". . . 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)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Honey

Today is my husband's birthday. He was born in 1963 (I'll let you do the math). We were married in 1987. He's almost been married to me for longer than he hasn't!

I thought you might appreciate seeing a few of the many ages and facets of this amazing man. (And if you'd like to wish Phillip a happy birthday yourself, feel free to do so here or at his own blog, which I have, um, sort of ambushed today.)

Baby Phillip

Eating animal crackers in Malta

Now that is what I call a smile!

Go Big Red!

That Seventies Guy

High School Talent Show (Notice the adoring fans)

The Artist at Work
(one of my all-time favorite shots from our college days)

Phillip and Giselle (gone now for about 7 years)

A promotional shot from the "gigging" days
(just look at those beautiful hands)

Lettin' it rip at the Galveston Jazz Festival

"And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say 'Man, what are you doin' here?'"

Scene from an Italian Restaurant
(with wife and father sitting at the table in the background)

Peoria Area Youth Chorus Concert

Is it any wonder he stole my heart?

Children's choir rehearsal (with favorite accompanist at left)


The Cantor

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Singing Revolution

To find out more, go here.

Then go sing something. And if you have children, have them sing with you. Some day we might need our own singing revolution.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Duond Akuru

Our day school had its junior high concert last night. Caitlin was involved in three of the four ensembles (bells, jazz band, and choir)! The kids did a great job. The final number on the program was "Duond Akuru" performed by the choir. We had hoped to videotape it but had some technical difficulties. So I found this performance online. Our choir was almost this good . . . but not quite. :-)

The composer of "Duond Akuru" is the amazing Rollo Dilworth from Chicago. I had the chance to watch him in action a couple of years ago when he was the guest conductor on a children's choir concert that I also played piano on (I did not play on the numbers he conducted). The choirs on the concert sang several of his pieces. I was impressed by his energy and enthusiasm and the pure joy he takes in the music.

I hope you'll take a few moments to listen and enjoy. It's a song that just makes you feel good. "Duond Akuru" means "The Voice of the Dove." Here are the words to the song:

"Duond akuru from yonder tree.
Duond akuru, it speaks to me.
Up on the mountaintop, or in the valley below,
I hear the voice of the dove, high up above,
And it brings laughter and joy to my soul.

Duond akuru from yonder tree.
Duond akuru, it speaks to me.
When I am all alone, or in the midst of my friends,
There is an echo of peace, calling to me,
And it brings comfort and love without end.

Echunya awinjo wer mamit
Awinje ka oolore ei ngimana.

(Translation*: In my heart I hear the sweet music.
Deep inside my soul I feel the rhythm.)

*from the Duoluo language, as spoken by the Luo people of Kenya.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Son Who Understands HIs Father

My husband has a birthday coming up. Yesterday the children and I were talking over gift ideas (shhh, don't tell). I reminded them that close on the heels of Dad's birthday is Father's Day, so we need to be talking about LOTS of gift ideas. My daughter Caitlin, a crafty, creative sort (unlike her mother), was trying to think of something she might make for at least one of the days in question. She observed that it's a bit easier to think of things to make for women than for men, seeing as how women, and especially moms, are more likely to appreciate something for aesthetic value alone, whereas men are a bit more utilitarian (sorry if I'm being sexist or painting with too broad a brush). Thinking out loud, she wondered, "What could I make for Dad for Father's Day?"

Without missing a beat, Trevor decisively replied, "A rum punch."

"Nothing Else Matters"

How fitting that the two things I most feared about an Obama presidency have come front and center in the same week: national security and the Supreme Court. In particular, national (and for that matter, international) security dwarfs everything else. Forget the bailouts and the tax increases and the stock market and the falling dollar. Forget the spectre of nationalized health care and the chimera of global warming. We're back to living with THE BOMB. And Obama has said no to taking any real steps--such as preemptive strikes or anti-missile defense--to keep that from becoming our new reality.

James Lewis at American Thinker lays it all out. Read, if you dare.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spontaneous Overflow of Random Observations Recollected in Tranquility, or What I Thought About at the Chicago Open (With Apologies to W. Wordsworth)

A tennis skirt that is not really a tennis skirt (i. e., it doesn't have attached underpants) is not proper attire for shopping at Wal-Mart and especially not for loading one's garden shop purchases into the back of a van on a breezy day.

