Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lake Memories

Spent some time at our lake cabin. We've been retreating to this property for over 40 years. There are so many memories there, in every tree, every dip in the path through the woods, every morning when the mist rises off the water when the sun breaks through the trees. I read an article in a science magazine to the effect that your memories change every time you visit them. I guess every visit leaves a mark, which asks the question of how much memory is real and how much is all marked up from visits.
Our trips to this spot began with camping, using tents and a VW bus with a mattress in the back. Over the years we added a mobile home (1953 New Moon, furnished with a working kitchen and bathroom, $150 plus towing.) Most of us still preferred the tent, until we added a big room and porch. We put a Franklin stove in the middle. If you stuffed it full of split wood and small logs and got it blazing it would last until about 4 AM. No one wanted to go find more wood at that time, so we shivered and added robes and coats to the blankets. Our memories filter out the mice and snakes that came and went during the night, the cranky toilet, the cranky guests. Our memories still include the whole shebang burning to the ground the night of our oldest son's bachelor party.
After wearing out a new mobile home, we built a little house on the same spot. Heated and air conditioned, same great view of the lake from the screened porch. We walk over to the thermostat, flick the switch to heat or cool, and never miss the wood stove. We don't take these things for granted. We don't miss the mice or the snakes, but we think we miss having noisy kids under foot. They would probably make us cranky now.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

White Men Carry Signs

I read "Beyond Pelvic Politics" by Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times. He skillfully discusses the problems with the current battle between government and the Catholic bishops over including birth control in health insurance plans offered by Catholic institutions. It affects us all, and not just "poor women of dubious morals." Read it at

This is not a battle over banning contraception, which one of our candidates has hinted at. Nor is it even hinting at forcing contraception on those unwilling to participate, for whatever reason. (98% of sexually active Catholic women practice birth control.) It is balancing the rights of women's health against the beliefs of a few bishops.

Bishops are, or course, of the male persuasion. As are the most outspoken anti-abortion activists. Next time you pass a womens' health facility being picketed, count the number of women carrying signs. Driving at 60 miles per hour, you won't have a problem. What's this all about, guys? I don't understand it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


We drive an old minivan, has 130,000 miles on it. When it talks, we listen. The familiar squeaks and rattles tell us all is well. When the dashboard says "Service engine soon" it means we didn't tighten the gas cap enough. When all the idiot lights come on, it means we drove on a bumpy road. We follow our mechanic's instruction and drive on a bumpy road again until the lights go off.

Very similar approach works for raising kids. When the little ones fret, it means they are hungry, tired, or poopy. The same language works for teenagers, except you also have to listen for silence. Silence is harder to figure out, but sometimes it just goes away. Sometimes they just talk over it.

This morning I read that BMW has installed a sound device to make a pleasant, powerful roar. It seems they soundproofed their cars so well that the roar went away. How will you know if your Beemer meant to wheeze instead of roaring? It makes me uncomfortable to think my car is fibbing. On the other hand, there may be an after-market roar machine that would fit in the glove compartment of the mini-van.