Monday, December 09, 2013

The Anti-Dog Song

Of all of the creatures on God's good, green earth,
Lacking in wisdom and whimsy and worth,
There is one possessing of these greatest dearth,
And that, my friends, is the dog

From their big, lolling heads to banal, wagging tails
An aura of witlessness surely prevails;
When they clickety-clack cross your floor on their nails,
You know the heartache of owning a dog

Oh, cursed be the man who first lured to his cave
A creature once noble, ferocious, and brave
And watered it down to a slobbering knave:
Minus lupus, add canis: the Dog.

As frightfully absurd as a man eating quiche
Is the bubble-brained cur at the end of a leash;
A potpourri, medley, composite, pastiche
Of inanities make up the dog.

When you try to avoid them, it's a futile case
As their owners so clueless, ignoble, and base
Let them shit in your yard and yap loud in your face
And hate you if you don't like their dog.


You can give them a bath, and yet still in one hour
A smell that no shampoo can yet overpower
Will emanate forth, sending you to the shower
If you've been forced to touch someone's dog.

Some people dress dogs in sweaters or put them in hats
Whether they're big as Goliath or smaller than rats
Y'know who won't put up with that crap, folks? Yep, cats!
Who are a hell of a lot smarter than dogs.


This is my "Anti-Dog Song" which makes the dog-lovers in my life sad, mostly because in their hearts they know that every word is true (except the part about quiche -- I really do think it's OK for a man to eat quiche).  I wrote it this past summer, when I was in the throes of depression over the fact that we had a dog.

My dad said that I ought to remove from this blog my post from May 2013 about our dog, Daisy, that we had adopted.  But, I do not believe in erasing history.  We did, indeed, adopt a dog -- only to find out that we had made a dreadful mistake. 

There was nothing wrong with Daisy, other than that she is a dog, and we are not dog-people.  She really was our Bellis Perennis, Canis Optima -- the best possible dog that we could  have ever had.  She did not bark or have accidents in the house.  She did not chew. She was not aggressive.  She was sweet and nice and eager to please.  But, her fatal flaw for us was that she was a dog, and -- as I said -- we are not dog-people.

Here is the happy end to the story -- one with which dog-lovers cannot quibble: When we collectively realized as a family that nobody loved the dog, we immediately made steps to have the adoption agency put her back into the system to try to find her a forever home.  We fostered her for about two weeks until they found a lady to come look at her.  It was love at first sight for both of them.  I am delighted to report that Daisy went to a loving home -- one that could appreciate her many stellar doggish qualities -- at the end of August, and we have been dog-free more than three months.  We have since adopted two kitties, whom we love with all our hearts.  Everyone wins!

Anyway, I still think that this song is pretty funny, in a painful, truth-telling, cathartic sort of way.  Here in western Washington State -- where there are more dogs than Christians -- our family is surrounded by the "Children of Dog," as I have taken to calling the cult of canine that has sprouted all over the world in recent years.  Two of our neighbors have each a little rat-like mutt, both of whom come regularly into our backyard to eat the bird food I put out and then leave stinky deposits.  I hate them. However, friends and family have nice enough doggies with whom I do not mind having occasional, friendly interactions.

I guess if you think dogs are one step removed from angels, you can leave a comment telling me how utterly wretched a person I am and how I am going to hell and all that.  I won't believe it, but you can vent.  But, I am really posting this for the oppressed fellow travelers out there who know that dogs are not really all that great and are rather a nuisance than otherwise and maybe have to deal with obnoxious dogs in your neighborhoods or homes.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 

Monday, November 25, 2013


I got through word 50,000 on my NaNoWriMo project today!  Today!  I'm still not done with the dang book, though.  But, I validated the word count anyway so that I could put this on my blog:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Best Thing About Being a Grown-Up?

It is getting to eat ice cream any time of day that you please.  Definitely.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy "Independence" Day!

From the creative folks at, via Mollie Hemingway at Ricochet:

A lot of American principle is contained in the two words: "Just don't." Much of the rest is encompassed by the suggestion of minding one's own business. The whole is summed up in the word "liberty."
--Isabel Paterson

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Top Pot

I just received a mid-year notification from Map My Run that, so far, in 2013 I have logged 232 workouts on 49 different routes for a total distance of 1,002.6 miles over the course of 192.5 hours and have burned  95,662 calories.  That last figure would be more impressive if I had not countered it proactively by eating all and then some of those calories back in the form of Top Pot Doughnuts.

Ah, Top Pot -- that glorious palindrome that represents all that is delicious and unholy in deep fried pastry.  Better than Tim Horton's (sorry, Canada); better than Krispy Kreme. Simply, the BEST doughnuts ever.  And now, for the rest of the summer, I must bid them "good-bye."

