Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summer Radio Songs

It is beautiful out today--sunny and warm. I was driving with the windows down listening to Pete Townsend's Let My Love Open the Door, which I believe is a quintessential summer radio song. Two questions came to mind.

1. What makes a great summer radio song?

2. What are quintessential summer radio songs?

My answers:

To question 1:
Instantly recognizable intro. Must remind me of summers in jr. high, high school and college when life was at its most carefree (even though I was slaving away as a carry out boy at Town and Country grocery store). And it must make me smile.

To question 2:
Aside from LMLOTD,
The Manhattan's Shining Star
Steven Winwood's While You See a Chance
Gap Band's Early in the Morning
The Kinks' Come Dancing
Eurythmics Right By Your Side
The Cars Magic or Shake it Up
Kenny Loggins' I'm Alright (theme from Caddyshack)
Delite's Groove is the Heart
U2's Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I never said I have good taste in music. Still, this list could go forever! I'll stop there.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ex-gay Ministries and the Exodus Conference

You may or may not know that in the 1990s I spent several years in counseling and in church support groups working to change my sexual orientation. I was part of an Exodus affiliated ministry in Texas called Living Hope. Exodus is hosting its annual conference in Marion, Indiana this week and having them so close has brought up some conflicted feelings for me.

I am not sorry for the time I spent with Living Hope. At the time it was the first place I could admit that I was gay (they would call it same-sex attracted). This was before things got so politicized in our society. Efforts focused primarily on strengthening a participant's relationship with God and living as a heterosexual person, either single and celibate or married to someone of the opposite sex (some of the guys had married women even though they were attracted to men). The "getting closer to God" efforts were really helpful for me. They helped me deal with the spiritual abuse of being told from the time I was a small child that my natural feelings made me an "abomination" to God and that I should be stoned outside of the "village."

Living Hope stressed being honest with God about who you were and letting God be honest with you about the same thing. And that eventually led me to a place that is much healthier for me.

I do not remember meeting gay people who changed their attractions. I met wonderful people, a few of whom developed relationships with the opposite sex by sublimating their dominant attractions, or in the case of bisexual people ignoring one part of their attractions. Most maintained a stance of constant vigilence in their attempts to stay "straight." For many the group became their family and friends.

Eventually, it was clear to me (especially after my own attempts at dating the opposite sex) that forming long-term relationships with women was not natural for me and could be disastrous for any poor woman I talked into a marriage. And yet, I did not feel called to be single either. It was a revelation that led me to revisit a lot of the biblical interpretation I'd inherited and ultimately opened me up enough to connect with John, at first as friends and ultimately as the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. If the journey had led me nowhere else but to him, it would have been worth it. But the trip has given me a lot more in terms of strength, faith, and my ability love others and myself.

A good friend of mine says "God doesn't waste anything" and I believe that. So even though a big chunk of Exodus has turned into a political tool for the currently misinformed religious right, I am grateful for my time with them. I know that many, many people had much more abusive experiences with ex-gay ministries--genital shock treatment (a thing of the past I hope), innappropriate relationships, etc.-- but I pray that the good things that were there for me can still lead people like those who attend the conference in Marion this week to a healthier place, however that might look like for them.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Very Sweet

Did everybody know about this but me? From the U.K.

Heath Ledger has asked 'Brokeback Mountain' co-star Jake Gyllenhaal to be his baby's godfather.

The actors got so close while shooting the gay cowboy drama, Heath decided he wanted Jake to be involved in his daughter's life.

The 'Donnie Darko' star admits he was thrilled to be asked to help raise little Matilda, Heath's daughter with partner Michelle Williams.

Jake told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper: "Heath and I are best friends now, making the film was very intense for us.
"I'm actually godfather to Heath's daughter Matilda which is an amazing honour."

I think Jake would be a great goddad and even a great dad. He needs to settle down and find the right somebody first, but his kids won't go hungry. Jake loves to cook. In his spare time chef-superstar, Mario Batali lets him do prep work in his restaurants. Jake says it chills him out.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Attack on Gay Parents

I don't normally quote an entire column, but this gay dad's (Dan Savage) article about attacks on gay parents is so on target I had to. It came from The Stanger, a Seattle newspaper.

