". . . 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)

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Audacity of Hubris

It would appear that as Mr. Obama gets closer to the victory he is obviously expecting (but that I am far from convinced of), his high opinion of himself and contempt for those who don't share it is being increasingly displayed. Why else would he feel confident enough to kick reporters from three leading newspapers off his campaign plane with only five days remaining until Election Day? These are reporters who have been covering him from the beginning but whose respective papers (the Washington Times, New York Post and Dallas Morning News) have in recent weeks endorsed John McCain. Might there be a connection there? And might Obama's treatment of these reporters signal how he intends to deal with the press during administration--by refusing access to all but the most adoring?

A similar haughtiness is demonstrated in Obama's comments several days ago ridiculing those who have described his economic plan as socialist. Obama responded by saying that McCain would soon "be accusing me of being a secret Communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich." (source)

Does this man hear himself? People have deep and valid concerns about what impact his "spreading the wealth" tax and economic measures are going to have on the country as a whole and on them individually. But they aren't allowed to ask those questions and get straight answers. Instead they are mocked with ridiculous assertions such as the one above. For the record, Barack, sharing your toys and your peanut butter sandwich was something YOU decided to do with YOUR PROPERTY as a result of YOUR FREEDOM. It was a voluntary act. Assessing higher taxes on one citizen so that you can give that money to another citizen who paid no taxes to begin with is more akin to the teacher coming and taking your toys and peanut butter sandwich away from you so as to give them to someone else. I don't call that sharing; I call it confiscation, and there is nothing voluntary about it. But anyone who dares to question your obviously faulty reasoning is dismissed and mocked.

The history of this presidential campaign is replete with examples of Obama's arrogance, which is in strong contrast to McCain's and Palin's humility. That arrogance is doubtless fed by the worshipful crowds that amass at his campaign stops. I will admit that I have worried about the high numbers of those crowds when compared with the more modest turnout at McCain's appearances (although I have wondered if maybe some of the rally attendees are the same people, who are just following Obama around the country kind of like Grateful Dead fans). But after reading this article by Fouad Ojami, I am less impressed with the specter of the adoring crowd. Because what Ojami argues is that the crowd is not as much a reflection of enthusiasm for Obama as much as for itself. In other words, the good feelings among those in attendance are not founded on anything real but are simply the result of the crowd experience. That experience is intensified because every member of the crowd is able to project onto Obama--the blank slate--whatever they want him to be. It doesn't matter what anyone believes as long as we all believe in THE ONE. If that's where you're coming from, the group experience is all. Because while facts are stable, feelings are fleeting, and if you're basing your hope on feelings you need to feed those feelings by having regular mountaintop experiences. On the other hand, if you're voting on the basis of fact, such emotional experiences are less important, as is the affirmation gained from feeling like you're part of a group.

(Aside to my confessional Lutheran readers: do you see an analogy here between Obama followers and church growthers?)

Voting is a solitary, not a group act. I am hoping that what that means is that Obama's numbers on Election Day will be less than expected, and McCain's will be greater. Because you can't take that crowd into a voting booth with you.

Quote of the Day

I was doing some reading for our homeschool literature class and came across this perceptive observation:

"The true champion of justice, if he intends to survive even for a short time, must necessarily confine himself to private life and leave politics alone."
(Socrates, from Plato's Apology)

Barack . . . oh, Barack . . . are you listening?

"This Is God"

Last Sunday our adult choir sang a new chant setting of Psalm 48 (appointed Gradual text for the day) composed by Stephen Johnson of Liturgy Solutions. The text is grand in its imagery and speaks volumes about the Church's calling to pass along the faith. It has stayed with me all week.

"Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, His holy mountain!
Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers,
Consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels,
That you may tell the next generation, that this is God."
Psalm 48: 1, 12-13 (ESV)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Polls

Why in the world do I even pay attention to these things at all? When the following two headlines can come out on the very same day, something is skewed.

Obama Maintains Comfortable Lead

Obama's Edge Over McCain Narrows

Vote Early, Vote Often

Yesterday when I dropped off my youngest child at at preschool, the teacher encouraged him to vote in a class election: what kind of pumpkin should we carve today? To vote, each child needed to write his or her name on a tally sheet under either the word "happy" or the word "scary." So far, there had been a couple of votes for "happy" but none for "scary." Evan announced his preference for the latter and set about writing his name on the first line while I chatted with the teacher. After a few minutes I looked back to see Evan's progress and discovered that not only had he finished writing his name on the first line, but he had gone on to write it again on the second and third lines as well. What do you know--suddenly "scary" was in the lead!

