blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: August 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

First Days... (300)

I love the first days of school. I always loved them growing up and now that I’ve become something of an adult, I love them still. The feeling is one of rebirths and fresh starts. I feel it even more strongly than the New Year, and I suspect I’m not alone. New notebooks and folders, fresh pens, blank 3x5 cards – it’s all part of the joy of autumn (spring, too, but the pull in fall is so much stronger). There’s a palpable energy in the air – sometimes fed by the thrill of coming or coming back, and sometimes fed by the fear of the days ahead. Often, it is a mixture of both, etched in nervous smiles and eyes that dance from folded squares of paper to room numbers. Hurried feet retrace recent paths to find an obscure room that is the other way down a hallway that looks the same as every other hallway. The mornings are chilly and the halls are bustling with new outfits, clean sneakers, and stiff book bags. Each classroom is near bursting with muted curiosity and intimidation, books are uselessly shuffled and eyes cast side-long glances at the other desks, wondering if the faces will be friends, or at least comrades-in-arms. Every newcomer in the room is secretly scrutinized, the perception and judgment shifting if he or she joins the students. All wonder who will fill the front of the room, and the expectation and trepidation keeps conversations hushed. It is in this moment that the tone for the weeks ahead is set – it is in this moment of first impressions and hopefully pleasant surprises unfold. A moment that cannot be replicated, cannot be rehearsed, and cannot be imagined. A moment when potential, optimism, and a little fear roll together and we are alive.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sore Pignals...

One of the first blogs I wrote was a rant against both fortune cookies and Sleep Number beds. I still feel strongly about both – in fact, I was thrilled to get an actual fortune the other day and also thrilled to find that there were real mattresses in this year’s room at the hotel where I first encountered Sleep Numbers. My life has strange highlights, and these were two of them. Notably, PF Chang’s still gave out one more cookie than there were people at the table.

Today, I want to talk about two other revolutionary products – only one of which I can actually remember. The first goes back a ways, to my honeymoon as a matter of fact. J. and I don’t have cable at home, so we tend to watch TV whenever we go anywhere that has it. Our honeymoon was no different. Although we spent many hours in the sun, at the beach, wandering around Bermuda, visiting sites, and generally enjoying the cruise – we also spent time in our stateroom watching a marathon of Law & Order: SVU. Romantic, I know. I still remember the occasional signal lost on the rolling ship and it wasn’t long before ‘Poor Signal’ turned into ‘Sore Pignals’ simply because it was amusing. We’re odd. This should surprise no one.

Anyway – during that marathon, there also seemed to be a marathon of infomercial ads for Aqua Globes. If you don’t know what an Aqua Globe is, it’s a glass ball on a tube that you fill with water. The idea is that the water slowly runs down the tube into your plants and waters them for you. It was only about the second time the infomercial came on that I began to deconstruct it. The rants relating to Aqua Globes left J. in tears, I’m fairly sure. The first issue I took with it is that if the people in the ad were truly as idiotic as it seemed they were, I don’t think I would trust them with any glass object, let alone one with a hollow glass tube that tapered into a point. These people were insane. They would tend to their plants with so much water that there’d be an inch-deep pond where their wooden end-table surface used to be. I kept waiting for the infomercial that sold end tables with the two-inch lipped edges to save your things from falling off or, in this case, water-damaging your carpet. If you put so much water in a plant that it completely saturated the soil and then created a reflecting pool on random surfaces in your domicile, then I’m not sure that Aqua Globes were going to solve your deeper problems. Just a thought. Also, if I cannot be trusted to water my plants every few days – so they wilt and die and turn my house into a black and white image from the Depression – then how am I going to remember to fill the Aqua Globe every two weeks? And how I earth will I manage to stop filling the Globe when it’s full, since I can’t seem to water a plant without rivaling the Great Flood?

The other item is the one I can’t remember, but it has something to do with shaving or, more accurately, unwanted hair removal. The only part of the ad I can remember is, of course, in black and white. It seems typical to cast one’s life in shades of grey when you don’t have whatever As-Seen-On-TV item they are selling at the moment. It’s like the ad industry’s version of the Wizard of Oz – though I’m fairly certain the ad execs have more drugs. Anyway, the woman in the commercial is sitting on the toilet in a robe with her foot up on the bathroom sink. She has about three inches of what seems to be men’s shaving cream slathered all over her leg and she’s dragging a dry razor up her shin bone with speeds rivaling an Ariel Atom V8 500 (I’ve been watching some Top Gear lately and that’s the car topping their leaderboard at the moment for Driving Really Fast Around the Test Track). The image then indicates somehow that the woman has cut herself. Every time I see this, I’m fairly certain this woman deserves to have her leg sliced up if this is how she’s choosing to shave it. I know they exaggerate these things for effect, but when it hurtles into the realm of absurdly comical, then it’s hard for me to take any of it seriously. In fact, this commercial sunk in so much that I cannot even remember what it’s for. All I can do is surmise that we are meant to feel smarter than these people and that if we see a small reflection of our own failings in them, maybe we’ll feel better about calling in the next 10 minutes and getting a second set at no extra cost.