Why?  Because I am in training for this marathon thingy in Sioux Falls, SD in September.  And, I want to lose another 10 pounds before running it, as every pound of weight you carry becomes four pounds worth of pressure on knees and ankles when you run.  I really do not want to train my heart out and then come up injured before the run (as almost happened to me before the half-marathon in Seattle last November).  So, sadly, I say Auf Wiedersehen, Top Pot; implicit in which expression is the promise that I will be back come the post-September 8 world.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Bellis Perennis (Canis Optima!)

Otherwise known as the common daisy, Bellis Perennis has become the first nickname of our not-so-common Daisy, the newest member of the family!

Yesterday, we welcomed one brown-eyed, wet-nosed, two-year-old into our home for a trial 2-week adoption.  But, we do not need 2 weeks to know if this is the ONE.  She just so totally is.

Behold the cuteness of Daisy Girl:
Sadie is now, officially, the happiest girl in all the realm.  And I am now, officially, the most vacuuming-est mom that has ever been.  My new scourge: dog hair. Ah well, the things you do for love.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Small Washington School Closes Because of Nice Weather

This story made me smile; it's just so Washington:

SEATTLE (AP) — In sun-deprived Washington state, the promise of nice spring weather has prompted a small private school to give students a day off to enjoy the sunshine.

Friday will be a "sun day" of sorts for 205 students at Bellingham Christian School in Bellingham, Wash.

Principal Bob Sampson announced the day off on the school's site.

Sampson says he wanted to give students a chance to enjoy the weather and re-energize. He says he surveyed parents and floated the idea with the school board before canceling school.

The sun day was also made possible because there weren't any days off because of snow this school year.

Friday is not the first time the school has given students the day off because of sunshine. The last time was two years ago.

Truly, it is a glorious day.  If you have never been to Western Washington when the sun is shining, then you are missing out on one of God's great gifts.  I'm glad that the Bellingham principal sees things the same way.  I hope not one of those lucky-ducky children wastes the day inside playing video games!
I am also thrilled to report that our baby apple trees in the backyard have blossoms on them this spring -- for the first time!  Yay!  The blueberry bushes are looking great, with countless delicate, pale buds that look like poofy skirts from the Gay 90's.  The strawberries are making their own sweet show in greens, whites, and yellows.  And, I have planted my geraniums and marigolds and peas.  I love my rainy, grey winters here in the PNW; but, I love my vibrant, flashy springs, too!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Running for a Cause!

Please consider signing up or donating to World Concern's "Free Them" 5K/10K Fundraiser to fight human trafficking.  My whole family is signed up to run -- Sadie and Jason are tackling the 5K part, and I will grimly face the 10K.  I think it is in Fremont, so there will be hills

If you're interested at all in donating, here is a link to our family's fundraising page:

The Olawsky Family's World Concern "Free Them" Page

Thanks so much!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Like a Rag Doll

Yesterday evening at Safeway, we had finished loading our groceries into the car and I was returning the cart when a crunch of metal caused me and Jason to both look up.  A huge, old Ford truck was pulling quickly away from the Toyota Camry into which the driver had just backed.  Then, a woman was running across the parking lot, pushing her cart filled with groceries, screaming at the truck, "That's my car!  You hit my car!"  The truck continued to drive away, so the woman pushed her cart to the side and sped up after the truck, screaming the whole time, "You hit my car!  That's my car!"  I ran after her, and caught her grocery cart, pushed it out of the way to safety and started after her.  I guess I figured that, if the truck's driver didn't have the decency to stop at the moment he hit her car, he was not going to stop just because she chased after him.  I wanted to get close enough to see his license plate number so that I could help her file a police report for hit-and-run. 

The truck had to stop at the parking lot driveway to make a left turn out onto SE 140th, which is a fairly busy road in our neighborhood.  There was a car in front of it waiting also to turn, which allowed the woman to catch up to the truck.  She started beating on the passenger-side window, yelling repeatedly for the driver to stop, because he hit her car.  The car in front of the truck turned left onto the street.  Then, to my and everyone else's horror, the truck started to turn left, with the woman clinging onto the side window.  She managed to run a few steps with the truck, then, as it picked up speed, it began to drag her, and then -- Lord, have mercy and drive this vision from my mind -- she lost her grip and I saw her body bounce along the ground like a rag doll.  The truck sped off.

