Friday, August 29, 2008

What I Sprayed on the Carpet

More than one of you has asked, so....

Sigh. I was supposed to spray something for fleas. (Thanks a lot, Kope!) Instead, I sprayed something for FLYING insects. Don't ask me why I thought this made sense. I even took entomology in college.

The silver lining is that the formula consists entirely of plant oils. And the combination of the "wrong" stuff and the right stuff resulted in a very toxic mix that killed every living thing in our house smaller than a golf ball - including the fleas. So what if it results in mutant children down the road? They won't be scratching.

Marian called to tell me what I had done. She had a tone of voice I've never heard. Imagine if you were accused by your spouse of dismembering your child. That was the tone of voice. Then she read the ingredients. Then she fished her wedding ring out of the toilet.

I'm really stupid sometimes. But I'm lovable, right, hon?

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Blogs are great because they are a mixture of the mundane, trivial, poignant and tragic. They are eavesdropping on diaries and scrapbooks, but also include things you would never include in either. I'm sure graduate students everywhere are creating dissertations on blogs. (Do they have a companion blog?)

I do think everyone needs to blog at some point their own metaphysics. At least, that's something I'm interested in reading more about from others. So I'll get it started:

I listened to a podcast yesterday that was a reading of Shopenhauer's "Emptiness of Existence." It's the best explanation you'll ever hear about the apparent meaninglessness of life. The worst possible fate, he says, is to be born. And the second worst fate is to live long. Oddly enough, it's not pessimism, per se. It's just matter-of-fact rationalism: We are awakened from a deep sleep, get very excited and dreamy in our youth, then experience years of unrealized and unsatisfied expectations before dying again. It's like coming up for air, only to sink again and drown.

It's sort of like Ecclesiastes, but without the joy of eating, drinking, and being merry. And without someone tacking on the existence of God at the end.

I can't argue rationally with Shopenhauer's assessment. On the face of it, space is very deep and people are very small. But I don't think people are, at heart, merely rational creatures, so I don't see why I need to pretend to be one and get sucked into the Shopenhauer abyss.

Here's where I think meaning comes from: Because all we have in front of us is the present fleeting moment, life satisfaction really can only come from building a story. Creating a story means feeding our memory and, like all stories, having something we are driving toward: a plot. We give our life plot when we aim for things, wish for things, hope for things - do things. And along the way our story picks up characters, themes, settings - all the things about story you learned about in English class that T.S. Eliot categorized.

If we don't do any the above, we're really just ... there. And that accounts for Shopenhauer's view. He's very specific that there is no there, because as soon as we name the present, it is gone.

We have to be more than just ... there. We have to be a character who builds a story. There lies the meaning.

Everyone who decides to build a story is going to have a different story (those who are simply "there" have remarkably similar stories). When we learn about others' stories, we open up the possibility of making our own story richer, because we can see life more keenly. And when we intertwine our story with those of friends and family, our story becomes that much more essential.

To round out my own "big picture" metaphysics, let me say that it includes a belief in God. It comes from experiencing one, maybe two, difficult moments in my life in which I truly believed I was meeting a healing, supernatural God. It also comes from the intellectual realization that I am a happier, more peaceful and complete person when I choose to believe in God. (The best example of how this can be possible comes from an audio book I heard in which the biographies of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud are compared in detailed. Both were brilliant, admirable men. But of the two, only Lewis appears to have been - in addition to fulfilled in his career - downright happy - despite a level of tragedy and deprivation at least equal to Freud's own.)

Bottom line: There are really no intellectual arguments that necessitate the existence of God - and, boy, I looked at most all of them in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (two semesters of the latter) as well as Christian apologetics and teaching. It really is curious to ponder why a God might not want to place any direct evidence of his/her own existence in plain sight of ALL human beings. We can debate the miraculous matters in the Bible and even the import of the Bible itself. But when one is talking rationality, one must consider the God-given wisdom of: "Don't believe everything you read in a book." Remember, I'm not talking about impressionistic or revelatory experiences of God, which may be found in stories written down or experienced by those who read scripture (or even those who don't). I'm talking about rational proof here, and I just don't see it. But I believe!

