". . . 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)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Well That Explains It

A new study out of Great Britain suggests that people around the world are most likely to experience depression in their forties and that the average age at which people are the most miserable of all is 44.

Oh, great. I'm 43 and my husband is 44. So I guess that means things are going to start looking up for him but for me the worst is yet to come?

No wonder it's been a tough year. But the good news according to the study is that once a person makes it out of his forties his happiness level steadily starts to increase and that once he reaches his seventies he experiences a sense of well-being comparable to that of his twenties.

So that's why my mom is having the time of her life these days!

This study really doesn't surprise me. It's just common sense that when the most financially and emotionally challenging decade of one's life (due to the demands of family most people face) meets up with the realization that youth is fleeting and that the body is starting to show its age, one might get a little blue.

According to the report on this study that I heard on the radio today, the best mechanisms for coping with fortiesh depression are exercise and alcohol (in moderation of course). Well, there you go. I'm working on the first and will be happy to continue incorporating the second.

Anyone want to join me for a rum punch?

Sewing 101

I sewed yesterday, and I used this!

Now I know some of my readers--this one, or this one, or maybe this one--are probably shrugging their shoulders and saying, "So what? I do that every day!"

But let me explain. I haven't used a sewing machine since I was a freshman in high school and took home economics. I had a really good teacher (she was married to my algebra teacher--also excellent), and she succeeded in guiding me through sewing a skirt and blouse that I actually wore for a while. But since then my sewing has consisted of the occasional hand-sewn repair, hem, or button.

A few years ago my daughter (who is much more creative than I) started sewing on her own, making clothing for her stuffed animals as well as assorted other items that she dreamed up. As I watched her working entirely by hand I decided to start looking around for a used sewing machine. I ultimately found what I thought was a great buy on Ebay (a Kenmore model complete with cabinet for $10) but upon trying to use it discovered some operational problems. So it sat, awaiting a more mechanically inclined person to come along and get it running. Eventually I sold it (again through Ebay) to someone who was better able to give it the TLC it so obviously needed.

Then a few months ago a dear friend offered me the machine above (in respect of her privacy I won't name her here but will let her "out" herself in the comments if she wants). I brought it home and as the rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas and the New Year ensued, it patiently awaited its first use. That day finally came yesterday! (Yes, I know you sewing types can't believe such a nice sewing machine could sit around unused for 3 months, but remember--I AM NOT A SEAMSTRESS.)

My heart beating, my fingers trembling, my aging eyes straining, I attempted a simple repair job on my falling apart three-compartment laundry bag. And lo and behold, I remembered how to thread the machine! And more amazing still, I sewed! If things continue going this smoothly, my living room windows may yet see some drapes this year!

But first a question to my sewing benefactor (you know who you are): how do you wind those bobbins again?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Answer Me This

Why is it that as long as I am washing dishes or doing laundry or engaging in some other mundane and mindless household task I find myself awash in solitude, but as soon as I attempt something that requires a bit more brain power (like reading or blogging or having a conversation with someone) I suddenly become the most interesting and desirable person in the house?

Just wondering.


As I consider the current state of the Democratic primary race, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I find it quite satisfying to see the Clintons having to fight for what they obviously think they are entitled to. And when I look at Obama I can see why so much of the country is gravitating towards him. He is young, energetic, intelligent, and attractive; he has a beautiful family that he adores and that adores him; and he has an undeniable gift for oratory. If I were throwing a dinner party I would much rather hang out with the Obamas than with the Clintons. Yet all that I am hearing from Mr. Obama in the way of a message right now are nebulous things like "hope" and "change" and "unity." I know all politicians throw those words around, but with Obama they seem to be the meat rather than the fixings. And when he does put forth a policy statement or opinion, it is easy to see that the word "change" is nothing more than fluff because from what I can tell he embraces the typical entrenched liberal Democrat approach to problem-solving (more government and more money).

So as much as I love seeing Hillary sweat, and as much as I would love nothing more than to see the Clintons get put in their place, I will be pulling for Hillary to get the Democratic nomination. Because even though the thought of Bill back in the White House makes me cringe, I think the country would be safer with Hillary at its helm and Bill at her elbow than with Obama leading it. Bill has been there. He has to know what's at stake. I am reminded of his interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News last year and his adamant, quite passionate assertion that he tried to get Osama bin Laden. I believe him--I think he really tried. I'm not sure Obama would bother.

What I'm also not sure of is which of the two Democratic frontrunners would be easier for a Republican candidate to defeat. But my gut tells me Hillary. I think the Clinton negatives are multiplying exponentially these days and people are being reminded of the less charming and likeable side of Bill. And as she fights for her political life, Hillary is having an even harder time than usual turning on the charm. I am seeing more and more pictures of her lately with clenched teeth and grimly set lips, whereas Obama seems to me to be maintaining quite well. If Obama gets the nomination I fear it would be all too easy for our rather shallow and emotion-driven populace to embrace him as the tabula rasa upon which they could write their own personal narrative about the future without having to grapple with inconvenient things like facts.

On the other hand, once we get past the infatuation stage with Obama and people start taking a closer look, maybe some of the sparkle will start to diminish.