You would think that after almost 10 years of living in Illinois I would have learned that one always keeps a sweater in the car. Always. And that includes Memorial Day, the "unofficial start of summer." Brrrr.

What is the deal with those great big revolving glass doors? Why do hotels in particular like them so much? If I'm going to have to touch the door and pick up everyone else's germs while I push on the thing trying to get through, I would prefer a normal door that I can walk through at my own pace and not have fear of being crushed or getting my belongings caught in it because I stepped in at the wrong time. It's the 21st century, for crying out loud. Aren't doors just supposed to sense that I'm coming and open like magic?

There sure are a lot of people here. I hope none of them has swine flu.

I know when one is old(er) he or she is said to be "over the hill." But what exactly is "the hill"? Is it good or bad? And have I gotten there yet? If I haven't, how will I know when I do? And will I be filled with exhilaration or overcome by exhaustion?

Have you ever noticed that the words "exhilaration" and "exhaustion" start with the same letters?

How can people look at a chess board for six hours and still want more?

The Claim Jumper has really, really good spinach salads. But $2.75 for a glass of Coke is ridiculous. At that price, I should have ordered a beer!

Was that gal who sold me my coffee at the Starbuck's yesterday even human? I have never bought coffee from someone who said nary a word nor cracked the tiniest smile--or any sort of expression--the entire time she was waiting on me. She made me feel like I was back in middle school getting the silent, "you're invisible to me" treatment from someone I had made mad.

Oh no, here comes that strange guy with the long goatee molded into a hook who seems to think we are friends. Maybe if I look really intent on what I'm doing, like it's something important instead of this silly, pointless blog post, he will pass on by . . . .

I miss my father and my father-in-law.

This quiet time has been good, but it will also be good to get home. I just wish I could spend tomorrow catching up on all the laundry and shopping that have gone undone the last four days and doing a little schoolwork instead of trying to figure out how to do all of those things PLUS. . .

take my son to the orthodontist,
take my other two children to their afternoon classes,
play for a junior high choir practice,
rehearse for 2-1/2 hours with junior high string players that I will be acommpanying in recital Thursday night, and
practice the music for aforementioned rehearsal.

On second thought, I think I'm cancelling "school" and calling a "take your children to work" day. And maybe a "be kind to a middle-aged person" day. And maybe even an "improve your environment" and "community service" day. Isn't it great that "help your mother" can cover so many bases? :-)

P.S. For those who may be wondering, Trevor got 4 out of 7 points in the Under 2300 division of the Chicago Open--a very strong showing. Now for some bedtime snuggles with Evan. Goodnight, all!

Another Writer in the House

There's another published author in the house! And you may be surprised when you hear who it is!

Trevor has several articles in the current edition of the Illinois Chess Bulletin, the bi-monthly publication of the Illinois Chess Association. The articles are analyses of games he played at the Denker Qualifying Tournament (which he won) several months ago. (Click here for a photo of Trevor in action at that tournament.)

For those poor and deprived souls among you who have never had the, um, interesting experience of reading a chess game analysis, here's a one-line excerpt from one of Trevor's articles:

"0-0? Bc5+ and White's position is hopeless. Re1 loses to Bf2, and while White plays Bd2 and Rhe1, Black castles and opens the f-file with f6, after which the e4 pawn becomes powerful."

Did you get that? Clear as mud, right?

It goes on like that for pages. Many, many pages.

Can you believe I was his proofreader? (Not to be confused with his editor, which I will never, ever be.)

Congratulations, Trevor. I am very proud of you.

And Caitlin . . . your time is coming. :-)

A Worthy Cause to Consider This Memorial Day

Do you play the bugle (or trumpet, cornet or flugelhorn) or know someone who does? If so, please visit Bugles Across America to find out how that ability can help to honor a veteran while providing untold comfort to his family at the time of his death. If you don't play but would like to encourage this organization in its mission of providing live buglers for the funerals of veterans, your monetary donation is welcome. It will be used to equip musicians who are willing to help but who no longer have the necessary equipment. Bugles Across America also facilitates the transfer of instruments, uniforms, and the like from organizations who no longer need them to those that have lost theirs due to calamity or natural disaster or who are simply trying to get started and need some help doing so.

Supporting the causes of both music and country while serving veterans and their families: I can't think of a more noble goal.