Thank God, she did not die.  Thank God, she did not lose consciousness.  Some good people on the other side of the street were able to drag her out of the road quickly.  She was cut up terribly -- flesh just torn from her legs and feet, blood pouring from her forehead and the back of her head.  Those of us on the Safeway-side began to stream over to offer what assistance we could, and to make sure that, when the police came, we were able to give our witness testimony.  Jason, on the other side in the parking lot, stood guard over her car and her shopping cart.  The poor woman was just crying and crying, "He hit my car . . . he hurt me . . . he hurt me . . . he hit my car . . . he is a bad man . . . he did not stop . . . oh, he hurt me . . ."  Someone found her cell phone and called her husband.  The firemen came, the sheriff came, police officers came. 

What I did not know at the time, but found out soon afterward, was that another man had just gotten into his car in the Safeway parking lot when the hit occurred.  As he watched the unbelievable scene unfold, he quickly sprang into action.  He turned right behind the truck onto 140th, stopped but a moment to help get the woman out of the road after she fell, then back into the driver's seat to follow that truck, cell phone in hand, so that the police were able to stop the truck driver within a half and hour.  "They got him," the sheriff apprised us with triumph; a cheer went up among the witnesses and bystanders.  The man who followed the truck came back at the end, to finish giving his report for the police.  Jason and I were able to shake his hand.  Hero.

The woman, whose name is Twee, had been reaching out a hand to me during the wait for her husband and police.  I grabbed her blood-soaked hand and held it gently, promising her that we were all there to help her and that none of us would think of leaving her.  I saw the cross necklace that she wore.  When I met her husband later, I told him to tell Twee that our family would be praying for her.  And so we have.

You may wonder why she was so tenacious in pursuing the man who hit her car.  Why, you may ask, would anyone put themselves at such risk, simply to avenge a cosmetic aberration?  Her husband had the key.  See, Twee was from another country -- somewhere in Asia, I did not find the specific one -- and she had had a very hard life of grinding poverty before coming to the States and marrying her husband.  This car that had been hit was her first new car -- a 2010 Camry with 26, 000 miles on it.  She had had it for only 4 weeks.  And so, I can only guess, when that man hit her car and drove off without any acknowledgement, it was a slap in her face rather than a dent in her trunk.  I imagine all the desperation and injustice of her youth came flooding back to her in that moment and every fibre within her cried out, "I will not be a victim again.  Not today.  Not ever." And I can understand that.

Please pray for Twee's speedy recovery.  And for justice to be served for the man who acted with no honor and almost took her life.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Happiest Show on TV

From 1997 through 2002, I had two recurring events around which I structured my schedule: church on Sundays and Dharma and Greg on Wednesday nights. Go ahead: mock and deride, if you will.  I don't care.  D&G was my favorite show back then in those work-full-time-go-to-school-full-time days, and it remains in my top three all-time favorites today. 

On a week that has seen inexplicable horror and unimaginable evil, it is good to revisit things like D&G that are pure happiness and light. The powers that be have only released one season to DVD in the U.S.; however, some very good souls have risked copyright infringement charges and who-knows-what-else to post further seasons on YouTube.  Huzzah!

Dharma Finkelstein and Greg Montgomery: not only the best-looking couple ever assembled in the sit-com labs, but also the most innately sweet.  If you have never seen the show, the premise is this: Dharma is a happy-go-lucky, new-agey chick raised by hippie parents in that part of San Francisco; Greg is a lawyer in the Justice Dept. from an old-money family in that part of San Francisco; they meet on BART and get married on that same day.  Chaos and hilarity ensue. While the two sets of parents and their culture and values clashes are certainly amusing, it is the chemistry and joy that the two stars (Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson) bring to their characters that just made this show must-see TV for me from the get-go.  Dharma was created, as was revealed in interviews on the first season's DVD set, to be the antidote for the unhappy, tightly-wound career woman of the 1990's who was miserable in her personal life.  They wanted to make a character who was simply happy with who she was, absolutely in love, and able to spread delightful sunshine to everyone in her day-to-day life.  I think they succeeded.  And Greg was the perfect complement. 

So, when my heart is crying and the world is dying, I hold on to Jesus, yes, and fall to my knees.  But, I also turn my radio to 98.1 KING FM and listen to the soothing, interesting awesomeness of Sean MacLean as he hosts hours of classical music.  Or, I read and read and read. Or, and definitely increasingly this week, I pull up YouTube on the old laptop and watch the Happiest Show on TV.

Monday, April 01, 2013

We Are Advancing Constantly

Sadie will start 6th Grade mathematics (Saxon) this  month.  She is still technically in 4th Grade.

