Monday, December 31, 2007
Here are a few of the Christmas gifts that brought smiles to the faces of various people in my house. Can you guess the recipients?
An Imaginext pirate ship
A Crusader's set of armor (based on Ephesians 6 - "Put on the full armor of God"--and yes, it included a sword)
Several books in the Lego "Knights of the Castle" series
Leap Frog magnetic word-builder
High School Musical DVD & CD
Pokemon, Martina McBride, & Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals CD's
The Daring Book for Girls
Julie of the Wolves Trilogy
Word Origin Word-a-Day Calendar
James Ussher's Annals of the World
People's Bible Commentary on Galatians & Ephesians
Men's pajamas, size small
SAT Question-a-Day Calendar
Black wool overcoat
The Matrix and The Manchurian Candidate DVD's
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
Family gifts included Harry Potter Volumes 1-6 (yes, we're finally catching up to popular culture around here, at least in this regard) and a collection of Victor Borge DVD's (what a great idea for a piano-playing family!). I received several of the items on my wish list, including an eyeglass chain, a dual-strand beaded necklace in autumn colors (burnt orange & green) from Coldwater Creek, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature. There was also another gift from my husband in the category of "small, round and shiny" (and totally impractical)--maybe I'll tell you more about it in a future post, or maybe my friends will just have to see it in person next time we meet. But for now know that my husband is too good to me and that--silly girl that I am--his gift was one of the reasons I cried on Christmas Day.
I hope that you are still finding time to relax, spend time with family and friends, enjoy the gifts you received, and above all, reflect on the miracle of our Lord's incarnation. Happy seventh day of Christmas!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Christmas Eve Eve (Sunday night) - I am deep in the throes of cold symptoms and exhausted from several busy days with even less sleep than usual. So while my husband and the children settle in for a boisterous game of Landslide (the 1971 Parker Brothers version, not the updated one), I excuse myself and hit the sheets at a mercifully early 9:15 p.m! I don't rise until almost 7:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve Day (that's almost 10--count them, 10--hours of sleep!)
After morning coffee and computer time, I make waffles for the family on our George Foreman grill (a really cool appliance that I need to use more often). Then we leave the dishes for later and settle in to listen to Lessons and Carols (I wrote about that here). Afterward my husband, a full-time Lutheran cantor, leaves the house to begin preparing for one of the most demanding 24-hour periods of his year (four worship services in 17 hours). The children and I spend the afternoon doing some last-minute housecleaning (so that the main level is nice for Christmas morning even if the master bedroom is a disaster because of all the clutter that has been relocated there). Then at about 3:30 I leave to pick up my mother and bring her to our house for the night as well as to do an emergency stop at Target for a few additional stocking stuffers.
Back at home, my mom, the kids and I have dinner together while my husband is at church leading the first of our three Christmas Eve worship services. At 6:15 the children and I leave for church (my mom stays home to nurse an ailing back) to ensure that the 12-year-old and I will arrive in time for 6:45 choir warm-up.
7:15 p.m. - 12-year-old daughter begins her a cappella solo on the first stanza of "Once in Royal David's City" (the traditional opening of the Lessons and Carols liturgy, which our church follows for this particular service). As the flute player intones the introduction to the hymn, I see a look of panic fly across my daughter's face, as her repeated efforts to turn on the cordless microphone in her hand prove to be in vain. I am equally unsuccessful, and the reason is soon apparent: the battery is dead. There is no time to run for a new battery, so in classic "the show must go on" fashion this seasoned children's choir veteran takes a deep breath and projects as best she can across our rather large sanctuary as the cross is processed down the center aisle. For once (and blessedly so), there are no babies crying, no whispered comments, and no noisy coughs or sneezes, as the assembly listens to the unamplified but still quite audible voice of a little girl's voice announcing the birth of the Saviour:
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Ah, well. Just add this to one of the long list of ways our family is out of sync with the general public. As members of a liturgical denomination (one in which the church year follows a set order of "seasons" that reflect the birth, life & ministry, death, resurrection & ascension of Christ), we spend the largest part of December observing Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas, so that when December 25 arrives it is just the first of twelve days of Christmas that begin with the Feast of the Nativity (the birth of Jesus) and culminate in the Feast of the Epiphany (the visit of the wise men). At home, too, we continue to observe the Christmas holiday by playing Christmas music around the house, leaving the Christmas tree and other decorations up, and wishing each other "merry Christmas" each day. (Although we don't follow this practice, I know of families who spread their family gift-giving over the twelve days of Christmas instead of concentrating it all on Christmas Day).
