Before our difficulties began, one day as we were chatting, Kathy started to tell me about her “gentleman friend,” Mel. Mel came from a background similar to hers. He was the son of an evangelical Christian minister. In rebellion, he had turned to a life of “rock and roll and rebellion” (I translated this as engaging in sex, drugs, alcohol, and the like). Kathy told me that they were living together.

She told me that Mel was intelligent and sweet, but unable to get and hold a job. Apparently, he spent much of his time working out as a body builder. She knew he had the intelligence and charm to get himself a fine job (perhaps as a salesman), but he was entirely lacking in confidence in himself.

It was obvious that she desperately wanted him to propose to her and marry her. (Although she was not attending church, she still considered herself a “good Christian girl,” and living with a man in “sin” distressed her.)

Mel felt as a man he had to support Kathy. Actually, he was a fine “house husband,” a good cook and housekeeper. Kathy was fine with supporting Mel financially, but Mel was horrified at the idea.

She told me that periodically they would have a big fight and she would storm out and leave him, but then return.

I said, “This does not sound like it will work out. Perhaps you should just cut your losses and realize he is never going to change…”

At that point, Kathy astonished me by saying with some vigor, “No! No! I love him! I am not going to leave him.”

I was startled and decided to stop giving her advice. Looking back on the situation with perspective from years later, I now conclude that what Kathy (the evangelical feminist) wanted was, like Maria, a man who wouldn’t give her much shit. It was fine with her if she had to support Mel, as long as he let her wear the pants (so to speak) in the relationship.

Over time I actually met Mel a few times. He seemed like a pleasant, personable man. I could see no reason why he and Kathy would not make a fine married couple, but what do I know?

However, I figured that Mel would never break down and agree to marry Kathy. However, one week they made a trip to Nevada (not for gambling, but for what reason I don’t remember), and on her return Kathy surprised everyone at the school by telling us that Mel had married her in Las Vegas during the trip. As I had recently seen the zany Nicholas Cage film Honeymoon in Las Vegas depicting Cage as a reluctant boyfriend who finally breaks down and marries his lady love, I was struck by the peculiar coincidence. I could think of few people less similar to the characters in the movie than Mel and Kathy, but there they were, married on impulse, in Las Vegas.

Kathy told me after the marriage that after watching Mel with their dog, she decided not to have children. As I’ve always believed that 75% of the people who do have children should not, that seemed as good a reason for coming to such a conclusion as any.

About a year or so again I had an email exchange with Kathy. She and Mel are still married. She still likes to be in charge of everything, but she found a job at a community college where she prepares curriculum and seems to be in charge of enough stuff to keep her control urges satisfied. She said that she and Mel are still married, and he has become a minister (of what crazy denomination I have no idea) and satisfied his urge to be a preacher by marrying people. All in all seems like a happy ending for an evangelical Christian feminist.

Kathy told me that her goal in attending Multnomah School of the Bible was to be a missionary in Africa and win souls for Christ among the heathens. However, as she neared graduation, she had an uncomfortable insight.

“I realized that the only way I could be a missionary was to either be the wife of a missionary or be a “go-fer” for a missionary. These were the only roles available for a woman in my church.”

In other words, somehow, Kathy had somehow succumbed to feminism, despite all her training and indoctrination against it.

Instead of using her divinity degree, Kathy got a job as a clerk in an office. As an intelligent, energetic and ambitious person, she quickly taught herself about computers and office procedures and rose to responsible positions. However, two main themes in her life were 1) fearing betrayal by people she trusted and 2) lacking respect for people less intelligent and perceptive than her telling her what to do. As she constantly feared betrayal, she would provoke people around her into betraying her, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we worked together, I saw her engage in this pattern.

 

At first, however, things went very well for Kathy. My boss, Tom, quickly recognized Kathy’s intelligence and ability, and, as did I, responded to her charm, which is considerable. Unlike Tammy, (the woman I described in my last post), Kathy does not play on her sex appeal in as strong and calculating way, but she knows how to make a very positive impression on people she meets, both men and women with her courtesy, intelligence, and desire to help people learn and succeed.

