Photos: May 2008 Archives

A Good Turn

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Sunday afternoon we met a massive herd of Scouts at the Jefferson Barracks' National Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day Good Turn, which began here in St. Louis during the 1800s. The gist of the observance is to pay a good deed back to the brave men and women buried there by sticking American flags by every headstone. There are a lot of those simple white headstones: from satellite it looks as though the earth is perforated.

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(I've written before how my family has a thing for cemeteries. (OK, fine, to an extent I suppose I do as well.) They engage in what I call a Southern Graveyard Vigil, wherein they habitually visit our family's ancient cemetery atop a hill in the Ozarks, and gaudy it up with Wal-Mart gewgaws like wind chimes, scary resin angel babies, and expensive fake flowers. You've only to step one foot in our family cemetery before knowing which headstones are those of our most immediate kin: they're literally covered up with stuff. I imagine some of my aunts going up together and gathering 'round the headstones like the Peanuts gang around Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. It's like they're trying to incur favor after the fact or make up for a mistake - some of them are. My mother has tried in vain to involve me in this morbid family tradition. I have resisted mainly because I think it's weird and because I don't believe that people are tied up with their bodies anymore after death. I feel that a person's memory is best honored by acting decent and converting their death to legend by describing them to the next generation. If a person is able to somehow visit the earth I think that the last place they'd loiter is the place they're buried. That's the last place I'd go, anyway. I'd haunt the hell out all those I didn't like just for kicks.)

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When I told my mom about the Good Turn I heard her face crack a smug expression through the phone line. It wasn't the same but yet it was. For us, it was more about making a public statement of support and using it as a physical lesson to teach Liam about the cost of liberty. I know this is America and all, but it's one of those things that you can't put on credit. During the flag ceremony they played "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes and holy Moses that, coupled with anything from Allison Krauss on the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack, and Susan Tedeschi's "Angel from Montgomery" are the only pieces of music that move me to tears. As the flag raised black storm clouds pushed across the sky; the wind blew and the rope clanged against the metal flagpole and kept cadence with the music. All were somber.

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Afterwards the Scouts were let loose in the cemetery; each troop had its own section. We picked up our flag bundles and quickly, yet respectfully, weaved through the headstones sticking flags into the ground as instructed. We were warned that we had but minutes to do the job before the storm arrived. No one balked at their duty. Then the heavens opened up as though mourning the loss of all those put into the earth by war. I snapped a couple of photos from under my umbrella before putting it away and joining my gleeful boys who traipsed about the tombstones waving their flags in the rain. That's when I wish life had a button I could push to change the pace of living to "slow." There are moments you have as a family that you instantly know will define you as a unit, moments that you'll all preserve in your skulls and reminisce over when around the holiday table. This was one of those for us.

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We ran out of flags after the rain stopped. Together our troops had covered every headstone in our area, an older part of the cemetery on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Our job done, we trekked back to our can holding hands.

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Click any photo for the caption; click here for the entire set. These are some of my favorite photos that I've taken.

Some things I'm loving

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- Anything from Irene Suchocki, particularly this print and this print, and this print. I have a sort of Tim Burton/Marie Antoinette aesthetic and the I love the haunting and beautiful quality of her pieces. I could fill my entire house with them. Hers will be my first art purchase online.

- Holly McCraig designs and photography. I've written about her design company before and then my entries were wiped out (but will be restored! Turns out we can get them off the server!). I love the color and wit in her photos; some of her work is slightly southern gothic/Americana to me which I love, love, love. I especially like this photo and this photo. I don't scrapbook, but I would totally use her scrapbook designs to embellish framed photos.

- Simply Thai in Florissant, seriously the best Thai food I've ever eaten.

- My very good friend Nicky's food blog, Fud or Something Like It. She's a wonderful cook, baker, and seamstress and she made my kids these art bags and pillowcases for Liam's birthday:

- Sia. I heard "The Girl You Lost" on some gossip site and promptly bought her whole album on iTunes. My favorite song by her is "Buttons" which you can hear (or watch) here. Here's "The Girl You Lost:"

(Don't forget, today is the last day for the Wii contest!) Sorry, contest is now closed! Winner will be announced after Memorial Day weekend on Tuesday, May 27th.

Wii Wii Wii all the way home

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Just to preface, the general rule of house is that I don't do product reviews. I just don't. In the four-plus years I've blogged I've only written three of them and it was because the product was too big and cool to refuse. This is one of those times.

Read the rest here and find out how to win a free Wii ...
**Contest is now closed! Thanks for participating; the winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 27th!** (I nearly forgot that Monday was Memorial Day.)

Tom Jones would've been proud

I am recovering from a very busy weekend, one which included karaoke of Tom Jones' hits post four beers. Then there was the terrible Heart cover of "Magic Man" in which my caterwauling sliced through bar patrons' ear drums with all the ease of a dull, serrated knife. I normally do not seek out karaoke bars because I can only endure so many drunken frat boys singing off-tune pop-country songs, but I recently reconnected with my best friend from high school who's always loved karaoke. As it was her birthday, the birthday girl sets the rules. Plus, it's always much more fun to karaoke with people who can actually sing - and by "sing," I mean if it weren't for the smoke and the Roger Daltry look-a-like running the board, you'd swear you were witnessing a Grammy's performance. I danced and screeched and the birthday revelers put all the other karaoke singers to shame. Chris took video and I respect the art of music too much to post it. However, I am a bit concerned as he now has his own Flickr account.

Earlier that same day we had the first public meeting of the St. Louis Bloggers Guild, which was crazy and fun, and I met new cool people. We're partnering with Playbackstl to start St. Louis's first interactive festival in conjunction with Play:STL. It's very exciting and I'm looking forward to pulling it off with so many other talented individuals.

Now we're going to go out and enjoy some sun.

Content with enough

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As we walked into Liam's art fair/competition on Wednesday night I immediately scanned the room for his entry because shame and I, we've never met. I finally saw his piece, an interpretation of a work by Jackson Pollack, with a red third place ribbon affixed to its corner.

I checked in my purse to assure that I'd packed a jar of Vaseline so as to get our egos back out the door before showing him his ribbon and congratulating him. Liam is at the stage where he could accomplish quite a lot artistically (more so than now) if Chris and I wanted to really push him, really cultivate him. But we don't. We let him do as much as he wants. We first thought that perhaps we were doing Liam a disservice, holding him back. We've since decided to the contrary. I always second-guess my parenting decisions. (I'm sure that will make the kids feel fabulous when they read this as teenagers. Hi! We've no clue as to what we're doing! Love, Mom and Dad.)

When I first began homeschooling we decided that our major goal was to discover each of our kids' particular gifts and then teach and encourage them to use those gifts for societal benefit. I don't want to burn them out on their passions during their childhood, besides; I want them to enjoy their youth. We know another young artist whom I believe to be equally advanced as Liam. He's always in some art workshop, studying in a mentor program, doing this, doing that, going here, going there. He's a brilliant kid but he doesn't act like a kid. Perhaps he's just super mature for his age but the last time we were around him and his parents in a social setting I fully expected to see him smoking a cigar and clutching a glass of scotch. I want Liam to run and revel in all that defines childhood. We have a period in our life where we're afforded a free pass to behave immaturely and explore all of our options because of our age. I want him to enjoy that. Besides, I think he does wonderfully as it is.

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Dana asks: "Thanksgiving Traditions: Yours or Your Mother's?"