filled and such a blessing. We all laughed with amazement and joy at her arrival, partly because it was so sudden and shocking.


Alternative Captions: 

"Mother and daughter meet for the first time"

or

"Hi Mommy! I just came out of your vagina!" 

The nicknames have started in earnest. Here are just a few:

Alexithymia
Lexi J
Rexi
AJ
LJ
Lexapro
Lexicon
Rexburg
Lexus
Lexington
Lextation Specialist

(Nickname which will never ever ever ever be okay: Sexy Lexi)

Alexa is truly a joy. She is our first "easy" baby (though of course, no baby is easy). But she rarely cries, and she sleeps well, and is generally content. 

And she eats. A LOT.

Which makes me sad, because every ounce she gains is one less day to see her be this teeny, tiny, adorable version of herself:






 Can you get over that bow? I can't.

We are so happy and are doing so well. 

And now I have to go get ready for work, because turns out, when you're self-employed, you can't take months off for paternity leave. Which was poor planning on my part. Because how can you leave this much cuteness behind every day?

In closing, here is a poem I wrote after Anna was born almost ten years ago. It couldn't be more applicable to my life for the last couple of weeks.

Like I said: full circle.



Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!!

There are 30 minutes left of Easter, and I've been wanting to write this post all day. So, I'm gonna.

It's been such a great day for my little family. We had our own little Easter dinner, complete with roast and funeral potatoes and mashed potatoes and sparkling cider, and this morning there were baskets and treats aplenty. The girls and I played a round of The Game of Life today, which Anna loves passionately, and for many hours today we watched General Conference and basked in the spirit of today's messages (which were particularly beautiful). As I put the girls to bed tonight I read chapter two of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Anna and Viva as the three of us lay in the bottom bunk of their bunk bed. I got really into it and did British accents, because I'm that dad.

Did the dishes. Played some games on my phone and made some phone calls while Lolly works on a paper for grad school. (Have I mentioned that she's in grad school? Studying marriage and family therapy of course. Our children are so lucky to have two psychotherapists for parents, aren't they???)

It was just a beautiful day.

We are going to have our fourth daughter in about a month. We plan to name her Alexa. (DON'T STEAL THAT NAME. SHE MUST BE THE ONLY ALEXA IN EXISTENCE. BECAUSE THAT'S HOW NAMES WORK.) Lolly's pregnancy has been obscenely good, which was something she was promised in a blessing years ago. It's been wonderful to see that happen.

And, guys, I haven't been here very much because I have been working on the book. It is almost done, and it is by far the most beautiful thing I've ever worked on. I'll probably be done in the next two weeks. And then I move onto the next thing while I give this book whatever wings it needs and send it into the world. I feel so happy about how it has turned out--this is a book that I am proud to have my name on. It's a book that comes directly from my heart. I am so, so excited to share it with you. I hope you'll forgive me for being so sporadic here over the last year when you get the chance to see what I've been working on. (Thanks for still being here. I love you all.)

I feel the winds of change brewing on the horizon. I don't know what that change will look like (other than the obvious stuff, like having a milk-addicted human slug in our house again). I get the feeling that the forthcoming changes will be wonderful and exciting and fulfilling, but all change is sad--change means we leave behind the tendrils of good that comprise the present. And right now, my "present" is really beautiful, really sweet, really wonderful. No matter how good the next phases are, I'll be sorry to see the current phase melt away. It's been lovely.

I want to wax all philosophical, and talk about how no moment is static. How it all bleeds into the next thing, forward and forward and forward until The End. (This poem from the New Yorker fits the theme well.) But instead I'll just share a picture that embodies this moment for me--knowing full well that some years hence I'll look back at in wonder at all that has changed--at all that we were on this wonderful day, and how different it is than the current "now." I've been musing about this concept a lot lately for some reason (read: I am getting old and it's uncomfortable.)

Anyway, here's a picture that embodies "now" for me:

I love these girls with all my heart.


I guess that's why Easter is so beautiful to me. It bespeaks permanence. Everywhere, there is entropy. Everywhere disintegration. And yet, in Christ there is the only hope of permanence, of restitution, of stasis, of Life. 

Happy Easter, friends. 






Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A video about my mom

For anyone who doesn't know, my mom has Early Onset Alzheimer's.

She's 59, and she'll likely die within the next few years.

It's one of the most devastating diseases I've ever seen.

It's really difficult for us, as her children, to explain to people just how horrific this disease is. It's also difficult to know how to grieve the loss.

I write poetry and transcribe her journals. My sister Maquel writes a blog. My other sister Jenni creates photo montages and slideshows. My brother Chris writes songs on his guitar, and also lives with my dad and her to help take care of her.

My youngest brother, Chad, has been staying with me since Christmas. He has had a really hard time with her illness since getting home from his LDS mission in Tennessee--she changed a lot in those two years, and it really rocked him. He has spent a lot of hours--over the course of months--compiling a video that showcases what happened to her during his two year mission. He has done this to help himself cope with the grief he is feeling, and to feel more empowered in the face of this devastating tragedy. The video highlights the severity of the changes that happened to my mom during those two years, and tries to capture a least a part of the loss we all feel.

While it's a little bit difficult to watch, I hope you take a few minutes to view his video and come to understand more about the nature of this disease and how it is affecting my family. (And the fact that you're supporting Chad by watching means a lot too--thank you. Also, Chad links in the video to a gofundme campaign he set up to help my dad--who was forced to retire early to take care of her--with her astronomical medical expenses.)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Post #14--Hope Springs Eternal

A few weeks ago I randomly started writing the story of something horrible that happened to my writing career in the summer of 2013. This is the last post in that series. You probably won't understand the impact of this post without reading the ones that come before it. They're all really short:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 79, 10, 11, 12

(Yes, I skipped 8 and 13 on purpose because they don't relate to the story. Also, #1 doesn't really contain story stuff, but it's teeny, and it's the post that got this ball rolling.)

_________________________________________________________________________________

One of the stages of grief is anger.