The more I think about it, perhaps that woman is in such a hurry because she can hear water flooding her living room from the excess water she put in her hydrangea just minutes before going in to the bathroom to drive shave her leg with her husband’s Barbasol.

In any event, I need to go read a book or do something without advertisements because even thinking about these commercials is giving me sore pignals.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


This is the ceremony I wrote for my brother and his wife's vow renewal.  I thought I would share.


Before we bear witness to this renewed pledge of love and companionship, we must first pause for a moment and reflect on just what it is we are celebrating.  Joined hand in hand, these two represent a confluence of wonder and joy.  For those who do not know, a confluence is the place where two rivers come together to make a new river – one whose renown and power are oft more pronounced than the two from which it was born.  So formed is the Amazon River, the Ohio River, the Ganges – each of these finds their source in the joining of other rivers, the swirling of waters that soon become inseparable from one another.

At the point of the joining, cities thrive and grow – tying their fates to the new river, a river strong and alive from the moment of its waking.

So, too, are Jim and Marie a confluence.  Behind them, in the years of their lives before they met, they carved out their paths, tumbling over obstacles or finding ways around them. They have brought with them, rolling along in the current of their existence, their experiences and their dreams, their hopes and fears, their families and their friends.  And into the headwaters of the new life they are building together, all of these things combine to form a powerful force – one that can carry them wherever they need to go.  From these moments onward, they will share their lives and face whatever the world lays before them.

And we, who are gathered here to celebrate the strength of what they have found together, will thrive in their abundance of love and joy.  For no matter which tributary we aligned ourselves with, we are now all part of the same river – and their love and joy will be ever stronger because we, too, have joined it, adding our own.

So, I stand here to officiate something that is already official and to give voice to that which we all already know and feel.  For my brother, I have pride and not a little relief.  I always knew you were a good man with a big heart, but I was never quite sure if you would ever find someone who could draw you out of your private world and, to return to the river metaphor, open the locks so you could show the world just how special you are.  I cannot express how pleased and honored I am to be here in this place with you.  For my new sister, I welcome you warmly into our circle of family and friends.  You’ve already been welcomed, and as you are still here, I know that you belong here.  I did not know if I would ever get the chance to welcome a sister in this way, and now that I am, I could not have asked for a better woman and friend.  I cannot express how pleased and honored I am to be here in this place with you.

To you both, I offer love and gifts in my words that I have no doubt echo, in some way, the hearts of all of those who have gathered here – and even those who could not be with us today.  I cannot truly express how pleased and honored we are to be here in this place with you both.

Each of us should well know that Jim and Marie have asked us to be here today to witness this celebration because each of us plays a vital part in their lives.  The friendship, guidance, support, encouragement, and love have made them who they are and have brought them to this place; truly, if we close our eyes and listen closely, we can even hear the heartbeats and laughter of those who are no longer with us.  Jim and Marie have already begun their lives together with hearts full of gratitude for the past, joy for the present, and hope for the future and now they wish to share it with those most dear to them.

They have already come through sickness and health, through richness and poorness, for better and for worse.  On a Sunday afternoon in May, over one year ago, they pledged themselves to one another.  And now, I ask if they  are ready to affirm, to their gathered friends and family, their commitment to one another.  Jim and Marie, are you ready to once again make the pledges to which you commit yourselves to each other in love?

Exchange of Vows
“I take you
to be no other than yourself
loving what I know of you
trusting what I do not yet know
with respect for who you are
and faith in your love for me
through all our years
and in all that life may bring us
with my earnest and complete devotion
I give you my love.”

Exchange of Rings
A circle is the symbol of the sun and of the earth, of life and of the universe. It is a symbol of wholeness and renewal, permanence and peace. The rings you gave, received, and now give again are symbols of the circle of shared love into which you entered together as husband and wife.

“With all that I am, and all that I have, I once more offer this ring as a sign of my renewed vow and a symbol of a love which knows no end.”


May you bless each other in your marriage tomorrow as you did yesterday; may you comfort each other when comfort is needed, share in each other’s joys and laughter, help each other in all challenges and endeavors, and find fulfillment in all your married days together.  May you, today and every day,  be the living embodiment of these words:

The way is long -- let us go together
The way is difficult -- let us help each other
The way is joyful -- let us share it
The way is ours alone -- let us go in love
The way grows before us -- let us begin

You may now share the kiss that will begin your lives together from this day forward and begin the joint celebration of all your gathered loved ones.