This is what I get for living in Chicago, I suppose. Time for a lesson in democracy: "Honey, you can't vote more than once. That wouldn't be fair." The two extra votes were dutifully erased and Scary Pumpkin went down in defeat. (It was a close race, though: 4 votes to 3.)

One man, one vote. It's a good concept. If only we could as easily ensure its application in our national elections as we can in a preschool classroom.

Look What I Got Yesterday!

And sorry, but no, I can't tell you where to get your own. This shirt was a gift from a friend and member of my church and is one of fewer than 200 made. It was designed by my friend's sister at the request of both women's father, who is involved in Republican politics at the county level. I was lucky enough to receive this shirt because my dear, dear husband happened to see one in our friend's possession and asked if she could get another for me.

I was wondering what I was going to wear on Election Night. Now I know!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For the Record

I come in contact with a lot of conservatives, some in person and some in cyberspace. Over the last few months, I have heard from several that while they will be voting for John McCain next week, they will be doing so reluctantly, grudgingly, even ashamedly, as the "lesser of two evils." I have also heard it said that a lot of people who are voting for McCain are doing so simply out of fear of the alternative.

Well, I will admit that yes, I am afraid of an Obama presidency. But I would just like to say here, for the record, that while Senator McCain may not have been my first choice for the Republican nomination, and while I may not agree with him on all the issues, he is in my mind hardly the lesser of two evils. Far from it. In fact, I think there is no comparison between him and Barack Obama in the areas of character and conviction and courage and knowledge and understanding and judgment and every other thing that matters in a president, and my vote for him on Election Day will be cast with a clear conscience and utter conviction that at this pivotal moment in history, he is the best man for this job. I look at him and I see, if not a man that I think is 100% correct in all his views, nevertheless a man that I can respect and trust because he understands this country and has her best interests at heart. And that means more to me than I can express.

Come next Wednesday, win or lose, I will be proud to say I stood with John McCain.

Time Warp

This photo is over 22 years old. I can't remember exactly when it was taken, but I think it is pre-wedding and post-engagement. Phil and I will celebrate our 22nd anniversary this coming March, so this goes back a few years!

The cute brunette in the photo is my friend Carmen, a former college roommate and fellow music major at the University of North Texas during the time Phil and I attended there. Carmen is a cellist (I used to be her accompanist--remember, Carmen?) who now plays and teaches professionally in Hartford, Connecticut.

Well, guess what? Carmen--whom I have not seen in over 20 years--is coming to visit me this weekend! I am thrilled to have her come. We had great, fun times together, and she graciously put together the string quartet that played at Phil's and my wedding reception (I don't know why there is a line going across the photo--it is not on the original.)

It should not only be a fun weekend, but an interesting one. My good friend and my fiance used to have some passionate discussions about politics back in college, as Carmen was a liberal Democrat and Phil was a staunchly conservative Republican. Neither of them has changed since then! (I was in transition during my college years, moving from my Democratic upbringing towards following my more conservative instincts, getting helped along by that handsome boyfriend. So at the time I was even less vocal than I am now, choosing to listen more than anything. What I always appreciated, though, was the intelligence and reasonableness of the discourse that I heard from Carmen and Phil. They always managed to argue in good cheer.)

Even though I was politically unsettled during my early college years, I think the indications were there that I would ultimately end up a Republican. Here's a photo from my stint as a security worker at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, pre-engagement to that conservative boyfriend.

Carmen is supporting Barack Obama in the coming election and Phil and I are supporting John McCain. Leave it to us to decide to spend the weekend before the election together! But hey, if Mary Matalin and James Carville can live together day in and day out, I guess a couple of old politically opposed college friends can survive one weekend. Hmmm, I wonder if I could arrange a flat tire on the way to the airport Monday . . . you know, just long enough to delay my Democrat friend's return home until after Election Day!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Love You, Love Your Blog

Dakota Pam (and someone else, I think, but now I can't remember who) was kind enough to give me this award:

Thanks, Pam! I love your blog, too!

It is always so hard to decide whom to pass these on to--there are so many deserving bloggers out there. So to make my life a little easier, I have decided to give the "I love your blog" award to blogs I dearly love written by people that I also happen to love. If you receive this award and want to play along, here's what you should do:

1. Slap this baby up on your blog. Don’t be shy.

2. Link to the giver.

3. Nominate up to seven other fab blogs.

4. Post links to those super blogs you are nominating.

5. Leave messages for your recipients on their blogs . . . so they can feel as special as you.

Here is my list of blogs I love written by some of the people I love:

1. Fine Tuning

2. The Pet Shop

3. Reckless Abandon

4. Ripples of Peace

5. The Renaissance Biologist

6. Alas! Evening Lurks

I'm not leaving them comments because I think they all read my blog regularly enough that they will see themselves here. To my award recipients: thank you for being in my life (of course, two of you have no choice)! You are some of the most awesome people I have ever been blessed to know!

