Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Til Death

October 28, 2009

A headline caught my eye yesterday that stopped me in my tracks. According to my morning newscast, there is a Californian who is pushing to get a measure on the 2010 ballot that would ban divorce. Mind you, I am not a big fan of divorce; I don't know anyone who is. However, I do know that there are circumstances under which divorce is warranted--necessary, even. I was appalled that there was a proposal on the table to take away this option.

Naturally, I did a little research. It bothers me tremendously when people catch a sound byte or a snippet of information and run wild with assumptions. So I checked it out. I did a little reading, including perusing interviews and this man's own website, and it's pretty clear that this satirist, John Marcotte, is poking fun at the recent battle ground that was (and is) Proposition 8, the recent bid to overturn the legality of gay marriage. According to him, he feels that Prop 8 didn't go far enough in 'protecting marriage,' so the logical step is to take it one step further and 'rescue marriage' by banning divorce altogether. The t-shirt promoting his cause has a picture of a wedded couple, bound by chains. The t-shirt's caption reads, "You said, 'Til Death Do Us Part.' You're not dead yet."

Okay, I get the joke. It's funny, really. Funny, that is, unless people miss the satire and begin to take him seriously. Believe me, there is that danger. I mean, the news reported it as a serious effort to get backing for his cause. There is, in fact, an actual proposal to get it on the ballot. And I can see people, steadfast in their earnest belief that marriage is a sacred, unbreakable bond, flocking toward the cause, some in all sincerity, some in smug superiority of their own successful marriages.

I don't take marriage lightly. I, too, believe that it is a sacred bond. I know very few people who take that step thinking of that marriage as a temporary state. No one goes into a marriage planning for its eventual demise. And yet, circumstances sometimes change lives so dramatically that a divorce is ultimately a legal way to pronounce what has, in fact, already occurred--that two people have gone down such different paths away from each other that it is impossible (or at the very least, not desirable) to find a common path once again. Then there are other circumstances, even more dramatic and potentially harmful which sometimes lead to divorce, and rightfully so--physical or emotional abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, habitual deceit, or abandonment.

Marcotte has done his job. He's gotten his name out there, and careful readers will see his satirical viewpoint. However, in a society not known for its careful reading or attention to detail, I worry that he will indeed have started the ball rolling toward giving Californians the dubious distinction of not only being a state to ban marriage between two loving human beings, but to also to enforce a continued union of those who no longer wish to be joined.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Love is in the Air

October 27, 2009

This past Saturday, Doug and I attended the wedding of a good friend of mine from work. The day was perfect, the bride was simply beautiful, and the ceremony was a true reflection of the couple and their love for each other. I think it was especially meaningful that the ceremony took place at their house, where they are building a home and a life together. They hosted the reception at their home as well, and we all celebrated with them as we ate, drank toasts to a long and happy union, watched a lovingly pieced together montage of photos of the bride and groom, and of course, danced.

I love going to weddings. I'm an incurable romantic, so of course I love to see the beginnings of people's happily ever afters. In addition, being present in the most magical days of other people's lives transports me back to my own most unforgettable day--the day Doug and I, after twenty-five years of friendship, finally began our own storybook marriage.

Every wedding has something unexpected, some element that didn't quite go as planned. Sometimes the wedding guests all see it, sometimes they don't. But it's those little surprises that often the couples hold in their fondest collective memories. There is something sacred about the serious thought and planning that goes into a ceremony, but the honesty of a spontaneous emotional response is what shows the true nature of the union.

