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Remembering Rebecca

I met Rebecca in January 1981.  I was nine years old, in fourth grade.  My family had relocated again.  This time we had moved to California over the Christmas break.  New town.  New state.  New school.  No friends.  My new teacher, Mrs. Jarvis, assigned Rebecca to show me around.  It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.  I was a shy bookworm.  Rebecca was more adventurous and quirky.  We didn’t travel in the popular circles. But that didn’t bother me.  I didn’t need a lot of friends – just one good one.

Ready for the regional junior high honor choir performance.

Ready for the regional junior high honor choir performance.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I can see so many of the ways we challenged each other.  She helped drag me out of my shell.  I helped curb a little of her crazy wildness.  I went to high school dances because of her (she pretty nearly dragged me to my first one).  She joined Girl Scouts because of me.  We were in choir and band together and our families suffered through private, two instrument band concerts and ridiculous skits we performed for them. We had countless slumber parties – at her house and mine.  We laughed together.  We cried together.  We complained about our pesky younger siblings to each other.

She was "Ma in her kerchief" when we performed a skit of The Night Before Christmas for the nursing home.

She was “Ma in her kerchief” when we performed a skit of The Night Before Christmas for the nursing home.

After high school, I went away to college.  As time passed, we were in contact less and less frequently.  I eventually lost track of her.  In some ways, she was out of my life.  In other ways, she was still right beside me.  I still thought about her, and her friendship had helped me become who I was.

Cleaning the Girl Scout house after a pizza making fundraiser.

Cleaning the Girl Scout house after a pizza making fundraiser.

We reconnected years later through Facebook.  It was immediately obvious that she was still the quirkier of the two of us.  It was not long after that she encountered serious health problems.  I was only able to be with her remotely as she faced the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of cancer.  I watched and marveled at her undaunted spirit and optimism.  Cancer eventually claimed her physical body, but it couldn’t take her life.

There was a certain pizzazz about Rebecca.  We each have our own set of challenges to face in life, but the hand she was dealt may seem harder than most.  However, she was brave enough to face them with friends who had her back.  It makes me smile to know that she had touched and impacted so many people – others who were there to laugh and cry with her too; others she was able to challenge.

Now she’s gone from this earth – at least physically.  But she lives on in the hearts and minds of her many, many friends.  Friends who will smile with fond remembrance when they hear the phrase “yippee skippy” or see Betty Boop or unicorns farting rainbows.

The annual Hawaiian Luau was my favorite.

The annual Hawaiian Luau was my favorite.

So long, my friend.  Once again we’ve been separated.  But like before, I will continue to remember you.

 

 

 

 

Love & Marriage

As of today we’ve been married 18 wonderful years, and we feel just as blessed and thankful now as we did then (if not more so). Here are a couple of our favorite pictures from the wedding…  But first, for those interested, you can also read the story of how Janet and I first met.

The Happy Couple

A Happy Day

Scarry Stuff

This post has been percolating in the back of my mind for years, and I’m just now finally getting around to writing it. Why has it taken so long? Give me a break — I have twins! But seriously, ever since we first started reading stories to the girls, I knew that eventually I’d get around to writing this. Some of you may already be aware of the children’s book author Richard Scarry (and yes, it’s pronounced just like scary). Most of his books seem to be set in the world of Busytown, and they are populated with cute little talking animal characters. So far, that all sounds like great children’s book material, right?

So, what’s with all the cannibalism?!

You heard me right — blatant references to cannibalism abound throughout Scarry’s children’s books! Well, I think we only own three Richard Scarry books, but each of them contains examples of what I’m talking about, so I assume they’re all the same in this regard. Exhibit A is from Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. This one was actually my book, which my parents gave to me when I was a kid — and I remember thinking this page was rather odd even way back then.

Everything about this picture just seems wrong…

Now, this might seem rather innocuous with a casual first glance, but notice how the piglet’s beady little eyes are staring longingly at the bacon! Perhaps he’s thinking, “Grandpa! They told me I’d never see you again, but you look more delicious than ever.” Very likely, there are also bits of other distant relatives mixed into the frankfurters and bologna… I suppose in the world of Busytown, where everyone is a talking animal of some sort, the best way to avoid being butchered is if you’re the one doing the butchering. (This must drive the PETA people crazy! Err, I mean crazier.)

But like I said, there’s more where that came from. Exhibit B is from Richard Scarry’s Busiest Fire Fighters Ever, in which the world’s most incompetent pigs are somehow tasked with keeping Busytown safe from fires. They also rescue someone’s keys from a drain and get a cat out of a tree, but the big finale of the story has Sparky, Smokey, Snozzle, and Squirty hosing down the Greenbug family BBQ. When they realize their mistake, they invite the Greenbug family back to the fire station for a different kind of “family BBQ”.