In His Own Words

Several blogs I read have already posted about this today, but just to make sure that no one misses it, I'm going to go ahead and do so, too. Please read this transcript of an interview Barack Obama gave to Chicago Public Radio in 2001 (the emphasis is mine):

Obama: "You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the courts, I think where it succeeded was to get formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples--so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order, and as long as I was able to pay for it I'd be OK. But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn't shifted. And one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which to bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.

Caller: The gentleman made the point that the Warren Court wasn't terribly radical with economic changes. My question is it too late for that kind of reparative work economically, and is that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place?

Host: You mean the courts?

Caller: The courts, or would it be legislation at this point?

Obama: Maybe I'm showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. . . . (Read more here.)

So that "spread the wealth" around comment to Joe the Plumber was just a slip of the tongue, huh? Not indicative of Obama's true philosophy?

Sorry, Barack, I'm not buying it. And if we can get the story out there--the story that you think the American Constitution is a constraining thing from which we need to break free in order to bring about redistribution of wealth and economic justice for all--I don't think the American public will either.

Happy Fifth Birthday--Observed

Not only did Lutherans around the world observe Reformation yesterday, but a little group of them in Chicagoland observed a certain five-year-old's upcoming birthday (both the birthday and Reformation are in actuality later this week). And where do Old Lutherans like to take their young for birthdays?

Chuck E. Cheese, of course!

Who knew that Chuck E was an Old Lutheran?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How To Catch Wild Pigs

From John Kass, Chicago Tribune, October 26, 2008

"I don't know if you could actually catch wild pigs this way, but it really doesn't matter. In this method, you throw bucketfuls of corn on the forest floor. The pigs eat the corn. A month later you put up one side of a fence and more corn. Eventually, the pigs return, get used to the fence and keep eating. And another side of fence and more corn and so on, until you close the gate and you've caught the pigs. They've lost their freedom. They can't figure out what's happened."

Sound familiar?

Read the full column here.

Give This Woman a Promotion (and a Raise)

From what I understand, the Obama campaign has said they will no longer grant interviews to this Florida television station--seems the questions asked by their anchorwoman didn't get passed through the MSM filter. I can't help wondering--is the Obama campaign's reaction to this interview a sign of how they will deal with the press if we have an Obama administration? Ask the wrong questions and you get blacklisted?

I bet Joe the plumber could give us some thoughts on that one.

Reformation Day

By grace! On this I'll rest when dying;
In Jesus' promise I rejoice;
For though I know my heart's condition,
I also know my Savior's voice.
My heart is glad, all grief has flown
Since I am saved by grace alone.

"By Grace I'm Saved" (Lutheran Service Book #566, stanza 6)
Text, Christian Ludwig Scheidt (1709-61)

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Or more accurately, Wii. Last night, thanks in large part to the generosity of grandparents, one came to live in our house, a shared gift to our three children, all of whom celebrate birthdays in October. Video games are probably the one way that our kids--who rarely watch television, go to movies, or listen to popular music--are in sync with their peers. I suppose they get it from their father, who has been known to press a button or two in his day (I am the non-gamer of the family).

Our first game console was the original Nintendo; that was followed by Playstation I, GameCube, Playstation II, and finally, Nintendo DS. When the Wii was introduced, our children knew better than to even ask for one, understanding that it was simply beyond our means. Since then, though, the price has come down somewhat, and so this year, with a significant contribution from my husband's parents, we decided to surprise them. (After all, these poor children just suffered through an interminable 2-week vacation to Grenada--we had to make it up to them somehow!)

Our youngest (almost 5) is following in his older siblings' footsteps and also enjoys playing or watching others play. When he went with his sister to her friend's house, he was thrilled to discover that she not only had a Wii but that she also owned the latest version of Super Smash Brothers, designed for that system. When he asked if he could have the game for himself we replied that it was only for Wii, which we couldn't get because it was too expensive. From that time on the game in question became known as "Expensive Smash."

Last night Evan did not immediately realize that the boxes he and his sister and brother had just opened contained a Wii system. When it was pointed out to him, he looked up and smiled broadly, announcing, "I have a Wii, and it's EXPENSIVE!"