Tom quickly hired her and she quickly proved to be one of the best teachers in our “school.” [We were well separated from the rest of the University; both geographically and in how we functioned, so mostly we thought of ourselves as a separate school, like a little community college in Portland.]

Every class we taught was “graded” by the students, who submitted a feedback form, rating the class on a scale from 1-5, on about half a dozen points having to do with the quality of the class. Although I was and am fairly conceited about my teaching ability and about my ability to recognize and improve my teaching flaws and correct my failures, like all the other instructors I read the student feedback carefully. As far as I could tell, Kathy and I were the two highest rated instructors in the program.

I found this fascinating in that our teaching styles were quite different. We sometimes sat in on each others classes. Sometimes this was to learn a program we didn’t know. In large classes, the program provided “teaching assistants.” Once in a while one of the full instructors would help out as a TA.

My style of teaching is varied and improvisational. I am constantly trying new approaches and experimenting. I am very responsive to student requests. For example, one day I was teaching a class for a group of employees for the Internal Revenue Service. I began by making jokes about how much people hate and fear the IRS. I noticed a passing university employee staring at me in alarm, apparently fearing that I would be audited and arrested on the spot.

I quickly learned that the requested topic for the class (assigned by a supervisor who was not present) was not what the group of employees actually wanted to learn. I knew something about the topic they wanted but did not have a class prepared. I improvised a class on the spot. Later, I got a letter from an IRS department head expressing appreciation at how well I had met employee needs. That was an illustration of how I functioned when I was working at my best.

The down side was that I was (and am) easily distracted and impulsive. Sometimes in an effort to better meet students’ needs I would go off on a wild goose chase or get in deeply over my head. My willingness to improve and fly by the seat of my pants drove some students crazy.

Kathy, on the other hand, was a person who functioned entirely by depending on careful analysis and preparation. Once she had mastered a topic, she planned her classes practically to the minute. As I walked by her classroom, I would hear her voice, look at my watch, and joke quietly to other teachers, “It’s 11:15 am. I now exactly what she is going to say right now, because it’s on her schedule.”

Students loved her organization, confidence, knowledge of her subject. On the other hand, when circumstances were not entirely under her control or events were not going as she planned, Kathy tended to panic.

I remember once, she was teaching a database class, a topic where she was expert and my knowledge was skimpy. Microsoft had just released its first database program. Students were clamouring for it. The program was full of bugs and constantly crashing. I went into the classroom to assist Kathy. She was practically distraught. She wanted to cancel the class. In her mind, if the program crashed while she was teaching, the students would blame her personally, not Microsoft, who was releasing software not ready for prime time, nor the University of Oregon Portland Center, who was offering a dubious and unready program to satisfy student demands.

I said to Kathy, “Just tell the students, ‘We know you really want this class and we are offering it even though we cannot guarantee that the program will run without crashing through the entire class. If it crashes, we will give you your money back or a free class at a future time when we can make it work.’”

“No! I can’t do that. It’s completely unprofessional! They will consider me as a person who does not know what she is doing and is not fit to teach!” Kathy lamented, practically in tears. “I can’t get up and say something like that to a room full of students!”

I said, “I will do it for you. I will take full responsibility. Since Tom [the director of the program] is not here today, I will tell them I am the ranking staff member here and if someone is furious and irate, I will take all the heat. I will tell them I am the senior staff member in the absence of the Director.” [This was more or less true.]

Eventually, Kathy let me make a brief introductory statement to the class while she cringed in the back of the room. I explained that we really wanted to meet their need for a class on this program, but we could not guarantee it would run through the entire class without crashing. The students (who were for the most part already very computer-experienced and used to the typical ways in which computer hardware and software fails all the time) mostly shrugged.

Kathy then began teaching the class. Although the software was shaky for the duration of the class (about 6 hours over one day), it never actually failed completely. The students were enormously grateful for the fine job she did that day.