HT: Fox News

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

We're in tournament mode this weekend. Trevor is playing in the Chicago Open (chess), which runs from Friday through Monday. The tournament is in Wheeling, Illinois, about an hour's drive from our house, so there is no dropping him off and going back later to pick him up. Whoever is driving must wait, and this weekend I am the driver, so I go armed with books and the laptop and enjoy the quiet time, of which there is plenty. The tournament schedule has rounds on Friday at 7:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 and 7:00, and Monday at 10:00 and 4:30. These games have the potential to go 6 hours, and on Friday night Trevor's did. We weren't driving away until about 1:45 a.m. (do the math to see what time we crawled into bed). Luckily last night's round (which was won--yay, Trevor!) was over by 11:00 and we were home shortly after 12:00. Tonight my husband has given permission for us to get a hotel, seeing as how Trevor could play until 1:00 and need to back at the board Monday morning by 10:00.

Of course, my current role as chess mom means the home front is fending for itself. They do a very good job of it, too. But Evan, my 5-year-old, has been missing me. He woke up at his usual time yesterday morning--about 9:00--and Trevor and I were gone shortly after 10:00, not to return until after he had gone to sleep. After we leave today I'll probably not see him again until Tuesday morning, since we are sleeping in a hotel tonight and Evan will probably be asleep by the time we get home tomorrow night.

This is not sitting well with Evan. Last night I got a phone call. Evan and his dad were having a bit of a row and Evan was sure that if I were home I would be handling it differently. He might have been right about that--I do have a reputation for soft-heartedness in this house. But of course, I backed up Dad, to Evan's consternation.

My husband told me a few more stories this morning. Seems Evan took out his frustration about the status quo (absent Mommy, mean Daddy) by being mean to the dog. He then discovered that Dad can be rather creative with the punishments. He had to stand and recite "I will not kick Shiloh; I will be kind to Shiloh" ten times.

Our last child has proven to be a bit more of a displinary challenge than our first two. For the first time ever we have found ourselves reading books about how to make a child behave. Our favorite is 1-2-3 Magic. It is working pretty well. It's not--as the name might suggest--merely a system of giving first and second chances before applying a punishment but a thorough philosophical approach to managing a child's behavior that takes the responsibility for that behavior off of the parent and puts it on the child.

As told by my husband, last night at the dinner table Evan was misbehaving and had reached "two" when he looked at my husband and said, "Daddy, I think we need to have 1-2-3-4 Magic instead of 1-2-3 Magic."

Does this kid have a bright future or what?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm Betting on the Tree

So who--or rather, what--do you think will win this battle?

Here's a photo of our deck. As you can see, there's a tree growing in the middle of it.

Here's a more distant shot . . .

. . . and a closer one.

We are approaching 10 years in our current location. It has become an annual task, kind of like changing the batteries in the smoke detectors or putting on the storm windows, to enlarge the hole in the deck so as to make room for the tree trunk. Each year we lose a little more deck, which is fine since we clearly have plenty to spare. But as the pictures demonstrate, this tree is expanding not only outward but upward. It's just a matter of time before we're going to have to choose between the deck and the tree.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley . . .
(From "To A Mouse" by Robert Burns. Click here to read the whole graceful, melodious thing. Come on--you know you want to! Enjoy!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

I missed it!

I just realized that yesterday was my anniversary! I've been blogging for two years!

OBS: The Obama Broadcasting System

So now the President is starting to shut out the White House Press Corps when he feels like it. In its place there is a presidential YouTube station as well as a White House Facebook page, Twitter updates, and who knows what else. The president will say it's all about transparency and access. I say it's all about micro-managing the dissemination of information. Welcome to Obama Nation, or is that Abomination?

Here are a few more thoughts from American Thinker.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Compassion International

About 10 years ago we began supporting a child through the Christian organization Compassion International. Rakhima (Rakhi for short) was nine years old at the time; now she is 19. We will be able to contribute to her support until she is 21. She lives in the hillside community of G. Udayagiri, about 325 miles west of the city of Bhubaneshwar. Our support of her ($28/month in the beginning, now $32/month) has made it possible for her to attend Gudripori Girl's Home and Hostel, where she receives "Bible teaching, health screening and education, immunizations, hygiene supplies, nutritious meals, recreational activities, leadership training, counseling and educational monitoring. . . ." Our support of Rakhi also provides for her parents to have access to "medical checkups, meetings, literacy programs and alcohol awareness lectures" (information from the CI website). Currently Rakhi attends Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and is performing academically at a tenth grade level. We receive regular letters for her and enjoy writing her back. Her letters consistently begin with a Christian greeting and not only share information about her daily activities but attest to an abiding faith in her Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a worthy charity, I commend this one to you. I do so especially today, after hearing that another children's relief organization, the former Christian Children's Fund, is changing its name to "ChildFund International" (dropping the word "Christian") so as to be more inclusive. As reported by Fox News, Compassion International has been similarly pressured to drop the tagline "in Jesus' name" from its logo but has refused to do so.

