Category: Whimsy

Simplify

When my nephews played Little League baseball, I regularly attended their Saturday games. The two fields they played on were on the direct path to the snack bar, so sitting on the bleachers I observed the continual trek of players and coaches, parents and siblings, heading to the hot dog grill and snow cone machine.

One spring afternoon I watched as a young girl – maybe 7 years old – walked by with her puppy on a leash. He was quite young and rambunctious, and she was doing her best to manage him well, but his interest in the crowd was apparent.

Sliding off the bleachers, I walked over to the girl and asked if I could pet her puppy. She agreed, and as I reached down to scratch behind his ears, I asked what kind of dog he was. She sweetly announced, “He’s a mixed-up German Shepard.” I smiled, amused by the matter-of-factness of her response.

Of course I understood he was a German Shepard mix, but the simplicity of her child’s-perspective made the explanation pure and uncomplicated.

I’ve thought of that encounter numerous times over the years, and have shared the story with many. I’ve often pondered how much fun our days could be if our approach to life was simplified whenever possible. If when an impromptu tickle monster chase ensues, the dishwashing is postponed. If when our sons/grandsons build a fort with the sofa cushions, we grab a flashlight to join them on the adventure. If when our daughters/granddaughters set the tea party table, we don a silly hat and sip pretend tea while making real memories.

And may we also be mindful of the kid within. May an occasional Friday night find us at the local Dairy Queen reminiscing over childhood memories, instead of watching the week’s news in review. Once in a while, may we gather friends at the park, tossing a Frisbee instead of contemplating what tomorrow’s schedule will bring.

On its own, life can be complicated enough. But when chances present themselves – may we try to simplify. May we enjoy, may we laugh, and for the moments we’re given, may we live uncomplicated.

The Lesson I Learned from a Can of Olives

This month I lost my uncle. He was 81; my uncle for 61 years. When you’re a kid, simple gestures can leave a lasting impression; seemingly every day acts producing life long memories. That was true of my Uncle Harold.

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my family weaved in and out of financial hardships – my dad being laid off with great regularity. So the “essentials” of the day were what we knew, with little possibility of “extras” or “treats”. In one of the leanest times my family paid a visit to my Uncle Harold and Aunt Joan – then in their late twenties. As the adults visited, my uncle brought out a can of unpitted olives, poured them in a bowl, and set them down in front of me and my two sisters. I don’t remember his exact words, but they went something like this… these are all yours. We were overwhelmed with excitement – we loved olives, and it was a whole can just for us! Feeling rich in that moment, we happily ate every last one. As a young adult my Uncle Harold showed great generosity, a quality that spoke not only to his sensitivity and spirit, but also made a forever imprint on a young girl’s heart.

As the years progressed, my uncle routinely demonstrated great generosity by having me and my sisters babysit his two daughters – always having the refrigerator and cupboards stocked with all sorts of goodies that we were encouraged to enjoy. One time he even asked us to take his girls to the state fair – probably knowing it would be our only opportunity to go ourselves. And his tradition of generosity continued as the number of family nephews and nieces grew – Uncle Harold placing a crisp twenty dollar bill in an envelope for each child at our Christmas Eve celebrations. It was a moment of pure exhilaration when Uncle Harold made his way through the room with the special holiday envelopes in hand.

His generosity not only touched my hope-starved heart as a kid, but it taught me that the simplest kindnesses can have an incredible impact on the path a person may choose in the future. All my life I have remembered the feeling I got from that can of olives, and I’ve developed a desire to share that feeling with others who are working hard at doing life, but might be hope-challenged in the process.

As an adult, if I pass a child’s street corner lemonade stand void of customers, I’ll pull over, ask for a fifty cent cup, take a sip of “the best lemonade I’ve ever had”, and hand the child a five dollar bill. The thrill on their face when they realize they’re accomplishing their goal is priceless.

At a recent lunch with co-workers, I witnessed a young teenager outside the pizza parlor walk briskly to open the door for an older lady trying to exit the restaurant with an armload of take-out pizzas. The lady expressed her appreciation, and the young man, who looked like his spirit was heavy, continued on his way. Realizing that the young man might just need to hear that his good deed “mattered”, I left my table, stepped out the door, and called out to him. As he returned to meet me, I explained that I had seen his kindness and was impressed by his thoughtfulness – consideration not seen much now days. He smiled, surprised and appreciative. Then I pulled a ten dollar bill from my pocket and told him to do something nice for himself. I sensed that he was stunned. But more than the appreciation for the gift, I hope he remembers how that moment felt, and purposes to look for opportunities to pass it on to others.

