Archive for February, 2012

The Myth of the Overworked Teacher

Posted in Theater of the Absurd on February 26, 2012 by onlookerslowdown

DISCLAIMER: Onlooker Slowdown has taught English, in grades 7-12, for the past 16 years, and has coached at least three sports during 12 of those years. Currently, he teaches five sections of 7th grade English and, this year, coaches volleyball, basketball and track and field.

With that out of the way, I would like to take a brickbat to Kristie Smith’s February 24 editorial in the Dallas Morning News. Entitled “Teachers are overworked, underpaid and moonlighting,” her mercifully short piece trots out the usual suspects when it comes to complaints about the teacher lifestyle: having to get a second job to make ends meet, serving dozens and dozens of students a day, working more than the eight hours a day that, in some sort of fantasyland, is all that someone on salary is supposed to work.

First, I’d like to take on the “underpaid” claim. Now, it is true that if you want to be the only source of income in your family, and you want to have children, then teaching is probably not the career path for you. Unless you make it up the ladder into administration, you just won’t be able to do it. Much is made of the fact that teachers often start well into the $40,000+ range fresh out of school, but raises don’t take many teachers in Texas much over the $60,000 – $65,000 range, during their career.

So, if you want to be a teacher, as a career, you should plan on having your spouse working as well, or on living a fairly basic lifestyle. That’s what I’ve told my own children, because it’s the truth.

But does that mean that you are underpaid? How much should a teacher be paid? As much as a lawyer?

We don’t work 100-hour weeks right out of school, or ever. Ever talked to a first-year associate in a big-name law firm? Yes, it’s difficult to deal with 25 (or 35, or 40) ninth-graders that first year out of college. Very difficult. But what about putting together pages and pages of research for litigation, pulling all-nighters to do it?

Oh, and that lawyer is an at-will client, right? Which means that he can get let go at any time. He probably won’t, at least not until the first cullings, because the firm recruited him and has an investment in him. For teachers, once we make it through our probationary period, it is difficult to fire us. It’s not as difficult in Texas as it is, say, in L.A. or New York City, where teachers who are on paid leave awaiting their terminations sit in rooms all day (courtesy L.A. Times), often for years at a time, because of the lengthy appeals process. So we have some protections not afforded other professions.

Which brings me to the claim of “overworked.” I know people, particularly in the elementary grades, who average 50- and 60-hour workweeks during the school year. Maybe even 65. Most of what people think of as teaching involves the classroom process. However, it really does take a lot of time to turn an elementary classroom into a jungle. Or into a Dr. Seuss wonderland. And that decoration really does make a difference for the kids who come in there, because learning becomes a joy for them in classrooms like that.

It also takes a lot of time outside of school to grade papers, and plan lessons.

But guess what? Accountants, consultants, doctors, lawyers, business managers, and members of all of these other professions also work a lot outside the 9-to-5 day. And while they might get a week at Christmas, they don’t get two. They don’t get a week in March. And they don’t get June, July, and August. Even if you figure in a couple of weeks for training, curriculum writing, and other activities, it’s just not the same.

But there is one question, in particular, that I would like to answer for her. She asks, “Why do teachers stay in school under poor conditions and less pay?” Then she goes into the social work aspect of teaching. Has she seen what a social worker makes?

And since when do social workers get three months off in the summer?

Do social workers have enough time to get a second job? What’s wrong with taking on some additional work when you have that much time off?

So, here are the trade-offs: relative job security (unless Governor Perry is re-elected), protections not afforded to at-will employees, and a lavish amount of vacation. You also get to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children, if you stick it out as a career.

In exchange, you get less money. A lot less money. But in our society, you are paid for what you can bring in. Dirk Nowitzki wouldn’t make millions if he couldn’t bring Mark Cuban even more millions. A surgeon doesn’t make a lavish income if he can’t perform, and if new clients don’t come calling. An attorney doesn’t rake in hundreds per billable hour if she can’t find clients who are willing to pay for her services.

