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!