"My son had a fever, and it was spiking—103, 104, 105. The nurse on the phone told us to fill a tub with cold water, dump in whatever ice we had in the freezer, and set him in the bath to break his fever. Five minutes later we were standing in the bathroom, empty ice trays in the sink, watching the tub slowly fill with cold water. I didn't have the heart to do it—I couldn't just set my feverish, distraught son into a tub full of ice water. So I did what any decent parent would do: I got undressed, stepped into the tub first, and sat down. Then my boyfriend handed our son to me. We sat there together, ice cubes floating around us, my son's thin, warm arms wrapped around my neck, until his fever broke.

My partner and I adopted eight years ago. Like any other couple who wants to adopt, we had to earn the right to sit in tubs filled with ice water—and catch vomit in our cupped hands, enjoy week-long sleep-deprivation marathons, and all the other perks of parenthood. We had to open our financial records for inspection, submit to criminal background checks, and welcome social workers into our heads. When the time came, the courts in the state where we adopted treated us like any other couple, allowing us to do one expensive joint adoption rather than two twice-as-expensive single-parent adoptions [John and I will have to do two single-parent adoptions here in Indiana].

At the time we adopted, only one state—Florida—banned adoptions by same-sex couples. Now it is illegal in half a dozen states, and if the American Taliban gets its way, soon it will be illegal in more. USA Today reported in February that religious conservatives, emboldened by their successful efforts to pass anti-gay-marriage laws and get anti-gay-marriage amendments approved in dozens of states, are planning to push for bans on adoptions by same-sex couples.

"Now that we have defined what marriage is, we need to take that further and say children deserve to be in that relationship," Greg Quinlan, a conservative activist, told USA Today. Anti-gay-adoption laws are being "drafted or discussed," according to USA Today, in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

And in Oregon too, the state where my boyfriend and I adopted our son, the state that eight years ago treated us like any other couple.

The arguments social conservatives use against adoptions by same-sex couples are every bit as dishonest as the arguments they employ against same-sex marriage. They point to studies that show children with married parents do better than those with single parents (ignoring the fact that these studies measure the benefits of having two parents, not two opposite-sex parents), and they refuse to acknowledge the existence of numerous studies that show children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as children raised by heterosexual couples.

Perhaps most infuriating, opponents of adoptions by gay and lesbian couples seek to create the impression that there is a home—a heterosexual home—for every child waiting to be adopted. All children deserve, the religious right argues, a mother and a father. It's a blandly appealing nod to normalcy that masks an insidious insult: When it comes to adoption, any heterosexual couple—any heterosexual couple at all, however dysfunctional—is preferable to even the healthiest homosexual couple. All same-sex couples are, by definition, unfit to parent.

The right has been allowed to frame this debate thus far, but I believe we can reframe it by demanding that any effort to outlaw adoptions by same-sex couples be followed to its logical conclusion. If gays and lesbians are unfit to parent any children we might adopt, then we are surely unfit to parent the children we have already adopted. We should demand that any bill banning adoptions by same-sex couples include a provision that would require the state to remove children from the homes of same-sex couples. Adopted or biological, if the state believes that gays and lesbians are unfit parents, how can they leave the kids we're already parenting in our homes?

It's difficult to know exactly how many American children are being brought up by same-sex couples; estimates range from anywhere between 250,000 and 10,000,000. But we know how many children there are in foster care in the United States: 500,000. The foster-care system is universally acknowledged to be bankrupt and broken, so dysfunctional that it amounts to state-regulated child abuse. There aren't enough prospective parents—single, married, gay, straight—willing to adopt the kids who are currently in foster care, much less the hundreds of thousands or millions of children who would be added if the state were forced to find homes for all the children currently being raised by gay and lesbian couples.

If such a provision were attached to anti-gay-adoption laws, the religious right would no longer be able to argue about what is or isn't in the best interests of hypothetical children who may or may not be adopted in the future, but rather what's in the best interest of real children, children who have already been adopted, children who already have homes and parents. The debate would shift from how hypothetical children might do in our homes to how our real children are currently doing in our homes—and studies show they're doing fine, thank you very much. My proposed amendment to anti-same-sex-adoption laws would instantly deprive religious conservatives of their emotionally manipulative every-child-deserves-a-mother-and-a-father argument.