I’m pretty sure this is Smokey, which is probably a nickname based on the flavoring he prefers with his pork products

Exhibit C is Richard Scarry’s Animal Nursery Tales, and it’s a gold mine — if you’re into pigs indulging their dark desires to consume the flesh of other pigs. As you can see in the next image here, Scarry answers the age old question, “Why did that first little pig go to the market?” To buy a sausage from Mr. Butcher Pig, of course.

How many baby piglets were ground up into that sausage, I wonder?

If you’re only going to draw one picture of the little pig who went to market, why show us a Butcher Pig slicing up a giant sausage? Why not show us the produce section? Because Richard Scarry is obsessed with porcine cannibalism, that’s why.

Here’s yet another image from the same book:

Sausages, ham, pork chops…

In this story, four robbers are gorging themselves on a massive feast. But as if showing the thieves surrounded by gold and jewels and all the rest of their plunder wasn’t enough to establish their low morale character, Scarry really drives the point home by depicting yet another gluttonous pig chowing down on sausages, ham, and pork chops.

And lastly, I will leave you with a couple images that illustrate just how absurd Scarry’s pork fetish really is. In the story of The Three Wishes, a poor woodcutter pig is granted three wishes by a little fairy pig for some reason. He’s so excited, he goes home and tells his wife the good news. But of course, as with all fables involving wishes, things do not turn out so well.

“How I wish I could have a nice fat sausage…”

Now, I ask you — is it necessary to the plot for the pig to wish for a nice fat sausage? Couldn’t he have wished for an ear of corn, or perhaps a cucumber, or almost anything else? But with the total freedom of an author writing about magical wishes, where anything at all is possible, Scarry nevertheless chose to write about an axe-wielding pig who wants to eat sausage for dinner. Hmmm…

So he wastes his first wish on the sausage. What happens next? His wife berates him so mercilessly about the wasted wish that he ends up shouting without even thinking about it, “Oh, I wish that the sausage was stuck on the end of your nose!” Now, this strikes me as a rather bizarre thing to say, even in the heat of the moment, but even the absurdity of that wish pales in comparison to this illustration.

Seriously, what kind of caption could possibly summarize what’s going on here?

Just stare at it for a while and really soak it in. Ask yourself what Scarry is really trying to convey here… I think you’ll come to the same conclusion that I have — Richard Scarry just has some weird fetish about cannibalistic pigs. Or perhaps it’s even more disturbing than that; since the animals in his stories are so extensively anthropomorphized, the logical conclusion is that he’s really talking about human cannibalism! But of course that’s taboo, so the only way to really explore those dark and twisted fantasies and advance his agenda was by cleverly incorporating his pro-cannibal views into these otherwise charming children’s stories.

And if you’re curious how that story ends…  Naturally, after trying everything to get the stupid sausage unstuck from the wife’s nose, they finally resort to using their final wish to get rid of the sausage, and so they end the story no better off than when they started. (Well, almost everything; I might have expected the woodcutter to haul out his axe and just lop that sausage right off and then gobble it up.  This is, after all, a Richard Scarry story.)

Turning FOUR is fun galore!

We had a very busy weekend! Busy with celebrations, that is. Sunday was Mother’s Day, of course, but it was also Carolyn and Elizabeth’s birthday, and we also celebrated Janet’s birthday at the same time (although it’s technically not until next weekend) because we already had the whole family together and my parents were about to leave for a two week vacation. The icing on the cake (so to speak) was that my Grandma was able to come up and join us too.  So, we had Mother’s Day celebrations for Grandma, Mom, Janet, and Annmarie, and birthday celebrations for Carolyn, Elizabeth and Janet.

Carolyn and Elizabeth turned FOUR years old! Amazing. I suppose if I had more time to pause and reflect, I’d probably feel flabbergasted at how much and how quickly they’ve grown — and perhaps even find some energy to miss those “good old days” (like when I used to change 7 to 10 diapers every stinking day). To be sure, I enjoyed many aspects of the time when they were infants, but frankly I’m glad they’re four, and I’m thrilled to see them learning so many new things — letters, numbers, games… We measured them a few days ago and found they have grown about an inch and a half in the last 6 months. We’re looking forward to what comes next.

Happy Birthdays!

Carolyn and the Bumblebee Cake

Carolyn makes a wish

Elizabeth and the Ladybug Cake

Elizabeth makes a wish

Yummy cake and ice cream!

Cooperative unwrapping

Oooh, I hope it’s a game!

It’s a game! It’s a game!

Easter Joy

One of the nice things about living close to family is that it’s a relatively simple thing for us to get together and celebrate occasions like Easter. So our family and my sister’s family gathered over at my parents’ house for a meal and some easter egg hunting fun. They sure did look cute in their Easter dresses, so I figured I had to post some pictures…

Mommy & Elizabeth decorating eggs

Carolyn showing off a colorful assortment

Story Time

I see one!

Look, I’m on a swing!

Nom nom nom…

They both scarfed down quite a bit of candy during the Easter Egg Hunt.

It has little candies inside!

Our Family