But to tell the truth, there is an additional, more practical reason our Christmas observance continues beyond December 25: as a family in which both parents are working church musicians (one part-time, the other full-time), the weeks that lead up to and include Christmas Day can be quite draining. Whereas many people wake up on December 26 with the intention of returning to normal activities after a few days off, we wake up having just finished a few of the busiest days of the year. In our family, December 26 is a cherished lull in the storm, a true "pajama day," a day when everything finally comes to a complete and utter halt (did you notice I didn't "post" yesterday?). It is a "halt" that we try very hard to perpetuate for several more days, enjoying some rare time resting and recreating at home as a family. Thus, yesterday and today I did not set my alarm clock, resulting in my sleeping in until after 7:00 a.m. (that's late for this customarily early riser). And while most people we know have already made and eaten their Christmas cookies, we may finally get around to making some in our house tomorrow or the next day. In past years I have been known to use this time to send out Epiphany rather than Christmas greetings. And as I enjoy a break in my piano teaching and accompanying schedule and my husband's load is lightened as a result of our church's day school being out on vacation, these cherished few days will include some all too rare family game and movie time.
The challenge right now is to grant ourselves permission to enjoy the rest afforded by a slightly less demanding schedule by not filling it up with all those things on the task list that are forever waiting to be addressed. Maybe over the next week we'll tackle a few of those. But they've waited this long, and they can wait a bit longer. In the meantime, we plan on playing some of those dusty board games, listening to some of those rarely heard CD's, and taking advantage of that too-often unused Netflix subscription.
Merry Third Day of Christmas!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us at The Round Unvarnish'd Tale!
Monday, December 24, 2007
But I think the best part was having my rambunctious can't-sit-still, sword-wielding, gun-toting, smite-the-bad-guys 4-year-old cuddle on my lap in the rocking chair for almost the entire 1-1/2 hour broadcast.
Makes me think he would do that more often if I would only slow down a bit.
Merry Christmas to me.
*If you missed the live broadcast, it's not too late, as various American Public Media affiliates will be replaying this year's recording of the service over the next few days. My previous post on this topic includes a link to one such station.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I find that to be a very thoughtful observation. Yet I think what I was trying to get at with my "he doesn't want it" statement is what strikes me as a certain lack of passion on the part of Thompson. I understand that the presidency is a thankless job and that anyone in his right mind would probably have some reservations about taking it on. But I would like my president to be someone who is passionate about his beliefs and who has the ability to inspire others to share in his vision. And so far I just haven't gotten that from Thompson.
But as I reflect on my previous post, I am struck by the brevity of my comments on Thompson. In all honesty, he is something of an unknown to me. The debates and interviews on which I saw him were fairly soon after his annnouncement, and I have been too busy to watch the last round of debates. So I have decided that he, like McCain, deserves a second look from me, and in fact my first New Year's resolution will be to give both of these candidates another chance at my vote.
By the way, in the near future be looking for a guest post on the election from Mr. Round Unvarnished Tale himself (the smartest political mind I know)!
After that experience I vowed never to make the same mistake again. So last year for the first time we visited a nearby tree farm and chopped down our own tree. It turned out to be a fun family adventure in spite of the frigid weather and the fact that the tree was so covered in ice and snow that we had to wait a day for its winter coat to melt off before we could decorate it. The tree farm we visited also has a small zoo, a country store with homemade and canned foodstuffs for sale as well as several resident cats and parrots to entertain the clientele, and complimentary popcorn and hot chocolate after tree shopping and chopping.
So this year we returned for a repeat of last year's successful tree-chopping outing. Only this year there were several unexpected variables: after several days of rain and melting snow and sleet, the tree farm had become a veritable mud pit. When we expressed an interest in chopping down our own tree the saleswoman's face fell and she asked "Are you sure you want to go out there?" Shen then pointed us to several trees that had already been chopped down and were awaiting buyers. Not only that, due to the lateness of the tree shopping season, they had been marked down in price. Well, that's about all the convincing this stressed out, exhausted Mom & Pop needed. The children were agreeable, so we picked a nice Balsam fir from the line-up and brought it home. The saleswoman assured us it would last until Epiphany, and since she was representing a local business and not one of those temporary tree lots that disappear once the tree-selling season is over, I felt fairly comfortable taking her at her word.
Here's the finished product. It's one of the tallest, fattest trees we've ever had (and there are a few brand new scratches on the ceiling to attest to that fact)! So far, the needles are holding pretty well.
Now it just needs some presents! Time to get wrapping.
