". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, May 31, 2007


As a part of what seems our never-ending Civil War unit (I don't know why we can't seem to move beyond it), the children and I recently watched the movie Shenandoah (1965). It is the story of a Virginia widower and father who tries his best to stay out of the conflict but who is drawn in when his youngest son is taken prisoner by Union forces who mistake him as a Confederate soldier. The film was recommended to us by a family member who knew we were studying the Civil War, but after watching I don't think I would make the same recommendation. Not that it isn't a good movie--it features Jimmy Stewart as the patriarch of the family plus a young Katharine Ross as his daughter-in-law--but the Civil War setting is really not crucial to the story. Instead, the film is more of a family drama that just happens to take place against the backdrop of the Civil War. One of my favorite scenes depicts a suitor approaching Jimmy Stewart's character to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. Stewart's character responds by asking why this young man wants to marry his daughter. The young man answers, "Because I love her" to which Stewart's character asks, "But do you like her?" What an excellent reminder that the basis for a successful marriage is not that feeling we so loosely call love but rather common ground, friendship, admiration, and respect.

Campaign Season

I happened to be watching Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox News Channel last night and caught her interview with Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. Several observations: she is gorgeous--trim, youthful, stylish and impeccably groomed. And my initial impression of her is that she came across as a little more "real" and down to earth than what I've seen in interviews with Mrs. Romney. But I also couldn't help wondering: where in the world were McCain's handlers? Mrs. McCain indeed looked lovely, but I don't think her outfit for the interview was screened by McCain's image department. She wore snug white capri pants with a tight pink knit shirt with an extremely plunging neckline revealing lots of cleavage. Not exactly typical First Lady stuff.

Speaking of Phil . . .

Yesterday he was contacted by Northwestern Publishing House seeking permission to include "If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death" (LSB 486) in the supplement to Christian Worship (hymnal of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod). The words of the hymn were written by Christopher Idle; Phil set those words to music. It is a glorious wedding of text and tune, and I am not surprised that others have taken notice. If you haven't discovered it yet, I encourage you to do so!

Happy Birthday, Phil

Today is my husband's birthday. He is quite simply the most amazing person I have ever known--the smartest, the most talented, and yes, the handsomest. (To take a peek, click on the "What a Way" link under Music, Worship & Liturgy at right.) So much of who I am comes from knowing him for 24 of my 42 years of life. I was a Democrat when we met; now I'm a Republican. I was a Roman Catholic; now I'm a Lutheran. I was a single girl; now I'm a wife and mother. I was young; now I'm old (oh, wait a minute--I guess that would have happened anyway).

There are many things Phil could have chosen to do with his life. With his great musical talent, he could have been an entertainer. With his knowledge of history & current events and his marvelous speaking ability, he could have been a political commentator. With his wacky sense of humor, he could have been a comedian.

But the Lord had different plans for Phil, calling him instead to the noble profession of cantor. No one takes more seriously that role, which is to lead God's people in singing His word. And for the almost 20 years that Phil has worked in that capacity, I have been doubly blessed to be not only his wife but also a member of the congregations in which he has served. I have watched as this classical and jazz pianist has taught himself to play organ, learned choir directing through on-the-job training, and composed music as needed to serve the liturgy and the assembly. And I have watched him grow in all of those areas to the point that others now turn to him for instruction and advice.

Yet I know Phil would say that even more important than his vocation of cantor is his vocation of husband and father. And he approaches that vocation with a truly sacrificial attitude, loving his family "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25), working tirelessly to provide for our needs and taking to heart his charge to keep his family's eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.

A few weeks ago my Lutheran homeschooling friends were sharing "how we met" stories online. At the time I kept mine brief, stating just the facts: Phil and I met at music school when I was 18 and he was 19 and married when I was 22 and he was 23. The truth is, I can't remember the very moment Phil and I first laid eyes on each other or even the very first time we talked. But I do remember clearly when I fell in love with him. It was at his junior piano recital. A few friends and I had volunteered to provide refreshments for those in attendance. After the reception, when everyone else had left, Phil and I went back into the recital hall, and instead of playing Beethoven or Bach or Mozart, Phil played and sang to me Elton John's "Your Song":

It's a little bit funny this feeling inside.
I'm not one of those who can easily hide.
I don't have much money but boy if I did
I'd buy a big house where we both could live.

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it's not much but it's the best I can do.
My gift is my song and this one's for you.

And you can tell everybody this is your song.
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world.

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss.
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross.
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song.
It's for people like you that keep it turned on.

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue.
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen.

Well, I was hooked. And still am. Happy birthday, Phil. I love you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Heading Towards 2000

As mentioned in previous posts, Trevor played in the Chicago Open Chess Tournament this past weekend. He made a fine showing, winning four out of his seven games. But even better, he netted 16 rating points, bringing his USCF rating to 1990 (rating points are calculated according to a formula that takes into account a player's wins and losses as well as the relative strength of his opponents). That is only 10 points short of the 2000 needed to be considered an "expert," quite a feat for a 14-year-old. Congratulations, Trevor!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More from Fahrenheit 451

Still reading . . . here are a few more quotations that I found to be particularly applicable to contemporary culture:

Clarisse on: "People don't talk about anything. . . . They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things. . . . And most of the time in the caves they have the joke boxes on and the same jokes most of the time, or the musical wall lit and all the colored patterns running up and down, but it's only color and all abstract. And at the museums, have you ever seen? All abstract. That's all there is now. My uncle says it was different once. A long time back sometimes pictures said things or even showed people."