Go here to find out more about Compassion International, and if you are able, please consider adopting a child who needs your help. This is an organization that is committed not only to saving children from a life of poverty but also to saving them from something even worse: an eternity separated from the one true God.


We have an opera singer in our congregation. And I mean literally, a professional opera singer, not just someone who sounds like an opera singer. Her son is one of my 5-year-old's best friends. Her son is also showing signs of being a musical prodigy like his mom. (He's dangerous on the drum set.)

So this past year my husband started teaching my friend's son piano lessons, and she started teaching my oldest son voice. She also provides vocal coaching to my husband. (And it shows. His voice--always lovely--has gotten even more beautiful in the past few years.) Jen works with my family members for an hour (total) each week, and Phil gives Blake a 15-minute piano lesson in exchange. I think we're getting the best end of that deal, don't you?

A while back, the dad of one of my piano students lost his job. (Actually, several of my piano students have parents who have lost jobs, but that's another story.) The student in question is one of my favorites: a real sweetheart, charming and smart and quite musical. I don't want to lose this student. But I know her parents are struggling financially right now. I would happily teach this young lady for free. But I also know her parents are hesitant to let me do so. So I recently proposed to them a barter arrangement. I will continue teaching their daughter in exchange for her dad helping us with some odd jobs around the house. (My husband and I are not handy and need help with such things.) The idea was received positively! It will be a win for both of us. (Truth be told, we are again getting the best end of the deal because my piano student's dad, a member of our church, is someone who takes to heart the seventh commandment and has already helped us improve and protect our property and income on several previous occasions and would no doubt do so again.)

This bartering thing is working for us. And according to this article, we aren't the only ones. If our difficult economic times continue (and all signs suggest they will) I wonder if even more people will discover its benefits?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Planting Day!

We got our garden in yesterday! Or rather, the Cantor did, with a little help from his crew. My role was to shop for plants. So far we have three types of tomatoes, butternut and zucchini squash, basil, parlsey, chives (they are perennial, so they are already blooming in the far left corner), three types of peppers, and cantaloupe. We have room for a few more--I know that I want rosemary, and I'm considering a few lettuce plants for a couple of spots that get slightly less sun.

While this project was in the making, I put some flowers in pots and trimmed some hedges. Children also mowed, edged and weeded. Summer has arrived!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I remember one day last year when I was helping out in Evan's (my 5-year-old's) Sunday School class (he was 4 at the time). The teacher, a friend of mine and the mom of one of Evan's friends, had just announced that it was time to switch activities. After several children loudly and emotionally protested, she looked at me and said, "Transitions. I keep forgetting about transitions."

My friend, who is studying for a Master's degree in child development, was referring to the importance of taking time to prepare the child for a change in activity and to allow him to adjust to the change gradually. Her comment about transitions came back to me today as I was doing some thinking and realized that a lot of the stress in my life comes from transitions. It dawned on me that Evan's mommy does not handle them any better than he and his classmates do.

One aspect of being a mom, particularly a homeschooling mom, is the ability to keep track of a multiplicity of wide-ranging demands. The demands may be physical, mental, or emotional, and they may come in various forms: people talking to me, people wanting me to do something for them, household tasks, errands, and so forth. Sometimes the demand isn't even something that seems like a demand but is instead something lovely, like a family member interrupting my washing of the dishes to give me a hug. Nevertheless, a gesture like that sometimes gets lost in the crush of stimuli that don't politely queue up and wait their turn in line, but instead come en masse and from all directions, seemingly materializing out of nowhere like the birds in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller:

In my younger days I think I handled the onslaught better than I do now, easily switching my attention from one person to the next and one need to the next with a minimum of angst. Or maybe in my younger days there just weren't so many "birds" flying at me at any given time. But at the very least, I think I was able to hang in longer before having to run for cover.