Don't I have beautiful children? And to think they're nice people, too. I am blessed beyond telling.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Giuliani? There is much to like about him, particularly the sense that he is a leader whose policies are not determined by poll numbers. He doesn't seem to care what people think of him, and in these dangerous international times I think that is a plus. I also think he is one our best hopes of winning nationally because of his ability to win independent and crossover votes. But as a pro-life Christian conservative, I can't ignore his liberal social views. My husband says that Giuliani's commitment to appoint strict constructionist judges may ironically make him a better friend to the pro-life cause than some past supposedly pro-life presidents whose judicial appointments let us down. But I'm not sure. If Giuliani gets the nomination I will vote for him in the general election because I like his economic and foreign policy views and I'm not convinced he will hurt the pro-life cause. I also think the primary directive should be to prevent the Democrats from regaining the presidency because the thing that scares me most is the lasting repercussions of having any of the current Democratic contenders in the White House.
Thompson? I just don't think he wants it very much. And I haven't been that impressed by his debate and interview appearances. He seems to rely way too much on notes rather than a having a true command of the issues.
Romney? I'm sorry, but it's the Mormonism. I just don't feel comfortable voting for someone as my president who can embrace all of the tenets of that religion. I also cannot get out of my mind an interview with Mrs. Romney where she claimed not to remember writing a large check to Planned Parenthood. There is some dishonesty there that I don't feel good about. The Romneys strike me as a couple, like the Clintons, who have long planned for the presidency and who will say and do whatever it takes to get there. When I listen to Mitt answer a question I feel like he is pressing the "play" button and just letting the canned answer spin itself out rather than speaking from somewhere within himself.
Huckabee? I have taken a few looks at him along the way and also see much to like there. But I don't respect his stepping back from his religious beliefs in the name of political advancement (he refuses to stand up for beliefs that I know he holds to but instead finds ways to "talk around" them). I also don't like his big government (high tax, overspending) ways and his coziness with the NEA (he was the only Republican candidate to address that body and in so doing faulted his Republican friends for sending the message that they don't value education because they didn't do the same).
That leaves John McCain. Early in this campaign I was leaning toward him but after a couple of lackluster debate performances I started to wonder if he could be competitive in the general election. But it just so happens that he actually polls better against the Democratic candidates than any of the other GOP possibilities. I saw Democratic strategist Bob Beckel on television a few nights ago acknowledging that McCain is the Republican the Democrats fear most. In recent days McCain has picked up some momentum with the support of Joe Lieberman and a string of newspaper endorsements. The Boston Herald in fact has this year dispensed with its practice of endorsing candidates in both primaries and has called for independents and Democrats alike to cross over to the Republican primary and support McCain because they think he is the single best man to be the next president.
In coming weeks I will be taking a second look at McCain. I know conservatives have some issues with him--taxes, immigration, campaign finance reform--but I have always appreciated his candor. He says he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent because they have clearly helped the economy. He has the support of an entire gallery of former secretaries of state as well as that of a host of other names that I respect. I think he understands the treacherous times in which we live and would make national security a priority. And by the way, have you seen his Christmas message? While everyone is making such a fuss about Huckabee's commercial featuring the bookshelf that looks like a cross, McCain's commercial overtly features a cross as he tells the story of the encouragement he received as a POW when one of his North Korean guards drew a cross in the sand.
Boy, that almost sounds like an endorsement, doesn't it? I'm not quite ready to go in to the voting booth yet, but these are the things that I will be thinking about over the next few months. And it looks like I'm not the only one.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If you have never treated yourself to this musical feast, consider doing so this year. The service of Lessons and Carols begins with the Genesis account of the fall of man and continues from there to recount God's plan for the salvation of mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. The nine readings from the Bible are interspersed with some of the most gorgeous choral music imaginable. The Festival of Lessons and Carols is broadcast across the country by many public radio stations. If your local station does not carry it, you can listen online. If you do so, however, just be aware that the source of the broadcast may be in a different time zone from your own. If that is the case, make sure to adjust for your own time zone!
Here's just one place you can listen online. Note that this is a Cincinnati radio station, meaning it is eastern time zone. So although the broadcast time is 10:00 a.m., in Chicago we will be ready to listen at 9:00 a.m. The link also provides excellent background about the history of Lessons and Carols. (By the way, on this station the service will be rebroadcast on Christmas Day at 6:00 p.m./5:00 p.m. central time. But I would recommend listening live if at all possible. )
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
How ironic, then, that on this reading I found an overlooked typo. Oh, no! How could I have missed it? It was right there in the second paragraph: not a misspelling or a punctuation or grammatical error but instead, a missing word. In all my previous readings of the letter my brain, which knew the word that should have been there, had simply filled it in. Repeatedly.