 

I was also fairly confident in dealing with difficult and hostile students. I attributed this to having been a high school teacher for about ten years. Adolescents are by nature difficult and hostile. I regarded the adults in our classes at UO as fairly pliable and easy to control. As I had been teaching for much of my career in a “diverse” high school with a variety of races, religions, and general nuttiness, I was fairly comfortable in dealing with diverse groups. Probably I overestimated my capability in this regard, but in general I was more relaxed in dealing with hostile students than my fellow teachers.

One day Kathy taught a class where a black man accused her of not providing him with enough attention and support. I wasn’t there, but I suspect I would have been more comfortable handling this situation after having experience with teaching a few hostile black gang members in my classes in high school. Again, Kathy was mortified; horrified that anyone would consider her prejudiced.

However, Kathy soon began to play out her betrayal dramas. In our classes, there was never quite enough work to go around for all the teachers. Each teacher would have his or her “turf”; classes they considered their property. Other teachers were not supposed to teach turf classes unless there was so much work to go around that the “owner” would say, “OK, you go ahead and teach that section.”

Kathy and I shared the Microsoft Word classes amicably enough, but trouble arose in the area of databases. Kathy and a teacher named Richard shared the database classes. Richard was a friednly and easy-going person, but he began developing a new database class. Kathy (with little justification) began to regard Richard’s work as “stealing database classes” from her.

It’s always easier to see other people’s flaws and errors than our own. I could see that Kathy was provoking a “betrayal drama” where she would get herself fired. My efforts to tell her to calm herself down were not well-received. We never had a complete break, but our friendship cooled considerably.

During the period when our friendship was having difficulty, Kathy told me, with some asperity, that I was too willing to go along to get along, and that I should stand up for myself more and compromise less. As a person who was usually in trouble for arguing with bosses and on the verge of getting fired, I was rather bitterly amused to receive such criticism.

I met Kathy, the second evangelical Christian feminist, when I was teaching computer classes for the University of Oregon. This is an extremely misleading sentence because it makes me sound like a professor of computer science teaching advanced classes for future nerds. In fact, these classes were short, ungraded, no credit classes akin to community college classes taught in Portland, Oregon, about a hundred miles from the main UO campus in Eugene, Oregon.

Anyway, in those days I was younger, smarter (though not by much) and sort of “tri-lingual” in that I taught DOS classes, Windows classes, and Macintosh classes. I was teaching a Microsoft Word class for the Macintosh computer when I met Kathy, one of the students, about ten years younger than I, pretty without being bodacious. As the class proceeded, it quickly became clear to me that while a few details of the Macintosh were unfamiliar to her, in general she knew as much or more than I did about Microsoft Word. At the end of the class, she stopped to chat with me a bit. Given her obvious intelligence and knowledge of the program, I wondered a bit why she was taking the class.

When she asked about the class and about our program, fairly quickly became apparent to me that she was trolling for a teaching job. [As I got to know Kathy better, I realized that the reason she was trolling for a new job was that she knew she was about to get fired. At the time, she was office manager for a well known market research company in Portland. In my checkered working career, I was usually in trouble and conflict with my bosses, but Kathy outdid me by a few light years in this regard in her tendency to get into battles she could not win with her bosses.]

I explained that I was not the person who hired for our school, but advised her that if she provided a copy of her resume, I would pass it on to my boss. Up to that point, Kathy had been confident and self-assured in manner and projected smooth professional self-confidence. All of a sudden she seemed embarrassed and diffident and reluctant to let me see her resume. However, when I pressed a bit she reluctantly handed me a nice-looking and well-prepared curriculum vitae.

As I glanced at her education, I was struck by her degree: in divinity from a Portland college: Multnomah School of the Bible. I was slightly familiar with this school. It’s an extremely conservative, very devout evangelical Christian college. (A quick web check shows it is still going strong and now rather dubiously labels itself as a “university.”)