For Alex and Matt on Saturday, that spontaneous, unexpected moment came when husband got to share his first kiss with his new bride. I'm not sure if she was overcome with emotion and swooned, or he was overcome with emotion and dipped her in the midst of their embrace, but either way, their kiss was so powerful that they nearly swooned to the floor. Luckily, both pastor and best man were near at hand to catch them on their way down. Standing upright once again in front of all of their guests, the young couple smiled and giggled sheepishly together before making their way back down the aisle as the newly introduced Mr. and Mrs. Matt Smith. It was a moment--a shared moment--they will always remember. We were all there watching, but they were wrapped up together in their own world. Present, in the moment, and fully in love. What a beautiful thing!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ugly Truth

October 22, 2009

I had high hopes for "The Ugly Truth." Really, I did. Not 'I'm sure this is going to be an instant classic' kind of high hopes, but just the simple 'I'm up for enjoying some mindless, fun entertainment for the evening' kind of high hopes. You know, the kind of expectations one might reasonably expect from a fluffy, popcorn sort of a romantic comedy.

Romantic comedies are not everyone's cup of tea, but I have been known to be drawn to them now and again. This particular one, however, was neither romantic nor comedic, if the ugly truth be told. Oh, it wanted to be; it simply failed in its endeavor. Though Kathrine Heigl is a lovely actress, and there's nothing wrong with spending a couple of hours with Gerard Butler in theory, the characters these two actors inhabited were so uniformly unlikeable, so unapproachable, that the movie was almost painful to watch. Butler's character is a caricature of the boorish, brash, crude stereotypical modern-day caveman. Heigl's character, similarly, is an exaggerated version of the cold-hearted, closed-off control freak of a woman who is badly in need of being 'broken' by the aforementioned caveman.

There are those who would say that opposites attract, and therefore the plot is a plausible one. Nope. Sure, there's an element of truth in that old adage, though I tend to think of it as complimentary traits attracting, rather than opposite characteristics. In "The Ugly Truth," the characters have absolutely nothing in common. At their cores, at the most fundamental level they would repel, not attract one another. And yet, these are the characters who are forced uncomfortably and unnaturally into a formulaic mold of boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-hate-each-other, then boy-and-girl-realize-they-are-perfect-for-each-other-after-all. That Heigl's character (the control freak, you remember) is so desperate (suddenly) to find a man that she would, overnight, decide to entrust her romantic life to a man she loathes is simply unbelieveable. Even more implausible? We are to believe that her grand epiphany that it is Caveman himself she belongs with, rather than the seemingly perfect guy-next-door she's been pursuing, stems from the fact that at dinner, she realizes that he, too, believes that tap water is just as 'pure' as bottled water. Really? REALLY???

So why did I stick with it? Turn it off, you say! Find something more productive to do with your time! I suppose the answer is that I'm an optimist at heart. I wanted it to get better. Really, I did. I wanted to enjoy it. Yes, romantic comedies are formulaic. Yes, there will be some suspension of disbelief involved as the characters make their emotional way toward one another. I'm okay with all that; I ENJOY all of that. Who doesn't like a little escapism every now and again? Still, I expect some hint of truth, something to which I can relate in my escapism. Why delve into those worlds if not to fantasize that we, too, can find that sort of happily ever after? The Ugly Truth is, though, I wouldn't for a minute want to inhabit the world those characters live in. At the end of the movie, I was more than happy to escape back into my own world.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our Weekend in Pictures

October 18, 2009

We kicked off our weekend with the annual Garfield carnival, which is something the kids and I look forward to all year. The ladies of the PTC, as always, did a fabulous job putting on the carnival--countless hours and tireless effort by the carnival committee and all the volunteers helped make this year's event one to remember. The kids all had friends they met up with to dance, play games with, and of course, to eat with. Miss Yamaichi's teriyaki chicken bowls were a big hit, as always, and all of the kids flocked to the Cake Walk. My daughters, Bree especially, have amazing luck every year at the Cake Walk. This year was no exception, as they both ended up with two tasty baked goods to bring home (like I needed to bring two cakes, a platter of cookies, and a platter of rice crispy treats into the house!). The event I most look forward to each year, the Silent Auction, had lots of great offerings, but alas, yielded no results for me. (It was still very successful--lots of OTHER people mangaged to take home treasures with their high bids.)

Inexplicably, I did not take pictures of the carnival. I mean, I practically have a camera attached to my body! I guess I just got caught up in the excitement and didn't even think about it. So instead of carnival pictures, I decided to share some pictures we took at home, just for fun.