And to think I used to call myself an English teacher. And that I used to get paid for proofreading other people's stuff! (These days I just do it for free.)
I don't know if I will ever be able to trust my eyes (or my brain) again.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Journal's recent posting entitled Iraq by the Numbers charts "Overall Weekly Iraq Attack Trends" from September 2004 to the present. The most passing glance at the chart cannot fail to notice the precipitous decline in all categories of attacks since June of this year, which I think is about the time General Petraeus pronounced the surge fully in place. Associated Press is reporting the same thing. It would appear to my eyes, then, that the surge is working, and working mightily.
What I don't understand is why this is not front page, nightly lead-off story news and why the entire country is not celebrating the surge for the success that it is. Nancy Pelosi should be calling a joint press conference with General Petraeus and President Bush to celebrate this national achievement and congratulate our troops. Because whether one agrees or disagrees with the President's Iraq policy and the waging of this war, the facts cannot be ignored: there has been significant improvement in the levels of violence since the completion of the surge, and no matter what your view on the war, this is something to be proud of.
I know people have differing views on the war, and I respect those whose principles lead them to think differently than I. But I do not respect those who refuse to acknowledge the facts simply because it is easier to oppose a policy that is not succeeding.
The feeling of anticipation as my sisters and I tiptoed down the stairs to see what Santa had brought in our big old two-story house in Austin, Texas.
Having my 16-year-old sister prolong my belief in Santa when I was 8 by telling me that when she was 8 she doubted his existence and therefore didn't get a visit that year, nor the Easy Bake oven she had asked for. Hmmm, the year she told me this story I wanted an Easy Bake oven, too.
Being awakened as a teenager on Christmas morning by my father leaning over my bed smiling and brightly announcing "It's Christmas!" Having "matured" beyond the practice of waking up at dawn to see what Santa had brought, I was enjoying sleeping in a little on this Christmas morning. As I look back I realize my dad was longing for the days of the little girl who couldn't wait to get up and start the celebration. I cherish this memory of my dad because he was an alcoholic whose personality would change as the day wore on and he started drinking. I always saw the best of him in the morning.
The first Christmas present my husband ever gave me. We weren't even really dating at the time but were friends. He left the gift on the front seat of my car (I can't remember if it was my normal practice to leave my car unlocked, but hey, in this case I'm glad I did, and anyway, we're talking small town Texas in the 1980s). The gift was a heavy clear glass votive candle holder in the shape of a star. I still have it.
Driving through Texas countryside on Christmas Eve after visiting my parents for a few days. I was newly married and because my husband had to work we could not spend Christmas with our parents (he was a church musician who had to play for services). So I had gone home to spend a few days with my own parents but was now returning to my husband for Christmas. I remember the drive through the country roads of Texas, reflecting on my new life as I looked at all the houses and imagined the preparations that were going on inside each one. I think I still remember this seemingly insignificant event because of the way it redefined for me what it mean to go home for Christmas.
My first Christmas in Illinois after moving with my husband from Texas. He had taken a full-time music position at a Lutheran cathedral in downtown Peoria. It was (and still is) a grand piece of architecture with a world class organ. When we came out of Christmas Eve candlelight worship a little after midnight, a gentle snow was just beginning to fall. This Texas girl felt like she had taken up residence in a Hallmark Christmas card.
Accompanying the Peoria Area Youth Chorus in its appearances on the Civic Chorale Christmas concerts at the Peoria Civic Center in the 1990s. My husband directed the choir and I played the piano. The children were simply phenomenal and typically brought down the house at these well-attended concerts. It was always exciting to perform in such a large venue and before such an appreciative audience. Talk about an ego boost!
Listening to my first and then my second child sing the first stanza of "Once in Royal David's City" a cappella at the beginning of Lessons and Carols. It's beautiful enough to hear the sweet voice of any child singing this hymn, but when it's your very own son or daughter, well . . . . I'm hoping some day child number three will continue the tradition.
Singing "Of the Father's Love Begotten" on Christmas Eve. I don't remember the first time I heard this hymn, but it was in my adulthood after I became a Lutheran. It wasn't long before it became my favorite Christmas hymn, the one that for me sums up and announces our Lord's incarnation like no other and that makes me really feel like Christmas has arrived:
Monday, December 17, 2007
A few of my Lutheran homeschooling friends ("Martin Loopers") may recognize Michael T. from the Looper gathering at my church back in August. Here he is spearheading the hanging of the swag on the organ balcony . . . always a formidable task.
Hang on, Michael!
Chris (another homeschooler) gives the thumbs up. Success!