Just because something doesn't have a Newtonian or Einsteinian law to support it, doesn't mean we shouldn't believe in it or do it. There's more to my metaphysics than rational argument. What about yours?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cheering Oneself Up

What do you do to cheer yourself up? If I can get sunshine with regularity and a good run, I usually don't even need artificial cheering. But every now and then...

The problem is that I'm not a true businessman. Someone who really likes business has to be drawn, in some way, to war. Being in business and building your business aggressively means pushing the envelope and pissing people off -- and getting pissed off -- at times. I don't like conflict and I would surely not like war.

And business is also like a roller-coaster, the ups and downs of cash-flow and what-not.

I despise roller-coasters.

So what the hell am I doing? I don't know. It's not ALWAYS terrible - in fact, a large part of the time it is immensely gratifying and fun. I meet the neatest people doing the coolest things. But sometimes...

I get cheered up by looking at our work and dwelling - not on our shortcomings - but on what we are capable of and can accomplish. And, of course, spending time with family.

Sometimes, both things can happen at once, as with this video we produced. Prepare for Larson Girl Cuteness!

Hope it cheers up YOUR rainy day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

1. This is my best friend, Brittain, who is getting hitched in just 3 short weeks! We had a bachelorette party for her Saturday night that was so fun. Complete with stripper, penis-shaped straws, too many shots, and some hysterical photos. This 30 year old mama can't party like I once did (has anyone had a hangover in the last year or so? I mean, I feel like I'm gonna die if I have 2 glasses of wine the night before. Such a lightweight!) - so I was the designated driver, and the official "sleep in the bed with the bachelorette " friend. Wouldn't trade it for anything, B!
2. Meg has a babysitter! I'm back at work for the business two mornings a week, while our babysitter stays home with Meg and Stella goes to preschool. No, Meg doesn't like it, but I have confidence that she'll get used to it and fall in love with Danielle like we have. It's still a bad feeling to drive away from your house at 8:15 am with your baby screaming and return at 12:30 to the same sound. Don't worry, she reassured me that she didn't cry the WHOLE time.

3. Here is our big girl on her first day of 4-year old preschool. I think she's the youngest in her class since she won't be four until late September, but they let her start anyway. We love her teacher and all the people that work there too. There's one little girl in her class and 7 boys.

4. It's still raining here. We're in a major drought so this rain for the last 36 or so hours has been awesome. It's cool, steady and makes you just wanna stay in your PJs. We had a little pancake/PJ party at my friend Christine's this morning with her twins Bo and Chris. So cozy.

5. Salt Lake City, here we come. We've officially booked our flights, reserved our hotel, and started planning. Meg's staying with the inlaws and we're taking Stella on a big girl trip all by herself. It's really a work/play trip - Eric mainly working and us playing - but the highlight is that my sister in law and baby niece are coming to meet us. I cannot wait to get my hands on baby Lily!

6. We're gonna have another niece or nephew in January. Eric's brother Wade and his wife Beth are expecting baby number two. Word!

7. Did anyone see Michelle Obama speak at the DNC on TV last night? She brought me to tears, something I don't think any politician or politician's spouse for that matter has ever done. It was just so real, so unassuming, just like I was hearing a friend talk. Really.

8. Ask my husband what he sprayed all over our home today - carpet, upholstery, etc. - INSTEAD of the flea killer spray that was supposed to kill the bastards that are making us all itch.

9. I've never been a huge cereal fan, probably because it doesn't fill me up. But lately I've been loving some Smart Start. What's your favorite cereal? For me, its more of a yummy snack than actual meal.

10. I'm getting my butt in the bed. But my butt isn't nearly as cute as this one.

Good night!

Why We're a Little Giddy: Rain!