More from Clarisse: "My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn't want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porches because . . . they didn't want people sitting like that doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong kind of social life."

Beatty (the main character's boss): "You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? . . .Someone's written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag."

Beatty on politics: "If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him: give him one."

On schooling: "The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Fahrenheit 451

Somehow, notwithstanding a Master's degree in English, I never got around to reading this book. (Hey, what can I say--it was never assigned!) I thought it was high time so I have been doing so over the last few days while Trevor plays chess. As a former public school teacher who has lost faith in institutional education and who teaches my children at home, I was particularly struck by the following passage. In it, the main character (a man named Montag whose job it is to burn books) is speaking with a young woman named Clarisse, whom he has recently met. She is an unusually free spirit in the controlled and censored society of the novel, and Montag's encounter with her is the catalyst which starts him questioning that society (and his occupation). He notes that she is not in school, as most people her age would be, and she responds as follows:

"Oh, they don't miss me. . . . I'm antisocial, they say. . . . But I don't think it's social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you? An hour of TV class, an hour of basketball or baseball or running, another hour of transcription history or painting pictures and more sports, but do you know, we never ask questions, or at least most don't; they just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film teacher. That's not social to me at all. It's a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it's wine when it's not. They run us so ragged by the end of the day we can't do anything but go to bed or head for a Fun Park to bully people around, break windowpanes in the Window Smasher place or wreck cars in the Car Wrecker place. . . . I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. . . . But there was a long time ago when they had things different. They believed in responsibility, my uncle says. Do you know, I'm responsible. I was spanked when I needed it, years ago. And I do all the shopping and housecleaning by hand."

Children killing children. Talk about prophetic.

In Memoriam

Roy C. Hollis, 1915-1994

I am thinking about my dad today. Although he did not give up his life for our country, he did put it on the line. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in November of 1943 and entered active service the following month. He served as a Staff Sergeant in Troop B of the 106th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. His occupational specialty was rifleman. His Separation Qualification Record states that he “supervised the activities of 11 men in a rifle squad. Was responsible for the control, coordination, and tactical employment of squad. Loaded, aimed, and fired a .30 Cal Garand rifle. Is familiar with carbine, Browning automatic rifle, machine gun, etc. Also is familiar with all types of hand weapons and hand to hand fighting techniques.” His discharge papers list the following battles and campaigns: Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. Decorations and Citations received were the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; the Good Conduct Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and three Bronze Service Stars. He was honorably discharged on November 1, 1945.

As I was growing up I remember my dad talking about how he fought at the Battle of the Bulge, how he marched from the English Channel to Czechoslovakia, how he almost got run over by a German tank, and how he was the only original member of his squad to survive the war. He wasn’t a religious man, but when he spoke of the war he thanked God for protecting him and bringing him home. He said that on more than one occasion he remembered a fellow soldier waking up with the feeling that his time had come--that he would not survive the day--but my dad said he never had that feeling. Somehow he always knew he would make it home.

I regret that I didn’t pay more attention to his stories and that I didn’t appreciate all that he went through in service to his country. My dad died on June 16, 1994 at the age of 78 after an extended battle with lung cancer. He is survived by five children, six stepchildren, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, one sister, and his second wife (my mom).

I still miss him. Thank you, Daddy, and rest in peace.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Election Musings

My son asked me a couple of interesting questions yesterday:

1) If we are to have a Democratic president next time around (a big "if"), which of the current candidates would you prefer?

2) Of those current Democratic candidates, which one (as a Republican voter) would you prefer to go up against?

After some thought, here are my answers:

1) Considering that he is the only one of the Democratic field who voted for the Iraq funding bill that just passed overwhelmingly, I think I would say Joe Biden. Bill Richardson (who did not vote on this bill because he is not in Congress) would be the other preferred choice.

2) John Edwards, because I think he is the most beatable.

I think the Democratic candidate that scares me most is the not yet announced Al Gore. He has become a mini-celebrity, and I think he would immediately catapult to the front of the pack. The Hollywood crowd would be empowered, and the American public might just vote him in because of a sense that he got "cheated" his last time around and deserves a second chance.

Anyone else want to chime in?

Speaking of Chess . . .

We have been awash in it all week as Trevor has been following the U.S. Chess Championship that was played in Oklahoma. A large part of his interest is due to the fact that his teacher, Yury Shulman, competed and ultimately tied for third place. Trevor was able to view the games online as they were being played and spent many an hour doing just that (one of the benefits of homeschooling). If you are interested in reading more about the U.S. Championship, click on the link at right for the U.S. Chess Federation. You will be connected to the USCF site, which has an article about the tournament, including a photo of Yury. You can also find about more about Yury by clicking on my link for his website. If you have ever tried to find a private teacher for your child for instruction in music or something else, you know that it is not always an easy task. We have been through several chess teachers over the years but have finally found someone who is not only at the top of his field but who has turned out to be the kind of teacher one always hopes for: a truly kind person who sincerely cares about his students.