Trevor had bow duty. Looks good, honey!
Another homeschool mom, Suzanne T. (married to the crazy guy who was hanging from the organ balcony) is on the right.
Michael and Suzanne's youngest daughter Sophie.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I've tried to include ideas to suit all budgets, but I must admit that my tastes seem to be leaning towards the higher end of the spectrum these days. Sorry, honey. Just remember--you asked!
Friday, December 14, 2007
Oh, and best of all, it matches my blog!
While we were comparing models I asked the sales representative about how long the average cell phone lasts. She said that if you get two years out of a phone (mine was a little over two years old) you are doing remarkably well. Does that sound right to you cell phone users out there? If so, we'll probably be repeating this shopping trip soon because our other phone is also two years old (we don't have a land line anymore). Our sales rep added that she personally changes her phone about every six months either because she has damaged it or because she is simply bored and ready for a change. What I want to know is, where does a 20-something young woman working at T-Mobile get the kind of income that would allow her to trade up her cell phone every 6 months? (She acknowledged that she gets much higher-tech models than the one we purchased.) Oh yeah, I forgot--we're church musicians with three kids and a mortgage. That might explain it!
By the way, that same dear husband who took me shopping followed up our excursion with a stop at Boston Market so that I wouldn't have to cook supper. (My plate has been pretty full this week, too.) Am I one lucky girl or what?
Now if I can just figure out how to make this phone do all the stuff the box says it can do.
The book is available for $21.70 plus shipping. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to chess education efforts in the United States and worldwide. To purchase a copy, email Kiran Frey at email@example.com
Thursday, December 13, 2007
What City Should You Live In?
|You should live in New York City. America's largest city will ensure that you will blend into the crowd. You are the brooding type--introspective, creative, and eccentric--and NYC's cutting-edge, individualistic culture and ambience will appeal to you.|
|Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com|
But whoever wrote this next one needs to find a different line of work. Me? Lucy Van Pelt? I grant that I'm a pretty good organizer and usually feel confident that I know what's best, but aggressive? Insensitive? (My husband is rolling on the floor with laughter right about now.)
Which Peanuts Character Are You?
|You are Lucy van Pelt. You know what you want and you know how to get it, even if it means pulling the football away. Your forwardness sometimes comes off as aggression, and you have some work to do in the sensitivity department.|
|Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com|
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
What Kind of Drink Are You?
|You are a Fine Glass of Wine. You are sophisticated and refined, but also complicated and hard to deal with. Not everyone loves you, but those who do swear that you're the coolest thing since sliced bread. One of these days the people that matter will understand you. Until then, you will be sitting on your throne as the distinguished product that not everyone has the taste to appreciate.|
|Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com|
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The same hope is apparent in a "Christmas" song that has become popular in recent years (I guess it's popular, because I continually hear it on the radio, sung by everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Barbra Streisand to Natalie Cole): "My Grown-Up Christmas Wish." Have you heard it? Here's the opening verse and refrain:
Yet as a conservative Christian and confessional Lutheran, I know another truth: this world is doomed, and there's nothing we can do about it. In the words of a friend of my husband, "It's all gonna burn." That doesn't mean that we shouldn't love and care for one another and try to make the best of our time in this earthly realm--that's what our Lord would have us do. But to labor under the assumption that we can by our efforts stamp out the effects of original sin is to sentence ourselves to despair. There is one line in the lyric above that I find particularly tragic: "That time would heal all hearts." In the face of my daily trials I am sustained by the knowledge that my heart is already healed by the death and resurrection of my Saviour. I can't imagine the sadness of a heart that is waiting to be healed by the passing of time.
It vexes me that the average American--whether or not he or she agrees with Winfrey's politics--would likely listen to her speech yesterday and accept its premise that the point of our existence is to make ourselves and our world better. In the world of argument, faulty premises logically lead to faulty conclusions. The premise upon which I stand is the truth of my sin and my need for a Saviour, and I know that if I cling to that premise the conclusion will take care of itself.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I know what she means. A few weeks ago I asked my husband in complete seriousness if we might forego decorating this year because the thought of it filled me not with anticipation but with dread. It's not that I was feeling particularly negative or down at the time (although I have had my share of that in recent months) but that in my exhaustion (resulting from one of the more difficult years we have had in some time) I just couldn't "wrap my mind around" all that "needed" to be done. And the more I thought about it the more I truly believed I might be better able to reflect upon and prepare for the Nativity of our Lord if I just didn't have so darn much to do.