I don't even think he knows what expensive is, but whatever it is, he likes it!

Grand Etang

One of our most memorable family experiences in Grenada was a hike in the rainforest of the Grand Etang National Park. "Grand etang" is French for "large pond"--in actuality a small lake in the park that formed in the crater of a dead volcano. Contrary to what one might expect, rainforests are neither very hot (due to the tree cover) nor crawling with bugs. They are also not the same thing as jungles (although a jungle may be found in close proximity to a rainforest). There are actually two kinds of rainforests: tropical and temperate. I bet you can guess which kind is in Grenada!

By the day of our hike, Phil was getting pretty comfortable with the driving on the right. When we got back to Chicago, he asked me to drive home from the airport because he was afraid he would make an error.

The road leading up to the entry booth and visitor center of the park.

A slightly closer view of the visitor center.

Off we go!

"What took you guys so long?"

Time for a breather.

And another.

The views were breathtaking.

Some of the trails had built-in steps to facilitate climbing.

Crater Lake.

These are mona monkeys. They did not seem at all frightened of us.

Another steep incline!

We thought these flowers looked like swans.

Elephant's Child, do you know the name of any of these flowers?

A pretty flower for a pretty girl. Don't worry, she didn't pick this but found it lying on the ground.

A few more views of the lake.

As we rested at the refreshment and gift shop, we could hear what I assume was a Grenadian (or Caribbean) children's choir singing Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus" on the local Catholic radio station (to which the ticket booth worker was listening). We took particular pleasure in this because my oldest son learned that piece and sang it on his voice recital last year. There was something almost ironic in hearing such a familiar piece of music so far from home. But even had the piece not had a special significance for us, we would still have been moved by the experience of sitting in the midst one of God's most gorgeous natural wonders listening to the voices of children sing about the Bread of Life . . . talk about experiencing a slice of heaven.

And then, tired from our climb, we got to go home to this*! (We timed that meal well, didn't we?)

*Correction to my Cecilia cooking post: she made plantains for us that day, not bluggoe. Hey, they all look like bananas to me, you know?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Socialist Halloween!

With apologies to my Democrat readers (and yes, there are a few, believe it or not!) . . .

HT: Michelle

Stop the Presses!

Or maybe, since we're in the blogosphere, I should say "Stop the blogging" or "Stop the posting." However you want to put it, if you're a confessional Lutheran--especially a confessional Lutheran with children enrolled in any of our LCMS institutions of higher learning--you should drop everything and take a few minutes to read this. And be warned: you're not going to like it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Sad Story and a Happy One

My friend Melody shares some stories of children being bullied in school. For many of us, these are all too familiar tales. I was personally on the receiving end of such persecution throughout junior high school, and I think that experience had at least some influence on my decision to homeschool my own children. I did not want them to be subject to or even see some of the things that I know go on in school. (By the way, what I went through was not just of the "I'm friends with her and not you" variety. It was systematic Persecution with a capital P.)

But thankfully, there are some positive stories out there to balance the negative ones. Here's one from this weekend's Chicago Tribune. Read it and feel a little better about young people today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The End of Conservative America

If you're a conservative or libertarian who is either considering staying home or voting for anyone but John McCain in the presidential election, please read this.

If you have already decided to vote for McCain and would prefer to avoid nightmare-inducing, stomach-churning, lunch-losing reading, feel free to skip it. Your time would be better spent in Bible reading and prayer anyway.


As promised, there are a few more Grenada posts waiting in the wings. Today's is on a subject near and dear to many of your hearts:


About halfway through our stay at Lance aux Epines, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to have an authentic Grenadian meal prepared for us right in our own cottage. We settled on a date with Cecilia, our housekeeper, so that she could do some shopping, and when the day came we headed off for a morning hike in the rainforest while she set up shop in our kitchen. Little did we imagine what would be waiting for us on our return.

Barracuda (purchased fresh at the fish market) with onions and gravy

Callaloo Soup

(L to R) Rice with Pigeon Peas and Breadfruit au gratin

(L to R) Bluggoe and Pumpkin

(L to R) Pumpkin (again) and Mixed Vegetables (Carrots, Green Beans, and Christophene)

The Table Set for Dinner

Phil's Plate

I don't think he's looking forward to this at all.


Not surprisingly, Cecilia's was one of the best meals we had while in Grenada. Actually, make that two of the best meals, because that's how much eating we got out of this spread, and then some. And the total cost, including the groceries as well as Cecilia's fee for shopping & cooking, was a little under $70. Try feeding a family of five two restaurant meals of that quality for that price anywhere in the U.S.!

