Saturday, May 30, 2009


Life is good.

We started out this morning at the local farmer's market, which is not as big and comprehensive as the one up in Madison, but does have the virtue of being not as big or comprehensive. My days of wandering around for hours looking for the perfect jalepeno are long past. Plus this one is both closer and contains kettle corn. Mmmmmmm, kettle corn.

And then, well, jackpot: we wandered over to the library, which was having its annual used book sale.

There is no such thing as too many books. There isn't even any such thing as enough books. There might be such a thing as almost enough books, but I haven't gotten to that point yet so that discussion is purely theoretical at this point.

And when there are carts and carts of books, all of them 75 cents or less, well, such are the times when it is best for the timid to hide in their basements, for we are coming through with a song in our hearts and plunder on our minds. In a quiet, bookish sort of way. It's a very polite style of plunder, though the songs can get a bit odd. Conan the Librarian, at your service, ma'am.

It's a good thing I keep all those canvas grocery bags that the supermarket keeps foisting off on us in the back of my car, as I would have hated to have had to drive my car up to the checkout counter and load all those books in directly. That would have been messy. We ended up with 48 new books, for a grand total of $27. It was a full-family commitment, too. One of my prouder achievements is raising children who regard this sort of thing as a treat.

Looks like it might be a quiet weekend around here, from this point out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Driving to Distraction

I have never really understood the whole fascination with cars that people have around here.

I like cars, in that they are reasonably useful for getting me from Point A (defined as anyplace without sufficient books or snacks) to Point B (defined as anyplace with said sufficiencies) without depositing me at Point C (defined as anyplace where the main form of entertainment is centered on cars) too often. Cars also carry a great many things that would otherwise be difficult to transport, such as groceries and small children, and they come in a variety of pleasing colors.

What's not to love?

I have even come to enjoy driving, a necessity out here in the subway-deprived midwest where even dinner invitations can reasonably involve commutes of up to 100 miles. I fire up the CD player or the radio, spread out my snacks and head for the open highways. When I was running back and forth to Faraway Campus it was a two-hour drive each way just to get to work - not something I would have wanted to do for more than the year I did it, but not all that bad for that time. It was down time - time when nobody made any demands upon me other than to stay in my lane and not change the shape of anything - and I rather enjoyed it.

But I do not get the obsession with vehicles that people have. People like to take them apart, rewire them and put them together again in different configurations that are louder, shinier and more indicative of personal problems than they probably ought to be ("Nice truck!" we call out to such people in our town, "Sorry about the [genitalia]!"). The apartment Kim and I lived in after we got married was located at a four-way stop sign, at which the local motorheads with their glass-packed POS's would congregate and drown out our telephone. It was annoying, obviously, but more than that it was incomprehensible. If they had shown up drunk and shouting, I could have at least understood why they were in that condition, even if it would have been just as annoying and probably just as hard to hear our phone. But with the cars? Huh.

And then when they're not working on their cars, the motorheads are watching them go around and around on weekend afternoons. As a hockey fan I suppose that I am in no position to be snarky about NASCAR's popularity, but you know - if I wanted to watch cars go around in circles until they hit each other, I'd go sit in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. The snacks are cheaper.

We have two reasonably nice cars here at the manse, both of which were chosen primarily because they were reliable, big enough to haul cargo and efficient enough not to bankrupt us. And they have done an admirable job of living up to those things. But I wonder sometimes about being the kiss of death for the poor things. One is a Saturn, and the other is a Pontiac. Four of our last five cars were either Saturns or Pontiacs. In a year, there won't be any more Saturns or Pontiacs.

Great googly moogly, we've killed them.

This happens with a lot of the products I like, actually. Sodas, television shows, entire categories of electronics - all defunct.

I don't suppose that cars in general will go away, at least not in my lifetime. And as long as they exist, there will be people fascinated by them. I won't be one of them, but then I am so generally out of step with my culture that I may have lapped it.

Those car references - they're sneaky.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Put Me In, Coach

It's amazing how decisions made in the dark recesses of one's past come bubbling up to the surface in the present in such odd ways.

Both Tabitha and Lauren are signed up for Girl Scouts Softball teams this summer, which is going to be an interesting experience since they are not on the same team and all of the teams meet at the same time in different parts of the city. So every Tuesday and Thursday evening from now until mid-July, each girl will get one parent and the pair will scoot off to their respective park for either practice or games.