I think I caught my husband somewhat off guard with my question because I have always been one to desire the full Christmas "experience": the cards, the decorations, the food and the gift-giving. When I was younger that's what I thought Christmas was mostly about because in my experience the outward observance of Christmas was all the Christmas there was. But having in my adulthood come to a fuller understanding of the Gospel, I now understand (like the "Whos down in Who-ville") that Christmas comes with or without all the trappings and that in fact the "to-do" list can distract us from the heart of the celebration. The irony is that in my willingness to consider a Christmas without decorations, the decorations became not something I have to do but something I want to do.
So we will go out next week to chop down a tree, and we will bring it home and decorate it, and I will be glad we did. But I may not open every Christmas box that is stored away in our garage, unpacking decorations and trying to find places for them all just because we have them. And our holiday correspondence may be an Epiphany rather than a Christmas letter. And as much as I would like that letter to include a family photo, our dear ones just may have to keep "Christmas 2006" on the refrigerator for one more year. Because I think I have finally realized that if our Christmas celebration becomes law-driven ("I just have to get this done") it ceases focusing on Christ and ends up being all about us. And then we truly do miss the point.
So this year I'm letting myself off the hook and leaving Christmas up to Christ. Regardless of what I do, He will come, and when He does, that will be Christmas.
Friday, December 7, 2007
To take the quiz yourself, click here.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
This calculator assigns percentages to the presidential candidates that represent the extent to which each candidate aligns with one's beliefs. Here is a listing of my percentages in the order they came up in my results (I think there are miniscule differences among those with the same percentage that result in their being ranked in the order shown.)
John Cox - 95%
Tom Tancredo - 95%
Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson - 90%
Rudy Guiliani and Duncan Hunter - 85%
Sam Brownback - 75%
John McCain - 70%
Ron Paul - 60%
Joe Biden, Barack O'Bama & Bill Richardson - 45%
John Edwards & Mike Gravel - 35%
Hillary Clinton - 30%
Dennis Kucinich (who Gene Veith calls the New Age candidate) - 10%
It figures. The best candidate for me is one that has no hope in the world of getting the nomination, much less winning.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
My daughter needs a few new items of clothing. She is 12 years old, thin and tall for her age, placing her in that awkward zone between girls' and junior sizes. Size 16 pants are often too short, but junior and misses sizes are too full-figured (and often not suitable for a 12-year-old . . . heck, come to think of it, they're often not suitable for me). So it's hard to find a good fit.
Right now I am looking at dresses for her. I used to have some success buying them through Ebay, where it is still possible to find beautiful, girlish styles (at reasonable prices) with brand names like Bonnie Jean and Rare Editions. But now that my daughter is reaching the top of the girls' size range I hesitate to buy without first having her try something on (or having the option to return, which you usually don't get with secondhand stuff on Ebay). So I have been visiting the girls' and junior departments at a few of our local department stores. The problem is, I can't find anything I would want to buy for her, even if we could find the right fit. It's just all so yucky! (Sorry for the vocabulary lapse, but I honestly can't think of any word that better reflects my reaction.) Everything looks like it came from Goldie Hawn's closet on the old Laugh-In television show.
And the junior and misses departments are no better. Thank goodness I'm not in the market for a new dress for myself right now. I just hope my closet holds out until designers (and consumers) come to their senses and remember the definition of the word "pretty."
Sunday, December 2, 2007
But be warned: Ms. Biologist is brilliant and prolific. If you visit her once you'll no doubt want to go back, which means you better figure out now how to increase your blogging time. Talk about a great advertisement for homeschooling!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
What? You say you don't know what a mondegreen is? Well, don't feel bad. Neither did I until last night, when my husband kept me up for over an hour, reading mondegreens to me until I was crying from laughing so hard.
And by the way, you and I actually do know what a mondegreen is, even if we aren't familiar with the term, which was invented in 1954 by a woman named Sylvia Wight. Ms. Wight wrote an article for Harper's magazine in which she related the experience of discovering that for years she had misunderstood a poem her mother used to read to her in childhood. The poem recounts the slaying of an Earl and goes on to tell of how "they laid him on the green," words which Ms. Wight wrongly heard as "Lady Mondegreen." In the article Ms. Wight included several other examples of misheard phrases that she said she would "hereafter call mondegreens." The term stuck, and over the last 50 years there have been numerous articles, books, and now websites devoted to the cataloguing and study of mondegreens.