Someone with a smarter political mind than mine has told me that the strongest Republican match-ups would be McCain against Obama and Romney against Hillary. What do you think?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Music to My Ears

Since September, I have been teaching a literature class to a small group of home educated students (my two oldest children plus three others). The students, two boys and three girls ranging in age from 12 to 15 years, read and work independently during the week and gather at my house each Wednesday morning for group instruction and discussion. They are a delight to teach, and my time with them marks one of the more relaxing and enjoyable parts of my weekly routine.

Recently we began a study of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. We are using the Barron's Shakespeare Made Easy edition, which includes a side-by-side layout that pairs Shakespeare's original text with a paraphrased modern English "translation." I chose this edition knowing that several of the students in the class had not read Shakespearean English and would in their independent study need the assistance provided by such a format. However, I have recommended that the best approach would be to read the paraphrased version first so as to gain an understanding of the characters and plot but then to follow up with a reading of the original text with as little reliance as possible on the paraphrase. I think that reading the play this way on an act by act basis is a better strategy than constantly switching back and forth between the two, interrupting the experience of being immersed in Shakespearean English.

Several days ago as my 12-year-old daughter was reading, she looked up at me and spoke this beautiful sentence: "Mom, I think Shakespeare's actual words are a lot better than the paraphrased version." I could have hugged her. I asked her to provide an example of what she was talking about, and she referred me to Act I, scene ii, in which Cassius is planting the seeds of treachery in the mind of Brutus. Brutus has agreed to meet with Cassius at a later time to further hear his concerns about Caesar and to consider what might be done, to which Cassius replies, "I am glad / That my weak words have struck but thus much show / Of fire from Brutus" (I.ii.173-75). The paraphrase reads, "I'm glad that my little speech has sparked off such a show of spirit in you, Brutus."

Better indeed. And my sixth grade daughter sees it and gets it. It's moments like these that I think we're doing something right.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I have a friend who knows how to bake great cookies. But these cookies are not merely delicious (although they are that); they are also made from whole grain organic flour and organic sweeteners. My friend is in fact a phenomenal cook in the Nourishing Traditions style whose interest in healthy cooking and eating arises in part from her background in chemistry and in part from her desire to provide wholesome, nutritious foods for her highly allergic family. For several years now her reputation as a cookie baking phenomenon has been growing steadily, so much so that not long ago she decided to start marketing her creations instead of giving them away for free! The cookies are sold unbaked in dough form and are already available through a local vendor.

Now they are available on the web! Here's a link to my friend's cookie site:

Chrysalis Cookies

If you have a moment, please drop in, browse the site, and pass along the information to anyone you think might be interested. And if you decide to order, I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

As for me, I'm hoping we'll still get a free taste every now and then!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


In her comment on a previous post, my friend Elephant's Child (a Thompson orphan) threw her support behind Newt Gingrich, to which I cried "foul" since Gingrich is not in the race.

Maybe I spoke too soon. I just saw Michael Reagan on television talking about the prospect of a brokered convention (a possibility I have heard mentioned more than once in the past few months), and the one and only name he dropped as a potential draftee to unify the GOP base was Newt Gingrich.

This could get interesting.

Thompson: The (Largely) Untold Story

My state will hold its primary vote on February 5 as part of Super Tuesday. For months now I have been looking at the GOP candidates, trying to settle on one I could enthusiastically embrace. Although that never really happened, I decided last week that the top-tier (and thus viable) candidate that best represented my beliefs was Fred Thompson, and I was pulling for him to stay in the race so that I could give him my vote. But I will admit that Fred never struck me as having the passion for the job that I think Americans want to see, and I worried about his ability to cast a vision and get people behind it. In short, I just wasn't sure if he was up to leading not only the conservative movement but the country.

Now I think the facts, told by Carl Cameron of Fox News (who covered Thompson during the primary campaign), have borne out what my gut was telling me all along. If you are (or were) a Thompson voter, you will want to read this.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Anchoress

One of the blogs I like to drop in on from time to time is that of The Anchoress. She is a politically conservative Roman Catholic wife and mom who writes about all sorts of things, particularly American culture and politics. I appreciate the independence of thought that I find on her blog: she is not afraid to take on the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh nor to speak well of Rudy Giuliani to her Roman Catholic readership.

Last night I checked her blog for the first time in a while and was reminded why I like it so much. I'm afraid if I excerpt it you won't read the whole thing. So please, if you are a GOP voter whose candidate has now dropped out of the race, or a GOP voter who (like me) has been frustrated with the selection before us, or a GOP voter who is considering staying home in November if your candidate of choice does not get the nomination, go and read this and be reminded of what's at stake in this election.

For All My Fellow Pelicans

"Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!

His bill holds more than his belican.

He can take in his beak

Enough food for a week.

But I'm darned if I know how the helican."

Dixon Lanier Merritt (1879-1972)

Fred, I Hardly Knew You

In case you hadn't heard . . .

So, now what? (And I am particularly interested in hearing from the Thompson followers out there.)


A few days ago, my 4-year-old suddenly started having a lot to say about pelicans. Since he had not heard anything about them from me, I assumed he must have learned about pelicans at preschool or perhaps overheard a conversation between his siblings or a program on television. As I was on one occasion trying to sort out his most recent declarations about pelicans, my daughter (who has a knack for understanding her little brother's speech patterns and to whom I therefore frequently turn for translating help) laughingly informed me, "Mom, he's talking about Republicans!"

Do you think maybe our household has become a bit too political? This is not the first time my youngest has had something to say about political parties.