I made the mistake last month of saying I would be happy to volunteer to help out. I figured this would be along the lines of marshaling bodies for games, organizing snacks and so forth. I badly underestimated just how starved for volunteers they were, though. It turns out that volunteering qualified me to be the Assistant Coach of Lauren's team. For someone whose favorite actor has long been Walter Matthau this represents something of an odd and potentially disturbing position to find myself in, but I suppose inspiration comes from what sources we can find. Tabitha's team wanted me to be a coach as well, but Lauren's team called first and there were certain physical difficulties with trying to do both, given the lack of being in the same place and all.

And not only did the possession of a warm body with no criminal record attached to it make me ideal coaching material, but I was also asked to be the emergency medical responder for Lauren's team.

This is where the echoes of the past cause the headaches of the present.

Way back in the early 1980s, I joined the local volunteer fire company, where my dad had been a firefighter since the early 1970s. I spent five largely unheroic years there before I moved away - they also serve who stand and roll hose - and it remains one of the prouder achievements of my life. As my dad said to me when I was considering joining, "It takes a certain kind of person to run into a building when the cockroaches are running out." I'm not sure whether that was meant to make me think twice about joining or to encourage me to join, but either way it was certainly accurate. And the stockpile of stories from that part of my life still keeps me entertained during otherwise useless business meetings.

In order to become a volunteer for anything related to the Girl Scouts, you have to fill out a form which is modeled on the one used by Presidents to select Supreme Court justices. Great googly moogly, people, I've gotten paying jobs that required me to manage finances with less invasive screening than that. But such are the times we live in, especially regarding working with girls. So I dutifully filled in all the blanks - previous five known addresses, previous two unknown addresses (what am I, the Vice-President?), run-ins with the law down to the level of being yelled at by cops to move along at accident scenes, distinguishing features, non-distinguishing features, featured distinguishments, height, weight (and don't lie, because you know they'll check), credit score, fourteen character references, three professional references and a partridge in a pear tree - and when I got to the part requiring me to list every act of volunteerism ever performed, thought about or observed, I dutifully recorded my time with the volunteer fire company.

And thus the following dialogue took place:

"Why am I listed as an emergency medical responder?"

"You reported that you were an emergency services volunteer."

"Yes, but I was a firefighter, not an EMT."


"What do you mean, 'And?' ?"

"That makes you an emergency services volunteer."

"Well, if one of the girls should burst into flames, give me a call. But otherwise, you probably want someone else."


So I don't think I'm going to a medical responder for the team, but I'm packing bandaids just in case. That and whiskey are about the extent of my medical skills, and I'm not sure how much they would appreciate me giving a 9-year-old girl who has just caught a line drive with her forehead a shot of Maker's Mark and telling her to "shake it off." Not that it wouldn't be effective, just not appreciated.

At any rate, I have been working with Tabitha and Lauren to get them ready for all this softball.

I do have some real experience here, it turns out. The firehouse had a team when I was there, and we were actually pretty good - one year we won the championship, which was impressive considering we beat the police team to win it all. You have to be good to beat a team where even the backup shortstop is armed. I was the short-fielder (the fourth man in the outfield in these leagues) and the back-up pitcher, and we won even so.

So we went out last week in search of mitts for the girls. Do you know how hard it is to find a softball mitt, one week before Girl Scouts softball begins? Very hard, it turns out. Especially since Tabitha just wanted a plain brown leather mitt - almost impossible to find in her size amid the multicolored ones - and Lauren is left-handed. Eventually we found two black-and-pink "Jennie Finch" softball gloves in the proper sizes and hands, and a couple of softballs. And some neats-foot oil, which I am sure I will one day be able to pronounce without collapsing into gales of helpless laughter, though after four decades of trying I begin to wonder sometimes.

We've been playing catch out on the lawn for the last few days, and they're getting pretty good at it. Plus, Tabitha says she is no longer afraid of the ball, which is always a good step, and I haven't beaned Lauren in the face with the ball in over 24 hours. Progress is being made.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Lawn Ranger Goes Over the Top

I dragged out the spreader on Sunday and spread noxious chemicals across my lawn. This was not as satisfying as it might seem.

Our lawn is a patchwork of many things, most of which are not green and those that are green are not any uniform shade thereof. There are wide swaths of purple and splotches of bright yellow, and I have taken to calling the whole conglomeration "The Southern Wisconsin Dandelion and Creeping Charlie Preserve." There must be a grant in there somewhere, surely. What isn't yellow or purple ranges from clover green to crabgrass green to actual grass green, with clusters of yet-another-shade-of-green daffodil stems randomly strewn about. Sometimes there are daffodil flowers too, which complement the dandelions quite well I think, but those bulbs are over a decade old now and are mostly just plum tuckered out these days.