The streams in our neighborhood had become mere trickles. The local trout farm was having to conduct CPR on most of its aquatic herd. Local cattle wondered why they were being left out of the "eat organic" movement.

There just wasn't any rain.

Until yesterday. And last night. And it's supposed to keep raining for the next several days.

I don't know if we'll get caught up, but the drone of rain on our roof is the best sound ever.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Someone Stole Our Rocks

These are not the rocks that were stolen, but you get the idea of the
size we are talking about. You have to really want them!

You know the economy is bad, I guess, when folks are stealing rocks from each other.

Marian and Stella liked to play "house" on these two huge flat rocks on the corner of our property. Granted, that part of our lot looks woodsy and undeveloped (which it is). But wouldn't you think to ask anyway before you used your bulldozer (the tracks are still there) to take our 200-lb. rocks?

I mean, the state is carrying dump-trucks FULL of rocks from up the mountain where they are widening and paving the roads. There are plenty of rocks to be had. Our neighbor, Bob, got 9 truckloads of dirt and rocks -- FREE! He thinks I think he took my rocks, because I asked him about the coincidence of hundreds of rocks arriving at his house on the same day that mine were found missing. I'm sure he didn't tell anyone to grab them - though it's plausible they are on his property. But we didn't write our names on the rocks, and I didn't take any good photos of my rocks for insurance purposes.

He did say I can have a couple of his rocks. But how will I move them? I'll wiki Archimedes...

Someone stole my daughter's house. And she's only 3. How cruel is that? I have a daughter who now has to enter her imaginary world as a homeless person. I'm putting my foot down: I will not allow her to trade imaginary sex for imaginary food!

At least she can't fall on them and get boo-boos. Those rocks probably have her blood all over them. Aha! I can use a DNA test to establish which of Bob's rocks are mine!

It's possible the state moved them because they plan to widen and repave our street -- which would suck. OR someone just wants to clear a space so they can park on our property - which has sort of happened before. I need to get a sign that says: "Don't even THINK about it! This sorry dirt corner is mine!"

Please pray that our rocks come rolling home in one piece.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Getting My Life Back

There was a point during our beach vacation this year when I realized I really needed the vacation. "Really needed" as in: "If I did not have this vacation, I was going to implode." When I returned, I began the process of getting my life back.

Mainly it's meant drawing boundaries between me and work and being a little quicker to say "the heck with it - I'm going to bed/relax/exercise/drink a beer." It's meant hiring part-time help and delegating. And it's meant shrugging when I might have, in the past, gotten tight between the shoulders at the weight of things.

Last night it meant going to be before 8 p.m. and sleeping 9 blessed hours. When I consider the amount of sleep I've lost over the past 4 years due to kids and work, I'd say it's something close to 2,100 hours - perhaps a lot more. Well, last night I took a couple of those hours back.

I honestly don't think our business is going to fail. But if it did, at this point, I would consider the experience extremely educational and worth every difficult minute. Everyone should start a business, just to see what they learn about themselves. I've been humbled tremendously as I've been challenged like never before.

Challenging, exhillerating ... but sometimes you just have to say, "the heck with it ... I'm going to bed!"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Cool Day in the Tropics

Today it rained - praise God! Possibly just 1/8th of an inch - but something. And it was cool and reminded me of a rainy day in Kiribati.

When we went to live at 3-degrees N-Lat; 0 degrees longitude, we took a lot of shorts and short-sleeves. We packed flip-flops (went through about 4 pairs of those) and sunglasses. But I'm glad we each brought a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, too, because even though the sun every day was much the same (as in "magnifying glass") whenever the sun gave us a break and it rained, our tropical hotspot actually felt chilly. The ocean would get foggy, pigs would lie in puddles in the middle of the road, and school would be canceled (pretty much everything stopped).

That usually meant reading a book in our hammock.

