Friday, February 27, 2009
Within six hours after receiving the news, we were on the road from Chicago to Houston, where my husband's family lives. We drove nonstop and made it in about 21 hours.
Today my mother-in-law will undergo emergency heart surgery. Her heart is currently functioning at minimal capacity. She has multiple other health issues, increasing the risk of surgery.
Our hearts are heavy with all that has happened. My husband and his sister have much to do and figure out in the days to come. Right now we are not sure how long we will be in Houston.
My father-in-law was a retired naval officer who served in Defense Intelligence. He received the National Defense Service Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. He had one son, one daughter, two stepdaughters, and nine grandchildren. Up until a month before his death he was continuing to run his own house and care for his bedridden wife. We suspect that he was in pain for much longer and knew that something was wrong but kept running the race until he could finally run no more.
He will be greatly missed.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Does anyone else see the supreme dishonesty of saying you're going to cut the deficit in half when your spending spree is going to raise it beyond comprehension? As I heard a television talking head observe, it's like the department store raising all its prices 100% just before running a 50% off sale.
But it was not to be. And now I fear we see our country slipping away from us, never to return to its roots.
There were those during the campaign who cried "Chicken Little" at people like me because we perceived this presidential election to be one of the most pivotal in American history, having the potential to kill the American experiment and set us on the path of European socialism and conciliation. They said we were overreacting--that this election was no different from any other, and that we could survive an Obama presidency as well as any other.
I can't help wondering if, after barely a month, those people still feel the same way. If they do, I have to further wonder if they are living on the same planet and in the same America that I am. Since of course they are, I am left to conclude that perhaps they are just not paying attention. Because the change wrought by this president in the last few weeks has been pervasive and bold, way bolder than I ever imagined (so much for moderation), and I am panicked thinking about the next four years.
Here are a few articles that effectively summarize where we were before Obama, and where we are now.
Investor's Business Daily
*For the record, John McCain opposed the stimulus plan and sponsored a petition against it. A McCain presidency would not have led to the "Kick Me" sign (described by Mr. Krauthammer in his column) that the United States is now sporting in the international community. And a McCain presidency would not have resumed global abortion funding, nor would we be hearing Mr. McCain promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as it hits his desk.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Looks like the chocolate ration just got changed, folks.
"'Comrades!' cried an eager youthful voice. 'Attention, comrades! We have glorious news for you. . . . All over Oceania this morning there were irrepressible spontaneous demonstrations when workers marched out of factories and offices and paraded through the streets with banners voicing their gratitude to Big Brother for the new, happy life which his wise leadership has bestowed upon us. . . .'
"The phrase 'our new, happy life' . . . had been a favourite of late with the Ministry of Plenty. . . . [Winston] shut his ears to the remoter noises and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. Parsons swallowed it easily, with the stupidity of an animal. The eyeless creature at the other table swallowed it fanatically, passionately, with a furious desire to track down, denounce, and vaporize anyone who should suggest that last week the ration had been thirty grammes. Syme, too--in some more complex way, involving doublethink, Syme swallowed it. Was he [Winston], then, alone in the possession of a memory?"
From George Orwell, 1984, Part 1, Chapter 5
If you've never seen this video before, you might want to get your hankie. And if you are someone who believes that every child is wanted, if not by his human parents then certainly by the God who created him, and that innocent human life should be protected at all stages, please consider participating in Red Envelope Day on March 31, 2009. Details here.
To anyone who is waiting, my prayers are with you.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
This morning I will be accompanying junior high string players in Solo & Ensemble competition. It's the second of three competitions I am involved in this season. The music for this one has not been hard to learn. Easy money!
After the competition I will be driving Trevor to a chess tournament in Skokie. (There seem to be a lot of chess tournaments in Skokie. Not sure why, but it's fun to say. Skokie, Skokie, Skokie.)
This tournament is a great opportunity for Trevor, who is knocking on the door of a Master chess title. It is an invitational FIDE tournament hosted by the North American Chess Association and features only Expert/Master level players in a round robin format (10 players total, each one playing all of the others over the course of the tournament). The level of play will be commanding. Several of those in attendance are International Masters; others are seeking the title. Trevor will likely be one of the lower-rated players there, a position he loves because of the challenge involved.