I find this all rather charming, when I stop to consider it at all.

As a general rule, the only thing I do to the lawn is chop it down every so often in the summer time. Having grass long enough to lose the cats is generally frowned on in our neighborhood of tidy, uniformly green lawns. The neighbors will put up with my colors - Creeping Charlie is common around here, though our lawn seems to have more of it than most - but forests of grass are just right out. This is why I kind of like the clover, actually, since it only gets so tall and is, from a distance if you look quickly and squint a little, easily mistaken for actual grass.

But twice a year the shame gets too much around here, and I am tasked with the Weed And Feed duties.

You would think this would be fun. The spreader is a simple yet fulfillingly mechanical sort of thing, with wheels and gears and actual metal parts that make me think I'm being vaguely handy by wheeling it about. And the Weed And Feed is as close to violating the Geneva Conventions as I'll ever get, with a list of warnings that starts with "Do not feed to small children or pets," escalates to "Burn all clothing worn during application of this material," and continues right through "Invest in bottled water in case any of this leeches into the river." With this kind of chemical warfare, all I need is the Red Baron and I'm back at the Somme.

But reality is always somewhat less exciting than that. The machine is balky, and only after dousing it with WD40 and laboriously clearing out the holes at the bottom with a pointed stick would it consent to roll about and drop noxious chemicals on our purple and yellow splotches. And since the targets of all this activity are plants, you really can't hear them scream in any satisfying sort of way when they get hit with the stuff. Perhaps if the spreader came with sound-effects.

It's been a couple of days, and the purple and yellow splotches are still there. They're tough little things, they are. I worry that one day they will simply rise up in one photosynthetic mass, laugh audibly at me and my spreader, and then scoop up the chemicals as if they were onion dip and eat them. Then they will burp, crumple up my spreader, and threaten me with legal action if I ever try that again.

Perhaps I should have read those warnings more carefully.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saturday On The Fly

We spent Saturday cruising through the entirety of southern Wisconsin, which is a neat trick if you can manage it. It's a pretty state, but a big one.

Every Girl Scout troop in the surrounding area codes decided that they would all, en masse, descend upon one of the big waterparks up in Wisconsin Dells Saturday morning - the one named, in a move that probably won the Mega-Marketing Award For The Irony-Impaired, after the desert - and there was just no way that Tabitha and Lauren would miss that. They LOVE waterparks, and they especially love the big ones up in the Dells. They’ve been to a number of them, largely because of various conferences and meetings that Kim has had to attend in that town. If you’re going to go to a hugely entertaining but massively expensive tourist trap, you should make sure that the state is paying for most of it I always say.

Like most of these waterparks, this one is not an experience that lends itself easily to measured description. It is a monument to excess, and one that has only expanded over the years. We went there about five years ago when it was just a waterpark, and it was astounding – three football fields of waterslides, pools, rafts, hot tubs, and a lazy river ride longer than some drainage basins, all surrounded by thousands of hotel rooms. Since then it has sprouted an indoor amusement park (complete with a three-story Ferris wheel), several thousand more hotel rooms, and in all probability its own government, rebel movement, and currency. It’s truly astonishing. And then you add several hundred screaming Girl Scouts, and your day is just complete.

Adventures in noise, that’s us.

We spent most of the morning and afternoon there, careening down tubes in rafts, wading through wave pools and eating pizza slices that were, quite literally, as big as our heads. Irony-impaired they may be, but the folks who run the desert waterpark are very much in tune with their target audience nonetheless. Tabitha is now old enough and a good enough swimmer that she can light out on her own, which she did until that got boring. Meanwhile, Lauren and I spent a lot of quality time relaxing in the hot tubs and Kim alternated between wading around and relaxing with her novel. A good time, as they say, was had. We all were fully chlorinated and happy by 3pm, which is when we had to leave.

For you see, it was Home Campus night at the minor league baseball franchise near our town! We got dried off, dressed, and back on the highway and sped on down in time for the picnic of burgers, brats and snacks. Yessirreebob, it was a Heart Healthy Day all around.

For those of you who have never been to a minor league baseball game, well, you’re missing out. You get to sit right up close, especially in the middle of May. There are all sorts of promotions and goofy entertainments between innings. The team mascot jogs around in costume, signing everything people shove into his claws. And somewhere in there they play a baseball game. How can you not love this?