Chess Days

The Chicago Open starts tonight in Oakbrook, Illinois. It is one of the foremost competitive chess events in the nation, and we are blessed to have it happen within 30 minutes of our house. So for the next four days we will be making daily pilgrimages to the playing site to allow Trevor to play seven rounds of chess. The down side of all of this is the current price of gas in Chicagoland: last night our neighborhood station was advertising $3.75 for a gallon of mid-grade. The up side, apart from the joy of watching my son spend four days doing one of the things he loves most, is that while he is playing chess the lucky parent who is chaperoning him has nothing to do but sit and read, in quiet no less!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


That's it, I'm calling off school today. Phil just reminded me that he is having the pastors over to our house tomorrow for their annual all-day worship planning retreat. They were supposed to come a few weeks ago but ended up cancelling; Phil says he told me the rescheduled date, and I'm sure he did, but I have no memory of it. (Why does communication with one's spouse seem to get harder the longer you are married?) So now I need to clean the house and go to the grocery store. Then there's the piano practicing I need to do this morning so I can rehearse with the day school choir today for the concert I am accompanying tonight, not to mention the four piano students who are expecting lessons today. And I just want to sit around and blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tagged Again

I think Jenn tagged me on this one, but I'm having trouble accessing her blog, so I actually found the question on Lora's blog: what did you want to be when you were 5, 10, 15 & 20?

5 - That little girl with the watering can (see picture at right).
10 - a piano teacher, nurse and schoolteacher (I have done two out of three of those)
15 - more popular (failure)
20 - married to Phil (success!)

Let's see, who can I tag? How about Jenny, Barb K., Kristi, Melynda, & Glenda?


A few people have asked if they can link to my blog, so here's my official permision: link away! Being the neophyte blogger, I have linked boldly without asking anyone's permission. I trust you will alert me if I have overstepped!


Oh boy, my first time to get "tagged"--what fun! (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

Let's see . . . seven things I have learned in life . . .

1. When you move to a new place, the first people to become your friends usually aren't the ones who last. It takes time to find those.

2. It's really, really hard to cook a good pot roast.

3. It's almost impossible to tell what a cantaloupe is going to taste like on the inside by looking at it on the outside. (If anyone wants to help me with this one, feel free!)

4. I can't play chess. My son can.

5. Never buy a house with a sunroom.

6. If the owner of the house you are considering buying has moved out but has left behind a mop, ask WHY.

7. When the owner of a house you are considering buying says "we don't use that" what he really means is "it's broken."

So, does the fact that I could continue with this list indefinitely mean that I have made more mistakes than the average person?

Still Here

So, it has now been around 14 hours since my first post, and checking back in I see that it's still here! And wonder of wonders, it looks just like it did when I left (plus a few comments from some very nice visitors)! And even more amazing, nobody ate it or got it dirty or lost it or dropped it or spilled anything on it, nor did the beagle walk across it with her muddy feet or the 3-year-old put his sticky hands all over it. Woo-hoo! Thanks to everyone who has stopped by so far. As soon as I get a little more time (and with your permission), I'll be adding some more Looper links. Maybe then I can find and read your blogs more easily!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Taking the Plunge

As I write my inaugural post, I find myself wondering: why? Why another blog? I frankly don't have time to write one, and I doubt you have time to read it. I know I already have a hard time keeping up with the short list of blogs I like to visit. So why clutter things up with yet another?

Of course I would like to think that maybe somewhere along the way I will write something that will be a help or encouragement to someone I care about. And indeed that would be a salutary thing. But over the past few days of creating this blog I have come to realize that my primary motivation is a selfish one. The truth is that I am doing this for me.

I am a 42-year-old wife and mom who is completely content with my vocation. I know that what I do every day matters to the people I care most about, and I have no desire to complicate my life with a "career." At the same time, in the last few years I have started to feel like I am losing myself in the blur of life. There was a time when my accomplishments consisted of things like the book I had just read, or the paper I had just written, or the piano sonata I had just learned. There was a tangibleness to those things that was very satisfying. But these days my most important achievements are largely invisible. I cook a meal; it gets eaten. I finally reach the bottom of the laundry basket; within a day it's filled again. I know that what I do in these areas is valuable, but it's frustrating that they are so ephemeral. By far the most worthwhile expenditure of my time-- listening to and encouraging my husband and children--is even more abstract.

So how can a blog--a virtual location in cyberspace--possibly offer the concreteness that I seem to be longing for? Ironically, in just the few days I have been constructing this one, I have rediscovered something of myself. In putting together my "profile," I have remembered some of the books that made an impression on me, the music I used to listen to, and the movies I particularly enjoyed. I have asked myself, "What am I really interested in?" and "What do I care about?" It has been fun to pull it all together. And I have also gleaned a lot of pleasure from the sheer orderliness of it all. Everyday life may be a chaotic mess, but a peek at my nice, neat blog gives me hope that I might be able to handle it after all!