My beautiful darlings:

My (quite) silly darlings:

The eyes have it:

All huggy and cuddly:

On Saturday, Danielle had a soccer game bright (not really!) and early. We were at the field at 7:30 for an 8 o'clock start time. This was how foggy the field was that early in the morning. I'm gonna go ahead and say that's why the other team scored so many goals: our girls couldn't see the ball coming through the fog. Yeah...I'm pretty sure that was it. Our girls did, however, score their first goal of the season, so we are making progress. The girls are still having fun and working on improving their game, so I'm not worried about whether they win or lose.

Later that evening, we met up with David, Carrie, and Freya, who were in town for a quick weekend visit. We met up at Me 'n Ed's for dinner, and later all the adults ended up out at the Wiffledome for more visiting and a bit of an extended jam session. These are, as I have often said, our extra, adopted, extended family. Spending time with them always fills us with such complete love for these people, and reminds us how blessed we are to call the Krepps, Madarangs, and Claybaughs our dear friends for life.

Shel and Logan:

Jim and me:

My little Miss Freya:

Carrie and me:

David and Jim:

Beautiful Freya:

Jam Session at the Wiffledome:

Me and My Sweetie:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Good News, Bad News

October 14, 2009

The good news? A much needed, long-awaited first storm of the season here in the valley that depends so heavily on rain.

Bonus? Sparkly clean car, daughters who are giddy with the thought of splashing in the puddles in their rain boots (yup, even the sixteen year old), and a son who grins like a Cheshire Cat because he got to walk to school in the rain--no umbrella, soakin' in the glory of Mother Nature. (To be fair, he had an umbrella; he just loves the feeling of the rain on his skin.)

The bad news? The downpour made it unmistakable that the need for a new roof, one we certainly cannot afford at this time, is imminent. The rainstorm announced itself inside last night, in the form of a leaky ceiling in the girls' room. This is not good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What a Week!

October 12, 2009
This past week went by in a bit of a whirlwind, as they sometimes can during soccer season.

Monday: Soccer practice for Danielle, Robotics practice for Nicholas. (Luckily for me, their dad handles taxi service on Mondays.) Good thing, too, because I had to finish grading papers and finalize six-week grades to turn in on Tuesday.

Tuesday: Our 'down' time. Catch up on homework, chill, enjoy some uninterrupted family time.

Wednesday: Soccer practice for Danielle, Robotics practice for Nicholas. My night for taxi service.

When I went to pick up Danielle from her practice (on a field where there are, roughly, a MILLION kids kicking around soccer balls, not to mention the high school marching band members doing their thing), I noticed for the second time a small group of people setting off rockets. Yes, rockets. Fire-propelled ones. The little group was on the field about 20 feet away from soccer kids and the line up of mini-vans awaiting their arrivals, and about 30 feet away from the marching band.

I remember thinking it odd the first time I saw them during the previous week's pick up, but this week, as I was headed back to the van with my daughter, one of the rockets ascended with a bang several yards up into the air, and came thudding back down onto the hood of my van. I was in plain sight, and CLEARLY the owner of the vehicle, but rather than acknowledging what they had done, the threesome ran over, scooped up their rocket, gave a cursory glance to the car, and scurried back to their task at hand. I got to the car and found a green streak down the hood of the car (caused by the green plastic casing of the rocket), and a small mark (not permanent) on my windshield. More than anything, I was irritated that they hadn't at least said something to me, so I went over to them and asked what they had hit my car with. The ADULT of the three (the other two appeared to be high school students) simply looked up at me and condescendingly said, "It was just one of these. No big deal--they're totally light. I'm sure it probably didn't do anything to your car."

I said, when something--even something light--falls from the sky and lands, it can cause damage."

"Yeah, well, I looked, and didn't see anything, so...." he turned and went back to his business of the rockets. I was dismissed.