One time the weather was bad for maybe two weeks straight but seemed to be calming down. So we got on the boat with the Catholic Youth that was traveling to the capital. I had worked with Marian's counterpart, Merea, to write and direct a play about teenage suicide. Suicide was definitely a good description of getting on this boat. Dude, did you ever see Perfect Storm? It is no fun looking out and seeing a wall of water so high you cannot spot sky. Even the captain of the ship turned around - and we all know Kiribati seamen are fearless and a little insane. While the captain waited for a chance to head out again for Tarawa, we took our chance to return to shore. (Thanks, Biroun!) With us were two girls who had been so seasick they had to be peeled off the deck of the ship.

Occasionally when it rained we found ourselves walking into town to buy food. Besides, you couldn't stay in your hut all day without going a little nuts, and one got used to the puddles after a while (even if the pigs did pee in a good many of them). Kiribati families would be sitting on their bouias (BOO-yuhs) playing cards (such as Uno, Crazy Eights, and Sorry - yes, a card version of the board game - or Canasta). A very few would play chess. I was a card snob and refused to play because THEY NEVER SHUFFLED THEIR CARDS! It was like playing the same game over and over again. The I-Kiribati don't mind repitition much; I do.

Our first week on Marakei we got the bright idea to go looking for te manai -- crabs. We insisted on going in the afternoon, even though NO ONE went looking for crabs except at night. But we were told Marakei was known for crabs, and, by God, we were going to get us some. Some local women joined us in turning rocks over.

Then it started to rain. Now, that was back when I wore glasses. Here I was slipping in my wet flip-flops and trying not to fall on these very sharp coral rocks. Half-blind, I was not much worse a crab-catcher than I would have been had I been able to see. Our guides found us several small crabs and did what so many Kiribati do -- ripped off their limbs while they were alive. We were halfway home when Marian remembered we didn't have any kerosene for our stove - so we stopped at the largest store on the island (a one-room shack a little bigger than a walk-in closet) and got a bottle of kerosene, threw it in the "rice bag" with the dismembered crabs. We had brought some lentils from the capital and remembered we had some red pepper flakes to spice up the normally bland side. We were golden!

Too bad some kerosene had spilled on the crabs, the lentils were too dry and WAY too spicy, and we ended up burning the breadfruit we had borrowed from our neighbor. THAT was one true rainy day meal.

What had me thinking of Kiribati during our rainy day today was none of the above. It was our wet pup, Kope (Co-pay), who was getting a flea bath. His shaking reminded me of the day we adopted him, when he was truly a pup being played with by a group of boys in the surf. He was scrawny and mangy. And he had just won the lottery, because soon he was eating canned corned beef - a delicacy in those parts.

During rainy days in Kiribati, Kope would take long naps on our floor. Some things don't change. And I've got my long-sleeve shirt on, in August.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

birthday photos and what not

We had a great birthday party for Meg last Sunday. Very chill, just a casual meal and beer on our porch, followed of course by cake for the big girl. Here she is waiting patiently.

In the thick of it:

And the aftermath:

Stella is officially bored with summer. She is SO ready for preschool to start. We're looking for a babysitter to keep Meg two of the three mornings that Stells is in school so I can start back working for the business a little bit.

Weird thing happened yesterday as I was coming into our neighborhood. There's a pretty nice restaurant just down the hill from our house and I have to pass it whenever I come home. Well, yesterday around noon I noticed a pickup truck just parked in the restaurant's lot, with a guy totally passed out in the drivers seat. His door was wide open, body turned like he was getting ready to just step out of the car, head slumped forward.

Well, of course my first thought was, Oh Dear Lord I am looking at a dead body and so is my 3 year old, and I'm gonna have to be on Dateline. I rolled down my window and yelled at him, nothing. So I circled back around the restaurant, knocked on the office door, and told the nice lady what I saw. She sent the chef to check out the scene.

Chef comes back and says that the guy had changed positions. He's alive! His guess was that he drank too much at the bar across the street and the steakhouse parking lot was as far as he made it.