When we chose to homeschool Sadie two years ago, it was in part so that we could incorporate things like Latin and Greek into our curriculum.  Even Catholic schools do not teach those subjects at Elementary levels anymore.  In part, too, was the idea of not missing a huge chunk of Sadie's childhood -- after three years of sending her off to school in the morning, I was feeling disconnected with the person she was becoming.  Some moms make great classroom moms and get totally involved with the school experience.  I am not one of those moms.  The last great part of the decision was finding a schedule that really works -- for that optimal (optare - "to wish") balance of academic vigor, life-enhancing experiences, and plenty of dreaming down-time. I think we are getting very close.

I have set up the school year as follows: In September, we officially start a new academic year.  This is so that, if Sadie ever goes back into a traditional school, she will be in sync with the school calendar.  But, she will be "in school" year-round.  We do three weeks on, one week off, from September through August, with four special times of the year when she can have two weeks off in a row.  That gives us a typical 36-week school year, with a good dose of field-tripping and goofing-off time thrown in.

Because we are eschewing the 3-month wasteland of summer break, in September there is no "waking up the summer-slumber mind and snapping it back into academic mode" month of remedial learning.  In the words of Patton (the movie, at least, if not the man), "we are advancing constantly." Even on her "off" weeks, Sadie needs to do a little math, a little Latin and Greek, and a little memory work (be it poetry or geography or both!). This is just to keep her awake.  I have tried to give her time with absolutely no schoolwork, and have found that, when we start again, she inevitably tries to claim that she has forgotten how to conjugate ambulo into pluperfect or how to subtract fractions. This is because she is a weasel. So, math and Latin and so on we do -- and, if she does not fuss, it takes less than an hour and she can go climb up a tree and commune with the birds, or whatnot.

Also, by adhering to this schedule, we are still able to be ready for testing at the end of May.  At first I was worried that our strung-out timeline would make Sadie only 3/4 of the way through her grade level by testing time.  I have found, though, that homeschooling allows us simply to get through more things quickly, as well as thoroughly.  So, we can finish a 4th Grade science curriculum in April, or US History in May.  And math is just something that spirals around anyway, with piecemeal additions of new concepts interwoven with constant repetition of old ones.  Sadie did very well on her tests last year; I know she will do the same this year.  And the NLE, starting in 5th Grade?  Piece of cake (fingers crossed/knocking wood)!

I never thought that I would advocate for year-round school.  I believe with all my heart that kids need lots and lots of dreaming alone time and robust playing time and time out of their seats and into the world.  But, I am pretty sure -- and I'll have to wait for the years to bear witness as to whether I am or not, ultimately -- that this mixture is just right.  At least, it seems to be working for our family.  The seamless advance from year-to-year in our various curricula just plain works.  Far be it from me to wish to sentence any child to more time in public school; but, for homeschoolers or nontraditional and private schools, this schedule is something to consider. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Drawing Sentences: A Guide to Diagramming

It always surprises me how very little most people seem to understand the structure of language.  More so, it surprises me how little they seem to care about their lack of understanding.  This is not limited to Americans.  I was questioning my Swiss friend about some points of German grammar, and she said that she really did not know how to answer me.  She just naturally speaks and reads it.  Which I suppose makes sense.  That is how most of us interact with our native tongues.  I guess it is just that I enjoy writing.  And, more than that actually, I enjoy reading well-written work, be it essay or story or novel.  My desire both to write better and to grasp why well-written pieces resonate the way that they do has led me to a lifelong fascination with grammar, syntax, and punctuation. And since I am the tyrannical pedagogical overlord of my daughter's education, my obsessions dictate her courses of study.  So, we are going to start diagramming sentences in composition.  Bwha-ha-ha! 
Luckily for me, this modern age of instant and complete gratification almost immediately put into my hands the ultimate sentence diagramming book: Drawing Sentences by Eugene Moutoux.  I promise you: I ordered this book before I even knew that the author was a professor of, among other things, German and Latin (derivatives).  Must be kismet!  We have not started to use it yet (next Monday is the day enclosed with a red heart on my calendar that signals the beginning of our journey); but, after simply thumbing through its awesomeness, I can confidently say that this book has everything you need to learn completely the art of diagramming.  He starts with the simplest sentences (e.g. "Ducks waddle.") and moves you systematically through the swirly-twirly grammar forest to such compositional virtuosity as this gem from Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher": During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. Whoa Nelly!  Could Poe himself diagram that twister?  We ought to be able to by the end of this course.
I am really hoping that this intensive study -- which will probably take us the rest of 4th Grade well into 6th -- will leave Sadie with a thorough understanding of the structural beauty that is possible with our wondrous language.  Also, I hope that she comes away from it with more than a nodding acquaintance with the arsenal of structural components available to writers to enrich and enhance their craft.  Frankly, that is my hope for myself as well. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