Anyway, good parent that I am, I have been trying to set him straight: "Honey, pelicans are animals. We're Republicans. Repeat after me: Re-pub-li-can."

I'm not sure it's sinking in. Last night I asked him, "Sweetie, what are pelicans?" His answer: "Pelicans are the good guys."

Maybe I should leave this alone. After all, he may have something there! Perhaps I should even start a grassroots movement, not unlike this one spearheaded by my friend Elephant's Child, to change the Republican mascot from the elephant to the pelican!

On the other hand, I think that this . . .

. . . probably stands a better chance of beating this in the fall . . .

. . . than this.

So maybe it's time to give politics a rest and instead spend some time introducing my little boy to the wonders of the animal kingdom. At the moment, that kingdom is making a lot more sense to me anyway.

(Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. As part of its observance of this day, my congregation will kick off its annual Coins for CareNet campaign, in which individuals take home baby bottles, fill them with spare change and bills, and return them to church several weeks later. The money is then donated to our local chapter of the national Christian pro-life organization CareNet, which works to assist those in crisis pregnancies by helping them to see the value of the life that they have been given to protect and by assisting them in the work of providing for that precious life.

In your prayers today, please consider including this one:

"Lord of life and Judge of all, You alone give life. Protect the weakest among us from the ruthless violence of our day. Guard the unborn babies and their mothers from all harm. Give hope and faith to the suffering and dying that they may never be seduced into taking their own life. Frustrate the ways of those who intend to murder—turn their hearts to You. Cause us to surround the fearful and the suffering with Your mercy. Give health and godly wisdom to George, our President; William, our Chief Justice; the Congress; our Governor; and all who make, administer and judge our laws that they may defend the lives of all. O Lord of light, whose Word conquers darkness, hear our prayer." (Source: LCMS Commission on Worship)

By the way, here are the latest abortion statistics. I hesitate to call it good news, considering the number of babies that continue to be daily sacrificed on the altar of convenience, but I give thanks that of late the direction has been downward and pray that that trend would continue.

"The Lord called me from the womb; from the body of my mother he named my name." (Isaiah 49:1b)

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Over the next few days I am hoping to do some reorganizing and labeling of past posts. It is my understanding that this may result in subscribers to my blog receiving duplicate copies of old posts. So I apologize in advance for any inconvenience and cluttering up of your inbox that this may cause!

McCain Sings Streisand

This made me laugh. And yes, I admit it--I have long been a Barbra Streisand fan. But that doesn't mean I like her politics. (And I much prefer her old stuff to the last 20 years.)

Global What?

Dear Al,

When I woke up this morning, the temperature outside was -7 (just so there's not any doubt, that's a negative sign in front of the 7) and the wind chill factor was -24 (another negative).

So I'm sorry to doubt you, but for this and many other reasons, I am not convinced.

And by the way, have you ever heard of the Global Warming Follies?


A Round Unvarnish'd Tale


For weeks now I have been offering up my thoughts about the GOP primary battle and the various candidates who are vying for the nomination. At one point I took a serious look at John McCain. But I have come to the conclusion that as much as I might like and respect Senator McCain, what the Republican Party (and the country) needs most right now is conservative leadership. And looking at the current slate, I only see three possibilities for that: Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. (I don't include Ron Paul because of one major difference I have with him.) As I understand it, today is a make or break day for Thompson. So as I prepare to watch the proceedings in South Carolina, I just have one thing to say:


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Deja Vu

Does anyone--anyone?--remember what our country was going through 10 years ago at this time?

In case you've forgotten, here's a little walk down memory lane.

Do we really want to do this again?

Oh, and here are some thoughts about how the mainstream media covered the whole mess, including this chilling observation about our supposedly free and independent press in this country:

"But in recent decades, we have all been forced into the same news community, and not by choice. Few now live in cities served by more than one daily newspaper, all of which tend to offer the same set of national and international stories. This has happened largely because of the economics of newspapers, the impact of TV news, and the dominance of a network of newspapers that, under the banner of the “Associated Press,” operate as a competition-suppressing cartel. The single set of national stories we now receive are hatched each night in a front-page-coordinating phone call between the New York Times and Washington Post, which is then dutifully copied by other outlets."

HT: Pajamas Media

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"A Mom's Battle"

If you can, take a moment to read this poem today. And then go hug a military mom (or dad), and say a prayer for their children, whose watch allowed us to go to sleep in security last night.

HT: Boots on the Ground.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Especially for Moms

This came in an email from my mom and made me laugh out loud. I hope it makes you smile, too!

Pregnancy FAQ's

Q: Should I have a baby after 35?
A: No, 35 children is enough.

Q: I'm two months pregnant now. When will my baby move?
A: With any luck, right after he finishes college.

Q: How will I know if my vomiting is morning sickness or the flu?
A: If it's the flu, you'll get better.

Q: What is the most reliable method to determine a baby's sex?
A: Childbirth.

Q: The more pregnant I get, the more often strangers smile at me. Why?
A: 'Cause you're fatter than they are.

Q: My wife is five months pregnant and so moody that sometimes she's borderline irrational.
A: And your question is . . . ?

Q: What's the difference between a nine-month pregnant woman and a fashion model?
A: Nothing (if the pregnant woman's husband knows what's good for him).