Instead they would be required to make a much tougher argument: that a potential lifetime in a dysfunctional foster-care system—older children are notoriously hard to place for adoption—would be better for my child than the life my partner and I are giving him. They would have to argue that it would be in my son's best interest to be taken from the father who sits in ice water with him when he has a fever and from the father who takes him to school every day. The religious right would have to argue in favor of taking everything that belongs to him from our home—his skateboard, his football, his first- and second-grade schoolwork, his beloved one-eyed dog. In addition to taking my son from his parents, the religious right would have to argue for taking him from his grandparents, his aunts, his uncles, his cousins, his friends, his teachers, his babysitter.

It is an argument they would lose."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Tuesday Night Book Club"

I was hanging out at Dave and Ken's last night. While flipping through the channels we ran across Tuesday Night Book Club. There may be a typo in the show's title. I think it was supposed to be called Tuesday Night Boob Club. But using the air night in the show's title handily eliminates the last bit of thought you might need to watch this show.

Of course five minutes of Scottsdale, AZ bimbos on parade and I was hooked like a White River catfish. I made poor Dave stay up way past his bedtime so I could finish watching it.

Part of the attraction was not being able to tell just how contrived TNBC is. All of the husbands and wives are pretty convincing as actual fake people. On the other hand, Tina's (the workaholic) child daughter psychoanalyzing her mother like a disgruntled 17-year old seemed like a rejected Dawson's Creek audition. (Note: I love Dawson's Creek.)

Either there is an inspired and raging torrent of irony running beneath the microderm abraded surface of this show, or it's just bad. It could be both.

Things I found entertaining:

-Despite the title, book spines are pretty safe in the hands of this bunch. It's as if the phrase "book club" has been a euphemism for "Botox party" for centuries.

-The blank stares of the neglectful doctor husband who loves his motorcycles more than his former-model wife. Hint for the wife: The problem isn't that he wants you to be more like the bikes; it's that you married the emotional equivalent of one.

-The hulked up bodybuilding mass of quivering insecurity that is Lynn. The scene where her friend Jenn is applying fake tanning cream to her might-as-well-be naked body lets you know who this show is REALLY for--straight men, who you can bet will be tuning in for all eight episodes. But what makes Lynn compelling isn't her manly-girl figure, it's her unstereotypical selfishness, at least for a newlywed wife (she lives at the gym). Her husband points out to her that cooking a meal for him is not on her to do list. To make things even better, Lynn's husband is as insecure and as pumped up as she is. He looks like The Rock, but he acts like Grace Adler!

-Tina, the stressed out divorced mom, is a little like Donald Trump in Mary Hart's body. And she’s a former Miss Hawaii to boot. Don't get me wrong; Tina is my favorite--driven, road-weary, and kind of bitter. She's been pressed to conform to every female stereotype and rejected them all, except that of a 1980s anchorwoman.

Now she's dares people to get in her way. More maternal with her "book" club friends than her own kids, she puts on a good show about sacrificing her private time for work so that her children can have the best coaches (the little girl didn't look like an olympic hopeful to me). But it is obvious she gets high on her personal performance. Taking arguably unethical advantage of Tina's addiction to ratings, her therapist gives her kids a chance to "score" her as well. The fact that they consistently rate her as mediocre drives her insane. While Tina's dissappointment in her kids' scores looks a little like remorse, it looks more like the frustration Lance Armstong might feel after losing a not so critical race. Her sort of shallow, self-flagellating enthusiasm makes me think that if she weren't a woman I might see her whooping it up at a Promise Keepers rally.

I don't suspect this show will really be about personal growth. Is it fake? Yes, but all of us have to deal with the fact that consumerism has made fake the new real. Why not come to terms with this by watching somewhat mannish looking girly girls not working very hard at making sense of the world?

I think I know where I’ll be Tuesday nights at 10:00 for the next six weeks.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ready for the 4th

House ready for the holiday
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Got the colors out for the 4th. Every year I toy with getting a flag for the front porch. John actually has one. He got it when he became an Eagle Scout and it is really nice. He showed it to me once. Understandably, he doesn't want to expose it to the weather too much. I got the impression that this one would not be flying over the porch.

