the Vietnam post’s marketing post

We have been America residers once again for officially a whole week now, but still somehow massively jetlagged. Despite the tiredness and readiness to return to our own bed and all, I think I left a lil piece of my heart in Vietnam — maybe that’s why the especially rough return.

This has also been a trip that I’ve been able to come back from and unequivocally enthuse about the entire thing, fish sauce on our luggage and rats in the restaurant bathrooms and all.

In a small effort to move what little traffic flows through the main page of this lil blog of mine, a tidbit of the Vietnam post follows here, cause it’s worth the (nonexistant) hype:

Weird things we saw being transported between two bodies on motorbikes:

  • an entire window frame
  • a large ornamental tree in its pot
  • a humongo suitcase, precarious
  • a Circle K storefront sign
  • an actual windshield for a car
  • an entire butchered pig, just two halves hung over the seat like it was straddlin
  • several moving boxes, stacked about 3 or 4 high, and on top of them all, a man. sitting. #efficiency

You can also see all the other travelogs here, hidden under the Journal tab.

the pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost.

My heart is weak and unreliable. When I go it will be my heart. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact, I direct it elsewhere. My gut for example, or my lungs, which might seize up for a moment but have never yet failed to take another breath. When I pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, or I’m at the bus stop and some kids come up behind me and say, Who smells shit?—small daily humiliations—these I take, generally speaking, in my liver. Other damages I take in other places. The pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost. It’s true that there’s so much, and the organ is so small. But. You would be surprised how much it can take, all I feel is a quick sharp pain and then it’s over.

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

In classic overdramatic ladisonmee fashion, I’ve been thinking a lot about this passage these days as we encounter the disappointment and exhaustion that is house hunting as a non-millionaire in Arlington, Virginia.

I think—aside from the increasingly bifurcated market that only caters to sellers of old, crappy condos and then millionaire buyers, eh hem—our problem now is that we’ve simply seen too. many. places. It’s the classic ice cream store dilemma, where all I can think about is what flavors I’m missing out on, for having read too extensive a menu. All the flavors, all the toppings, all the (im)possibilities.

Sigh sigh, I know I know. Lucky dilemma to have. But oh how my heart has been shaped by this novaland—to desire million-dollar ice cream cones with only a small pancreas to take the brunt of all of the physical, visceral disappointment.

fro margs and t swift

Summer 2019 brings with it frozen margaritas and Taylor Swift on repeat — I keep joking that I’m discovering my best basic white girl self.

There’s something about the fro margs at Guajillo in Rosslyn that’s totally and utterly captured my heart, ever since that impromptu dinner date at Pho 75 with the Baldwin. (It’s probably the frozen part and also the margarita part.) We didn’t mean to meet there, didn’t mean to hop next next next door for post-dinner margaritas, didn’t meet to linger so long, telling each other stories we thought we’d shared but really hadn’t. But the impact is real and it’s lasting.

Ever since that evening just two weeks ago, I’ve been back for those frozen margaritas two (three…?) additional times, each time citing Guajillo as my new fave happy hour location even though technically they don’t have a happy hour and technically I’ve never gotten any happy hour dealios there and technically technically I don’t even like Mexican food. Life. It’s a beautiful mystery!

And then this Taylor Swift resurgence. I’ve traced it back to our Seattle trip, when David and I were jamming out to tswift hardcore on our drive up to Vancouver. It must have awakened a little earworm in my noggin, and the lil guy is yelling, compelling me to listen to more, more, more TS. Yes. I know that’s not actually how an earworm works, but isn’t the image kinda cute?

As I find myself in music chamber situations (read: driving in cars) with people who aren’t as resurgence-y about TS, I find myself explaining — nay, defending — why I’m liking her so much these days. That her songs are fierce and fun and even just…kinda fun to make fun of, too (cue: Trouble Goat Remix.) But most of all, that she’s a good storyteller who writes simple, compelling lines put to melodies that are so. effin. catchy and tells her stories in an authentic voice that’s decidedly hers. She’s this girl and that, described by lovers and haters as this other girl and yet again that — but she takes it all and writes songs that are honest about what she thinks and who she is. She contains multitudes, eh hem, if I may borrow the timely phrase.