That's the excitement around these mountain parts.

Oops, gotta go, Olympics are on. I'll end with my new favorite photo. The twins, born just 36 years apart.

BBC Calls Lezak's Win in 4x100m Freestyle

I missed this when it happened, but I'm so glad someone put the UK broadcast on YouTube. It's an amazing come-back, whether you care about swimming or not.

The commentators got one thing wrong: they attribute Phelps' jubilation to the fact he was able to rack up another gold in his chase of Spitz. But all I saw was team pride. He got more excited at this than any of his individual golds.

It's just way more fun when you succeed with a team.

I thought this was kind of cool:

"Everyone wanted to get a look at history, including the U.S. men's basketball team. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were among those cheering on Phelps from poolside seats. James posed for pictures with Phelps' mom."

It seems the NBA stars have come a long way in the past 12 years or so when they first began competing for the United States. One was interviewed and said that being in the Olympics was the highlight of his career, way better than having won an NBA final.

The John Edwards Thing

Many people are shocked by the knowledge that John Edwards had an affair with a videographer while campaigning for President.

My wife isn't. She knows that if SHE were running for President it would be near impossible for her to resist the advances of THIS videographer.

But that's not the point of this post. My point is to talk about the shock I experienced when I heard the news. Shock, that is, that Edwards campaign was paying $100K for 4 YouTube videos!

I'm obviously in the wrong genre of filmmaking OR I am a pretty terrible salesperson. I'm delighted when I sell a $2,500 video to a nonprofit. When they want to do a larger project that costs $5,000, I'm so excited I could jump over cars while they are moving, like that guy from That's Incredible. (I'm even more excited when they raise $25K or more with one of those videos - it happens!)

I suppose it's possible that, when she was hired, the candidate figured he'd be getting a little EXTRA for his investment. That's hard to say.

In any case, the videos didn't work. And the affair didn't help either. If she were really hot, like Marilyn Monroe, folks might still be comparing him to John F. Kennedy. But, alas, she is just a party girl who had about 10,000 too many cocktails. And one too many presidential candidates.

Can I digress just a little bit here? I haven't read a great many presidential biographies, but the the sense I get is that the job is incredibly stressful AND frustrating. If that much power still results in frustration that you can't control outcomes, then what hope is there for me? And why would there be those who pursue it? The American Presidency to me is a fine example of how the world is truly a chaotic system, and doing something on the macro level may have the OPPOSITE effect that you expect.

So, the only way to lead a Good Life (with mostly good outcomes) is truly to act locally, specifically, and carefully. You can start by being true to your spouse. I want to be able to say to Marian decades from now that I loved no other, and let our children see that faithfulness is one of the few ways to grab a piece of eternity in THIS life.

"But where's my YouTube videos?!" Marian might ask. I'm working on those!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Frickin' Cold!

It's 54 degrees right now. We are NOT turning on the heat in our house in frickin' August. Tonight it's supposed to get down to 45. No, I'm not wearing a burka. That's a fleece blanket, though.

Frosted Hair

We'll get some shots up soon of Meg with smeared frosting face and hair. She had a really good time, and so did we. B and Pat were there, as were Jonathan, Becky, and their daughter, Josie. It was the perfect sized party. Stella loved popping the balloons we worked so hard to fill. I think she had as much fun at her sister's party as the rest of us.

I'm really psyched because today I (Eric) get to train my part-time marketing and sales assistant! We don't have the money to hire her, but if I didn't hire her, I was going to go completely insane. So, we might go broke, but at least we'll have our mental health. But I think Whitney is going to do a great job and earn her keep, I really do.

I'll soon be posting some videos we've produced. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The eve of your first birthday

Oh my sweet Meg,

Has anyone ever been kissed as much as you are? Between me, your dad, your big sister, and even the dog, I would estimate that you receive upwards of 200 kisses each day. Each day! Multiply that by the 364 days you've been on this earth, and that's a lot. I don't have a calculator handy, but it's a lot, trust me.