As long as teachers are viewed as part of an entitlement system, we will be paid accordingly. And that’s how our culture views education. It’s guaranteed, it’s free to everyone. It’s true that it’s not doing a very good job for those who just rely on the public system. But educating children is not a 40-hour-a-week job. No job that is worth doing well is, in fact. But until teachers and their unions stop complaining about how much work they already do and bleating loudly about reforms, and school districts consider actual academic need instead of chasing down trends in writing budgets, and state budget writers consider the long-term effects of their work, things will not change. All three groups need to think about what education should really look like, and what the purpose of a teacher really is.

There are other parts of the world where education is considered more of a priority. In South Korea, for example, the government has to hire inspectors to go around and make sure that parents aren’t having their kids tutored past the nationwide tutoring curfew of 10 P.M. (courtesy New York Times). Do you think those tutors might do pretty well on the hourly wage end? They’re working well past 4:00, of course.

It’s time for us to begin thinking about whether education should be the same seven-hour journey for 178 days for each student, all year long. It’s easier for us to do it this way, and it’s easier for parents for us to do it this way, but it doesn’t appear to be the best way.

The last thing we as teachers needed, though, was another column by another teacher making the rest of us look like lazy, incompetent fools. Before anyone else in our profession does that, could you please type it out, sit down, and think about how ridiculous we will all look when you send it in?

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A Younger Norman Bates?

Posted in Book Reviews on February 24, 2012 by onlookerslowdown

Buried SecretsBuried Secrets by Brandi Salazar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my favorite episodes of “Criminal Minds” stars Frankie Muniz, who grew up as “Malcolm in the Middle.” In this episode, though, he is a cartoonist who watched gang members rape and kill his fiancee, and subsequently had a violent break in his personality.

After his break, he goes around the city killing people — including the gang members who killed his fiancee. The most poignant part of the show involves the killer calling his fiancee’s cell phone, over and over again, only to hear it go to voice mail. His confusion as to her whereabouts shows how far he has fallen from reality. At the end of the story, the profilers from the BAU treat the killer with gentleness, even pity.

In “Buried Secrets,” five years ago, James Clearwater and his family had moved away from the town where they lived, after the disappearance of Mercy Worthington. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the family moves back, and the pattern begins again.

Now that he is back, James notices that whenever his friend A.J. spends time with a girl, she turns up missing — and eventually dead. A.J. is everything that James is not, but sort of wants to be — he ditches school, dresses like a heavy metal fan, and has an easy time picking up girls.

Constantly at war with his father, beset by migraines and blackouts, bothered by ghosts at night, and harassed at school by those who remember the cloud of suspicion that hung over him five years ago, James starts down a doomed path almost at the start. Despite the fact that the beautiful Jennifer Morton sees great things in James, the truth is inevitable.

In stories such as this, the better authors will show you the tension between the good person that the villain wants to be, and the awful deeds that the villain commits. Salazar does a fine job of showing James unraveling, and his illusions becoming less and less real. It would have been better to see some development with the parents, particularly in a third-person work such as this. What turn out to be two fairly static characters could have been so much more dynamic, especially given the family secret that we learn about three-fourths of the way through. Even though I had a pretty good idea of the truth about James, though, the storytelling was compelling.

  
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An Onlooker Slowdown Interview: Back on My Feet’s Jennifer Halabrin Kimble

Posted in Homage to Blackie Sherrod on February 22, 2012 by onlookerslowdown
Occasionally, Onlooker Slowdown will feature interviews with people who fulfill Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion that one should always “write something worth reading, or do something worth writing about.” For our first interview, we caught up with Back On My Feet’s new Program Coordinator for the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, Jennifer Halabrin Kimble. Back On My Feet is a program that introduces the homeless to running; nationwide, this has worked wonders with many of the now formerly homeless who found discipline and purpose in a pair of running shoes.
Prior to working for Back On My Feet, Jennifer taught school for 12 years and then, after falling in love with running, became certified as a running coach through the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and as a Level Two Personal Trainer through the Cooper Institute. Formerly the Training Program Coordinator for Run On! Dallas, after volunteering for almost a year with Back On My Feet, she came on board with BOMF as Program Coordinator in December 2011.
Check out Back On My Feet on their website, or you’ll find them at a booth and aid station at the DCFA Form Follows Fitness 5K on Saturday, February 25.
Who first inspired you to start running? 
      I started running in the beginner classes at Run On! as a way to lose weight after my second child was born.  At that time in my life, I was completely absorbed in all things baby. It was refreshing to be around people who were talking about things other than sleepless nights, diapers and teething symptoms.
As a runner, what race do you remember the most? 
       