Q: How long is the average woman in labor?
A: Whatever she says divided by two.

Q: My childbirth instructor says it's not pain I'll feel during labor, but pressure. Is she right?
A: Yes, in the same way that a tornado might be called an air current.

Q: When is the best time to get an epidural?
A: Right after you find out you're pregnant.

Q: Is there any reason I have to be in the delivery room while my wife is in labor?
A: Not unless the word "alimony" means anything to you.

Q: Is there anything I should avoid while recovering from childbirth?
A: Yes, pregnancy.

Q: What does it mean when a baby is born with teeth?
A: It means that the baby's mother may want to rethink her plans to nurse.

Q: What is the best time to wean the baby from nursing?
A: When you see teeth marks.

Q: Our baby was born last week. When will my wife begin to feel and act normal again?
A: When the kids are in college.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Two Things

Just for fun, at the prompting of my friend The Rebellious Pastor's Wife:

Two names you go by: Cheryl and Mommy. (There are others, but I'm not telling!)

Two things you are wearing right now: pajamas and the ruby & diamond ring my husband gave me for Christmas.

Two of your favorite things to do: blog and watch Fox News.

Two things you want very badly: more time and more sleep.

Two favorite pets you have had/have: Giselle (our previous dog) and Stormy (our recently deceased hamster).

Two people you think will fill this out: Michelle and Kristi (tag, you're it!)

Two things you ate today: homemade whole wheat bread and chili.

Two people you last talked to today: my husband and my son.

Two things you're doing tomorrow: going to the doctor and picking up a friend at the airport.

Two longest car rides: Peoria to Fort Lauderdale & Austin, Texas to Gresham, Oregon.

Two favorite holidays: All Saints' & Transfiguration because they are two of my favorite Christian feast days that haven't been co-opted by the secular culture.

Two favorite beverages: Alcoholic--rum punch mixed by my husband. Non-alcoholic: Obsidian coffee from Caribou.

Anyone else who wants to play, please consider yourself tagged!

Hillary's Voice

Recently I have been thinking of writing a post about Hillary's "discovery" of her voice in the New Hampshire primary. But now, thanks to my friend The Rebellious Pastor's Wife, I don't have to. Read her sensible take on the entire matter here. She has it exactly right.

New Global Warming Site

A friend of mine recently unveiled a new blog devoted to tracking and exposing misinformation and media bias on the topic of global warming. If you find this topic to be of interest, you will definitely want to visit the Global Warming Follies. Here is a description of this site from the author of the blog:

"The Global Warming Follies has two main purposes. It tracks, in the 'Follies' section, the wacky world of the 'Climate Change' true believers as they explain, in so many humorous ways, their views of global warming’s causes, effects and cures. . . . On the other hand, we are not here to say that global warming is not happening. We don’t know if it is or not. The Earth’s temperature apparently did increase somewhat in recent decades . . . but we don’t know that anything Man did caused it. And, no matter what you hear reported everywhere, no one else does either since scientific theories and computer model projections do not constitute proof. In fact, since temperatures haven’t risen at all in nearly a decade it appears that any rising may have already stopped. . . . In any event, we believe that there are problems with the unquestioning way that theories, computer model projections and potentially inaccurate temperature readings are cited by the media as proof positive in man-made global warming. We also find it interesting that, while the media seems to question everything else, they are remarkably incurious on this topic. So, in order to bring some balance to the debate, we also publish in the 'Common Sense' section articles that will hopefully cause you to think a little bit before you accept everything you’re told by the media on the subject of global warming."

I will keep a link to the Global Warming Follies in my sidebar. If you have the time and inclination, check it out!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


What an awesome weekend. Yesterday two of my best buddies came to visit. Both are ladies that I first met online but have since gotten to know in person. It is hard for me to describe the bond that I have with them. Although geography prevents us from seeing each other as often as we might like, when we do get together there is an immediate "click" and we just seem to pick up exactly where we left off. On the surface our lives seem very different from one another: one of us lives in a small town, one in the suburbs and one on a farm in the country; the three of us are in somewhat different stages of our lives, with children ranging in age from very young to adult; and a casual conversation about our own youth reveals some very different backgrounds. Yet these differences are far outweighed by the things we have in common: we are all confessional Lutherans (meaning we subscribe to historic Lutheran doctrine and practice); we are all wives and mothers who believe that our primary vocation is caring for our family; and we are all homeschoolers. So in the three areas that most define our lives--our faith, our vocations, and our lifestyle (because homeschooling is not merely an educational choice but an entire lifestyle)--we are very much alike. And in an age in which society is increasingly secular and liberal, we can as a result find ourselves feeling rather isolated and in fact downright alienated from the dominant culture.

So when several years ago I discovered a homeschooling listserv for Lutherans, I felt as though I had stumbled on a ready-made community that understood me in a way that most people don't. That list as a whole has been a great blessing to me in the support and encouragement it has offered. In addition, over the years I have discovered certain individuals on the list with whom I have a great affinity--a bond that goes even beyond the commonalities previously mentioned. I just like these ladies a lot. So when periodically the opportunity presents itself to see them in person, I find myself leaping at the chance because not only do they share my values, but they are some of the smartest, most sensible and fun people I know.