This has been by far the fastest year of my life. It cannot be possible that exactly one year ago, I was packing and repacking my hospital bag, sweating and huge in the August heat, anxiously awaiting the next morning. I so hoped you were okay and of course I wondered what you would come out to be, both in gender and in personality.

The morning came early, and Dad and I got to the hospital around 5am. It was still dark outside. We walked in the hospital, Dad carrying my stuff, and we made one last bet. I bet you were a girl, Dad sure you were a boy. Yes! I won the bet!

As you were about to come out, at 8:35 am, the doctor told Daddy to announce to the room what gender you were. Some of the medical staff had never witnessed a birth where the sex was the surprise, so everyone was on edge. Dr. Matthews held you up - And then those beautiful words, "It's a girl!" I immediately started to weep. It was truly one of the two most spectacular moments of my life. Dad brought you over to me for us to meet, and I couldn't believe how beautiful you were, AND how much you looked like Stella! As they were taking you up to the nursery, the nurse started to laugh because you peed all over her.

And here you are, asleep right now in your crib, with your pink blanket (your bumpy, as it's called in the Larson house), your little music pillow, your nightlight and sleep machine on. It's cliche but it really feels like you've been here forever. You have brought even more joy into this family, making Stella a big sister and us the proud parents of two beautiful daughters.

So what are you like at age one? You make some of the craziest noises I've ever heard come out of a human being, seriously. You can clap, wave, say a few words like mama, dada, and uh-oh. Your favorite food is fruit, preferably blueberries. You love to hand toys to us, only for us to hand them back. You love walks in your stroller, baths, pictures of other babies, and rough play with your Dad. You give us really sloppy kisses before bed. And you really love me and Dad - other people, not so much. We won't get into that small personality trait that drives us crazy.

The first year is over, Meg, I just cannot wrap my mind around the fact that you will be one year old tomorrow. It has been challenging to say the least, but it has been filled with more joy than I ever imagined. I cannot wait to enjoy many more years with you, my brown eyed girl.


Friday, August 08, 2008


Anyone getting married at 8 p.m. tonight?

Our company is filming a wedding today, some friends are getting married literally a mile from our house at a country wedding chapel, and an old acquaintance who dumped her first husband on a whim is trying to get us excited about her second wedding today in Vegas. I'm sure many of you have received word or invitations about a wedding today - a Friday, no less. 8.8.08. We only have 4 more of these oddities (9.9.09, 10.10.10, 11.11.11, and 12.12.12) until we have to wait another 100 years to do it all again.

Take it from someone in the wedding business - it would be a great thing if weddings were always spread out over the week. They'd be a lot less expensive that way (try creating a business that can only make money one day a week and you'll understand). And a lot of the pressure would be taken off the event, for the good of marriages everywhere. I'm convinced a lot of people have doubts about their impending marriage but, because the steam engine of the THE BIG DAY is on the move, they feel powerless to put on the brakes. (The brakes on those things are PAINFULLY LOUD.)

For example, weddings could become lunchtime affairs. The ceremony essentially happens at the reception, while everyone is chowing down, including your co-workers. Some might say this takes away from the religiosity of the occasion, and they would be right. But if the couple wants to commemorate their marriage in the church, they could do that on Sunday.

Most of the time, if someone calls off a wedding, there is lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth. "So much money down the drain! But your cousins already bought their plane tickets! What will people say?!" But in the above scheme, if someone calls off the wedding, all folks might say is: "Okay. Want to do Mexican instead?"

I'm not trying to trivialize marriage - because I don't have to. Divorce has already trivialized it. When we attend a wedding and all the "forever" language is used, everyone is taking part in one large suspension of disbelief.

Imagine if half of the rockets and shuttles that NASA sent up into space blew up. We'd re-examine our space program, wouldn't we? And we wouldn't go to lift-offs with rose-colored glasses. Maybe we should take a good, long look at marriage - as a church and as a society as well - and decide if it's really all it's cut out to be.