I could order another one, but I get antsy about all of the lighting and handling protocol I don't know about. If I ordered it, John would be in charge of it's care since I know he knows what to do, and I'm sure I could learn.

But maybe the banners and the bunting are enough.

On a gardening note, you can't really see them well in the picture above, but in front of the right side of the front porch are the 10 rose bushes we planted this spring. The rose is called 'Wisley', and it looks like the picture below. The flower heads are huge and because the stems are so young the blooms kind of flop over, but they smell really good and I like the color a lot. I think the flopping will stop when the stems mature.

Speaking of gardening, we helped John's dad, Don and his wife move to their new house on Father's Day (actually just two truckloads of boxes, movers are moving the furniture later). I really like the place. It is on a wooded lot with lots of nice trees. They are going to have my friend Chris come out and draw up a landscaping plan for them, so maybe I can take some before and after shots.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Reason #2 John and I Cannot Live in Arkansas

Reason #1 is because my home state wrote state-sanctioned discriminitation into its constitution (not everyone mind you, just 75% of my home folk don't think my family should have the same rights and protections that my sister's does).

Pam's Houseblend quotes the Pine Bluff Commercial and reveals reason #2:

The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services is appealing a 2004 decision by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox, who said it was unconstitutional for the state's Child Welfare Agency Review Board to bar homosexuals from becoming foster parents.

Kathy L. Hall, an attorney for the state agency, told justices that the state already bans unmarried couples who live together from becoming foster parents. Because Arkansas banned gay marriage, a homosexual couple is ineligible to have foster children, she said.

The health, safety and welfare of foster children is of the utmost concern to the state, Hall said, "and that can't happen in a home where unmarried sex occurs."

But Associate Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber pointed out that the state allows single heterosexual individuals to be foster parents, but bans single homosexuals. Hall said that a single heterosexual parent is allowed to be a foster parent because he or she "has the potential" to find a spouse; whereas a gay individual does not.

This is one of those "hidden" benefits of constitutional marriage amendments. The right wing can use it to squash other parts of gay couples' lives and the lives of children who need homes. Judge Tim Fox who handed down the original decision that it was unconstitutional to ban gay people from fostering read the research on gay parents--and there is plenty, this is no "social experiment"--and decided it was definitely in the best interest of AR's children to allow qualified gay people to be parents. There is a summary of the findings at (click here) and a PDF book that describe 40 studies that show kids do just as well with qualified gay parents as the do with straight ones (click here).

What makes me most sad about this case in AR is that one of my best friends from Batesville testified against allowing people like John and me from adopting.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Making Me "American Nervous"

My friend Kris (she and her husband Scott have been helping me get the We Do Too website off the ground) and I were talking the other day. We got off on the topic of how stressed we'd been. She and Scott were surprised to hear this on public radio's Speaking of Faith:

George M. Beard was a well-known 19th-century neurologist and electrotherapist who identified stress as "nervousness." Beard wrote in his 1881 book, American Nervousness, Its Causes and Consequences, that "American nervousness is the product of American civilization." In a chapter entitled "Causes of American Nervousness," Beard attributes nervousness to five causes:

"The chief and primary cause of … [the] very rapid increase of nervousness is modern civilization, which is distinguished from the ancient by these five characteristics: steampower, the periodical press, the telegraph, the sciences, and the mental activity of women."

I pray no therapist of mine ever has the prefix "electro" in his or her title. My favorite "causes" are the second, fourth, and last ones. I can just see this guy writing surrounded by piles of unread Scientific American magazines. And haven't we all wondered why women can't be as mentally inactive as their ancient ancestors? I suspect the "mental activities" of anyone who decides they're tired of being oppressed are likely to stress someone out.

Evidently the two women who host Speaking of Faith found modern day connections to the first four, but managed to ignore the last one.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Top Ten Things that Remind Me of Summer

We just had a weekend that was in the 60s. On Saturday John built a fire in the woodstove (in the middle of JUNE)! Things are back to normal today, but the cool snap caused me to meditate a little on what reminds me of summer. I decided to turn it into a list. Send me your own.