2,000 Years

Pie in the Sky!
Heaven.  Such a beguiling thought!  Do you sit and dream about how you will while away the uncountable hours once the shackles of time are thrown off and our tears of sadness are replaced forever by those of joy?  I love to think of Heaven, which is probably why Revelation is one of my least favorite books of the Bible -- too boring and scary.  I acknowledge that that will be the end of our beginning -- the ultimate battles to usher in the Millennial Reign on this battle-scarred earth.  But, one thousand years is nothing to eternity, and I like to focus my thoughts on the great Here-After, when sin and pain are put away, and we are who we were always meant to be.  Jason thinks I'm too pie-in-the-sky with my anticipations of Heaven.  Why, of course there will be pie!  How could our great and good God fashion a paradise that does not include pie?  I think that I am right, and Jason is wrong.  Jesus is our model for what resurrected life looks like.  He ate fish.  I will eat pie.  Ultimately, after the great End and the grand court display with the cherubim and seraphim chanting creepily about, what we will be left with is our Heavenly Father and His family.  And we all know that when family reunions are good, they are very good indeed.  And there is often pie!

I used to think that the line to see Jesus would cost me at least 10,000 years of waiting.  Then, it hit me that Jesus is not like Santa Claus at the Bellevue Mall.  He will be ever-present, because He is welcoming us into His home.  His Spirit will waft about like fresh perfume, no longer contained to the hearts of those who love Him.  And, I will know everybody!  No more lurking in the corner, wishing I were somewhere else, counting the minutes until the party is over.  There won't be any minutes to count!  What a party!

What I love to think of most (and this is where Jason thinks I veer too close to heresy or solipsism or whatnot) is that I will get to be with other people I love who love Jesus.  That is, I firmly believe that there will be firesides in cozy rooms in the mansion that my Father built, with rain pouring down outside the big picture windows.  And by those firesides, there will be glasses of wine and good fellowship with the likes of Flicka, Vermonster, Anita, Jane, Maud, Jack, Gilbert, etc.  And there will be laughter and stories and joy.  Jason seems to think it will be all Revelation all the time.  If it were, then I would want out.  But, I think too highly of my Heavenly Father for that.  He built us for joyful relationships.  He rescued us to be His family.  Every father loves to see his children in loving fellowship; how much more, then, our Father in Heaven?  You simply cannot have relationships within the framework of Revelation.  There is not much in that prophetic book that says "family."  I think that it is a description of a fixed point in Heaven's timeline -- another instance, like that of Creation and the Incarnation, of God's subjecting Himself to the tyranny of time in order to accomplish something important. But, once the end of the beginning is finished, once the Millennial Reign is done, once we truly enter eternity, then it's the biggest, best family reunion ever!

I have already told my friend, Flicka, that I'm counting on at least 2,000 years of drinking wine with her by that glorious fire simply to catch up on all the interrupted conversations and missed opportunities from our fleeting vapor of earth life.  Of course, there will not be such a thing as years by then; but, if there were, I'm thinking that I'm pretty spot on. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Recapturing the True Spirit of the Season

OK, my dad is sending too much good stuff to my in-box lately.
Caesar. The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer. Ay, Caesar; but not gone. (3.1.1) 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Could This Be the BEST News Blurb EVER?

As seen by my keen-eyed dad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As Mr. Bennet would say, "For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bug Unplugged