By the way, Cecilia told me that callaloo and pumpkin are the two main staples of a Grenadian toddler's diet.

Cecilia's sister Elsa was our housekeeper on our first visit to Grenada. How we came to appreciate both of them on our visits, not only for their care while we were away from home, but also for their cheerful ways and friendly willingness to share insights about their country. When we left Grenada the first time, we wondered if we would ever return and see Elsa again. The answer turned out to be yes! We pray that in the same way we will some day return to see Cecilia and maybe--just maybe--eat another one of her home-cooked meals.

One can dream, right?

Chin Up, People

Check out these numbers from Battleground. I know not all of my readers will like them, but I think the majority will. This race is not over!

Lord, I Believe

Yesterday in family devotion we took turns speaking the following scripture to each other. We went around the table in sequence, one person saying the first verse with the person next to him responding with the second, followed by that person then speaking the first verse and the person next to him responding with the second, and so on until everyone had had a turn with both verses. Here are the words we shared with one another:

Person #1 - "[Lord] I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

Person #2 - "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37).

By the time we were finished, even the 4-year-old was saying both from memory. And what comfort we all took in hearing Jesus' assurance that our belief in Him--our faith--is not of our own doing but rather comes from the Father as He gives us to the Son. Just think about it: those words "All that the Father gives me will come to me" are talking about you! In your baptism you were given to Jesus, and He promises to never cast you out! So rejoice and be glad! Yours is the kingdom of God!

Monday, October 20, 2008


My friend Susan recently posted about FOMS--fear of missing something. I am currently experiencing it in a huge way because although I have been back from vacation for several days, I have so far been unable to successfully resubscribe to my Lutheran homeschooling email group. And I miss them! So to any Loopers who are reading this, know that I'm trying to rejoin you, but so far to no avail. I have tried to sign on three times and have sent a note to the list administrator but have been greeted with a wall of silence, so I don't know if any of my mail is even getting through. If anyone would like to offer advice or help, I'm all ears!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Airport Security

It's a good thing I didn't read this article before our trip to Grenada. It recounts the author's undercover investigation of our supposedly improved and enhanced post-9/11 airline security system. He intentionally dressed and behaved suspiciously in an effort to draw attention to himself, but more often than not no one seemed to care. He also successfully got items on the plane that should not have been allowed there, and he was able to board with forged boarding passes and without proper identification. It's scary to read of all that he got away with.

And to think we couldn't even carry on a few jars of nutmeg jam.


Remember what I wrote a few days ago about wanting to move to Grenada if the LCMS decided to put a church there?

Scratch that.

I love Chicago, especially in October.

It's good to be home.

(And I daresay we got out just in time.)

Presidential Comedy

If you watched or listened to any political news yesterday, you may have been treated to clips of the two major presidential candidates speaking at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner Thursday night in New York City. Alfred Smith was a 4-term governor of New York and the Democratic candidate for president in 1928 (I didn't know that; my husband, bottomless source of information that he is, filled me in, and I also looked up some more details here). The foundation named for Mr. Smith is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York and is dedicated to assisting "the poor, sick, and underprivileged of the Archdiocese . . . regardless of race, creed, or color" (source).

You can view both Senator McCain's and Senator Obama's remarks in their entirety here. But if you don't have time for both (it's about 25 minutes worth of video), take my advice and at least watch McCain, because whether you agree with his politics or not, his performance was simply more entertaining than Obama's. Contrary to what one might expect, considering Obama's reputation as a rhetorician, McCain's routine was funnier and his delivery much more convincing than Obama's. He struck me as being completely at ease with the room, and his jokes--though certainly written for him, as I'm sure were Obama's--were delivered with natural comedic timing. Obama, on the other hand, came across--at least for much of his remarks--as stiff and uncomfortable. I sometimes had the experience of realizing belatedly that a sentence was supposed to be a joke. He just didn't seem to be enjoying himself that much. To be fair, he did get better as he went along, but he was clearly uncomfortable at the outset.

Both candidates' speeches followed the same outline: 1) roast the opponent, 2) celebrate the Foundation, and 3) say something nice about the other candidate. I couldn't help noticing that when it came time for McCain to give a tip of the hat to the work of the Foundation, he highlighted their commitment to the pro-life cause, whereas Obama of course had to limit his references to the Foundation's work for the needy. I was also struck by the contrast between the remarks that the candidates directed at one another. McCain's nod to Obama was prolonged and genuinely warm, whereas Obama's came across as formal and obligatory.