As we talked, and as I got to know her over the next months, Kathy told me something of her background. She had grown up in Northern California, a child of very strict, very devout evangelical parents. My impression is that she was a very obedient and devoted child who accepted what her parents and her church told her wholeheartedly. She apparently felt her entire purpose in life was to worship Jesus and to convert non believers to conservative Christianity.

About the time she was a pre-teen, her father abandoned her mother and ran off with another woman. As far as I could parse as I got to know her, Kathy’s immediate response to her father’s betrayal and hypocrisy was to double or triple her devotion to God and Jesus–perhaps blaming herself for the failure of her parents’ marriage–but on a deeper level, she developed a deep fear of betrayal and a passionate reluctance to trust anyone else or depend on anyone else.

(To be continued)

Part 1

In talking about feminists I have known, I tend to divide them into two groups. One group I would describe as “classical feminists,” who thought, “Men have fucked us [women] over; when we get the chance, we will screw them just as badly.”

Historically, until recently, women seldom got the opportunity. Three women from historical records come quickly to mind: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I of England, and Catherine the Great of Russia.

Cleopatra famously fooled around with Anthony, who lost out in the Roman gang war rumbles of the time; she went down with him. Elizabeth was very tough and coy; defeating the Spanish armada, negotiating with a variety of suitors, while cultivating a cult of virginity (the virginity may have been accurate in fact.) Catherine of Russia proved to be a tough babe in a rough land; conquering enemies in war, holding on to her court (after her husband was deposed and then killed); and taking and casting aside lovers as suited her tastes without much qualm or secrecy.

At this point, as my style, I will embark on an incredibly prolix, tedious, and ignorant essay on the history of modern religious belief, which will eventually get you to the subject of feminist evangelical Christian babes I have known. Feel free to skip to the not so bad part will be helpfully labeled, “Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.”

While my co-worker Maria would probably not wanted to be grouped with babes like Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Liz; as a very educated woman who majored in history and possessed a wry sense of humor, I suspect she would have reluctantly conceded the resemblance.

As an English major, I was familiar with Henry James, an eccentric writer who wrote dense novels that most people feel they ought to read but probably don’t want to. [Actually, with a little effort on the part of the reader, some of James’ early novels, such as What Maisie Knew, are pretty good, but as James was very bright and very talented, once he put his mind to writing completely unreadable novels, by the end of his life he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. If he had been a competitive runner, James would have been one who ran marathons hundreds of miles from where any other competitor would dream of running in desert landscapes where no human observers would be caught dead watching the race because they would be caught dead period by the Gila monsters and rattlesnakes.

Until later, I was less familiar with Henry’s eccentric and brilliant brother, William James, a philosopher who believed in pragmatism (if i t works, it probably is right); a social scientist who invented experimental psychology (a system for torturing rats and pigeons); and one of the first people to study religious belief from the point of view of social science. In other words, aside from pondering the question of whether religious belief is true (impossible to determine for sure, but probably not) an issue that fretted James quite a bit as he was fairly depressed much of the time and did not want to die any more than most of us, except when he was considering whether to commit suicide, he also contemplated the question: what do religious people actually believe?

Writing in the late 1800s, James noticed that religious belief tended to fall into two schools:

Positive Thinking School: What might be called the “positive thinking school” (Tending toward a belief in a benevolent Loving God who will reward us for existing by granting us life after physical death in a groovy place called Heaven) and:

Humans Are Wicked, Doomed Sinners School:What might be called the “” believing that Christ’s sacrifice will save us from eternal punishment in Hell if we worship God and Christ while constantly bragging about our sinfulness and unworthiness.”

[In keeping with James I am speaking of Christianity here, but similar strains existed in other religions of his time as he was aware.]

A century after William James went to find out for himself if there is any there there (in other words, he croaked), globalism seems to be creeping into the world of religion, in that two main  religions are cohering around the world. Speaking in the late 1900s and early 2000s, writers such as Karen Armstrong (Catholic nun drop-out and author of acclaimed books such as The History of God) have described these trends (my summaries of which would probably make poor Karen puke, though very gently and discreetly, because she is a very gentle, refined woman):

Tolerant, Ecumenical, We Are All Children of One Loving God School and

WE BLOW OURSELVES UP AND YOU WITH US IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE CORRECT GOD OF YOUR OWN FREEE WILL SCHOOL!!!!