The tournament runs nine rounds: two today, two tomorrow, and one more each each evening Monday through Friday, meaning a lot of driving for Trevor's chauffeur. Trevor will not be playing on Ash Wednesday. Generally in a tournament such as this one, "byes" (planned misses earning a half-point) are discouraged, but there is another player who also has a scheduling issue on Wednesday night, so he and Trevor have been matched for that evening and will agree in advance to a draw, freeing them both up for the night.
This tournament will be excellent preparation for the Illinois Denker Qualifier coming up in a few weeks. (The Denker is the national high school championship; the winner of the Illinois qualifier receives financial support to enable him to attend the national tournament, which will be held in Indianapolis this year.) Last year in the Denker Trevor was the bottom seed; this year he's the top! That's quite a bit of progress in one year, isn't it?
Naturally, Mother Nature thought it logical to send us a brand new snow today, just in time for all this driving.
I hope wherever you are, you are warm and cozy inside!
Friday, February 20, 2009
This, dear readers, is not one of those posts. At the moment all I can do is manage my own little microcosm; thinking about the world at large, especially in consideration of its current trajectory, is beyond my processing abilities. So here, for anyone interested, is the latest on the home front:
After a week of hanging clothes inside to dry, I am finally drying with gas again! Not only that, but my wonderful (and very smart) husband gave the go ahead to replace our aging washer along with the dryer. Here's the new set:
The brand is Whirlpool--a traditional top-loading washer and front-loading dryer, but with larger capacity than my old set. The washing machine is 4 cubic feet with automatic load size sensing, water-saving technology (which I value not for environmental reasons but for economic ones), and a multiplicity of cycles/options. The dryer is 7 cubic feet and includes automatic and timed cycles and wrinkle guard. These machines may not look like anything special considering the fancy-schmancy technology that is now available, but they are a huge improvement over our previous machines and I couldn't be more pleased.
Here's my newly organized laundry room:
I highly identify with this room. I guess it's because I spend so much time in it. I have been known to go here for many other purposes than doing laundry: talking on the phone, doing paperwork, having a good cry . . . . Getting behind on the laundry makes me feel out of control; keeping on top of it allows me to turn my thoughts to other things. Now that my week-long personal laundry nightmare is over, maybe you can anticipate a few more thoughtful posts in the next few days.
(P.S. For those among you who are asking, "Why don't you get more help with the laundry from other people in the house?" I want to be clear that I have willing helpers and one of the things I know I need to do is train them more on how to do this task. There are some aspects of it that they take part in, particularly putting their things away. But I guess the reason I haven't taught them to do more is that I am very protective of the clothing. We don't have a lot of it, and I like to be careful with it--by pre-treating stains, washing and drying things so as to prevent shrinkage, and minimizing the need for ironing by hanging/folding as soon as things come out of the dryer. I enlist help with many other household tasks, but so far I have maintained a rather tight grip on the laundry. I know I need to loosen it, though, if I don't want adult children bringing their laundry home for me to do for them a few years down the road!)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
1) My dryer played out last week. Because of its age and the nature of its demise (the inside of the drum was literally crumbling), we decided it was time to buy a new one. Yay! Unforunately, when the new dryer arrived yesterday the delivery man took one look at the current exhaust set-up and announced it was not to code (which surprises me not, since it seems nothing in our house ever meets code). As a result he couldn't hook up the dryer. Having spent almost a week washing clothes and hanging them inside to dry (resulting in stiff, scratchy clothes), I felt like crying. I was all ready to do laundry yesterday! And I was actually looking forward to it! (I have friends who actually like to line dry. I don't. I like the way the clothes come out of the dryer, all warm and cozy and soft.) Instead, I had to make a trip to the hardware store to buy the proper sort of exhaust pipe (the previous set-up, courtesy of the previous owners, had the venting tube itself going through the wall to the outside instead of connecting to an exhaust pipe that is installed in the wall).