So this weekend I hosted a "Mamapalooza" (our term for moms getting together to enjoy some fellowship and recreation). One of the aforementioned ladies showed up at my house on Saturday morning and after coffee and conversation we went out to lunch and then took my daughter shopping for patterns and fabric (this kind lady has offered to do some sewing for my daughter since modest, pretty dresses are so hard to come by in the stores these days). Later in the day, my other friend showed up, accompanied by her daughter of the same age as mine, and after supper (punctuated by political insights from my very smart husband) the young people disappeared to the lower level to watch a movie and my friends and I enjoyed some talking and wine and talking and chocolate and talking and . . . . Finally at about 1:00 a.m. someone had the good sense to excuse herself for bed, and typical Lutherans that we are, the other two followed suit. Luckily, the Sunday morning plan was to attend late service (starting at 11:15) preceded by Sunday School at 10:15 a.m. So we did manage to get a tolerable amount of sleep (except perhaps for the one of us who stayed awake reading my daughter's copy of Little Women until--what time, Boots?--2:30 a.m.?)

After church it was home for a quick lunch followed by some shopping (our able-bodied and capable offspring were left with clean-up duty). First stop: Kohl's, for a good buy on some jeans. Second stop: Ikea for the member of our group who is working on a kitchen remodeling project. And of course, no trip to Ikea is complete without a stop at their cafe, where we all enjoyed another cup of coffee and a big slab of something chocolate (what was it called, ladies? Chocolate Explosion? Chocolate Surprise? I don't remember.) See, even our taste in desserts is similar.

Finally the weekend came to an end as it was time for each of us to return to our families and primary vocations. We did so joyfully, because although it has come to my attention that there are those who do not approve of moms leaving husbands and children at home to come together for female fellowship, I know without a doubt that the time we spent together sharing and conversing and discussing and analyzing and laughing and worshipping is time that has built up and encouraged us in our individual lives and that as a result we will be even better wives and mothers and teachers and friends. So to Elephant's Child and Boots (and anyone else who wanted to come but didn't get to this time): let's do it again soon!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Self-Pity Party

Warning: the following post is an exercise in total self-absorption and whininess. Please feel justified in navigating elsewhere at any time!

Can I feel sorry for myself a little today?

I have struggled with acne my entire life. During high school and college, it was of the nuisance variety--sometimes better, sometimes worse, but generally managed with over-the-counter remedies. I consoled myself by looking forward to that coveted day in the future--in my late twenties or thirties--that I would finally "outgrow" the acne curse.

That day never came. I got a job teaching public school and found myself wondering why my adolescent middle school students had better skin than I did. When I got pregnant, the acne worsened considerably. Interestingly enough, during my second pregnancy it got better! But after the second baby, it came back with a vengeance, unlike anything I had ever experienced. For the first time in my life I consulted a dermatologist.

For several years I underwent preventative antibiotic therapy, and it worked. But after a move, I had to change doctors, and the new doctor decided it was time to phase out the medication.

Having already tried several times to go off the antibiotics, I knew the strategy wouldn't work, and I told the doctor so. But he insisted, and as I remained off the medication, the acne returned, worse than it had ever been before. It's hard for me to describe the severity of it. It wasn't just a cosmetic issue. My entire face was swollen and throbbing. It was painful to talk or smile or eat. I didn't want to get out of bed. The lesions were more like boils than pimples. Once as I was eating out with my family one of the lesions spontaneously erupted and started running down my face. Sorry for the gross-out factor, but that's what happened.

Finally the dermatologist, still resisting a medicinal approach, decided to perform minor surgery. He put me on the examination room table and lanced and drained a number of the lesions (sorry, more gross-out). I had bandages all over my face.

The problem was that draining the existing lesions did nothing to prevent new ones from coming. And come they did. In desperation I went to my family doctor (my husband and I were soon to depart on an anniversary trip to Grenada). He took one look at me and immediately prescribed a fresh round of antibiotic therapy. It took time, but finally things improved.

A few years and a third baby later, I decided something needed to change. I didn't want to remain on antibiotics the rest of my life. I knew that part of the reason for the acne getting so bad in my adulthood was probably antibiotic resistance from so many years of taking medication. So as I approached my forties and considered that my husband and I were not planning on more children, I finally decided on a an extreme measure: isotretinoin (better know by its trade name of Accutane).

The isotretinoin made all the difference in the world. It shrank my pores, cut back on my overactive oil production (the root cause of my acne), and succeeded in banishing the acne! The only side effect I experienced was excessive dryness of skin, mouth, and lips--a small price to pay for the elusive dream of clear skin.

Now to the self-pity. In the last few months I have been having those teenage-style outbreaks again. I use Retin-A on my skin nightly, but it is no longer doing the job. I have been putting off seeing my dermatologist, trying to manage this myself, but each outbreak has been a little bit worse. So Monday I see the dermatologist. My fear is that if something is not done now, I will find myself reliving the nightmare of a few years ago.

Yet what are the options? Another round of Accutane? I am willing, but after the recent tightening of government regulations on that drug I am not sure if it is even being dispensed anymore. Then there is the antibiotic route. Again, I am willing, but will it work? And if so, then what? Antibiotic therapy until I finally go through menopause?

I always thought there would come a day that the acne would be history and the wrinkles a future event. Instead, I now have both, plus lots of lovely scars. And as the aging process has its way with my body and the skin sags, it is sometimes hard to tell where the scars end and the wrinkles and "fine lines" begin. Thank heaven for modern make-up. I know: vanity is a sin and beauty is only skin deep and true beauty comes from within and you're only as young as you feel and . . . . sorry, but none of that is helping right now.