      My first life changing race experience was my first marathon in Austin.  My coach Will Craven ran the race with our group, and we stayed together until mile 19 when he told us to go on.  I completely hit the wall at about mile 22, and at mile 24 who comes passing by?  Will of course!  He ran me in to the finish line where I was filled with such intense emotion that I bent over and blubbering and sobbing.  It took me 45 min to walk back to my hotel because I was so sore and tired.
Of all of your running accomplishments, which one brings you the most pride? 
      My hardest race so far has been the Big Horn 100 in Wyoming.  I really got behind on my nutrition and at mile 75 I felt so bad that I thought I was going to have to drop.  My pacer and friends fed me about 800 calories at that aid station which helped me to recover and finish the race. 
A close second is the first time I paced my friend Mike at Massanutten Mountain Trail 100.  That course is rocky and tough, and we got caught in a lightning storm striking so close to us that the hairs on my arms were standing up.  I did the last 45 miles of the race with him, and after that adventure I felt like I could truly conquer anything.
Share a story of someone you’ve trained that particularly inspires you. 
      I am inspired everyday by our Back on My Feet team members and the generosity of our volunteers.  Some of our residential team members have faced unfathomable challenges, yet they tell me daily how blessed they are.  Their strength and courage inspires me, and I feel loved unconditionally when I am with the team.
What motivated you to make the move from Run On! to Back On My Feet? 
        
      I loved working for Run On!  They truly have an amazing staff and coaches who work together to help runners achieve their goals.  Working for Back on My Feet allows me to use the skills that I have gained as a coach, teacher and manager; while helping our residential member to move forward toward self-sufficiency.  Quite frankly, while volunteering for BOMF, the team members stole my heart!
Efforts like Back on My Feet are spreading throughout the United States. What is it about running that resonates with the homeless people you serve?  
      Through running, our members develop confidence and self-esteem which resonates into other areas of their life.  At Back on My Feet we hug, we encourage and we promote accountability through positive reinforcement.  Through community and teamwork we establish a forum for success and personal growth.  We are all members who are equally invested in the success of each other and the team. 
What are DFW Back on my Feet’s most significant needs right now?
Homelessness in the United States is projected to increase by 5% in the next year, and it would be awesome if we could expand our efforts throughout DFW and the United States.
It costs about $100 to get a member started in the Back on My Feet program, and $1,800 to support a member in the 6-9 month program, so donations are always welcome.  You can also support BOMF by coming out to run with the teams, Getting your company involved, wearing back on my feet gear, volunteering for events and committees and being a BOMF fundRacer.  To learn more or to sign up, visit backonmyfeet.org or email me at jennifer@backonmyfeet.org.

Watching Your Bone Float Away

Posted in Theater of the Absurd on February 22, 2012 by onlookerslowdown

One of Aesop’s fables involves a dog that is carrying a bone in his mouth (yes, all dogs are males in Onlooker Slowdown’s world, even the female chocolate Lab that lives at his house).

The dog crosses a small creek on a log, but then looks down into the water. There he sees another dog with another bone in his mouth. That bone, to the first dog, looks bigger. So, naturally, as dogs will do, he opens his mouth to take this second bone away from this other dog. When he opens his mouth, though, he loses not only the bone in his own mouth, but also the second bone, which was really just a reflection. It disappears into the ripples.

One lesson of this story is not to be jealous, because what you envy may not even be real.

Another lesson, though, is that it doesn’t make sense to complain about something you need, because you may end up losing it altogether.

Two recent news stories: one from the Carolina Journal. A preschooler took a lunch to school that had a turkey sandwich, a banana, a bag of chips, and some apple juice. An inspector was on hand to look into school lunches, and told the preschooler that her lunch did not meet nutritional guidelines. She was given a lunch from the school cafeteria (which contained fried chicken nuggets), and her mother was sent a bill at the end of the day for $1.25.

As you can imagine, Rush Limbaugh and every other conservative pundit in the nation got into a tizzy about this as soon as their production assistants were able to read the wire reports to them. Intruding into a preschooler’s lunchbox? What area of our lives will government control next? Can’t the government leave a preschooler alone? How is a team of agents inspecting lunches going to make the world a better place? On and on the rants went.