I was beyond annoyed at the arrogance and poor example this guy displayed. How far a simple, "I'm sorry" would have gone in that instance. I was muttering under my breath on the way back to the van, but not feeling terribly confrontational (because I'm like that) when my daughter said, "Those guys are always out there during soccer practice. Earlier tonight, before you got here, one of the rockets landed on the goalie post on our field." WHAT??? Those things are landing that close to our KIDS?? Oh, I don't think so! I turned to look for them again, but they had packed it in and taken off, perhaps worried that I might cause them some trouble. Oh I WILL be confrontational if it comes to my kids. Since they were gone, though, I had to settle for the next best thing, which was to let the school authorities know what was going on, so that they could come send them on their merry way next time.

Thursday: Early Family Dinner Night (Nicholas' choice--Arby's). We did Thursday out this week instead of Friday because of Friday's Homecoming Game. Robotics practice for Nicholas. Drop Bree off at the theater to see a play in which her best friend played the lead.

Friday: Birthday party for Danielle's friend. Manly movie bonding night for Doug and Nicholas. Homecoming Parade for Bree and me. I walked with the Cycling Club, for which I am an advisor, and Bree attempted to walk with about seven (!) different clubs she's involved with this year. I didn't stay for the whole game, because I had to leave early to pick up Danielle from the birthday party. She and I went home and picked up Doug and Nicholas and we went out for some ice cream. Meanwhile, Bree stayed at the game (we won!), and then went to the Homecoming Dance. When I picked her up, we had a nice long girly chat--it was a pretty special dance for her, and one I think she'll remember for a very long time. I was pretty excited to be in on all the girly recap: )

Saturday: Bree and her friend, who had spent the night after the game, got up bright and early to do some volunteer work with The Key Club. Turns out, that volunteer work entailed moving and cleaning dusty old canoes and cutting yards and yards of chicken wire at some sort of camp. These are not tasks my little darlin' is accustomed to, but she hung in there like a trooper. She's even got the chicken-wire leg scratches as badges of honor for her work.

Danielle also had a soccer game. It was supposed to be an eight o'clock game, but through some miracle, a schedule change was necessitated, and we didn't have to be out there until ten. Not surprisingly, Danielle's team didn't get significantly stronger during the course of a single week, so the game was yet another blow-out. We were working with substitute coaches this week--our coach was out of town, so the coaches of the A and B teams offered to cover for him. Several times throughout the game, the coaches exchanged glances that indicated that they had not known they would be coaching the Bad News Bears Saturday. They did their best and kept a great attitude, but we were clearly out-played at every turn. Danielle played defender first half, but second half was her turn in the goalie box. When your team is playing a defensive game, your goalie works HARD, because the ball rarely leaves that half of the field. After the first two goals got by her, I thought Danielle might give up, be defeated--but no! Suddenly, a switch went on in that little girl, and she was all over the ball. She dove, she rolled, she took the hits--she was not letting that ball go through. All of the girls played their hearts out, but I'm telling you, I was so proud of the way Danielle dug in and stood her ground in that goalie box. After the game was over, we let her choose somewhere to go for a celebratory lunch.

Later that night, after the kids had gone to their dad's for the evening, Doug and I went out to meet up with some friends to sing karaoke. Not only did we get to hang out with Jim, our dearest buddy, but we also met up with several other friends. It was a great, relaxing evening that lasted well past midnight.

Sunday: Are you kidding me? We SLEPT! Late. It was a total jammie day for us. I think we deserved it: )

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Robotics Boys At Work

October 11, 2009

The boys have secured a place to build their practice set and begin work on programming the robot.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the Lego obstacles will be completed, and the boys will have to begin working on building the actual robot and programming it to accomplish several tasks.

Each of the tasks--going under the bridge, maneuvering around table elements, parking between two barriers without knocking them over, etc.--will earn them points toward their total score.

They'll also have to do a research project and presentation as part of the competition. Guess who has volunteered to help the boys out with this?

Competition will be December 12th this year. We've got a long way to go, but I think they'll be up for it when the time comes!