Yes, I know--I'm a Republican who is going to vote for McCain, so I am predisposed to give him a better grade. But I also like to laugh, and I appreciate anyone who can entertain me, regardless of his or her politics. If Obama had been the better showman, I would say so.

None of this has any bearing, of course, on whom you should vote for. You should vote for McCain because he is the best man for the job and because his policies will be best for the country. But it's also nice to know that should he win, we'll also be able to enjoy someone in the White House with a healthy sense of humor.

If Obama wins, it's going to be a long four years, for many reasons. And now you can add one more: he's not much fun, either.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

1948, Anyone?

A lot of people are saying the presidential race is over. Others are saying not so fast. (There are three short links in that sentence--they are all worth a look.)

If Harry Truman were alive today, I think he would tell John McCain to hang in there. With 17 days to go, a lot can happen. And the most recent national polls are hardly screaming Obama landslide, with spreads as low as two and three points.

The mainstream media and rich, secular elites are already chilling the bubbly and passing around the glasses. But they might be surprised to find out, come Election Day, that they RSVP'd for the wrong event, and that the American people have decided the real party is somewhere else.

Evan the Shutterbug

The pics in this post were taken by my youngest (all of four years old) while vacationing in Grenada. I think he may have a future in photography, don't you?

On the Beach (Self-Portrait)

In Grenada, this is what they call "limin' about." It rocks.

ZZ Top, eat your heart out.

Just a typical American family enaged in a cutthroat game of Got-A-Minute.

Rum Punch at La Sagesse. Need I say more?

THE MAN, a.k.a. The Cantor, El Conquistador, Jaddy, the Jadster (or sometimes just "the Jad"), Forrest Gump, and Phil-Babe No Pain No Strain. (I think that last appellation, fondly assigned by Phil's sisters in his youth, is particularly apropos here.)

Fans of Evan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Peek into the Future?

Some thoughts on where we may be headed IF Obama wins. (And regardless of what the mainstream media would like you to believe, it's not over yet. Please remember who is driving the press-mobile--and who is riding in the backseat waiting to be delivered to the White House. The common media wisdom is not likely the full story.)

Democrats' Plan for New Deal 2.0 - by Martin Kady II

Unfriendly Rhetoric (on the topic of freedom of speech) - by Mark Levin

Expanding Our Horizons

I sometimes describe my children as living in a bubble. They attend a confessional Lutheran church where their father is the Cantor. They are schooled at home by their mother. Those two places--church and home--make up the bulk of their lives. Poor dears--they don't even watch television, listen to the radio, or go to the movies very much (not that they are clamoring to do so). The primary means by which they escape the rather limited boundaries of their daily activities is through the internet and the written word.

One of the benefits of our trip to Grenada, then, has been for them to see a world far removed--both geographically and culturally--from their own. They have experienced what it is like to be in the minority. They have seen people living in houses on stilts on the side of a mountain. They have watched their father drive on the left side of the road while sitting in the right side of the car. They have been schooled in some of the American behaviors that islanders find offensive (talking too loud, wearing revealing swimsuits in places of business). They have experienced going outside at night and actually being able to see the stars because the city lights are not hiding them from view. They have had the experience of living without air conditioning, with only the the trade winds to offer a cooling breeze (the windows in our own house in Chicagoland are in such poor condition that we can't open enough of them to get decent ventilation--so when warm weather comes to Chicago, our a/c goes on and stays on for the season). They have had to strain to understand their conversation partners, not because those conversation partners don't speak English but because they do so with a vocabulary and dialect that is often quite alien to our own.

They have learned what it is like to have long hours of nothingness stretch out before them, nothingness that they must fill with only books and nature (and yes, a little internet). They have eaten things they have never eaten before: callaloo, barracuda, bluggoe, plantains, mango, star fruit (the Wikipedia entry on this one is kind of worrisome--I hadn't read it before!), papaya, pumpkin soup, breadfruit, conch (pronounced "conk"), nutmeg jam & syrup, pigeon peas, and chayote (our maid called it christophene). They have seen trees, animals, and plants that are unknown to them in the suburbs. And in all of this I think they have been given a new perspective on their life and home and country.

As for me--in addition to all of the things enumerated above, I have learned to embrace make-up freedom, frizzy hair, ponytails, and sweat. And--my committed pale face, landlubber and beach-shunner status notwithstanding--I have even come to love island life. Note to LCMS: if you ever decide to start a mission in Grenada, I know a great musician who would love to serve it.

In the meantime, home beckons. See you on the mainland!