I haven't given this much thought, really, but I suspect having different levels of commitment would be a good thing. Someone might have a "forever marriage" in which they agree only to divorce in the case of abuse or cheating. It would resemble what we have now, only you'd have to get a lot of signatures from your friends and family in the way a politician needs signatures to get on a ballot. As forever marriages involve kids - and, therefore, lots of tax write-offs and other legal advantages - there's a lot at stake. Why should any bozo be able to qualify just by saying "I do"?

Some might have a "good-times marriage," which would be valid so long as both are having a good time. This is sort of a step up from dating, in that it involves vows of exclusivity. This marriage level would include a vow not to have children until the couple decided to take their marriage to the next level - and received enough signatures.

Of course, there would always be a Justice of the Peace option which, essentially, is a legal arrangement only and doesn't raise any expectations in the couple or anyone else.

Here's the inherent problem with vows these days: we recognize that people change, and that, even with the best of intentions, things don't turn out the way we'd always like. We hold marriage up on a pedestal until things fall apart, then we realize that our happiness, our souls, our selves, deserve more TLC than some nebulous virtue. And we realize that as half the relationship our happiness carries as much as weight as our partner's, even if it is tremendously selfish on our part to pull the rug out from under them.

I could have married any one of the really great women I dated before meeting Marian. But I held off until I found the really great woman who was just perfect for ME. I want to argue it was not random luck. By age 28 I feel I knew myself quite well - far better than many people who get married will EVER know themselves. That's an unprovable and somewhat arrogant assertion, but I'll say it anyway. I knew a good many of my faults in addition to strengths. And Marian had a self-knowledge that was in many ways much more profound and natural (especially to have that ability at age 20, when I met her. Dang, that was 10 years ago!) We both knew what we were getting into, and we've built on what we started. Life with her today is even better than it was 10 years ago. What a lady!

Knowing yourself. Meeting someone who also knows herself. Being attracted to that person. Having that person return the favor. Wanting a lot of the same things out of life. Sharing most of the same values. Making each other laugh. Doing the right things so that your relationship does not get stale. Not having an addiction or other destructive baggage. Can anyone else add a helpful requirement for a happy marriage?

A happy marriage depends on so many things that make marriage more than a gimmick, a party, a little girl's archetypal princess fantasy. Arranged marriages (tyrannical though they are) tend to work better than "love marriages" precisely because there is some THOUGHT put into them. Most relationships are based merely on romance, and romance (fun as it is, necessary as it is) is nothing but evolution in disguise. Evolution never relies on thought - only primeval urges and instinct - and its goal, to propagate the species - really doesn't take long-term happiness as we define it today into consideration. There have been studies that show that divorce in the Bible Belt is higher because people get married younger - and they get married younger because pre-marital sex is such a taboo. Evolution says our bodies are ready for sex at 11, 12, or 13 - it doesn't care about the Bible, or the law, or what constitutes healthy emotional growth. Evolution wants babies! And one day a woman wakes up at 2 a.m. with her third kid and thinks: "My husband is a lazy slob. I'm tired and miserable. How did this happen?" EVOLUTION happened, Sister, and you are its latest victim.

Until the church creates a narrative that incorporates this reality of evolution (in which our bodies are ready to reproduce in our early teens) and makes that narrative something a little more savvy than simply saying: "That's Sin!" we're going to have this weird mess on our hands that a friend of mine referred to as The Great American Disaster: Marriage.

I love a good wedding. When the couple seems so in love, so earnest, I actually tear up, whether I'm behind the camera or simply a guest. I know that THIS couple can beat the odds -- and many of them will. It's a beautiful story when it works, and when it doesn't - ouch. But it's wrong to be skeptical or cynical. A couple deserves the benefit of the doubt. But they also need a reality check. I can't give them that in a video -- but I can provide that here. This is my conscience talking. If you think this column would work on our wedding video website, let me know - but I suspect it would float like a lead balloon. It doesn't fit with the fantasy we all have when we're initially caught up - and enjoying - the train ride.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Salt Lake, Here We Come!