We are the kiss of death for this team, unfortunately. We’ve probably gone to see seven or eight games over the last four years, and they have lost all but one of them. And they lost on Saturday too, despite leading by five runs going into the sixth inning. I suppose that's the sort of thing you expect when your mascot is a reptile and it’s cold out – everything slows down under those conditions – but it was sort of disappointing nonetheless. We had a great time, though. The girls sat through the entire game and even showed some interest in it (Tabitha and I discussed the nature of shortstops for a while; inscrutable things, shortstops). There were friends to talk to. They did the traditional “Seventh-Inning Stretch” renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “The Beer-Barrel Polka.” Yes, "The Beer-Barrel Polka." Wisconsin has different traditions than you do. Deal with it.

And the turtle signed the girls’ baseballs.

We finally got back home about fourteen hours after we left, and poured the girls into bed like day-old coffee. Good day, good night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Heartache and Loneliness of Office Hours

It’s finals week down at Home Campus, and once again this means I have to go through the motions of having office hours just in case anyone has questions.

You have to do this, as a professor. For one thing, sometimes there actually are students who have questions – oh, glorious day! – and, even more exciting, they know that they have questions, are willing to take actions to get those questions answered, and can actually find time in their lives to come in and ask those questions.

Professors live for those days.

By definition, any student who comes in during office hours is interested in discussing the material – sometimes even beyond the original question, and most of the time more than just “what do I need to pass.” They’ve made a commitment to come in and talk, and usually (not always, but usually) this means they’re not just there to extract the minimum requirement of information and be off. It’s so much fun to have those conversations, especially on small campuses where other members of your discipline are few and far between and conversations about the subject matter – the stuff to which you have devoted your professional life – are therefore rarities. I’ve had some great students over the years, and some marvelous discussions that way.

Of course, sometimes those conversations veer off into unexpected territory and odd things happen, and you end up with, well, stories. The kind of stories that make you question the wisdom of democracy. Those kinds of stories. Professors gather in their secret lairs and trade those stories in the breaks between planning sessions for world conquest or seminars on wealth management. Because you know that “when I am a wealthy and powerful professor...” is just such a cliche way to open a conversation these days.

But most of the time students don’t come in, and you just sit there, like a zoo animal on display, waiting for visitors that never come. And not a majestic and awe-inspiring animal like an eagle or a tiger either – more like a meerkat or one of those ungainly African herbivores whose main attraction is that they can pee backwards for up to 25 feet without notice.

There are just way too many ways to run with that metaphor, so I’ll stop now.

Of course, those lonely office hours do serve a number of secondary functions. They provide time to catch up on other work. You’re there anyway, might as well be productive. They provide time to catch up on other non-work, such as blogging, for pretty much the same reason except with a “non” in front of the last word. And they provide a handy excuse-blocker for students who want to blame you for their failure to understand the material. “Well, I was there – where were you?”

So much of life is just cutting off the excuses other people try to use on you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

You Can Call Me Al

We went to the Texas Road House this evening, and it was a very nice time.

It's one of that broad category of eateries that infests most American cities these days - a national chain masquerading as a local restaurant, with all sorts of corporate-approved kitsch on the walls and "flair" on the servers. On the one hand, if you're looking for anything more than a programmed dining experience, you will have to look elsewhere. Everything about the place was designed by soulless automatons and tested by focus groups. On the other hand, well, those automatons know what they're doing. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and you always leave thinking that you should come back again sometime. It's like that ad for, where the husband is in the hotel bathroom luxuriating in the free shampoo and the wife tells him it's probably just a ploy to get a better review on "Oooooooh," he responds, pouring the shampoo onto his hair as he stands fully dressed in front of the mirror, "they got me! They got me!" I know how he feels.

Six months ago we couldn't even walk into the place. As part of the ambiance, the automatons decreed that every table should have a bucket of peanuts, and people would be encouraged to throw the shells onto the floor. Kim and I went a couple of times, but only when Tabitha was out of town with Grandma and Grandma for a weekend, and even then we hosed off our shoes before we walked back into the house.

But now peanuts are okay! And several rounds of phone calls - including twenty minutes with a very nice woman in a peanut roasting factory somewhere in North Carolina - convinced us that indeed these peanuts were not cross-contaminated with other nuts as most peanuts are. Oh, glorious day.

Kim had a margarita as big as her head, which was only appropriate. Happy Mother's Day!

Tabitha had a marvelous time shelling peanuts - the first time in her life she has been able to do that - and tossing the shells onto the floor. Even in such an environment, I still can't bring myself to do that, though. Ah well.