Yes, we really just might be the bravest parents in America, perhaps in the whole of Western Civilization. We are preparing to journey into a realm trod not by modern man.  We are taking a bold step into the future, the consequences of which we cannot prophesy, but must countenance.  For, once we have made this move, there is no turning back.  Many call us foolish as they secretly survey us with envy and awe.  We have, indeed, empires in our purpose and new eras in our brains. We are traveling, internationally, with our Bug unplugged.
 On Monday, we leave for a fortnight of fun in London (and Chawton and Bath).  The catch is this: we are non-revving, which is airline employee lingo meaning we fly for (almost) free, but have to stand-by for a seat.  So, we really cannot know which airports we'll be stuck in and for how long until we get to our destination.  Jason has an intricate network of all possible routes on a spreadsheet.  He is our logistics guy. He'll get us there and back.
"Make sure the iPad is fully charged," counseled one friend blithely.  "Load up on lots of new movies," suggested another.  "Don't forget your DS stylus," warned a third, "you'll never hear the end of it." 
"No," I said in reply.  We do not have an iPad or Kindle Fire or whatever that new thing from Microsoft is for which they have produced some of the most obnoxious commercials in recent memory.  We are leaving the iPods at home.  And, I haven't been able to find the Nintendo DS for more than 6 months now.  We are traveling unplugged.  Sadie-Bug unplugged.
Foolish, you say?  Masochistic?  Inconceivable?  Nonsense, I say: visionary.  At least, visionary if your vision encompasses the glory days of the 1980's, which is when I took a trip, at Sadie's almost-current age of 10, with my father to England and Wales for three weeks.  Not having any new-fangled diversionary devices, I had to pay attention.  I also read books.  Get this:  I read the Narnia series for the first time whilst driving with my pop through the backroads of England.  Who is the lucky-ducky here, huh? 
Our Sadie-Bug, God love her, gets lost in screens.  Give her a screen, and you have said goodbye to any meaningful interaction with Bugster until you have wrested said flickering, back-lit monster from her grasp.  If we brought her iPod, loaded with movies, she would never look out the window on the train from London to Bath, or talk to us, or pay attention.  Even if we packed the device away, she would sulk and pout until it was hers again.  Better just not to bring it.  We are bringing books.
And, speaking of books, I'm in a rush to finish Amity Shlaes's new Coolidge biography, appropriately titled, Coolidge.  I had originally ordered it to be my travel book to London, but then Jason and I had a big set-to.  Coolidge is more than 400 pages and hardcover; Jason gestured -- wildly and futilely -- at my neglected Kindle lying forlorn and uncharged in the basket at the foot of our bed.  "This," he cried in hoarse desperation, "this is why I bought you the Kindle!  Upload the damn book on Kindle, and don't go lugging that doorstop all over England." 
Petulant, I whined in return, "But I don't like to read books on Kindle.  I like to read real, paper books.  Waaaaaa!" 
"I know," he replied in exasperation, "Kindle sucks for everyday reading.  But, for traveling, and traveling light, it is your best option." 
"I don't wanna!  Waaaa!" 
"Fine," he glowered at me, "And I suppose that's not the only book you're planning to bring." 
"Well," I gulped, "I was going to bring one more."
"And that is . . . ?"
"My new Roger Scruton book," I whispered, too ashamed to meet his eye,
"You mean the hardcovered 400+ page tome that is resting on your nightstand right now?"
Teensy-weensy now, "Yes."
"Aaaargh!"  His eyes rolled, and his face darkened even more, and he turned away from me in disgust.
So, for peace, peace, when there is no peace, I have decided to read the Shlaes book before we leave.  It is rather good.  She does not write the most lucid prose I have ever read, but she knows how to pick out an interesting story to illustrate her point.  So far, I'm a little disappointed in Calvin Coolidge, though he has long been one of my favorite presidents.  It's mostly this: he went immediately from reading law after college into politics, with little private enterprise between.  That is annoying.  Still, his character was always sound, and his politics grew more so the longer he served in office.  His handling of the police strike in Boston whilst he was governor of Massachusetts was sublime. 

Here is something interesting about Coolidge's political rise:  It seems that the longer he was in office, the more conservative he became.  The more conservative he became, the more people loved him.  And the more they loved him, the more they voted for him and his ideas.  This runs completely counter to the common wisdom that moderates will rule the day.  Of course, the makeup of the American electorate was different back in the early part of the 20th century, at least in some ways.  There was a huge influx of immigrants, many of whom spoke English (the Irish), but many of whom did not (the Italians).  There was much more wide-spread poverty than today.  And you had the terrible, unconscionable effects of culturally acceptable, institutional racism, too.  Yet, even with all these problems, America was different.  Something wholesome and good was at its core -- a youth and optimism that, though things are tough, this was still the best place to be.  You did not look at your neighbor with a predatory eye, coveting his goods, expecting him to provide for you.  Attempts at class warfare fell flat, because most Americans did not see any reason why they or their children could not be the next Stearns or Morgan or Mellon.  We have grown old and rotten at our core.  I am beginning to suspect that Coolidge's greatness just reflected the greatness of America at the time.  We get the leaders we deserve -- and, as Mencken would point out, we get them good and hard.
But, enough of that.  My point here is that we are traveling unplugged.  The Luddite in me rejoices!  Yes, the blogging, high-speed Internet-connected, jumbo jet-flying Luddite within!  LOL!  But, we will not be completely without screens, alas.  Apparently, British Airways features an extensive library of movies and TV shows on their in-flight entertainment system.  The challenge will be this:  through how many pages of math and how many Latin and Greek flashcards can I march Sadie before I give in to the temptation of peaceful reading promised by the beguilingly blank screen in front of her seat?