1. Potato Salad (my mom's recipe)

2. Being in the house all day with the doors to the screen porch open so a breeze comes in and I can hear the birds sing and neighbor kids play. Indiana has cool summer nights too so we can swing on the porch outside.

3. The sound of a house fan--the louder the better. I used to sleep best in my grandparents' house when their enormous ceiling fan was going full blast. That thing was as big as a propellor on the Titanic. I eyed an old one at Midland Antique Market the other day, but it was 60.00 and frankly, not noisy enough for the price.

4. When our Japanese Irises bloom. Irises are usually associated with spring, but these bloom later. They take forever, but they are always worth the wait.

5. Fourth of July in our neighborhood. I like to put the stars and stripes up on our house. Our neighbors John and Marcia always invite us across the street to eat and watch the fireworks that go off over downtown. Their entire family comes, too and they cook ALL day--ribs, corn, collard greens (the right way), cornbread. We can barely walk back home. This year though I think we are going out to Symphony on the Prairie with Duane, Todd, the kids and Todd's folks. Maybe another tradition in the making? Thankfully, John and Marcia always invites us back over on July 5th for leftovers!

6. Homemade Orange Crush Ice Cream--nothing natural about it, but boy is it good.

7. All the watermelon I can eat. I buy ours at Johnny's market. They're huge and good there. John doesn't eat it, which makes me happy because I can almost eat a whole one by myself in one sitting. There are two people I know who love Watermelon as much as I do--my friend Rosie and my friend Carol. They get the same "junkie" look in their eyes when they talk about them.

8. All the peaches I can eat. Indiana has great peaches.

9. Tomatoes--Indiana's tomatoes rock! And people here grow a bazillion kinds. It almost makes up for the lack of okra (it doesn't get hot enough to grow well here).

10. Lightening bugs, Cicadas, and Bobwhites (is that really what those birds are called?) I know, that's three things, but I never really think of one without the others.

Friday, June 09, 2006

We Do Too.--Opening Reception

Gallery tables
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Last night was the big one. The exhibition finally opened. We had a really nice turnout--we think about 200 people. I was happy with how things went. It was a very fun and enthusiastic crowd. And the art looked great. My friend William who did the lighting with the help of John's electical work (no kidding, we pretty much built this gallery from scratch), took more pictures. I was busy talking. I hope he'll send me some so I can post them.

You can sort of see how things looked here. Ken is reading the "marriage past and present" panels that Evelyn and Rosie helped me write and edit. The writing is really good, but I was surprised by how many people stopped to read every one-you can see they are pretty long (a museum gallery no-no). We'll eventually have a few chairs around so you can sit and read, but we needed the floor space last night. You can read them if you want at the exhibition website:, which my friends Lara, Kris and Scott built. They are amazing.

Dave and Ken and Dave and Ken
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
My friends Dave (a Growing Sense commenter) and Ken agreed to be photographed for the exhibition. Don't they look cute sitting on that ledge? Notice Dave's fur-lined sandals--very Tibetan summer. Dan Evans', the artist, goal for their photograph was to create images of long term couples (Dave and Ken have been together for 18 years) in a way that the viewer could layer their own questions and thoughts about same-sex marriage on to the image.

Flower wedding cake
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.

This is one the the flower cakes Coby Palmer made for the opening. He made two and two large arrangements, too. In the interest of being inclusive, one of the cakes had a man and woman on it. It was really cute, too. Coby did the flowers for our commitment ceremony so it meant a lot to have him be a part of the exhibition.

I have to thank the other people who helped launch this thing, too. John's mom and the frame staff at Renditions framed all of the works. Linda also donated table cloths and helped me figure out the text panel stands (the little pyramids you see in the first picture). She also helped keep me from buggin' out towards the end.

My friend Tracie, my own little (non-convicted) Martha Stewart for our ceremony, also helped me pull strings to get this exhibition looking good--She and her husband Henry hung bolts of tulle from that basement ceiling and fabric along the walls. And she did all of the work with caterers and those endless runs to Target!

William rigged up what has to be the only efficient art hanging system for a gallery with rock walls and no ceiling.

Amy did all of the graphic design for the mailers and e-postcard.

And the artists, Mark A. Lee and Daniel Evan's work made the show what it is--compelling, informative, and human.