Whenever we have traditional American meals featuring Large Slabs O' Meat, Lauren and I bond over the A.1. Sauce. For those of you who have not already discovered the carnivore's elixir of life, well, you're missing out. It does seem to run in the family. I remember talking to my grandmother once about it (she was always up late when I would come rolling home in high school, and those discussions often went in odd directions), and she took the subject and ran with it. Apparently my dad liked it too, when he was younger. "I would buy nice pieces of meat and then he drowned them in that [stuff]!" she said. And then she looked at me, since that tradition had clearly been passed on. And then she just sighed.

Lauren loves A.1. Or, as she calls it, Al. "Pass me the Al Sauce," she'll say, and I have this vision of Chef Gore standing in the White House with a cleaver in his hand. I have never done illegal drugs. I have never needed to.

So we had our Al, and were glad in it.

We took a couple small bags of roasted peanuts home with us for future use, though I don't know if they ever made it inside the house. Now all I need is a margarita.

On Gay Marriage - A Rant

So now it’s Maine. It’s been a good spring for marriage in these United States.

You wouldn’t know this if the only thing on your radio was AM talk radio, where the hosts continue to beat the drums of the apocalypse. Then again, most of those hosts - and all of their callers - should probably be given sedatives, padded rooms and lollipops with looped handles and only gradually introduced to that complex and colorful thing known as "reality."

Nor would you know it if you listened to the army of zealots currently slandering the name "Christian" these days. It has been my sad experience that those who shout their faith loudest have the least idea what it means to be faithful, although that would conversely imply that I'm practically a theologian, which I'm fairly sure is not the case. At any rate, last week's disheartening news that the frequency of church attendance - particularly evangelical Protestant church attendance - correlates almost exactly with the approval of torture only deepens that sad experience. One recalls forlornly the words of Mohandas Ghandi: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

Last month, the Supreme Court of the State of Iowa legalized gay marriage. Iowa! The nation’s heartland, and all that. It was a unanimous decision, and unlike most of the people criticizing it I took the time to read it. It was well reasoned, moderate, and thoroughly in keeping with Iowa’s long history of refusing to go along with the popular bigotry of the day. Iowa was firmly abolitionist when it was legal for some Americans to own other Americans based solely on their skin color. It granted rights to women long before other regions of the US decided that women were good for more than childbearing. And now it has declared that it will defend the institution of marriage against those who would reserve it as a privilege rather than recognize it as a right. Good on them.

Add in Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and it looks like New England is once again in the forefront of American liberty, as it was in the early 19th century. It is not coincidental that Iowa, like most of the upper Midwest, was largely settled by New Englanders.

All this is unmitigated good.

The most interesting thing to come down the pike, though, was in Washington DC, where the City Council voted to recognize gay marriages from other jurisdictions. On the one hand, this represents the will of the elected representatives of the people of Washington DC, which ought to count for something in a republic. On the other hand, the ultimate authority in DC is Congress, not the City Council, and it will be interesting to see what grandstanding will come. Because you just know there will be grandstanding. Members of Congress - elected by people thousands of miles away from the people of Washington, though not, ironically, by the people of Washington themselves - will feel they have the right to overrule the Council, and they will claim to be representing the people of America when they do so. Well, they’re not representing me.

It is morally bankrupt that there are places in the United States where gay marriage is prohibited.

There is no good reason for this. I’ve been subjected to an awful lot of foamy rants on this subject, and none were worth the time and oxygen spent on them. I have tried to understand them, really I have - it is not good to be ignorant of deeply held views, even those with which one disagrees wholeheartedly - but in the end they always collapse to nothing, and the only thing I've gotten out of listening to them is older.

Most of that foam starts off on religious grounds, with people who seem to think that merely because their spin on the Bible finds gay marriage objectionable the laws of the United States should reflect this opinion.

This is not so.

First of all, the United States is a Constitutional Republic, not a theocracy (or even a democracy – we elect representatives to govern us – but that’s another argument for another day). If you want to live in a theocracy, go to Iran. It is my contention that the United States should not be taking lessons on governance from Iran. Words cannot express how utterly irrelevant what is in the Bible is when it comes to the content of American laws. What matters is the Constitution, which at least at present starts out with the words “We the people,” and does not discriminate further on that point. The Founding Fathers very carefully and deliberately left religion out of the Constitution, and no amount of delusional wishing on the part of fanatics can change that fact. They can try to amend the Constitution if they’d like, but again – another argument for another day.