The second story is actually an editorial from the New York Times, about the conservative religious views of Rick Santorum. As a staunch Catholic, he stands firmly against the use of contraception and has very specific views about the proper place and purpose for sexual activity. He has made headlines recently for taking on President Obama’s “theology,” saying that many recent White House decisions have started to close the door on religious freedoms. Most galling to them was a recent decision to force insurers to pay for contraception, even if an employer who uses that insurer objects to contraception for religious reasons. According to columnist Maureen Dowd, Santorum “seems to have decided that electoral gold lies in the ruthless exploitation of social and cultural wedge issues. Unlike the Bushes, he has no middle man to pander to prejudices; he turns the knife himself.”

So, for the Left, it’s OK to inspect school lunches and send home a bill if something (which in this case turned out to be a carton of milk) is missing. One wonders what would have happened if the preschooler’s mother had sent a carton of milk, only to have it spoil after a morning spent at room temperature.

And, for the Right, it’s OK to inspect the personal lives of employees and make decisions about the types of health care that they can access, if the employer can claim a religious objection. Especially if that sort of health care would drive up the premiums that this particular employer has to pay.

At some point in our history, government stopped being a mechanism for things like maintaining roads and providing law and order, and it instead became a toy that whatever majority was in power would use to impose its agenda on the rest of us. If you look at all of the agencies and cabinet departments and offices and bureaus and rules and regulations that have been added since, say, 1913 (which just happens to be the year that the income tax became constitutional, thanks to the Sixteenth Amendment), and you look at the actual purpose of all of those additional mechanisms, you see billions and billions and billions in expenditures and in taxes. A lot of this money has gone to very important things, like enforcement of the Civil Rights Act and grants to private organizations who do great things to help the needy and the capture of Osama bin Laden. A lot of it has gone to amazing things, like putting a man on the moon and neutralizing the threat of the Soviet Union.

But if you want the government to solve your problems, as the Left and the Right both do, you can’t object when the other side uses the government to solve its problems. If you’re going to open your mouth to take away the other side’s bone — if you’re going to actually do away with the parental functions which the government now performs for both sides of the political aisle — then you lose everything. All of the nagging by that team of USDA agents (oh, and here’s an interesting fact — no one in the state government in North Carolina has been able to identify that lunch patrol officer), and all of the moralizing about things that, yes, do belong behind closed doors, until you ask the government to pay for the consequences of what you do behind those doors, will go on.

That is, until someone listens to Paul Ryan, and we start spending what we bring in, instead of trillions more, or the Chinese call all those debts in. If you want to read a cool novel about what that world might look like, by the way, with America finally crushed by its debt, check out Super Sad Love Story by the brilliant Gary Shteyngart. Onlooker Slowdown will be reviewing that soon.

Calvin and Hobbes…and Whitney Houston

Posted in Thoughts about the Next Plane on February 19, 2012 by onlookerslowdown

There are two reasons to read the Sunday paper: the extended sports coverage and the funnies. (Yes, I’ve been told the funnies are really the comics, but I still call them the funnies). One of my favorite strips involved a discontented young boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, who would come to life, at least in Calvin’s imagination, whenever no one else was in the room. In one series of strips, Calvin turns an old refrigerator box into a duplicator and pretends that he has made a bunch of copies of himself. Running this ruse on his teacher and his mother leads to wrath in just about every area of his life.

As they are sitting in time out, boy and tiger ruminate a bit:

Calvin Well, Hobbes, I guess we learned a valuable lesson from the duplicating mess.
Hobbes And that is?
Calvin And that is, um… it’s that, well… OK, so we didn’t learn any big lesson. Sue me.
Hobbes Live and don’t learn, that’s us.

(Source: The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes)

This is the central problem that all of us face, whether we are seven years old or seventy — if we do not learn from our mistakes, and the mistakes of others, then things never get better.

I’ve read posts from a lot of really angry people in the last day or two, about the fanfare given to the passing of Whitney Houston. Most of these mad people talk about how she was a crackhead and a drug addict, and that she really just wasted her talents. Instead of lowering the flags to half-mast, as the state of New Jersey did, and having a nationally broadcast funeral, as several channels and many online news feeds provided for us, these people seem to think that Whitney should have been buried in a pine box in a lonely field, or perhaps dumped into the Indian Ocean, like Osama bin Laden.