(Karen Armstrong herself, describes the second school as “Fundamentalism”]

One of the typical strains of fundamentalism is “obedience to God.” God wants humans to be blindly and unquestionably obedient to Him. A side benefit of this system is that many fundamentalists assign themselves roles as spokespeople for God and then start telling others around them to be obedient to them as religious leaders, political leaders, and so on. In evangelical Christianity (and most other fundamentalist religions), men interpret this chain of command as applying to women being obedient to men (husbands, fathers, and so on).

Just as in the case of political leaders such as Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Catherine, some fundamentalist women are not inclined by temperament and philosophy to be blindly and passively obedient to the men in their lives. In the following sections of this thread I will describe a couple of evangelical Christian women I have known who were by nature feminists and the somewhat amusing (at least to me) turns these contradictions played out in their lives.

I don’t know how much longer I will keep posting on my blog. However, there are stories I always meant to tell and while I am still alive I will maunder on about them to my three or four readers…David, Trucie-woo, Waxing Strange, perhaps Pete, though I don’t know if he is still reading. Mommy? Not many left. Before I get to the first feminist, I will talk about the science fiction high school class we taught.

First, I met with the vice-principal, My Ylvisaker. Later, I learned that Kip referred to him (with genial good humor) as “Mr. Evilseeker.”

I had been laid off from my job as a high school teacher in Seattle. Angry, I vowed to leave the state and we drove to Oregon. I visited Hood River. Fortunately, they didn’t hire me. It is a cold and dangerous place.

Then I visited Tigard, a suburb of Portland. Mr. Ylvisaker told me their alternative education program, Alternative Futures, needed a replacement teacher. It was clear that he had no idea where he would find someone strange enough to fit in with the other two teachers, Kip and Maria. It only took me a few minutes to communicate that I was weird enough.

He said, “We also have a “mass media” program. Can you teach that?’

I didn’t tell him that my wife and I had given up on television, and thought it healthier to raise a child with books instead of the tube. I silently vowed to buy a television set.

Then I met with Kip, an engineer from Tacoma who became a high school math teacher. In those days, engineers made blueprints by hand and pen rather than with CAD programs on computers. Kip not only printed well, like an architect, but Maria and I agreed that when Kip  wrote on the chalkboard, he displayed “happy writing.” Just a few lines on the board cheered up the entire classroom. We never figured out how he did it.

Kip introduced me to his cats. I learned that he and Maria and a journalism teacher had created a program called “Alternative Futures” to prepare young people for a changing future. I later learned that Kip had fallen in love with one of his students, Karen. It is a big no no for high school teachers to diddle their students. I knew one teacher who was fired for kissing a student. However, as one of my fellow male teachers said to me once in the teacher’s room, “When I look at those fresh young female bodies, I am terribly tempted. However, when those fresh young female bodies open their mouths and speak to me, all temptation disappears.”

The year I arrived, Karen was gone. She had traveled to Ecuador to learn Spanish and do good deeds. Everyone knew that Kip and Karen were in love, but they didn’t cross the lines. When I met Karen, later, she was cute, but no bodacious. In fact, I realized, Kip had fallen in love with her mind, though I am sure he liked her body well enough. She started college; Kip got her father’s permmission to “court her;” eventually they married. I think I attended the wedding. I lost all touch with Kip.

To be continued…

Flavors of Empathy

August 10, 2010

Recently, Mama (our daughter) and Mommy (her out of law partner) celebrated their 18th sort of being married anniversary.

As we are the nearest grandparents (geographically speaking), we were invited to the celebration. We celebrated with lunch and dinner. At lunch, Mommy served vegetable frittatas. Random Granddaughter made faces. Mommy insisted she eat it. She ate it slowly, continuing to make faces, but eat it she did. RG is slowly joining the land of adult life, where we do things we don’t want to do, politely.