Friday, February 15, 2013

Bill Grogan's Goat

I lead preschool and Kindergarten worship for the 11 AM service at our church (the wonderful Calvary Chapel South).  This gig sort of fell into my lap (read: no one else signed up), and this is now the third (or fourth?) year that I've tortured the kiddos with my lack of musical talents and amused them with my abundance of goofiness. Lately, a little guy who is somewhere twixt the ages of 3 and 4 has been badgering me to sing a certain particular worship song: Bill Grogan's Goat.  Now, I had never heard this chart-topper for the preschool set before, but I was assured by my young petitioner that it was most excellent in all ways of godly praise.  So, I told him a couple weeks ago that I would look the song up and try to learn it so that we could sing it during worship time.

True to my word, I Googled the song.  Turns out, it has little to do with God and much to do with a man who got very angry at his goat.  Undaunted, I copy-pasted both lyrics and chords.  A wee rewrite later, and this dandy ditty (which, in some versions, could veer into the realm of gory) obtained a few verses of redemption to earn it a place in the worship song roster.  Inspired by the vivid lyrics, I then drew some pictures that illustrated the actions, so the children could follow along while we learned the song.  Here is what I came up with and what I began to teach the kiddos last Sunday:

Bill Grogan's Goat (Redemption Version)

 There was a man (there was a man)
Now, please take note (now please take note)
This man named Bill (this man named Bill)
He loved his goat (he loved his goat) 

 One day Bill's goat (one day Bill's goat)
Was feeling fine (was feeling fine)
Ate three red shirts (at three red shirts)
Right off the line (right off the line)

Bill took a stick (Bill took a stick)
Gave him three whacks (gave him three whacks)
And tied him to (and tied him to)
The railroad tracks (the railroad tracks)

The whistle blew (the whistle blew)
The train drew nigh (the train drew nigh)
Bill Grogan's goat (Bill Grogran's goat)
Seemed doomed to die (seemed doomed to die)
 That goat he groaned (that goat he groaned)
As in great pain (as in great pain)
Coughed up those shirts (coughed up those shirts)
And flagged the train (and flagged the train)
 That train it stopped (that train it stopped)
As on a dime (as on a dime)
Bill Grogan's goat (Bill Grogan's goat)
Was saved in time! (was saved in time)
Bill watched the scene (Bill watched the scene)
With great remorse (with great remorse)
Ran to his goat (ran to his goat)
His voice all hoarse (his voice all hoarse) 
"Dear goat will you (dear goat will you)
Forgive forget?" (forgive forget)
The goat said, "Maaah!" (the goat said maaah)
Which means, "You bet!" (which means you bet)
So that is all (so that is all)
Our story's done (our story's done)
A lesson learned (a lesson learned)
And so much fun! (yes so much fun!)

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Jinxing My Good Health (Hopefully)

You know how you never really want to say aloud that something hasn't come to pass because you might jinx it into happening after all?  Well, here's my best shot:

I have not been sick in like forever.  Not a sniffle nor a sneeze.  No itchy throat or aching head.  No excuse to stay in bed all day drinking hot things while the rain pours down outside.  No sweet indulgences in self pity.  No one taking care of me and cooing over me and worrying me back into health.  Nada.

It's been more than two years since I've had a sick day.  Boo-hoo.  I've always been in complete sympathy with C.S. Lewis's contention that "ideal happiness" comes very near on this terrestrial plane in a convalescence from a small illness whilst sitting comfortably with a good book. He chose a window overlooking the sea and Italian epics.  I would choose a mountain cabin in the rain and something British-wrought.  Our sentiments are essentially the same.  Namely, I think, he and I are both looking for that absence of guilt that comes when one is recovering from illness (no matter how trifling), and the bliss of long periods of solitude, interrupted only by the most solicitous of inquiries.

And, unlike little Peggy Ann McKay, I am fully willing to succumb to a small cold any day of the week, even on a Saturday.  So, I'm stockpiling Theraflu  . . . and waiting . . .*

*To those of you to whom I might be rather closely related who think that the entire subject of this post is "inane," I only wish to point out that its premise is first cousin to the one which would lead a viewer of High Sierra (1941) to look longingly upon Humphrey Bogart's character's bullet-riddled arm and wistfully declare, "I wish I had a gunshot wound."  So there.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Budget Woes

This weekend, we are going to work on our household budget, as per one of my 2013 goals.  I am so depressed.  There are few things more anathema to my soul than number-crunching.  I hate the petite-bourgeoisie-ness of it all.  My m.o. is to throw money around in a haphazard and extravagant way and then hold my breath to see what happens next.  Jason, on the other hand, is elated.  This is right up his alley.  In fact, finally cornering me after 13 years of marriage on a budget is the icing on top of the cake that was baked when he finally got his last tax form in the mail this week and could proceed with his yearly romance with the IRS.  Ugh.  It's just one of those rare times right now when I realize how different he and I are. 