Some of the best examples of mondegreens can be found in school children's faulty memorization of patriotic songs and recitations. William Safire pointed out several of these in a 1979 column in the New York Times: for example, the singing of "Jose, can you see" instead of "Oh, say can you see" in our national anthem or the pledging of "a legion" rather than "allegiance" to the flag (apparently some people even think that they're pledging allegiance to the republic "for Richard Stans" instead of "for which it stands"). Christmas carols and songs are also mondegreen minefields, where many a child has been known to replace "round yon virgin" with "round John virgin," "one-horse open sleigh" with "one-horse soap and sleigh," or "all of the other reindeer" with "Olive, the other reindeer." (You can find more Christmas mondegreens collected here by Snopes.com, but be warned, some of them contain objectionable language.)
To learn more about mondegreens and access additional links on the topic, check out this Wikipedia article; to laugh yourself silly for hours on end, spend some time at The Archive of Misheard Lyrics, which takes its web address (http://www.kissthisguy.com/) from one of the most famous mondegreens of all time, Jimi Hendrix's line from his song "Purple Haze": "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky," misheard by many as "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy." The Archive accepts mondegreen submissions from the public along with anecdotes about the circumstances under which the submitter discovered his error, and some of the stories are downright hilarious.
Here are just a few of the mondegreens that left me in spasmodic giggles last night:
"The girl with kaleidoscope eyes" heard as "the girl with colitis goes by" (from the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds").
"Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer" heard as "Hold me closer, Tony Danza" and "Count the headlights on the highway" heard as "Count the head lice on the highway" (both from Elton John's "Tiny Dancer").
The repetitive chant "Take a chance, take a chance" heard as "Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan" in Abba's "Take a Chance on Me." (The story that accompanies this mondegreen is rolling on the floor funny, describing the incredulous stares that the submitter received when she observed that Jackie Chan must have been really popular in Scandinavia for Abba to sing about him in their song.)
The more you think about mondegreens, the more pervasive you realize they are. My very own family is a virtual mondegreen factory, with two older children who go around purposely misunderstanding each other in the name of comedy and a 4-year-old who seems to come up with at least one mondegreen per day (a couple of recent ones are "I challenge you to a jewel!" and "Here's a letter from the ghost office").
So it's time to come clean--what mondegreens are part of your past? What songs have you belted out with gusto while taking a shower or driving down the road only to discover (perhaps under embarrassing circumstances) that you had the words all wrong? What sayings or poems did you learn incorrectly? To my church-going friends: what hymns, prayers or liturgy did you think you had memorized, only to discover that the words were not what you thought? (To help you get the synapses firing, here's one I heard recently from a young worshipper: "Thanks be to God" transformed into "Thanks Pizza God.")
If you're so inclined, kindly share your favorite mondegreens (family-friendly, please) in the Comments window, and we'll all enjoy some good belly laughs!
Friday, November 30, 2007
But I agree--sometimes they can't be beat for getting at the meat (I'm on a roll today, aren't I?) of what you want to say.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Yet if you think about it, the reason a cliche becomes a cliche--the reason it is overused in the first place--is that it contains truth. And at one time it was vivid in its freshness, a particularly striking image for its intended reader or listener.
Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:
"Take time to stop and smell the roses."
"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."
"Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."
All three are such well-worn phrases that they float in and out of our brains without leaving much of an impression, yet they contain wise words that any of us would do well to heed.
Take that last one, for example. Sometimes if you put something off too long, the opportunity to act recedes entirely. So someone else gets the last piece of pie. Or that skirt on the sale rack gets purchased by another shopper. Or that dear old person dies before you get around to visiting. And sometimes you miss doing the thing you should have done by just a matter of days, and you kick yourself even more (there's another useful cliche).
Here's a poem I really like by Sara Teasdale. (I think one reason I appreciate it so much is that when I read it I also hear the music that is paired with it in a particularly gorgeous choral setting with which I am familiar.) It's about embracing life in its tinest moments, being willing to "spend" time on the beauty that is available for "purchase." Some people might find even this poem a bit cliched. I still like it.
The U.S. response has been decidedly weak, with vacuous comments about one friend (I guess that would be the United States) counseling another (our buddy Russia) not to do things that are detrimental to its own well-being.
I am disappointed that our government did not greet this action with the condemnation it deserved. And I think this is one brave man.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Then again, maybe I just need to cut back on the French roast.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
"Wednesday, May 4, 1983 - Paul Laxalt came by to talk a little politics. He's being pushed by friends who want to start fundraising etc. for '84. We agreed it was not a good idea." (p. 149)
Did you get that? With his bid for re-election only 18 months away, President Reagan decided it was too early to start talking about fundraising.
Granted, he was an incumbent, and we are currently looking at heated primary races in both the Democratic and Republican parties. But it nevertheless seems like these presidential campaigns are getting longer, and longer, and longer . . .