So, class, since you made it this far, let's review:

1) My skin is breaking out.
2) I have a very special social engagement coming up this weekend (two of my best girlfriends are coming to visit).
3) I am 43 years old.

What is wrong with this picture?

Another Debate . . .

. . . and I missed it. Well, most of it anyway. And wouldn't you know, it turned out to be the one where Fred Thompson finally got some "buzz." According to the Fox News focus group, he was the hands down winner. Even so, many of those who thought he won and were impressed by his performance said that it was "too little, too late" to make a difference. (Too little too late? After one caucus and two primaries? Can someone help me out here?)

I did get to hear the closing minutes of the debate on XM radio (my husband has still not moved it from my car!) as my son and I were driving home from choir last night. Just a few observations: as I listened to the candidates' words (most of them, anyway) on the importance of supporting our ally Israel, I felt very proud and was reminded of one reason I am a Republican. These words would not be heard on a Democrat debate.

I also appreciated Mike Huckabee's comment when asked about the Southern Baptist statement he signed in 1998 asserting that "a wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ." I was pleased that he didn't back away from that statement but stood by it, explaining it in terms of right and left kingdom (although he didn't use those words) and asserting that while as president he wouldn't attempt to impose his faith on the country he would also not apologize for it. As he explained the scriptural foundation for his belief, he also asked if, since the debate was starting to look like a worship service, he might not go all the way and pass the plate since his campaign could use some additional funding. That got quite a laugh.

I was also glad to see Ron Paul on the stage last night. He should not have been excluded from the last debate. Although I will not vote for him, I agree with many of his ideas and think he adds a great deal to the discussion.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Another Award!

First, an aside to my dear family: sorry, but your favorite blogger-in-residence is about to become even more insufferable than usual, because I JUST GOT ANOTHER AWARD, and this one is cool beyond words.

It comes from my genius friend Elephant's Child (a.k.a. "Wonder Child" in my book because of her youth and the fearfully impressive gallery of knowledge and talent she has at her fingertips), and that makes it even better.

The Daily Dose Award, as it is called, started here, with the goal of highlighting blogs that are so valued that they are sought out--at least by someone--on a daily basis. In the words of the originator of the award: "So here's to all the blogs that you've discovered that you can't possibly live without. They make you laugh, cry, think and feel connected every time you read a post. They give you a thrill as you see them loading into your browser and you get an equally satisfying thrill when you see that they have commented on your blog."

Elephant's Child, thank you for the honor and your very kind words. As I consider whom I might similarly recognize, several blogs come to mind. There are many that I like to frequent, but life being what it is, there is only so much time in the day. When that time is short, I find myself going not to political or informational or theological blogs but rather to my friends' blogs because it is there that my sense of isolation is lessened and that I find myself truly encouraged and supported in my daily life. One such blog in particular was probably the first one I got into the habit of reading as well as the blog that inspired me to start my own. It is replete with practical advice as well as humor, inspiration, and wisdom. And the author updates regularly! So tops on my list of "The Daily Dose" is none other than Susan's Pendulum. I first got to know Susan online through a Lutheran homeschooling listserv; eventually I met her in person; for years now I have called her friend. I am so glad she blogs, because I'm not sure what I would do without my daily visit to her world.

Big Dreams

Conversation with my 4-year-old as I was cooking supper last night:

"Mommy, maybe we'll get a new house someday."


"Maybe our new house won't have any cracks."

And to think that when I was 4 years old my fondest hope was that my dad would bring me a sucker home from the store.

New Year's Resolution


That's it. Rather than make a long list of goals that past experience indicates I would quickly start neglecting, I'm keeping it simple this year. So I am not resolving to practice the piano more, or cook more from scratch, or read my Bible more, or floss daily, or be a better listener, or learn how to sew, or organize and print my digital photos, or spend more time planning my children's schoolwork, or stay on top of the filing, or study French more diligently, or lower my coffee consumption, or do any number of worthwhile things that would certainly enrich and improve my life.

If some of those things happen, I will pat myself on the back and enjoy the benefits. But knowing myself as well as I do, I know that if I start making a list I will continue adding to that list until it contains all the elements of "Cheryl's Perfect Life." And then it would be so daunting as to become a symbol of utter hopelessness and I would go down in defeat before I even got started. So this year, no list. Just one little goal.


I have never been an athletic person. It's not that I'm uncoordinated. But I am also neither fast nor strong. I was one of those iconic "last to be picked for the team" kids. I have always much preferred to sit and think or sit and read or sit and play the piano or sit and do just about anything else than move and hurt and sweat. There have been times in my life when I've joined an exercise or aerobics class or even a health club. But invariably I did not see the thing through and the money that was laid down was ultimately for naught. I just don't like to exercise, and thanks to a good metabolism and small-framed, small-boned parents I have never really had to. I pretty much eat what I want, including indulging my highly developed sweet tooth, and still manage to maintain an appropriate weight. If I see the scale go up a few pounds, I slow down on my eating for a week or two until it comes back down.