For better or for worse, though, we are a culture of celebrity. Which is why, yesterday afternoon, my wife had a television tuned to Whitney Houston’s funeral. I wasn’t really paying any attention until I heard some of the eulogy, given by the Rev. Marvin Winans. Here’s the whole thing — parts of it are worth watching and thinking about.

Rev. Winans had a lot to say about grace and forgiveness, but he also said something that, while just true as his message about grace, should make us pay much better attention to the way we spend our time. He said:

“The lives we live are the gift we give to God.”

Did Whitney Houston give the best gift to God that she could have? Probably not. But do you think that, when she was a nine-year-old girl dreaming about her future, that she looked forward to a life of Bobby Brown and narcotics? Probably not, either.

So, once those of you who are angry are done dancing on her grave, go and think about what you are spending your time on the planet preparing for your Maker to see. If your belief system doesn’t include an afterlife, what kind of legacy are you building for those behind you to remember? For your children to aspire to?

This was a hard lesson for Onlooker Slowdown. Reading about one of the greatest vocal talents of our time dying far too soon and leaving far too much talent on the table definitely gave me pause. Moving forward from Rev. Winans’ eulogy, it occurred to me that I will never look back and wish I’d watched more television. Or complained more about the everyday annoyances of being a responsible person. Or spent more time thinking about myself.

So, after you read this, get off the computer. Go call your mom. Go give your kid a noogie, and then run away in the opposite direction. Kiss the one you love the most. Then go pick up that talent that you can do so well, that you just can’t find the time to spend time doing. And shoot your television. Whitney’s voice came straight from God’s own choir — but each of us has a great thing that we were made to do, but each day that goes by is one less day that we can bring Him glory by doing it.

When Words Are Not Enough: Prufrock Revisited

Posted in Book Reviews on February 17, 2012 by onlookerslowdown

The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster shells;
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent…

So begins T.S. Eliot’s anti-epic “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and while the navel-gazing of those so addicted to the easy comforts of their own shortcomings has become much more entertaining in the years since the Jazz Age, its near omnipresence as a genre does not make Julian Barnes’ “The Sense of an Ending” any less brutal in its verdict on the passively pompous, those who float from moment to moment in life, self-important in their somnambulation.

The story begins genially enough, seemingly a prep school memoir of Tony Webster, whose dominant memory of those days seems to be the appearance of Adrian, who was much more perceptive and prescient than Tony, Colin, and Alex — the rest of his circle — much to their chagrin.

Tony is much too busy telling us about his own lack of gratification to notice what is going on around him much of the time, even some fairly crucial happenings in his life. He does look up long enough to note Adrian’s definition of history: “that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.” On Webster’s end, of course, most of the fault is memory, which in his case is eroded by self-centeredness, if not outright self-pity.

Much of the early part of the book details Tony’s failed relationship with Veronica; most of the failings have to do with the fact that they never have sex — until after they break up. On a weekend visit to Veronica’s family, her mother eerily warns Tony not to let Veronica “get away with too much.” Without giving away too much, it can be said that this may be one of the most effective examples of irony in all of modern literature.

Not long after Tony and Veronica break up, Veronica and Adrian start dating. They write Tony a letter to break the news to him; the response that Tony pens is simply cruel. The fact that Tony can go so far into his memoir without mentioning the letter until Victoria gives it to him, years later, shows how he has glossed over his own sins.

Tony then goes to America and travels the country for a time, enjoying what he considers the most rewarding relationship of his life, a dalliance with an independent woman named Annie who gives Tony perhaps what he wants most of all — someone who wants nothing from him. Upon his return, though, he finds that Adrian has committed suicide. Any sense of grief is hurriedly plastered over with smart remarks, though.

Decades later, when Tony is in his sixties, Veronica’s mother dies, bequeathing Tony 500 British pounds and Adrian’s diary. Unfortunately, Veronica has the diary and only sends Tony one page of it, claiming to have burned the rest. She agrees to meet Tony and shows him more and more of what her life has become, until he understands the fragment of the diary, Adrian’s suicide, the true nature of Veronica’s mother, and Veronica’s own enduring anger.