Frozen margaritas in a swirl of TaySwift. Maybe this is just one of those English major-y things where you’re reading several books for different classes during the same semester and your brain starts to make connections that aren’t there, but joking about being “my best basic white girl self” and defending Taylor Swift’s singer-songwriter honor feels oddly appropriate in light of my most recent life-nugget acquisition, when in a swirl of an emotional meltdown I had to actively decide to believe one set of possible explanations over what the evil voice in my head was yelling, in a situation that was making me want to believe and think the worst about myself.

I realized that a lot of those anxiety-ridden moments that make me question myself — because they happen in a vacuum of actual information — push me toward and over the cliff of self-doubt. “Wait, why would she have done that” too quickly tumbles me down into a pit of “She hates me because I’m untrustworthy and I probably shouldn’t even be here.”

The weird thing is, when other people come to me with stories of “Wait, why did x to y in z situation, do you think?” my reaction is never as dire and cliff-y as it is for the possible explanations I provide myself. There is zero grace for me. All grace and best-intention scenarios for everyone else. Why? That’s so silly. (And a whole nuther blog post, I’m sure.)

As difficult and counterintuitive as it was, I had to tell myself to give myself the same kind of advice that I would give someone else — to assume the best intent on this person’s part, that it might have been a mistake, that she most definitely does not hate you. Me. I had to shut down the evil voice of ~all those h8rs~ inside my own brain and embrace my fro marg-lovin, tswift-blastin self for all those multitudes contained inside.

The frozen margaritas and the Taylor Swift had nothing to do with this mysterious situation that caused such internal turmoil, by the way. But if it’s not the job of an English major to weave disparate threads into one colorful blog post, I dunno what is.

wine glass emoji, crescent moon emoji

That “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”?? I never understood it until perhaps this moment, as I sit here with my glass of wine and feeling numb-faced as I often do when I drink after a run.

Is he equating the feeling of being in the presence of a beloved (or your lady of the moment…or whoever) with alcoholic intoxication? Is this a completely obvious connection I’ve just never made because of my lack of experience with said intoxication? Is it referencing a totally different mood-altering substance I’m too straightlaced to get?

These are the thoughts of a contented ladison at the end of a long weekend with family when we’ve driven up and down the usual I-95 madness and spent some quality time eating and drinking and movie-watching andddd video game-watching with some beloved people. And have come home to a sweet, wild kitty who has taken to rage-chewing things in our absence as if he were a pup. And have spent the past hour soaking in someone else’s sadness over losing a baby at 20-something weeks. Back in 2017.

What is all this randomness but the condition of living with a soaky, drippy human heart that attaches itself to a lot of different other humans and their feelings, far away and long ago. At the end of a long (normal) weekend, tired but in a good way.

Good night; *crescent moon emoji*

a few of my favorite things

  • work pings from people I don’t know very well peppered with unabashed “hehe”s
  • our apartment in the morning hours (after I would have left for work but before the sunlight is done with the floorboards)
  • Boo’s masterful lounging on said floorboards, bonus points for frivolous flips
  • the fact that I’ve spent the last sickly, home-bound days with Markling in tow for five out of six
  • the simple chocolate buttercream cake from Alexandria Pastry Shop

It’s been a whirlwind of a LOT of nothing-doing and yet a lot of productivity around here the past week and a half. I’ve run the whole gamut of slight excitement at getting to miss work to angst at missing social functions to full-on cabin fever (I may or may now have yelled at Mark to allow me some wine despite my illness [it didn’t work]) to a lot of sitting still and contemplating about how grateful I am for…just life. Yeah yeah, CHEEZBALLS. Oh yeah, all in the course of a cold that turned into a flu and then gave a cookie to BRONCHITIS. 27 and still livin new life experiences a-plenty.

Yeah it’s been a lot of Netflix over book-reading and ungodly numbers of hours spent on 2048, but I’ve also caught up on all my back issues of the Economist and spent some quality fetch time with the kitten and journaled a bunch…and hey, first blog post since November! That’s certainly something. I’m just about one day away from reaching unnecessary-baking levels of boredom-induced productivity.

Through it all, Mark’s been here to make emergency grocery runs at an average rate of one a day, fetch me important things from the kitchen like cough drops and slices of no-reason cake, and mostly just sit at his desk working from home while I sit a-couch, coughing my heart (and lungs) out and losing my voice. The one day he abandoned me for work, I felt a true loss and slept most of it away.