Thursday, November 22, 2007
If so, check out this new voice, quickly distinguishing itself as one to hearken to among the growing din of political commentary:
Boris the Labradoodle
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The tournament site was the Kings Island Resort & Conference Center (right next to the Paramount Kings Island Amusement Park). The tournament sponsor, Continental Chess, negotiated an awesome room rate for participants, so we enjoyed a resort atmosphere at a budget hotel price.
Here's a picture of our accommodations . . .
. . . and the view from our room.
The amenities included a playground which Trevor's younger siblings enjoyed making use of.
Mom and little brother even got in some tether ball.
There were other amenities available that we did not make use of, including an arcade and pool (one of us accidentally left her swimsuit behind). Mostly we enjoyed reading, eating, walking, blogging, watching movies in the hotel room (we finally saw The Princess Diaries six years after its theatrical release), and sleeping.
And oh yeah, one of us played some chess! Because he is moving beyond the "shake hands with your opponent and smile for the camera" phase (some of his opponents are middle-aged and older people who frankly don't care to smile for the camera), I don't have any photos of Trevor from this trip. But I am exceedingly proud to report that in his rating class (Under 2100) Trevor was one of three players who tied for second place. There was also a tie for first place, so those two players split the first and second place prizes, and Trevor and the players with whom he tied split the third, fourth and fifth place prizes. To see the final results, click here and scroll down to the Under 2100 list.
People tend to be highly impressed when Trevor brings home prize money, but frankly what interests him more is seeing his rating go up, and that happened again with this tournament, as he gained 15 points (moving from 2003--just barely an Expert--to 2018--an Expert with a little cushioning!). On the final night of the tournament, I was approached by a young man in his twenties who reminded me that several years ago he had played Trevor in the Chicago Open (Trevor would have been 10 or 11 and this young man 18 or 19 at the time). He shook his head, remembering the boy he had played and the fact that at the time he and Trevor were in the same rating class, but observing that now Trevor's rating is more than 400 points higher than his. Smiling ruefully, he asked me how these young players manage such huge leaps forward. I told him what I have been told by other chess parents--that something seems to happen in adolescence that spurs a cognitive explosion, and it is common to see the young chess player experience remarkable improvement in a short period of time. But I also shared that Trevor's improvement is the result of serious study and hard work over the last five years as he has taken lessons from Grandmaster Yury Shulman and spent countless hours reading books about chess and analyzing games, both his own and those of others. Excellent performance in chess, as in anything else, is not just a matter of talent but one of skill as well, and that skill is only improved with long hours of study, hours that Trevor has most definitely been putting in for years now.
Congratulations, Trevor, and thanks from your family for a great weekend!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
So where does a Lutheran choir go for an overnight retreat? To a Lutheran camp, of course!
The retreat began at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday evening. After pizza, the choir gathered for its first rehearsal of the weekend:
Since there was no piano or organ available, we had to provide our own. Here's the Cantor leading us in warm-ups:
Between rehearsing, there was plenty of time for fun and fellowship. I think this is what you call a May-December romance?
Evan enjoyed bunking in the guys' quarters.
Behind every choir member is a supportive family. Here's one of our faithful altos and hers:
Bass and tenor foosball game:
The younger, more limber set enjoyed some Twister . . .
. . . while the more mature among us engaged in some sedater activity (wait a minute, one of those Twister participants managed to get in on the card action as well)!
There was also time for a little solitude. Here's our newly wedded "Unter-Kantor."
Walcamp definitely has a way of bringing out one's inner child (bonus points if you can recognize that goofy-looking gal on the left):
Our fearless leader, who if I may say so (I know I'm slightly prejudiced), did an "bang-up" job planning and executing an amazing weekend.
Our gathering came to a close on Saturday evening, giving everyone time to return home and prepare for Sunday morning worship. The consensus among those present (about two-thirds of our choir were able to attend) was that the time was exceedingly well spent. Not only did we improve ensemble singing and make significant progress on our music for the year, but for some this 24-hour interruption to everyday life came at just the right time, providing a much needed opportunity for reflection, relaxation and rest. And equally valuable was the chance for choir families to bond with each other--those spouses and children who fend for themselves every Thursday night so that their resident singer can rehearse, and who dutifully and uncomplainingly accept early-morning warm-up times and long mornings at church because the choir is singing for multiple services, and who repeatedly sacrifice the experience of sitting together as a family so that their family member can sit with the choir. Families of choir members are truly unsung heroes, and this was a great chance to affirm them as well.
I don't know if the family choir retreat will become an annual event, but I definitely think there are more of these in our future!