2) I am a "single" mom right now. My husband flew south a few days ago to check on and assist his parents. (His dad is currently hospitalized with back injury and his mother is bedridden at home.) He'll be home today!
3) I am still entrenched in Solo & Ensemble season. Rehearsals on Friday, a competition on Monday, and more to come. I'm not complaining. I am happy for the work and extra money and the opportunity to do a lot of piano playing. But it does lead to a more hectic schedule than usual.
4) My congregation hosted a theological conference this past weekend. It was wonderful and worth it, but it took time.
5) Our computer is being difficult. Anything internet-related takes forever to load. It's definitely a disincentive to blogging and emailing. (Susan G., are we leading parallel lives?) I am in the process of trying some different remedies that others have suggested. But that takes time, too. (How does that old song go . . . "If I could save time in a bottle . . .").
I have been feeling generally out of sorts because all of the out-of-the-ordinary stuff has made the ordinary stuff go by the wayside. So the paperwork is piling up, and the house is out of control, and the homeschooling is suffering. I keep telling myself that this will pass, that spring is around the corner, and summer is on the horizon. Self, are you listening?
In the midst of the chaos (and the absent husband), I find myself relying even more on my children. They are truly gifts from a gracious God, as I did nothing to deserve them. While I am otherwise occupied, they continue to do their studies, largely on their own, without my nagging them and without grumbling. They willingly help around the house, again without grumbling. The older ones play with and care for their little brother. (A few nights ago I retired to my bedroom early and Caitlin took care of getting him ready for bed, reading to him, brushing his teeth, etc..) They listen to me "vent" about the dryer ;-) (that sentence is for you, Elephant's Child) and all manner of things in which they probably have little interest. And they love me in my imperfection.
Even Evan seemed to sense last night that I was in need of a little extra encouragement. He made this drawing for me and then wanted to take a picture of me holding it:
(Obviously there wasn't time to brush my hair or powder my face before the picture was snapped). Take note of the hearts and the cross. I thought the little objects inside the large circles were balloons, but he said they were candles. Where do we have candles? Church, of course. Love and Jesus and Church--this kid knows just what I need.
Time to go hang up some more clothes. And then get ready to get my knight in shining armor at the airport! Things are looking up!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
It was a great weekend. Actually, "great" doesn't do it justice, but my adjective-generator is feeling sluggish this morning. Luckily, there is no need for me to wax eloquent about the goings-on of the conference, because you can see photos, read all about it and even listen to all of the presentations and worship services by clicking here.
Here are a few pics I managed to snap this weekend:
Pastor Timothy Rossow and Rev. Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc.
Conference attendees between presentations in the sanctuary of Bethany Lutheran
No pietists here. They look pretty good for having been awake until 2:00 a.m. in the morning, don't they? (You party animals!)
Pastor Rossow manning the BJS display and goodie table
Saturday, February 14, 2009
After less than a month of the Obama presidency, it's clear there has been no moderation. As Sean Hannity says, "The radicals are in charge." And it seems that for the time being there is little we can do about it but hold on for the ride and fix our eyes on things above.
In the meantime, I am encouraged by a few small things. First, the Republicans in the House have so far stuck together, seeming to realize what is at stake here, not only for our country but for them. When Obama's "steal-from-us" (HT: Texas Rainmaker) plan doesn't accomplish as promised, they will have a clear conscience and be able to say to the American people: "We tried to tell you." Second, perhaps the radical agenda will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Obama and the Democrats currently seem so drunk with power that they are overreaching, trying to do too much too soon, desperately showing as much of their agenda down the country's throats as they can as quickly as possible. I pray that this backfires on them by waking people up. The question is, if and when people do wake up, will it be too late to undo the damage?
The Anchoress has posted a video created by Texas Rainmaker that juxtaposes audio clips of Ronald Reagan with those of Barack Obama. The effect is sad and frightening. The words of Reagan are shown to be prophetic, as time and again he warns against the very things Obama is now doing. The opening clips of the video say it all:
Reagan: "One of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America, when men were free."