Nevertheless, people do natter on and on about what is in the Bible when it comes to this issue, and they insist that it needs to be taken literally. Personally, I’ve always felt that the Bible is best treated as a parable of Higher Truths than as an exercise in journalism to be fact-checked, but I do seem to be in the minority on that point in these Evangelical States of America. There seems to be an unlimited supply of people here who will tell you that every word of it is Literally True And Meant To Be Obeyed. To which the only proper response is, dude, what are you smoking? Have you ever read the Bible? It prohibits such things as cotton/polyester blend shirts, shopping on Sundays and cheeseburgers, which few of the folks opposing gay marriage trouble themselves about. It allows such things as selling one’s children into slavery and murdering those who do work on the Sabbath, which few of the folks opposing gay marriage support. Why do they get to pick and choose? And why should I and the rest of the country be forced to take them seriously when they do?

There are also a number of religious denominations that don’t seem to have any trouble with gay marriage. Why then do the literalist zealots get priority, especially given the selective nature of their literalism in the first place?

Failing the religious angle, the next screed I get offered up is that gay marriage is somehow unnatural. Mostly this boils down to the bizarre notion that “natural” more or less means “that with which the person making the argument is personally acquainted and of which they approve.” Even a cursory familiarity with history is enough for thinking people to realize that natural, normal and familiar are all things that vary widely across times and cultures. Interracial marriages were once considered unnatural, and opponents of those cited the Bible to support that position as well.

Ironically enough, the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage used the same language and cited the same provision in the Massachusetts state constitution as that court's 1783 decision to abolish slavery. So you can have slavery and no gay marriage, or gay marriage and no slavery - take your pick, but they are linked that way. I'm fairly clear on what my choice is, but sometimes I wonder how others plan to decide that.

I think the most offensive bit of verbal chicanery I've been subjected to by the folks who would deny gays the right to marry is the idea that they are somehow "defending the institution of marriage" by doing so. This is pure unadulterated horse byproduct.

First of all, speaking as an almost comically straight man who has been happily married for thirteen years now, how exactly does this issue threaten my marriage? I'd be interested to hear that explained in specific terms and instead of the general fear-mongering and vaguely phrased innuendo that has been handed to me so far. I have come to suspect that there are no specifics to be had, and that all of the rhetoric is just so much hand waving designed to distract from a fundamental emptiness.

Second, I'd be more inclined to take this argument seriously if it weren't for the fact that its practical effect is to destroy real marriages - real commitments made by real people whose lives are being turned upside down by narrow-minded zealots who can't imagine that those relationships count. When California overturned its brief experiment with gay marriage, the question became what to do with all the couples who had been married in that time. And it didn't take long for the true colors of the anti-marriage movement to show - they are currently petitioning the courts to have all those marriages destroyed.

Now there's a threat to the institution of marriage that needs to be defended against.

So I will rejoice and be glad that, however slowly and with however much opposition, the institution of marriage is expanding to include people who will honor it, preserve it, and help it survive in this bitter and poisonous age.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall? Practice...

Yesterday was the Big Concert here in our little town, with command performances by Tabitha and Lauren as well as a host of others. You should have been there.

Every year the girls' music teacher rents out the very same hall where Kim and I had our wedding reception and invites the family and friends of her students to watch their children perform. We've been to two of these now and they are a lot of fun, though it is hard sometimes to sit in that space and not think about our wedding reception.

Grandma and Grandpa came down for the show, and we all piled over early so the girls could get some time up on the stage. It is always good to do that, since that makes the stage a little less intimidating. We finally settled down into our places and the show began.

Lauren was about the fourth person to perform. She marched up to the stage with a purpose, sat down on the piano bench, and suddenly realized that while she was tall for her age she wasn't that tall and there was no way she was going to reach the pedals to play her piece. There was a moment of confusion before this was corrected, and then she launched into her songs - "The Bells of Great Britain" and "Dancing With Frankenstein," which made an interesting combination. She did a very good job, and we all applauded.

A couple of performers later, it was Tabitha's turn. Being a violinist, she had no need to worry about benches. She too marched up with a purpose, squared away toward the audience, and launched into her piece - "Mary Had A Little Lamb," which she played quite well, especially for someone whose musical career can be measured in months. Applause ensued, as was appropriate.

Afterward there was a general handing out of certificates, awards and trophies to the assembled students, followed by a reception with more sugar than a collection of children should probably be exposed to, but you know - they earned it.

Good job, girls. We're proud of you.