(And by the way, this is my 501st post!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Million Dollar Question

So, how, you may be wondering, does a poor homeschooling church worker manage a 2-week vacation to Grenada, especially when the wife only brings in a part-time income?

Well, he doesn't, not really. Not like some people. We know people who take vacations like this on a yearly basis--heck, on more than a yearly basis. For us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Yes, my husband and I came once before (it was the honeymoon we never had, fifteen years after the wedding). And we dream about coming back here someday. But I doubt that we will ever be here again as a whole family.

But back to the question at hand. How did we manage this? It took some doing. A huge portion of the cost, of course, was simply getting here. When my husband and I came in 2002, our round-trip plane tickets were about $600 each. Multiply that by five people, and you're talking $3000 just for the airfare. That alone is a deal breaker.

That is, unless you take out an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card and spend 3-4 years charging every last possible thing you can on it (and paying it off every month). By doing so, you rack up enough miles to be able to get your family to Grenada for about $180 in taxes and fees! (That's $180 total, not $180 per person).

But there are other costs, you say. Yes, there are. Passports, for one. But now we have them, and they're good for some time (for all that other international traveling we're going to be doing in the near future, donchya know). But by far the largest part of the expense is lodging. We paid about 25% of that up front, but will still have the remainder to pay once our vacation is finished. It will take a few months to do so. And then there's the food. But by staying in a cottage and cooking for ourselves, we significantly minimized that cost. Since arriving in Grenada almost two weeks ago, we have eaten out about five times total. Three of those meals were of the quick and economical variety (pizza, Chinese, sandwiches--less than $50 US for a family of five). The other two were in the splurge category, but we were celebrating birthdays and probably would have spent that money some other way if we were in the States. And all of this is offset by the groceries we are not buying and eating at home right now.

Our expenses are also offset by the gas we are not putting in our cars, the utilities we are not using, and the various day-to-day sundries that are not being purchased as we navigate our fast-paced Chicago suburban lifestyle. Yes, we did rent a car for a week. But the car enabled us to go on several sight-seeing trips at little or no cost because we did not have to pay for a taxi or tour guide.

Finally, all of this is helped by the fact that American dollars spend very, very well in Grenada. One U.S dollar is equal to $2.71 EC (Eastern Caribbean) dollars. And what that means is that when converted we are paying either the same or less than we would for most things in the United States, making a trip to Grenada much more affordable than one to Europe or even to many American tourist attractions. We are paying less per night in Grenada than we would to stay at a place like Cedar Rapids Lodge, a Minnesota fishing resort we visited and greatly enjoyed some years ago (and I daresay that with today's gas costs, it was cheaper for us to fly to Grenada than it would be to drive to Cedar Rapids Lodge right now).

So all things considered, this has been an extremely affordable vacation. Grenada is one of the cheapest destinations in the Caribbean, and it is certainly cheaper than any European destination we might choose. And when considering the car, hotel and restaurant expenses associated with taking a driving trip somewhere like Williamsburg or the Grand Canyon, it beats those on affordability as well. Certainly it is way, way cheaper than that most popular of family vacation spots--Disneyworld--and significantly more relaxing, healthy and ultimately, edifying.

In spite of all of these things, however, this vacation has still been a stretch and sacrifice for us. There are a number of things that we will not be spending money on for a long time because we chose to spend it on this, and they are things that for many people are givens, not options. But the memories we have made and the things we have learned here will last much longer than the new windows or driveway or dining room table. And that is something you can't put a price tag on.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where Did She Learn to Do This?

Not from her dad or mom, that's for sure.

Isn't she awesome?

Liturgical Settings

The music and liturgy blog Fine Tuning has a great article that addresses the question of how many different settings of the liturgy a congregation should use. The answer is obviously not going to be the same for everyone. But you can find some thoughts and guiding considerations on the subject here, elucidated by one of the most experienced and well-respected cantors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Winding Down

We'll be heading for home in a few short days. Our Grenada odyssey has been truly memorable, literally a once-in-a-lifetime family event that we will forever cherish. The culmination of our vacation will be a stop at what I think (in my vast, wide-ranging experience--ha!) is the most beautiful beach in Grenada, La Sagesse. So for those who are tiring of my travel journal, be forewarned that there are a few Grenada posts left to come (and they will probably continue, though perhaps less regularly, even once we arrive home). But it won't be long before A Round Unvarnish'd Tale will return to the mix of political reflections, cultural observations, family stories, and homeschooling vignettes that you have come to expect from your sojourns here.

So . . . how's the weather in Illinois?