These days, however, it seems like it only takes a couple of "incoming" before either my flight response kicks in or I have a meltdown. And by meltdown I don't mean that I turn into a blubbering, incoherent mess (although that does happen sometimes). Instead I mean a brain meltdown, a locking up or shutting down that makes me feel almost like I can't process the things that are going on around me. Maybe it would be more accurately called a brain freeze. Whatever it is, I think it comes of an increasing practice of compartmentalizing the various aspects of my life. That compartmentalization manifests itself in a number of different ways, and maybe I'll write more about that in a future post. But it goes beyond difficulty switching among activities on the micro level (although that's part of it). It also has to do with the various "threads" of my life and how they weave together on the macro level. In other words, I am finding that I can be a wife, or a mother, or a cleaning lady, or a cook, or a teacher, or a pianist, or the cantor's wife, or a friend, or a blogger, or an editor, or a daughter, but when it comes to playing more than one role at a time or quickly switching among them, I don't do so readily or easily. So I'll be in "cook" and "mommy" mode, trying to get supper on the table, and my husband will come in the front door and want to switch me in to "wife" mode so that he can share something about the day, and it's a huge effort to adjust. I find it almost impossible to keep on with the task at hand while I listen to him. And even if there is no shortage of time, so that it would not be a problem for me to simply stop what I am doing and turn my attention to my dear husband, I find it very difficult to do so at a moment's notice knowing that in a few more minutes I'll have to go back into "cook" and "mommy" mode.

Here's another example, independent of the "people are depending on me, I need to get this done" dynamic. If I see someone in one place that I normally associate with another place, such as running into someone from church at a music concert, I can find myself totally disoriented and either not immediately recognize the individual or not understand the things to which he or she refers. I'm at a concert, you see, not at church, so what are you doing talking to me about something that happened at church? And who ARE you, anyway? It takes a concerted effort to reset my brain to "church mode" and try to figure out who this person is and what he or she is talking about.

I think the compartmentalization is also why I find it so very difficult to relax in my own home. I am so used to seeing it as my workplace, and it is no simple matter to change that perspective.

So . . . the problem seems to be transitions--transitions from one task to another, one place to another, or one vocational "hat" to another. The question now is what to do? If I listen to my friend who has studied this issue with regard to children, I need to ease into and out of them (transitions, that is--not children). I need time to process them. Only life doesn't tend to work that way. Life doesn't care about my need to adjust. Life is just what it is, which is most often an unpredictable, out-of-control mess. But people . . . now there's a thought. Maybe the people in my life--the people I know love and care about me--can help. Maybe, like the teacher or parent trying to gently move the tunnel-visioned preschooler from building with blocks to coloring at the table, there are some things my housemates (at least the older ones) can do to facilitate the transitions that I seem to have such trouble with. No doubt there are some things I can do as well. But that's for another post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Okay

I am still fighting a bug. It's cold and rainy outside. I turned the heat on for a little while this morning. And today is May 15?

The productive few days we enjoyed a week or so ago have ground to a halt. All I have wanted to do this week is sleep. And I have been able to do a little more of that than usual, as some of my regular commitments are coming to an end. But there is still much to do in the way of yardwork, gardening, house chores, and schoolwork. I am so glad we aren't planning for any big trips this summer!

Tonight I am driving a couple of hours south to visit Elephant's Child and try to make a little cash by selling some books at a homeschool book sale in her neighborhood. Okay, okay--so I don't really care about the cash. I just want to see my friends. (Susan's coming, too.)

Due to being sick I haven't been following the news very closely the last few days. (Although I did see Nancy Pelosi's sweaty, squirmy, "let me read to you again from my statement" press conference yesterday, and boy, was that fun. But I digress.) A few days ago the Concordian Sisters linked to this post from Heart of My Husband. The author wraps up with an "It's okay" list for parents and encourages commenters to add to the list or create their own. I loved reading everyone's "It's 0kay" thoughts and this was an easy way to throw up a last minute blog post before hitting the road, so here for your consideration is my own "It's Okay" list:

It's okay . . .

. . . to let your 5-year-old have a grape juice popsicle for breakfast.

. . . not to save every last one of your children's artistic creations.

. . . to drink raw milk.

. . . to breastfeed.

. . . to not breastfeed.

. . . to give your child immunizations.

. . . to not give your child immunizations.

. . . to have a whole bunch of children, no children, or any number in between.