One of the blogs we like to read is parisbaconpesto. It's written by our friend Jeff Schmerker who is traveling the world with our other friend (yes, our ONLY other friend) Laura (his wife). They are currently in Argentina skiing. Jeff used to write for the Mountaineer here in Haywood County, N.C. I'd highly recommend it. They only recently started their year-long journey.

Jeff is from Utah. I've never REALLY been to Utah. Oh, I've been to Monument Valley and Four Corners -- where 4 states join which is desert and, thus, in Utah by accident, if you trip. It was great, but it looked a lot like the other three nearby states.

But now we're going to Salt Lake City! It's a job that we're turning into a vacation, too. I'll be recording audio for 30 workshops or so at the Association of Personal Historians, of which I am a member.

It's going to mean dropping Meg off at my mom's in Alabama, but that will give them a chance to bond.

This won't happen till the end of October, so we have plenty of time to read about the Church of Latter Day Saints and what-not. I made friends with a Mormon missionary in the Peace Corps. Look forward to meeting some of his peeps. One day I'll also tell you the story of how a Mormon commune (well, really just a group of friends) put me up in their house in London for the night when I missed my flight back to the States.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When You Are Insulted By Another's Birthday

Yesterday I heard Stella in another part of the house hyperventilating with sobs. I asked Marian later what that was all about.

"She was mad because I told her my birthday was coming first. First mine, then three days later, hers. She didn't like that one bit! She wanted hers to be first."

So, Stella, you don't like when you were born? I recall Bill Cosby's line to his son: "Son, I brought you into this world -- and I can take you OUT!" But I won't say that to her.

I will say that I'm grateful she was born on the last day of September. That's the only way I can remember there are 30 days in that month.

I'll let Marian find a recent photo of her to post here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Southern Novelists Claim Their Property

Our friend Angela has had a time with an immoral and devious former owner breaking into her cottage. (She removed those posts in which she wrote about the experience.) Anyway, the culprit sounds like someone Scott Peck would call a "Person of the Lie." These are people who are so wrapped up in maintaining their own illusion of themselves - and so good at lying to themselves - that they are capable of doing or saying anything to others.

What I really wanted to blog about is the reaction of two Southern novelists when faced with thieves on their property.

The first instance happened to Allan Gurganus, who wrote "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All" and several other notable works. He told me this story when I was working for Reynolds Price. Apologies to Allan if I get a few of the details wrong.

One day Allan returned to his home in Hillsborough to find a gentleman trespassing. The man had backed his pick-up truck next to an old family cemetery on Allan's property and was - one stone at a time - dismantling the old wall around the cemetery, simple as someone might take down a wall of sand-bags after a flood.

Allan introduced himself as one the owner of the property and - indeed - the cemetery itself. It was pretty brave, considering he was speaking to a thief who held a large rock in his hands.

The man didn't say anything, but Allan wasn't through. He said to the man: "Your mother is ashamed of you."

(Dramatic pause, before the man returns the stones and drives away.)

The other great story comes from Reynolds. It was December, perhaps 40 years ago, when he noticed a pickup parked along his property and a family hiking into his woods. Reynolds watched awhile, and when he saw the family re-emerge from the woods, he stepped out onto his porch to contront the man, wife, and their children. The man saw Reynolds and asked, cheerfully: "Got yours?"

Reynolds answered in that deep, stentorian voice: "They're all mine."

The man shrugged and kept on going, his stolen Christmas tree cutting a shallow path in the leaves.

I guess the lesson is that when you are a novelist, you don't have to stoop low and say things like, "That's mine! How dare you! Give that back!" The power of words to convey irony, humor, and cosmic blame is plenty enough - whether or not you end up getting your stuff back or not.