Finally, I have to thank John, who really did wire the entire basement space with electricity as well as came to the gallery night after night to help even though he needed to be at home preparing for work the next day. My tendency under stress is to become pretty insecure, but John just stayed right by my side, held my hand and never complained. I'm a blessed man all the way around.

I'm also still a little catatonic so pardon the rambling. I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6-6-6: Federal Marriage Amendment Tuesday

Today is 6/6/06, the day Bill Frist and his cronies, including a confused George W. Bush go down in history for attempting to write discrimination into the United States Constitution a second time (the first was back in 2004).

If you are from Arkansas, you have this Will Counts photo emblazened on your psyche.

The picture is of Elizabeth Eckford entering Little Rock's Central High as one of the first non-segregated black students. The woman yelling at her is Hazel Massery.

From a later story in Arkansas Online Magazine:

Hazel Massery drove Elizabeth Eckford home from Central High School in Little Rock on Sunday afternoon. It was no big deal, because the two women have become good friends since September 1997 -- as unlikely as that might seem four decades after their teen-age faces were frozen in a famous photograph epitomizing racial hatred...

"It was the farthest thing from my mind that the photo shoot I set up would lead to a lasting friendship between Elizabeth and Hazel," Counts said Sunday. "I'd had a very difficult time persuading Elizabeth to even be photographed."

Massery, who lives in a rural area of east Pulaski County, said the relationship "wasn't something I ever expected to develop the way it has. I had called Elizabeth in 1962 and apologized for my hateful action. But that was the only contact we'd had until Will got us together."

The two women met for lunch in October 1997 and have seen each other regularly since then. They enrolled jointly in a 12-week course on race relations and have maintained contact with others who took part in that workshop.

"Both of us being mothers, it turned out we have a lot to talk about..."

This story matters because the same outdated interpretations of the Bible and people's same frustrated need to protect a "traditional" yet exclusionary way of life will reveal themselves again as families like mine seek a seat at America's common table. We have already seen the bitter faces of 21st century versions of the 1957 Hazel Massery and worse.

But, as the pastor from my young days used to say, "It's dark. The lightening flashes and the ground opens up. It may be Friday, but Sunday is on the way!" There is much power in the resurrection--both in its glorious outcome as well as it hopeful inevitability.

I've sat in meetings where some black pastors were furious that I see any connection to the hurtful events of the 50s and our struggle today. The irony is not lost on me, but I try not to judge. As humans we fight from our unique place of human experience. They can't know mine anymore than I can know their's. My experience just allows me to better see the overlap. In the future, people will come to see, as the late Coretta Scott King did, "gay people have families and their families need protection, too." My prayer is that one day these same pastors and I will have lunch together like Elizabeth and Hazel. That will be a resurrection day.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Poppy Field
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
We Do Too. opens on Thursday, so my blog posts this week will likely be pretty shallow. I'm trying not to freak even though a lot has to get done before the opening. Fortunately I have the best people in the business working with me, including John who did all of the electrical wiring for the gallery. What a gift he is.

As a way of de-stressing I stopped by this field of poppies the other day, which is in a neighborhood near our house. They bloom this way every year, and I'm always amazed by them. The neighborhood where they are is kind of rough, but the poppies remind me that there is beauty, joy and thoughtfulness there. We should never let ourselves be fooled into thinking otherwise.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Happy Campers

Mari, Daniel, and John
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
John and I met up with Duane and Todd, and their kids Mari and Daniel at McCormick's Creek State Park. They are there camping all week. John and I spent Friday night with them and got the royal treatment. We had our own HUGE tent with a big blow-up mattress. Duane and Todd cooked for us. And Daniel and Mari entertained us.

Daniel and Mari are big into stories, telling and hearing them. Nothing made them happier than sitting around the campfire listening to a bunch of adults talk about stories from their childhoods (I promise they asked for it, we didn't hold them hostage). Trixie the Snake Dog stories were the ones I had the most success with. Trixie was a small Rat Terrier my grandparents had. She kept snakes on their property shivering with fear. Almost every story ends with Trixie shaking a big snake back and forth between her teeth until its head pops off. You can see why she was so popular.

Daniel who was generous with his candy the entire time handed me a Jolly Rancher sucker before we left and said "For coming."