Yet I know that I am not as healthy as I would like to be. I get winded too easily. I am tired a lot. I would like to have more body strength and stamina. And I am not getting any younger. As I look at my mother, who suffers from osteoporosis, I know that one of the best things I can do to combat the likelihood of following in her footsteps is to build up bone strength by exercising (and taking my calcium supplements). So when my husband recently proposed that we embark on a new effort to get a little more exercise in both of our routines, I didn't have to think twice. (He has always done a better job of exercising than me, especially in recent years. I am really proud of him for several years ago taking off and so far keeping off about 50 excess pounds!)

So the plan is to wake up in the morning, start the coffee dripping, and before doing anything else, simply MOVE. We aren't following any particular book or DVD or exercise plan or aiming for "X" number of sit-ups or push-ups or jumping jacks but instead are just starting the day by MOVING. We've successfully done so twice this week and have enjoyed the time together (talk about a fringe benefit!) and the accompanying feeling of increased energy and alertness. And who knows--if we succeed in this very small goal, maybe . . . but no, I think I'll stop while I'm ahead.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Golden Aardvark Award

I won an Aardie!

For those of my readers who are now wondering, "What on earth is an Aardie?" here is a bit more detailed information. In short, the Aardie is a blogging award bestowed by Orycteropus Afer, proprietor of the confessional Lutheran blog Aardvark Alley and maintainer of the BBOV, a listing of confessional Lutheran blogs. Here is the post wherein the most recent awards were announced.

Thank you, Orycteropus Afer! I am honored and will proudly (but not too proudly) display my Aardie from this time forward!

Tonight's Debate

I watched tonight's Republican debate on Fox News, hoping that one of the candidates would win both my heart and my mind.

None did. I do know (and have for some time) that I will not vote for Mike Huckabee. But beyond that, I'm still undecided. I will acknowledge that Mitt Romney had a good night tonight. I would have liked a stronger performance by Fred Thompson.

I will say that the smartest words I heard uttered all night came during the post-debate wrap-up when Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and current chairman of GOPAC , said that Republicans have been looking for another Ronald Reagan and in this current election cycle, there simply isn't one.

The truth hurts. But I just have to keep reminding myself that any of these will be far preferable to Clinton, Edwards, or Obama in the White House. Come November, I will support the GOP nominee, whoever he is.

Favorite Christmas Decorations

My friend Amused Momma recently wrote about one of her favorite Christmas decorations and invited her fellow bloggers to follow suit. Since we are now entering the season of Epiphany and the Christmas decorations will soon be put away until next year, I thought I better get this post done! I was unable to choose only one decoration to highlight so here are several of those closest to my heart.

The first two turn my thoughts to my husband. This one was purchased in 2002 when we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a trip to Grenada . . .

. . . and this one was made around 30 years ago by my beloved's then much younger hands.

I received this fiddle-playing Santa from one of my sisters a few years back. She thought, and I agreed, that it was a dead ringer for my dad (who played the fiddle and also sported a beard in his later years).

The next three are some of my favorite tree ornaments from childhood. The first one used to be part of a set depicting various elements of the nativity scene. To my knowledge, this is the only remaining one.

I like the way these reflect the tree lights.
And of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus always get a special spot!

This nativity set was a gift to my mother from a coworker when I was about 3 years old. My mother's friend died of liver cancer about a year later. This set is starting to show its age and has had several pieces glued back together over the years, but I still love it. I have been considering buying a new nativity set but have never seen one I like as much as this one.
This is my stocking from childhood. It was made for me by one of my sisters to match the rest of the stockings that had been given to the other children by my mother's father and stepmother. I think the missing eye makes it look like the snowman is winking!
This Rudolph will walk down a slanted surface. As you can see, he has had his share of injuries over the years. He is now in the care of my daughter, who I am sure will protect him from further harm.
Isn't it wonderful how the unpacking of the boxes at Christmastime can take one back in time, calling up memories of Christmases past in the same way certain smells conjure up former times and places? Time to put these all to bed for a while, but I will look forward to seeing them again in about 11 months!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Value of Divisiveness

I find it ironic that the theme of both Obama's and Huckabee's victory speeches after last night's Iowa caucus was change--how Americans are tired of "politics as usual" and ready to put aside divisiveness and come together to work for a shared vision of what their country should be. The message is that patriotic, caring and sensible Americans of both major political persuasions really all want the same things and that we could achieve them if those obstructionist, ideological politicians would only get out of the way.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but that message does not do it for me. Because I am not interested in compromising my principles just to get along. The reason there are two major political parties in this country is that we don't all want the same thing. Some of us want abortion-on-demand; others call it legalized infanticide. Some of us think the government is not doing enough; others think it is doing too much. Some of us think that the government should have the power to decide how American children should be raised; others think that should be left to the parents. Some of us think there should be more and higher taxes to finance bigger and ever-expanding government programs; others think the government already takes and wastes far too much of its citizens' wages.

