A Festivus Canticle (In Prose)

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little post, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their newsfeeds pleasantly, and no one wish to unfriend them.–Their friend and faithful servant, JV

Courtesy of SteelCitySkeptics.com. Happy Festivus.

It happened some time between the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. Ryan had just finished explaining to the rest of The Wheelhouse Review writers why the Oxford comma was preferable and also why semicolon use in future pieces would be excised forthwith (his words). As he set down his beer in order to prepare for taking on Stephanie’s Baby during the Feats, I noticed that the Festivus pole was broken.

Some background: each year, The Wheelhouse Review throws a Festivus party. Known as The Great Compromise of 2012, the decision to commemorate Festivus rather than Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa came about because we didn’t have a budget for more festive decorations–but we did have a sturdy aluminum pole with a very high strength to weight ratio. The evening also functions as a staff retreat of sorts, because the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength work well as team building exercises, and because Ryan kept yelling “psych” and stepping backwards when we’d do trust falls (which was addressed during the first Airing by an irate and very sore Stephanie).

I discreetly mentioned the broken pole to the group by screaming “oh my God who the BLEEP broke the bleeping Festivus pole?” Sure, it was an overreaction, but how could someone break an aluminum pole with such a very high strength to weight ratio?

That was when I realized that there was tinsel all over the ground–tinsel which, like Frank Costanza, is highly distracting. It dawned on me that this might not have been an accident.

Having survived an earthquake, and therefore extremely cool under pressure, Alison quickly took charge. “You guys, someone broke the Festivus pole and used tinsel to distract us. We need to get to the bottom of this.”

Looking up from their wrestling match (in which a scrappy Baby, though small in stature, was about to pin Ryan), a tinsel-covered Ryan sprang into action and offered his solution for most difficult situations: make yourself as big as possible (or maybe that’s just what he does with bears). Alison, giving Ryan the side-eye, instead suggested we retrace the events of the night so far.

There had been the traditional Festivus dinner of meatloaf and spaghetti and a karaoke version of the “Twelve Days of Festivus,” led by Sarah, Alison, and Faith. Ryan took up a donation for The Human Fund. Then two of our newer writers, Liz and JoJo, reenacted the scene of the very first Festivus before Stephanie kicked off our Airing of Grievances by providing some unsolicited advice.

Upon recounting the events of the night, Baby said “This is lame. Someone just duct-tape the pole back together or something.” The lights began to flicker. Thinking it was the strobe light he had bought for our dance party, Jojo went to investigate. He never came back (until much later). When the lights came back on to their proper settings, the pole was once again unbroken–without the aid of duct tape– and standing in it’s rightful, yet unadorned place. “It’s a Festivus Miracle we exclaimed!” For what other explanation could there be?

We returned to the Feats of Strength, and upon pinning Ryan to the ground, Baby offered a jubilant prayer: “God bless us, Every One.” While we may never know exactly what happened to the Festivus pole, we all were content in the knowledge that what mattered was that we were together. Happy Festivus to one and all.

Photo Phriday: Gratitude

Though our culture invites us to express gratitude during the holiday season (which now launches right after Halloween), it simultaneously distracts us by shouting at us to buy stuff– stuff that most of us don’t use or need. This season is filled with frantic consumerism, the lure of shopping as a way to show love to those we cherish. This past Thanksgiving, shops flung their doors open even earlier to unleash a spending spree, intentionally interrupting time that Americans typically spend with their families. Black Friday rang early while people still lolled about on their couches, recovering from their mid-afternoon Turkey dinner.
In response to this consumerism that only seems to intensify each year, I wanted to understand that for which others are truly grateful. So, I asked a few friends to join me in contemplating a gratitude list. Rich and enduring friendships, parents who love us, gainful employment, good health (including the ability to dance, see, hear, run, and walk), and hope in God’s word and in the unseen all topped the list. But also present: each person expressed gratitude for a warm home on a cold night.
20141207_Winter forcefully announced her presence a few weeks ago with frigid gusts and a wet-cold that permeates down to the bone. This is partly why the following scene, which I stumbled upon one recent 8am en route to the office, made me gasp.

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The Growing Season: Baby’s First “Picture”

This is the latest installment of The Growing Season by Stephanie Phillips. For all other installments, please click here.

The next week, we have our first trimester ultrasound with Dr. Forth, the perinatal expert. The ultrasound technician walks us to an exam room and has me lift up my shirt before she squirts warm gel on my belly.

“I’m just going to get a few pictures before the doctor comes in,” she says. “Then he’ll take a look with you.”

She places the sensor on my skin and moves it around, and within seconds the fuzzy image on screen begins to take shape. I see a head, body, arms, and legs. We are no longer in bean territory—this is a baby in front of us. I feel my heart quicken at the first sight of our child’s distinguishable features, and though I know that all babies look pretty much the same this early on, I think I’ve never seen a more beautiful face. Then I turn to Jack and see his, my other favorite face, and it is mesmerized by the picture. This still doesn’t all feel quite real, and I have yet to feel that moment of eternal bonding with the baby, but this moment definitely has put me one step closer. Continue reading

Discovery: How to Keep Up with Podcasts

That’s right people, it’s back. Everyone’s favorite discovery series, er, Discovery is back. In the past, I have pointed out the best ways to learn about the newest and latest forms of entertainment. Be it books, television, or music, the Discovery series has helped you know where to turn to learn. And now, I bring you information on the latest trend in entertainment: podcasts.

Friends, we live in a new and exciting age. Podcasts are all the rage. Everywhere you turn, you’re hearing about a new and popular podcast. It’s really all due to Serial, a podcast spin off from another podcast, This American Life. It follows a journalist who is investigating a 15-year-old murder, going over the evidence and wondering if the right man is paying for the crime. Serial is a massive hit, with over a million downloads every week and at least that many think pieces to match. It has also brought a lot of newcomers into the podcasting world, both as listeners and creators.

Despite what earlier posts may indicate, The Wheelhouse Review is not anti-podcast (in fact, I could totally see us doing one at some point in the future, right Ryan and Juliet!?!?!). And personally I listen to about 30 different podcasts a week, including Serial, and think they are entertaining, informative, and a great resource when you’re cooking, working out, or traveling, among many other activities. And I’d like to share a little about how you can learn to find your new favorite podcast. Continue reading