Mommy told me that my daughter had not passed her exam in graduate level statistics. (I checked with Mommy because I figured my daughter did not want to talk about it.) She has to retake the year of graduate work. However, there is another Masters degree program, with a slightly different name, she can probably complete if she does not succeed with the one she is in at present. My daughter is getting older, but I think she can still land on her feet.

RG has been taking piano lessons. Mommy, her birth mother, studied violin at Oberlin, with the intention of becoming a concert violinist, but decided to get a life instead of becoming a musician. RG, currently planning on becoming a painter, has decided to study violin instead of becoming a pianist. Undoubtedly, she will have many lives.

Mommy also told me that RG is having trouble developing consideration and empathy for the feelings of others. She described a visit from a friend which turned into arguments, door-slamming, and sulking in her room.

At dinner, the mommies served salmon. Food fusser RG likes salmon. However, half way through her meal, she began asking about the life cycle of salmon. Then she said, “It bothers me that we eat the salmon we catch as they return to lay their eggs.” Apparently, RG is developing empathy, but for fish instead of human beings.

However, when I told the story to Mrs. Friendly Neighbor, she said (as always an optimist and always a person who looks for the best in others) she said, “She is working on her priorities, and getting it all sorted out. She will get there.”

As we were talking about this, the Friendly Neighbors had a guest, Wayne, the team leader of the “wood ministry” from their church. Wayne is a former Marine and fairly expert on fire arms.

Wayne and Mrs. Friendly Neighbor discussed raccoons and their depredations on chickens. “We were driving by the beach and we saw FIVE raccoons,” she said in disgust. She and Wayne then discussed the best weapons and ammunition to use in shooting raccoons. Raccoons lack empathy for chickens. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said, about chickens, “They are so curious, they will walk up to a raccoon, apparently to say, “Here I am. Eat me.” Mrs. Friendly Neighbor does not have much empathy for raccoons.

In some places and times, the world is divided up into paupers and aristocrats. RG, while not quite a pauper, is closer to the paupers than the artistocrats, but getting closer and closer to the aristocrats. As it is dangerous to talk about aristocrats where their  guards might hear, I will continue in email with some trivial and boring gossip about the aristocrats of her world and my world.

Slaters

July 3, 2010

Just as the Garden Tour was finishing, the Barely Extended Family arrived. They had stopped at some of the other gardens on the way in, and at a playground for Random Granddaughter to have a break from adult pastimes.

After visiting the Friendly Neighbors Garden after it had closed they came over to our house. I feed the chickens sow bugs as a treat, but I had been warned that RG collects sow bugs in little houses, so I wasn’t sure if having her help me feed some to the chickens would be politically correct.

Gingerly, I mentioned, “I feed sow bugs to the chickens as a treat. Do you want to help me collect some for them?”

She looked at me with a blank look. Eventually I discovered she did not know the term, “Sow bug.” She calls them, “rolly pollies.” Once the linguistic difficulties were overcome, she enthusiastically helped me turn over rocks and put the rolly polly bugs into a plastic dish and feed them to the chickens.

I think RG’s position at the top of the food chain is safe, unless we discover grizzly bears living in our woods, or a great white shark living in the Friendly Neighbors’ duck pond.

http://soilbugs.massey.ac.nz/isopoda.php

In New Zealand, sow bugs are known as “slaters.” If Australia and New Zealand are at peace, they may use that term as well.

(Part 3 of International Relations and Relationships)

We invited Mary to visit Mommy and Mama at their house. We talked about how complicated family visits are. In RG’s case she has to fly to Virginia to see Grandma and Step-Grandfather and Grandpa and Step-Grandma. Let’s not even get into Dad’s Mom in Oregon, or co-Dad’s Mom and Step-Dad in Colorado.