May we all desire to be influencers in this life, and follow the example of my Uncle Harold – with our hearts aware and our shelves always stocked with cans of olives.

Thanks Uncle Harold for the memories, but more importantly, for the life lesson.

I Kicked a Rock

My life motto is – “you know what would be fun?” At 61 years of age, I still try to find moments of fun and whimsy in every day.  In the hectic pace of adulthood, I consider those moments “necessary exhales”. While my antics at times raise the eyebrows of the responsible and serious, I also think my kid-like spirit often draws them into the possibilities of “play”.

At break time I usually walk with a couple of co-workers. Twice a day we circle the business complex, clocking in about a mile with each walk. One day a round rock on the path caught my attention. Having my break-time tennis shoes on, my inner kid thought – “you know what would be fun?” And at that, I kicked the rock, watching it roll about thirty feet ahead of me. Once I caught up to the quarter-sized stone, I kicked it again, while still maintaining an adult-like conversation with my walking companions.

The rock rolled another thirty feet. About forty feet from where it stopped, there was a large storm grate in the middle of the parking lot. Suddenly my inner-kid wondered, “Can I sink the rock in the storm drain?” Another kick of the rock put me about ten feet shy, and with the next kick, I shot past the grate by about twenty feet. Not to worry though, because two more storm grates loomed just ahead.

The rock kicking continued on each walk for several days – the kicks became about as natural as the steps themselves. The playful moments never hindered our pace, and our co-worker conversations never suffered because of my momentary play time. Quite honestly it seemed like my fun went unnoticed. That is, until the day I sunk a rock.

On that mid-morning walk, about twenty feet from the target I reared my foot back then quickly forward, my shoe tapping the rock with just the right force and trajectory to roll it straight into the opening of the storm grate. I was thrilled. But even more exciting than my inner-kid celebration, was the reaction of my co-workers. As they watched the rock roll, and then disappear between the metal bars, our conversation stopped and their arms went up in a touchdown formation, both of them shouting out a very enthusiastic, “Whoa!”

I realized at that moment, that everyone’s inner-kid wants to come out and play. But sometimes they just don’t remember how to get started. That day was the awaking of my co-workers’ inner-kids. And now, many of our walks include each of us spotting a rock and taking a shot at a storm drain – each of us ready to celebrate a much needed moment of play.

Whimspiration’s challenge to all the grown-ups whose inner-kids have been silent… bring them out to play!

Where Is Your Kid?

My kid is missing! Four dreaded words. Hearts pound, knees go weak, suddenly breathing is something we must remind ourselves to do. Even the most composed adult will crumble when those four words are uttered. My kid is missing.

I remember a time when my sister and I had taken her two children, ages three and five, to the department store. My sister took my niece to the toddler’s section, and my nephew and I went to scout out the boy’s section. He needed pants and T-shirts; because of his height and weight, his jean size was difficult to find. So I began to diligently search through the crowded racks, being careful to keep a watchful eye on my nephew’s every move. “Stay close to Auntie” was spoken every 30 seconds.

Finally! Two pairs of difficult to find jeans. Now, on to the t-shirts. I turned to say, “Let’s go, buddy”, but he was nowhere in sight. I circled the rack; maybe he was on the other side. Not there. I circled the rack again; maybe he had circled when I circled and we were just missing each other. Still nowhere in sight. Not wanting to overreact and give into sheer panic, I broadened my search. First one row and then another. No luck.

My heart began to pound so fast and hard it felt like it had moved into my throat. I began to call his name; semi-composed at first so as not to draw attention to myself. Then after a few seconds I started calling with an “I don’t care who hears me” abandon. “Josh!” No answer. I started looking at all the shoppers in the area; does anyone look suspicious? Is anyone heading quickly to the door? Oh, Lord, what will I say to my sister? Do I ask the clerk to lock down the store? I can’t breathe!

I continued to call out. I’m now racing wildly through the maze of racks and shelves, “Oh, God, where is my kid? Help me, please.” Out of sheer desperation I circled back to the starting point. In tears, panic apparent in my voice, I called out again, “Joshua!” Then, as my nephew’s life and my life (because I will kill myself if something has happened to that child) flashes before my eyes, I hear it – a giggle. I shout his name again, “Joshua!” Another giggle. It’s him! “Joshua, where are you?”