But, we're the same on the really important things: religion, politics, the raising of our Meck-child.  Many would add "money" to the really-important-mix, on which we are rather different; but, I think we can overcome that.  It boils down to this: I wish he earned a little bit more; he wishes I spent a little bit less.*  We're like Obama and Boehner!  If we can reconcile this fiscal pas-de-deux, then certainly there is hope for our country. 

I spoke with my friend, Anita, on the phone yesterday while she was in the midst of balancing her checkbook.  She was perplexed, exasperated, and on the hunt for a missing $45.**  I listened to her fretful quandary, clucked my tongue with compassion, and considered her later with amazement and no little bit of awe.  Such a fuss for $45!  Were it I instead, I would have added or subtracted the fiendish compound, written a row of ????? in the ledger, closed the checkbook, and proceeded happily on my way.  And that is why my beleaguered, fiscally responsible husband lives daily with ill-concealed irritation at his silly-pants wife.  And why I must get better.  But, by gum, it ain't easy.  It sure ain't easy.

*This is just my being a little silly.  Jason is a spectacular provider, and, if anything, I wish he worked less hard and took it easy a bit more.  I just hate to budget and wish that money flowed like water.  Of course, Jason would probably point out that you cannot get flowing water at an instant if you do not plan out a system of pipes and plumbing.  To which I eloquently reply, "Pbbblt!"

**I followed up with Anita and am happy to report that she found the missing $45!  Huzzah!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Paxton or Pullman?

Working together, Jason and I scored 100%!
(I don't know whether to continue being proud or start feeling ashamed.)

I scored a 100% on the Bill Paxton or Bill Pullman Quiz
How will you do?
Of course, they did not ask the ultimate Paxton or Pullman question:
Brain Dead (1990): Paxton or Pullman?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rejecting the Suburban Car Paradigm (TM)

I sold my car, Hailey, this month.  Thankfully, she went to two dear friends, Josh and Kadie, who will love on her and treat her right.  I feel rather Mr. Bennet-y about the whole thing, as I never imagined she would be sold with so little cost and inconvenience to myself.  But, they needed a new(ish) car and I had one to sell, and we all know and trust each other and everything went swimmingly.  Tra-la-la!  What a glorious turn of events!

So, I have coined a phrase to describe this new era in my life here in the 'burbs: "rejecting the suburban car paradigm."  Nearly everyone believes that you cannot live a full and complete life in the suburbs nowadays without a car.  Sadie and I are out to prove them wrong.  We'd put less than 200 miles on Hailey since August; I would start her once a week to pull her out a few feet to get to my Sunday School supplies in the file cabinet in the garage.  Other than that, Sadie and I have been effectively without a car all this fall and winter.  And, much like the ancient Persian couriers so esteemed by Herodotus, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall stay we courageous suburban cyclists from our course.  And Sadie has (almost) stopped complaining about her eccentric, bicycle-loving mama to any and all marginally sympathetic ears.

I have found a new bike.  Heart! Heart! Heart!  It's a suh-weet Trek FX WSD 7.3:
I'm hoping to pick it up today from Bicycles West.  My current bike, Petunia, is way too small for me.  The frame of the FX (tentatively named Jack Black) will be 17".  Petunia is only 13".  When my legs are fully extended while pedaling her, the bend in my knee is close to 90°!  It's amazing I haven't blown a knee (or two!) out on these WA hills over the past four years.  Also, while at Bicycles West, I'm going to have Sadie's bike's mountain bike-style tires replaced with thinner, faster road tires.  Maybe she'll have an easier time keeping up with her old mom then.
So, here's to a new chapter in our suburban lives!  Bike on!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I'm reading Emma again, which, of course, has that famous conundrum of "courtship."  It turns out that Jane Austen was a rather prolific writer of conundrums* herself -- little riddles that are clever plays on words.  Her whole family was so witty and brilliant that, were she not simply fabu, you might just hate her a little.  Anyhoo, while I was biking home from Sadie's swimming class this afternoon, I thought up a wee conundrum myself.  It's a reaction, really, to a preposterous but trendy thing whose hefty price tag the other day caught me so off guard that I actually laughed at the person who quoted it to me.  See if you can figure it out:

My first is, in short, a scientist's den;
My middle is simply to cheer;
My last is the work of an ennuye pen;
My whole is now something quite dear.

*This appears to be an English-coined word based upon some sort of Latin term that came out of Oxford in the 17th century.  Since it is not direct from Latin, we pluralize it using the English -s.  At least, that's what the OED tells me, and I BELIEVE!