Mary’s family is even more complicated. She flies to England to visit one sister, who is working on a doctorate (in statistics!) at the University of Salamanca, in Spain. (It’s a small world; my cousin Valerie also lives in Salamanca, Spain, where she is a chiropractor, when not taking care of her chiropractor dad in Australia.)

Mary is the youngest girl in her family, though she and her four sisters have a little brother, who works in Brazil. As he was growing up, their Mom said, “All your sisters have advanced degrees, so you have to at least get a Master’s Degree.”[ Brother is doing some kind of research in Brazil having to do with automobiles.]

“Do you speak Portuguese?” I asked Mary?

“No, I don’t, and now my brother speaks Spanish with such a Portuguese accent I can hardly understand him.”

Her sister, the child psychiatrist, is back in Peru (after working for a while in Mexico), where she is now studying Alzheiner’s Disease. “My sister watches everybody so carefully, everyone is afraid she is analyzing us all the time,” said Mary.

Her other sister is a nurse. “She has to work awful hours. She is often at the hospital all night.”

Mary has become an American citizen. She probably qualified because her heritage is all mixed up like Americans’ heritage. Her grandparents on one side were Italian, so she grew up eating spaghetti all the time and hearing her grandma babble in Italian. (Her grandfather came to Peru as an engineer to help build railroads and then stayed.)

“Were some of your ancestors Indian?” I asked her. Mary looks like what I think an Inca woman would look like to me. “No, I don’t think so,” she replied.

Later, my wife said to me, “People in different countries have different terms for native peoples, so she probably thought you were asking if her ancestors were from (East) India.

I wrote a comment to a earlier post in reply to Kim that covers the some of the following. My wife and I are “cat” people as opposed to “dog” people. When I was young, I was allergic to cats, though I am less allergic to them now than I was. As my wife grew older, she became more allergic to cats.

As my wife and I both came from unhappy families, we did not intend to have children when we got married. Despite our taking precautions, my wife became pregnant on our honeymoon. How quaint that sounds today! Anyway, it is possible having a baby saved our young and shaky marriage. (Do not try this at home!)

Besides our allergies, we decided that we were selfish, self-centered people not well-suited to being parents. We decided we did not have enough generosity, kindness, and patience for two little creatures. “Pet or child, choose one,” we told ourselves. Our daughter turned out to be an excellent child, so we decided to keep her. We also realized that it is quite frequent to only get one or two good ones in a human litter; so we decided to quite while we were ahead. We only one had one child. Eventually I had a vasectomy. We never had a pet in 44 years of married life.

Finally, following the example of our fine and Friendly Neighbors, we decided to get chickens. We brought four baby chicks home. One was not thriving. Chickens are cute (especially Dominiques, the breed we chose, a breed that likes to be picked up and petted). They are useful, delivering a nutritious and tasty food, the egg. However, they do not have especially good family values, and sibling rivalry can get ugly indeed.

Whiny was not thriving. Her name became “Poopy Butt.” Her three sisters were pecking her. My wife said, “She is not going to make it. I do not want Eenie, and Minie, and Moe to get in the habit of pecking each other.”

My wife caught Poopy Butt. She put her in an paper cone. She handed me a knife, turned her head, and wept, while I did the deed. Speaking of cannibals. I hope David is not reading this post; he is kind of a softie.

(Part 2 of the visit to Mary from Peru.)

Random Granddaughter is beginning to integrate with adult society. Although RG was appalled and horrified by the delicious Peruvian food Mary prepared for us, she politely took a bite of the vegetables and rice Mary served in her lovely apartment and ate some of the cilantro’d chicken Mary served.

Although she was bored by the adult conversation, she sat politely, merely helping herself to use one of Mary’s combs to use to comb her doll’s hair as she ignored the adult conversation. As the doll is based on a Williamsburg little girl, RG’s distraction was a deft way to bring the conversation around to her recent trip to colonial Williamsburg (while visiting her “East Coast” grandparents). As a budding artist, our granddaughter was most interested in watching how they made red paint. RG found it charmingly gross that they crush 70,000 cochineal beetles (from South America!) to generate a useful quantity of red dye.