Obama (on the campaign trail): "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
Friday, February 13, 2009
So in spite of the fact that I'm still not where I would like to be with respect to my fitness, I've been feeling pretty good about this whole exercise thing. The fact that I'm exercising at all is a great improvement over last year!
But a few days ago I experienced a major downer. My main goal in exercising is not to lose weight but to increase cardiovascular fitness and strengthen bones and muscles. As a small-boned person I am at high risk for osteoporosis (my mother already has it), and exercise is one of the best weapons I have in that battle. So in addition to spending some time on the treadmill, bicycle, and rowing and skiing machines, I am trying to introduce some weight training into my routine. So far I have mostly lifted free weights (very little ones) to work on arm strength. But this week for the first time I tried an abdominal crunch machine. Heaven knows, if there is any part of my body that could use some toning, it is my middle.
I was a total failure at using this machine. It's hard to describe in words how it worked; here's a link that illustrates it pretty well. I set the weight at what I thought was the lowest possible--ten pounds--and gave it my best shot. I couldn't do one single repetition. Well, maybe I could have, but I was afraid to force the issue for fear of serious injury.
The obvious question is whether I was using the proper technique. Both of my teenage children demonstrated and then watched me try to use the machine, so I think I was approaching it correctly. Still no success. What that means, of course, is that my abdominal muscles are apparently nonexistent.
So what now? I absolutely hate sit-ups & leg lifts and such (I suppose that's what got me into this situation in the first place). I guess I could just resign myself to a flabby middle (you'll still love me, won't you, family?). After all, I don't think there's such a thing as osteoporosis of the belly. But a flabby tummy now means a pot belly in twenty years, and I really don't want that.
So I guess I'm going to be hitting the floor. Maybe in time I'll be able to do a few reps on the crunch machine. My husband did inform me that I overlooked a 5-pound setting.
So, help me out. What are your favorite EASY abdominal exercises? Please, be kind.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
She was referring to the Glazounov. You remember the Glazounov, don't you? I have spent hours at the piano over the last three days, shortchanging other pieces that could have used a little more of my attention, just so I could perform this one--all TWENTY pages of it--with some semblance of respectability.
Much of that time was spent on the fugue section of the piece. It doesn't start until around page ten.
I don't blame the student. I didn't meet her until today. I don't know if she was provided with my name or phone number or any means of reaching me. But someone somewhere (sax teacher? band director?) should have made sure that the accompanist was briefed. Over the next few weeks I will be accompanying about 30 junior high and high school students in competition. That's a lot of music. Some of the accompaniments are sightreadable, but many are not. And the compensation is the same regardless of whether I have to practice the piece for five minutes or five hours.
My goal was to get this piece playable by today. In 2-1/2 days' time, I accomplished that. All the notes were not there, but I was capable of playing from beginning to end without falling apart, and was even getting to the point with much of the piece that I was not merely surviving but actually starting to enjoy it, having moved beyond the drudgery of note-learning to the fun of music-making.
It's mostly for naught now. The bright side is that I don't have nearly as much practicing ahead of me as I thought (the competition isn't until Monday, so I would have spent much of the coming week continuing to polish this piece of music).
The down side is that I wasted a lot of time over the past 72 hours. I could have been blogging! Or cleaning my house! Or writing the next great American novel!
Instead, I learned how to play a bunch of music that I'll probably never even have an opportunity to perform.
Unless . . .
Melanie, isn't it about time you made another trip to Chicago? :-)
Silly me. How could I forget? Whatever Obama and the Democrats want, Obama and the Democrats get. So much for transparency and daylight. They won, you see.
Have you noticed I'm not posting on politics as much as I once did? The reason is that my tummy kind of likes to hang on to its contents. And these days thinking about our country and all the ways we are daily losing it makes me literally sick.
Can anyone give me any hope? Is it possible Obama will make so many mistakes that we will only have four years of this before the American people come to their senses?
If they do miraculously come to their senses, will it be too late to matter?
Maybe you shouldn't answer that. I'd kind of like my breakfast to stay put.
Monday, February 9, 2009
"But, Cheryl," you say, "you're a pianist. Why would you have to learn a saxophone concerto?"