Despite the illness and the unfortunate grocery/doctor’s visit bills I’ve been racking up, I’m pleased to report that the overall sentiment as this blue period comes to a close is one of gratitude. Gratitude for work that allows me (paid!) time off and waits securely for me to return, gratitude for a mom and a dad who call every day just to check in on the rapidity of my coughs, gratitude for friends who text to ask if they can drop in with anything (and with updates from the outside world…where the people walk and dance and stay in the sunnnn), gratitude for our beautiful lil one-bedroom where I can lounge on many different surfaces and look out its big big windows, gratitude for a lovely, loving cohabitant who deserves so many more back hugs — not just for the recent sacrificial care-taking but in general. It’s been really interesting and really nice spending so much non-quality, just side-by-side time with him. There’s a lot you miss during the day, while you’re both at your respective works:

  • midday meals
  • oh, and speaking of that, BREAKFASTS!
  • complaints about how I never make him coffee
  • yelling about how he never actually wants a whole cup of coffee when I DO offer to make him some
  • learning that all he wants is just a sip or two of my coffee, which I can happily share (except oops, when I have bacterial bronchitis)
  • music habits for when you’re working
  • watching and togetherly appreciating the limber movements of the feline body, as you’re wont to do when you are crazy cat ladies such as we
  • commentary on bowel movements
  • tidbits of whatever you’re reading that you want to share, but normally don’t cause you’re secretly reading from your phone during your commute

So before I run headlong back into productive society (and the commute…) and forget: thank you for the occasional sick days and the reminders they bring of a bunch of my favorite things.

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message in a bottle

Much like its better known cousin, the Moral Compass (MC), there is a Subconscious Wisdom (SW) inside us humans that helps to pull us back on course when we’ve derailed ourselves, or to tug at our attention with mystery tears to mourn the consequences of a *wrong* decision.

Easy to confuse, these two, but they operate in totally different frameworks. The MC is employed in the simpler plane of This World — splicing the rights and the wrongs that most everyone can agree on. To lie or not to lie. To hurt or to protect. The SW, however, moves in the gray spaces between two realms — originating from a world that has broken, Fallen, but still, deeply rooted in us — poking out in green tendrils in its effort to crack through the layered cement peripheries. Creating rubble in its wake, when it breaks.

You see the SW at work when you’re a Christian who can’t quite get behind either political option regarding the hot topic issues of the day — how do we legislate an issue like gay marriage or abortion? When the Bible says a life is a life is a life but society doesn’t provide a viable option for carrying that life to term and being a productive, fully equipped single mom. When the evangelical church points to the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah but you know about love and it doesn’t seem like a decision you should be making on behalf of anyone else, to deny or to allow.

You see the SW at work when a child of divorce spends years self-explaining, justifying, his absentee father’s absenteeism — “This is normal. This is what having a dad is like. This is my dad.” — but inexplicably cries at his elementary school presentation on family. When there’s an innate awareness of brokenness, no matter how you’ve sliced it, diced it, logicked and justified it.

This SW was a tool placed at the core of us, meant to be applied to the workings of an unbroken world. In that original place, we would have been able to listen to its wisdom to make the truly *right* choices — no unintended casualties along the way. But displaced from the garden and forced to operate in this new, bleaker place, this guiding light refracts all funny, too. Broken shafts of light in a broken cathedral.

It’s easy to manipulate this idea: at any twinge of discomfort with a decision, to blame it on the broken world and the impossibility of avoiding casualties with the choices you make. Setting up vigilant systems of logic so you don’t actually have to make any hard choices, but just apply a problem to your problem-solving algorithm — lowest-common-denominator solutions. Least-casualty output. Or, paralyzed by fear, to run away from decisions of any kind (which, of course, isn’t actually an option).

But even in this imperfection, there’s something to be said about this wisdom of ours. Light, refracted or not, illuminates. The work that’s left to us is the peering carefully in the semi-darkness. The wading through the gray. But to listen to that twinge provided by the SW. To be still, to be quiet, when that ancient voice will have you pause and consider the decision before you (or maybe already behind you).