The next giggle leads me to push the clothes on the circular rack aside. Underneath, in the middle, a grinning little boy, extremely pleased with his trick on Auntie. I grabbed him, pulled him through the clothes and hangers – maybe bumping his head on the round metal rail, I can’t remember – then I hugged him and cried.

My racing heart began to slow down and the knot in my stomach suddenly turned to queasiness. As my trembling arms held him tight, my quivering voice said, “Josh, Auntie loves you.” Short pause to absorb the moment, then – “But if you ever do that again, I will beat the living daylights out of you!” Poor little guy – one minute having fun, and the next hearing the threat of great bodily harm.

Amazing the lengths we will go to to find our kids. For some, their kid went missing years ago. Sadly there was no panic, no search, not even the slightest realization that the kid had disappeared.

Which kid was it? It was the kid who showed us the wonder of life, the one who gave us our dreams – it was the kid within.

It was interesting the two thoughts that crossed my mind when my nephew was “missing”. First, I thought, “he’s lost”. Then I thought, “He’s been kidnapped”. Either scenario would be devastating. Your kid is gone. But when you think in terms of “lost”, there is hope for “found”. When you think in terms of “kidnapped”, the possibilities become much more troubling. Someone has snatched your kid. Against their will the child’s fate is in the hands of another; someone who does not understand the value of that kid in your life; someone who does not recognize or respond to the child’s pleas and cries to be returned.

If you’ve determined your inner-kid is missing, you must next determine where he/she went. Are they simply lost; somewhere along the way they’ve taken a wrong turn, walked down the wrong aisle. They’re circling the clothes rack, your adult-self circling close behind, just missing each other. Just missing each other, but still within reach.

If your inner-kid is “lost”, challenge yourself to “seek and find”. Call out to your kid; call him/her by name. Don’t rest until you hear that playful giggle. Strive to rediscover the joy that once defined a youthful heart that was filled with wonder and excitement and promise.

If you’ve determined your inner-kid was “kidnapped”, the recovery process may be more complex. Someone or something has taken the kid that once defined your heart. An event, a word, or a situation stole the kid – changing life forever. Imagination and dreams slowly lost their enthusiasm. Joy finally died, leaving the kid to disappear into a dark and lonely seclusion.

If your inner-kid is “kidnapped”, challenge yourself to embark on a “rescue mission”. Write down a description of the kid you remember. Identify the threats that changed what should have been. Realize that the adult you have become is the only one who can overcome unfortunate events and locate the kid you once were. Then, invest whatever’s necessary – sensitivity, understanding, patience, forgiveness – to perform the rescue and bring your kid into the light.

The two of you are meant to walk life together. So, where is your kid?

The Art of Young at Heart

In 1975, the band Chicago had a top ten hit called “Old Days”. It was a song of nostalgia and reminiscence, a longing for days gone by.

Old days, good times I remember
Fun days, filled with simple pleasures
Drive-in movies, comic books and blue jeans
Howdy Doody, baseball cards and birthdays
Take me back, to a world gone away
Memories, seem like yesterday
Old days

Old days, good times I remember
Gold days, days I’ll always treasure
Funny faces, full of love and laughter
Funny places, summer nights and streetcars
Take me back, to a world gone away
Boyhood memories, seem like yesterday
Old days

When we step into the realm of adulthood, juggling personal and professional responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of life’s simple joys. Without much effort they quickly become recollections of long ago, daydreams marked by sentimental sighs. What we fail to understand is that the bridge between treasured memories and the present is simply “a moment”. A moment we purposefully dedicate to reviving the wonder and joy once found in our hearts.

So Whimspiration issues this Double-Dog Dare! Sometime this week find a moment to…

Sit on the porch and eat a Popsicle.

Recall childhood stories with family or friends. Start the conversation with, “Remember when…”.  Laugh until your soul is fed.

Sing theme songs from your favorite childhood TV shows.

Teach your kids or grandkids how to play jacks, or pick-up sticks, or marbles in the dirt. Play hide and go seek.

Whatever your double-dog dare is, purposefully dedicate a moment to bring your most treasured memories to life.


“When I grow up, I want to be a little boy.” ~ Joseph Heller


“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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