I could go on. But the point is we don't all have the same vision for the country, and standing on a podium spouting pretty words isn't going to magically unite us. And in my opinion, that's fine. Because I want representatives and leaders who share my principles and who are more interested in articulating and standing by those principles than in compromising. Working together is all fine and good, but only if we are working for the right things. So one thing I will be looking for in the next few weeks is the candidate who is willing to acknowledge that some people are just downright wrong and who is not afraid to say so. Divisiveness? Bring it on.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Reign Over Me

My husband and I watched quite a good movie last night: Reign Over Me (2007), starring Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler. It is the story of a man (Sandler) whose wife and children died on September 11, but it is not a 9/11 movie. Instead, it is a movie about friendship and family and hope. Sandler plays a dentist who as a result of the tragedy in his life has shut down emotionally and become a virtual hermit, closing himself off from everyone with whom he had a connection before losing his family. Then one day he runs into his former college roommate (Cheadle), a dentist and family man with some burgeoning life frustrations. Because this relationship pre-dates the tragedy and the Cheadle character never knew Sandler's family, Cheadle is cautiously allowed in. An old friendship is reignited and each of the men finds his life ultimately enriched--Sandler finally begins to face the pain he has tried so long to escape, and Cheadle rediscovers some aspects of himself that have long been dormant.

The film takes its name from the song "Love, Reign O'er Me" by The Who. It is definitely a film for adults, rated "R" for language and some sexual references.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I have been thoroughly enjoying the slower pace of the past week, hibernating indoors with my husband and children as we engage in some much needed rest and recreation both individually and as a family. At the same time I have also managed to keep up with the laundry, keep the house fairly clean (except for the master bedroom--still haven't gotten around to that one), and cook some decent meals (yesterday we celebrated New Year's Day with our pastor and his wife, serving up a Southern-style smorgasbord of fried pork chops, collard greens, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and buttermilk pie--all homemade!)

In the midst of all of this, however, is a little voice that each day gets louder: "Time to tackle that task list . . . all those things you never have enough time or energy for during the year . . . things like filing & organizing & putting photos in albums & deep-cleaning & advance planning for teaching the children & working up a solo piano piece & studying up on corporate tax law & starting an exercise program & working on reducing your coffee consumption & . . . . ") The first few times I heard that voice I smacked it down; I just wasn't ready. Now I am starting to listen ever so slightly. But as I try over the next few days to take advantage of the larger and more numerous blocks of time that are currently before me, the challenge will be to not lapse back into the frantic, stressed-out and overwhelmed person that I often seem to become in my daily life. I am reminded of something my friend Susan (one of the wisest ladies I know--way too wise for her youthful appearance) has said: I can excel at one thing, or do pretty well at two, or so-so at three, but start adding a fourth and a fifth and a sixth thing to the mix, and suddenly it all comes crashing down. (I'm not sure if I got that exactly right, but I think she will forgive me the loose paraphrase.)

So this week I have been doing a pretty good job of cooking and keeping house (it probably helps that we had company this week and will have more this weekend). And I have even been cheerful about it! But in the near future I will somehow have to start managing not just the cooking and the cleaning but also the homeschooling and the literature class and the piano teaching and the church choir accompanying and the school choir accompanying and the chauffeuring and the editing and the Solo & Ensemble practicing & rehearsing and the chess tournaments and the taxes and . . . .And I don't know how I'm going to do all of that, much less get around to the things on the task list that I will undoubtedly not finish this week.

Time to take a deep breath and channel my best Southern belle: "I'll think about that tomorrow!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Our New Year's Eve celebration was fairly low key. We attended worship at 5:00 p.m. and then came home for a supper of broiled salmon, glazed carrots and salad, with apple-cranberry pie for dessert (yes, I know, we seem to be eating rather well these days . . . but hey, if you can't splurge at Christmastime, when can you?). Then we settled in for a fun family movie: Cats & Dogs. (This movie especially resonates with us as beagle owners since in it dogs are the "good guys" and the hero is a beagle.) After the movie the old folks (uh, that would be my husband and I) turned in, and the younger set stayed up a while longer, but I have it on good authority that only one member of the family actually stayed awake to welcome in the new year (and that was not so much by design as the result of her current writing project).

Attendance at worship was down somewhat from the last few years, perhaps due to the snowstorm that blew in during the day, but it is discouraging nonetheless that the majority of our congregation did not choose to "ring" in the new year with Word and Sacrament, especially since the service time is early enough to avoid conflicts with later social engagements. There was a time--certainly when I was younger--that I would have looked at worship on New Year's Eve as something "good" to do before moving on to the main event of the evening. But now it seems to me an utter "no-brainer" that the best place to be on New Year's Eve is in my Father's house, receiving the gifts that He so freely and graciously gives to His own. What better way to mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next than to fix my eyes upon the One who is both the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the author and perfector of my very life and faith?

Speaking of beginnings and endings. one of the things that particularly struck me about my pastor's New Year's Eve sermon concerned the common view of time. As products of Western culture, we tend to see it linearly, in terms of past, present and future, and we also imagine it as something that is constantly, inexorably moving ahead. Thus, at this time of year we like to spend time looking both backward (as in all those end-of-year retrospectives) and forward (plans and task lists and New Year's resolutions). And that is all fine. But as Pastor pointed out, Christians also realize that God's time is not linear, but spiral in nature, as everything both past and future points to the one event that forever and irrevocably changed the course of human history: the incarnation, life and death of Jesus Christ. Whereas the created world certainly had a beginning and will someday have its end, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is eternal as His Father is eternal, and as we rest in Him there is ultimately neither past nor future because we His children are a part of His eternal plan.

The epistle reading for New Year's Eve is one of my absolute favorites, on my short list of passages for which I can actually cite chapter and verse, and one of those that takes my breath away with its pure Gospel message (the emphasis is mine):

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31ff)

Happy New Year.