All this to say, there’s quite a bit to look forward to in that heaven place. For light to meet light, glorious and unfettered by brokeny cement walls.

usual jubilant self

Things that happened unexpectedly over the course of this evening that were completely surprisingly life-giving:

  • Getting into catch-up text conversations with people who live in Fredericksburg because google rerouted us through there away from the unending terribleness that is I-95. Feeling like I wish I could catch up with all these faraway people rather than wanting to avoid social obligations (the latter being my usual m.o., as of late).
  • Eating bowls of takeaway jajangmyun around a mattress-bound JoQuy because my mom’s generosity rubbed off on me a little over this past weekend and because there have been so many little reminders to take advantage of difficulties, to fill out the hard corners of life with some extra grace. (re: Judith and her new baby. re: work exhaustion. re: noisy neighbors. etc. etc.)
  • Exploding a bottle of kombucha all over the kitchen and cleaning up all the surfaces with Mark’s t-shirt. All the while laugh-crying at the absurdity of it all, just like the emoji.
  • Admiring Mark’s resilience in the face of laundry and other post-weekend-away chores while I sat on the couch, overwhelmed and sucked down yet another Pinterest rabbit hole. Who says I’m the clean-freak-put-together one around here?

I dunno what it was about the magic combination of all these things this weekend and evening that made me feel a little more like my “usual jubilant self” (quote a la Mark) than the weakly, cranky old woman I’ve been feeling like I have become. Whatever it was, I’m grateful for the dose of resilience as our upstairs neighbors stomp around the bedroom above us and as yet another Monday looms nigh, all ~hello darkness my old friend~like.

all or nothing

I was so indifferent about going out to watch the requisite fireworks for Fourth of July that I slipped on my uber-chill, uber-ratty pair of Adidas slides — the pair I reserve only for walking to and from the laundry room, inside our building — to trudge out to the end of our street where the little hill overlooking 395 is, apparently, a coveted viewing location around here.

As I tsked and tsked my way through the double- and triple-parked cars all the way to the hairpin curve of our tiny street, I explained to Mark that I’m “all or nothing, you know? Like, if I really wanted to watch fireworks, I would have gone INTO DC and been there right in the thick of it. It just doesn’t seem worth it to stand here, miles away, watching through shoulders and hats.”

But boy was I pleasantly surprised by this little microcosm of a celebration at the end of our street.

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Surrounded by our fellow non-DC-venturers, we had a little taste of everything on the (non)chalance spectrum, all huddled together at the top of that hill. A couple of wiseguy commentators offering their unending opinions on this and that particular sparkler, an overly enthused grandma not wanting her grandkid to miss a single burst and unable to help herself from offering her own play-by-play, the tired-and-obligatorily-there mama, and the KIDDOS… Oohing and ahhing honestly, exclaiming a lil more loudly for the more impressive lights among them, but overall just pleased as punch to be there. One kid yelling, “NO!! SLEEP!! TILL BROOKLYNNN!!” after a particularly impressive combination of sparky displays, much to the chuckles of the adults around him.

Despite my previously tsky attitude, I found myself more and more on my tippy toes as the crowd swayed and moved to the beat of the lights. Enjoying the fireworks. Enjoying that hot, hot night air. Enjoying being in the middle of that medium-ish group of stranger-neighbors who had parked so deplorably all over our street. Had brought their unwanted opinions and unnecessary commentaries to the evening’s festivities. Had hoisted their kiddos on their tired shoulders so the little ones could ooh and ahh like none of us adults could muster up the energy to do. Causing a certain Adidas slides–clad adult from down the street to suddenly feel very old and very circle-of-lifey, all at once.

the beautiful things of this world

My goodness, I thought. Poor fellow! You did not give this place a proper chance, but fled it recklessly, leaving behind forever the beautiful things of this world.

Forgoing eternally, sir, such things as, for example: two fresh-shorn lambs bleat in a new-mown field; four parallel blind-cast linear shadows creep across a sleeping tabby’s midday flank; down a bleached-slate roof and into a patch of wilting heather bounce nine gust-loosened acorns; up past a shaving fellow wafts the smell of a warming griddle (and early morning pot-clangs and kitchen-girl chatter); in a nearby harbor a mansion-sized schooner tilt to port, sent so by a flag-rippling, chime-inciting breeze that causes, in a port-side schoolyard, a chorus of childish squeals…

Lincoln in the Bardo, p. 140-141

…from kiddos and their adults running, playing, cheering in a sun-drenched field full of grass and soft breezes, soaking in a Saturday afternoon’s slice of perfect weather in the in-between spaces blurring spring and summertime.