The answer is that I am not so much a pianist as I am a piano accompanist. Almost all the piano playing I do is ensemble-based, as I play "second fiddle" to choirs, singers, and instrumentalists.
I majored in music at the University of North Texas (tooting my horn a little here--it is one of the largest, best known and most respected music programs in the country). Back then it was called North Texas State University. But then as now, piano majors were required to do a certain amount of accompanying--for credit, not pay--each semester. It was win-win situation. Poor, starving student singers and instrumentalists who needed accompanists were provided them, and pianists received valuable experience and college credit.
I remember on several occasions some of my piano buddies groaning at having been assigned to learn the Glazunov. A lot of piano accompaniments are such that a good pianist with well-developed sightreading skills can sit down and play them right off the bat or maybe with a half hour's practice. After all, the piece was written not for the piano as much as for the soloist. And if the soloist himself is a developing musician rather than an accomplished one, that dictates easier music for both him and his accompanist.
But once in a while the accompanist is called upon to learn a piece that rivals anything he might learn from the advanced piano repertoire. Such is the Glazunov.
On Wednesday I will be in rehearsals all day long with high school students that are competing in Solo & Ensemble competition next week. I do this every winter to earn some extra money. It's good for me, too. I don't tend to practice piano unless I have something to practice for. So this sort of thing keeps me playing more than I otherwise would.
Last night I sat down to start learning the music. I had the music over a week ago. It's my own fault I didn't look at it sooner. But I'm a good sightreader and am used to being able to learn music quickly. And besides, last week was full of life, you know? Not to mention several other accompanying gigs that took priority over this one.
Imagine my consternation when the third or fourth piece in my stack was the Glazunov. It didn't hit me at first what I was looking at. The music doesn't look on the page as hard as it is. Then I started to try to play the thing.
About three pages in I wanted to cry.
A few pages later I did cry. Time to practice a little denial. I set it aside and went on to the next piece. But eventually I got to the bottom of the stack and there was no more avoiding it.
I only have to learn the first movement, but it's 15-20 pages of key changes (seven flats? seven????) and fugues and who knows what else. And I have to know it--at least to the point I can rehearse it--by Wednesday.
What is a high school saxophonist doing playing the Glazunov, anyway? How dare she play so well at her age?
I must admit it is a beautiful piece of music. And I do love the saxophone. I just wish I had more time to do it justice. I don't like playing poorly--it's bad for the ego as well as the music.
For the curious and/or musicians among you, here's a Youtube link to a performance of this piece. I won't play it this well on Wednesday.
The piano bench awaits! See you in a few days.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
A year or two after the first pair it was suggested that I should consider bifocals. Not only was the close-up vision deteriorating, but the distance was as well. (Translation: "You're really getting old.") The optician suggested progressive lenses ("a lot of people like them because they look younger and more stylish") but the insurance didn't cover them. So I picked out a frame and, lined bifocals in hand, entered the world of having multiple pairs of glasses. It was kind of nice. The first pair still worked, so I kept them by my bedside and carried the new pair in my purse.
Round three. At my eye check-up a few weeks ago I was told it was time for a new prescription. Seems my wayward eyes have still not found an oasis where they can just sit for a spell but are continuing to wander around the desert of deteriorating vision. But lo and behold, the insurance plan now covers graduated lenses! And the doctor said they would help out with computer reading (which I do a bit of), so I signed on the dotted line and awaited my new eyes.
When they arrived I tried them out in the store and they seemed fine. But upon arriving home it didn't take long for me to realize that they were not going to work. You see, the eye doctor doesn't have a piano or a Book of Concord in his lobby. So those were untested waters. And the first time I tried to play the piano in the new glasses I realized I couldn't see the top line of music without throwing my head back. Same thing when I tried to read my Book of Concord (it's a hefty volume, so I don't tend to read it sitting in a chair with the book in my lap but at the kitchen table with the book held up in front of me).