Not, of course, until Veronica has told him that he still hasn’t gotten it. Many times. Or, as Eliot’s mysterious woman said, “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”

The danger of failing to reach your dreams is that it is extremely possible to turn that disappointment into a soft bitterness toward others. By insulating himself from all meaningful contact with the outside world, Tony has left himself safe, but also powerless. Ultimately, all he can say, when confronted with the full consequences of the letter he wrote on a whim, out of anger, he can only say, “There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest.” His first impulse, even when broaching the topic of accountability, is to distance himself from the whole mess.

One can see Tony Webster saying this, sitting, as Prufrock did, “in the chambers of the sea by sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

Barnes’ work is masterful in its lyrical turns of phrase, as he creates a protagonist who is too busy writing lyrically to notice that there is no one in his life left to read them.

  
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A Valentine’s Day Thought

Posted in Homage to Blackie Sherrod on February 15, 2012 by onlookerslowdown
Kiss Briseis Painter Louvre G278
Who is she looking at? Isn’t this a painting? Never mind…Happy Valentine’s Day anyway.

On this Valentine’s Day, Onlooker Slowdown would like to turn your attention, just for a minute, from the various love stories gone awry that dominate the media. Let’s set aside Kris Humphries’ 72 days inside Kardashian Hell.

Wait a minute, though. I just have to get this off my chest. What on earth is the 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, the WORLD’S GREATEST FREAKING ATHLETE, doing wearing a pair of stud earrings, doing his best imitation of the receptionist from “The Bob Newhart Show”? At what point does (a) the U.S. Olympic Committee step in and say, “Um, Bruce, we’re going to need that medal back. Clearly you didn’t throw that javelin as far as they thought you did, and, yeah, that 1500-meter run finish was Photoshopped, and (b) the Kardashian matriarch trade him in for, say, Mark Phelps? When will it be time to move on to an Olympian of the past ten years?

OK, thank you for humoring me. As someone who spends a good deal of time defending the Olympics as a decent use of television watching time, I’ve been putting this off way too long.

As I was saying, let’s set aside the tragic love stories associated with Gary Giordano and Seal, and put down the headlines about Josh Powell, and focus on a truly wonderful Valentine’s Day story.

Thanks to ABC News, Onlooker Slowdown is able to bring you the story of Grayce and Clarence Dwyer. This couple from Madison, New Jersey, has been married for 71 years. They are both 100 years old.  No midlife decisions to buy a Bugati and date younger. Four kids, 17 grandkids, and 12 great-grandchildren.

What’s their secret? As Grayce puts it, “Life was not meant to be easy, so you surround yourself with good people and always have a strong faith that will help you through the hard times.”

Now, that sort of advice won’t sell magazines, and that sort of life doesn’t make for a thrilling movie, unless one partner ends up with a degenerative condition and the other takes care of him/her (see: The Notebook).

We are entertained by tension and titillated by failure. The next time we’re standing in line at Kroger, we’ll look at the headlines of failure, of scandal, of lives torn apart when relationships suffer. But get this — both of them have recently had hip surgery, and both survived heavy anesthesia and significant physical therapy — unusual at their age. As their daughter says, “We believe [their recovery] is a testament to the love they have for each other.”

Full disclosure — Onlooker Slowdown has been divorced once, and is now closing in on five years of Marriage #2. We still have 66 years to go to catch the Dwyers; when I turn 106, we’ll only have 10 months to go to get to Year 71. But there’s something fine and wondrous about a couple that stays together so long and is so closely attuned to one another.

It’s a note of subtlety — of gestures shared, sentences finished, needs anticipated. It’s the hard work of a partnership built one day, one hour, one minute, one mistake, one instance of grace at a time.

Just for today, for St. Valentine’s Day, let’s forget about Keeping Up with the Kardashians, or reading about Jennifer Aniston’s latest comment about Brangelina.

Also, don’t think about what kind of show Keeping Up with the Dwyers would be. Instead, think about what an amazing achievement it would be.

Happy Valentine’s Day…from Onlooker Slowdown.

Image credit: By English: Briseis Painter Français : Peintre de Briséis (Jastrow (2006)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKiss_Briseis_Painter_Louvre_G278.jpg