Storm, Part 2

Here's a very short video clip of the storm this morning in all its fury. So much for that walk to the market. And take note of the water on the floor. No wonder we feel so much at home here! :-)


For all you ocean lovers:

About a minute-and-a-half worth of video taken last night as the skies darkened and a storm came rolling in to Prickly Bay (our little corner of the ocean here at Lance aux Epines).

It's still raining this morning.


Happy birthday, Caitlin. You are a more wonderful daughter and friend than I ever dreamed God would send to me, and while you may only be 13, already "so much of me is made of what I learned from you." I know that "you'll be with me like a handprint on my heart" because "whatever way our stories end . . . you have rewritten mine by being my friend." Thank you for being in my life, sweetie. "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."



Saturday, October 11, 2008

Best Laid Plans

At least, we thought they were well laid. But maybe they were only half-baked. Here are the some of the things that we had hoped to see and do that didn't happen (and won't now that we have turned in our rental car).

Sauteurs - The sixth largest city in Grenada (source), situated at the northernmost tip of the island. Its primary attraction is Caribs' Leap, where it is said that in 1651 the last Carib natives in Grenada jumped off a 40-meter cliff rather than succumb to their French conquerors.

Grenada Chocolate Company - We discovered Grenada chocolate on our first trip in 2002. We loved it so much that we brought a goodly amount home, and when that ran out, we ordered more. Grenada Chocolate is certified organic and is produced in this small-scale factory using solar-powered machinery. The cocoa beans are grown locally by Grenadian farmers. In 2008 the Grenada Chocolate Company won the Academy of Chocolate Awards Silver Medal for best organic chocolate bar. Grenada chocolate is available in 60% and 71% darkness (can you guess which one we prefer?).

St. David's Anglican - We tried to attend worship last Sunday at this church (there is no LCMS church on the island). Our maid Cecilia (who lives in St. David's Parish and attends the Roman Catholic Church there) said that the Sunday service is held at 9:00 a.m. (or thereabouts, depending on when the priest arrives). We snaked our way with the Jeep through some pretty treacherous hills and found what we believe was the right building, but no one was there. We don't know if Cecilia's information was incorrect or if for some reason the people of St. David's had relocated on this particular Sunday. Maybe they were having their church picnic on the beach! Anyway, we tried, and on the way home we did some shopping at a roadside fruit stand.

Morne Fendue Plantation House - This was our intended destination on our first foray out with the rental car. Morne Fendue is another northern Grenada town, near Sauteurs. The Plantation House is now a restaurant and guesthouse with history museum and (I have heard) landscaped garden. It was built in the early 20th century by the Mascoll family. Betty Mascoll of the second generation of Mascolls died several years ago, and the house has now passed to a new owner. Here's a little bit more about Betty from Grenada Explorer:

"The house is still redolent of Betty. She was decorated by Queen Elizabeth for services to the community: Betty used the house as a food storage depot after the 1955 hurricane, and herself distributed food to the neediest. She also prioritised local people's medical needs, dispatching the most severely wounded to hospital by boat (the roads being impassible.) After this, she was a lifelong member of the Grenada Red Cross. As if this was not service enough, she supported the American troops in 1983 by organizing local women into cooking a thanksgiving dinner for them to allay homesickness."

President Reagan ate at the Plantation House upon his visit to Grenada after the American invasion. We really wanted to go here and are sorry we didn't make it.

When my husband and I first visited Grenada by ourselves, we didn't rent a car for getting around but relied on taxis and tour-guides (and once, in Phil's case, a kind citizen who was simply driving by and offered a ride). This time, having more faith in our familiarity with the island and knowing we didn't want to be repeatedly paying a taxi driver for taking us to the store, we rented a Jeep for part of our stay. The goal was to get out and do a lot of traveling during the week of car rental, and we did succeed in part, but circumstances seemed to work against us much of the time. On our first attempt at a longer trip (to Morne Fendue), the youngest child got carsick about 15 minutes into the drive up some rather twisting mountain roads. After going home and getting cleaned up, we had neither the energy nor stomach to try again that day. The next morning, armed with Dramamine, we did make it to St. David's Church, but I have already shared how that turned out. Several days later, we headed out once more, intending to drive all the way across the island for a visit to both Sauteurs and the Chocolate Factory. After asking for advice on the best route and charting our path north, we headed out with high hopes, only to run into a driving rain and a washed out cliff-hugging road that even the most intrepid driver would balk at. So back home we went, once again lacking the ambition needed to try another mountainous, rain-soaked escapade.

Now the car has been turned in and we are cottage-bound. I guess we'll just have to come back in a few years. (You said 2020, right, Elephant's Child?)