Back to the eye doctor I went, and discovered that the problem is those fashionable graduated lenses. You see, "progressive" means what it says. It's not just that the line is gone. It's that there is a gradual change from the top of the bifocal to the bottom, including a gradual increase in reading power. So one doesn't get the greatest magnification until the very bottom of the lens. If I am trying to read something that is directly in front of me or even slightly higher than eye level (such as piano music often is) I am going to have problems.
The glasses have been sent back and I am currently using pair #2 and developing a new appreciation for my friend, the bifocal line. When I look above the line, I can see far away. When I look below the line, I can read. It's simple and straightforward, and I can handle it. Who needs stylish?
Senator John Thune
For anyone who's interested, John McCain has sponsored an online petition where you can register your disapproval of the "stimulus" bill the powers-that-be are currently trying to impose upon us (and our children and grandchildren and who knows how many more generations to come).
Friday, February 6, 2009
From Chapter 16, "Of Liberality and Niggardliness"
" . . . it would be well to be considered liberal; nevertheless liberality such as the world understands it will injure you, because if used virtuously and in the proper way, it will not be known, and you will incur the disgrace of the contrary vice [niggardliness]. But one who wishes to obtain the reputation of liberality among men, must not omit every kind of sumptuous display, and to such an extent that a prince of this character will consume by such means all his resources, and will be at last compelled, if he wishes to maintain his name for liberality, to impose heavy taxes on his people, become extortionate, and do everything possible to obtain more money. This will make his subjects begin to hate him, and he will be little esteemed being poor, so that having by this liberality injured many and benefited but few, he will feel the first little disturbance and be endangered by every peril. If he recognises this and wishes to change his system, he incurs at once the charge of niggardliness.
A prince, therefore, not being able to exercise this virtue of liberality without risk if it be known, must not if he be prudent, object to be called miserly. In course of time he will be thought more liberal, when it is seen that by his parsimony his revenue is sufficient, that he can defend himself against those who make war on him, and undertake enterprises without burdening his people, so that he is really liberal to all those from whom he does not take, who are infinite in number, and niggardly to all to whom he does not give, who are few. In our times we have seen nothing great done except by those who have been esteemed niggardly; the others have all been ruined. . . .
For these reasons a prince must care little for the reputation of being a miser, if he wishes to avoid robbing his subjects, if he wishes to be able to defend himself, to avoid becoming poor and contemptible, and not to be forced to become rapacious; this niggardliness is one of those vices which enable him to reign."
(Oxford University Press translation by Luigi Ricci); emphasis mine
I'll post a few more of these quotations over the next day or so. But right now the teacher has to get ready for class!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
My Lutheran homeschooling mommy weekend was a blast! I traveled with two other Illinois gals to Fort Wayne, Indiana (home of one of our two LCMS seminaries), where we met up with six (!) kindred spirits. Thanks to Rebellious Pastor's Wife (and her hubby) for hosting us and to Pam, Lori, Beth, Jane, and Melynda for coming to hang out on Saturday night. You've heard of Real Men--those guys that can cook a gourmet meal one minute and dig a ditch the next? Well, here are some Real Women. In no time at all they can go from cuddling a baby . . .
Jane & Melynda
Jenny, Melody & Lori
. . . to using brute strength to open a stubborn bottle of wine. ("There's gotta be a way to get this thing open!")
Melynda, Melody, Jane & Pam
I think it was Pam who finally succeeded:
Here's a little more about the weekend and another picture from Elephant's Child. Click on over. It's something only EC could come up with, and it's not to be missed.
Phone calls, homeschooling, piano practicing, housecleaning, errand-running, editing, and laundry await (laundry always awaits). Must get busy so I can watch Lost with a clear conscience tonight! (Or at least without all kinds of things competing for attention.) See you next time!
I wonder if some of the old (and not-so-old) men who are now making plans to borrow from the future so that we can keep living it up today have given any thought to those future generations, some children of which are as yet unborn, who are going to have to pay for all of this. If so, they have apparently decided that since they won't personally be around to help pay the bill, it doesn't really matter.
I have more respect for the president who makes tough decisions that yield immediate consequences he will have to face and take responsibility for than the one who makes easy decisions with consequences that extend so far into the future that he may not even be around to help clean up the mess.