. . . to have plastic surgery if you can afford it. (I can't.)

. . . to color your hair. (I don't, but I might someday!)

. . . to treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure, or massage. (I have never gotten any of these, but wouldn't be opposed to the idea!)

. . . to let your kids play video games for more than 15 minutes a day.

. . . to not finish a book you started.

. . . to not keep up with everything your children are learning/reading/doing in home school.

. . . to not buy Girl Scout cookies (or other fundraising items).

. . . to shop at Wal-mart.

. . . to buy a piano that was made in China.

. . . to say no to whatever charity is asking for donations at the grocery store or main intersection in your town.

. . . to throw away a recyclable.

. . . to pay extra for good coffee.

. . . to splurge on a vacation even if it means some more practical things will have to wait until later.

. . . to treat yourself to a real Coke once in a while.

. . . to have pie for breakfast.

. . . to let your children eat hot dogs, Kraft macaroni & cheese, fish sticks, frozen pizzas, frozen waffles, and boxed cereal.

. . . to go two weeks without mopping, vacuuming, dusting, or washing the sheets.

. . . to climb into bed with a 5-year-old who is having trouble sleeping rather than telling him he needs to sleep by himself because he's a big boy.

. . . to pick and choose which of your children's misbehaviors you want to make an issue out of because you can't possibly police them all.

. . . to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

. . . to be a Republican.

. . . to live in the suburbs.

Any others?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From One Wild Animal to Another

I've been down with a summer cold. Well, not literally down--I'm still doing the stuff I need to do--but I haven't felt like doing much that I don't have to do, including blogging. Maybe I'll get something of my own posted later today. In the meantime, I recommend this column by Lee Cary at American Thinker. It's a review of a book that has caught the attention of the White House, a book which analyzes the psychology of human economic behavior, describing people as animals that are driven by emotion rather than reason and the government as essentially a zookeeper whose job it is to keep the animals from running wild. According to the authors, capitalism doesn't work because people not only buy things that they need but also things that they think they need but really don't (silly, stupid people). That's where the government comes in. From the book: "Such a world of animal spirits give the government an opportunity to step in. Its role is to set the conditions in which our animal spirits can be harnessed creatively to serve the greater good. Government must set the rules of the game . . . . Indeed if we thought that people were totally rational, and that they acted almost entirely out of economic motives, we too would believe that government should play little role in the regulation of financial markets, and perhaps even in determining the level of aggregate demand."

What the authors seem to be missing here is that government is made up of people, people who are just as irrational--and sinful--as the rest of us. What makes them think those people will do any better than we will ourselves? They're not even making decisions about their own money, but that of others. Oh yes, I forgot: the government pigs are smarter than the rest of us. Welcome to Obama Farm--or would that be Obama Zoo?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bunches of Blooms!

We have had a flower explosion! The roses on the left are my daughter's, received from her adoring parents Friday night after the musical. The arrangement on the right is actually a combination of two bouquets--one presented onstage at the conclusion of the concert that I played last Sunday and the other given by a young chorister at our last rehearsal. I ran out of vases and had to combine them last night when Trevor, my 16-year-old, presented me with the middle bunch, a dozen red roses (and some chocolate!) for Mother's Day.

Aren't they pretty?

My Mom

Me and Mom leaving the hospital, July 1964
(the photo spent a number of years in a circular frame--thus, the unfortunate fading)

Christmas 1981, departing for Midnight Mass

At my college senior piano recital, 1986

Wedding, 1987

Grandma, Trevor, Caitlin, and Giselle, 1998

Grandma & Evan, 2003

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Seussical, the Musical!

Time to break a leg!

The "theater" awaits.

The "dressing room."

Waiting for make-up.

The transformation from normal 13-year-old to "Bird Girl" takes time.


Caitlin and her Biggest Fan

Some more of the fan club

Best Buddies

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Sad Tale

The Carrie Prejean episode says much about this country, and most of it is not good. There is so much in this story that is sad, and there is plenty of blame to go around. I have previously shared my thoughts about the elevation of Miss Prejean to some sort of hero status. A few other observations now come to mind:

1) It is despicable the way Miss Prejean was attacked for sharing her honest opinion about gay marriage. The venom and hatred from some quarters has been shocking. But the conservative Christians who latched on to her to promote their own agenda also bear responsibility for this mess. They did not consider whether Carrie was prepared to become their poster child or how it might affect her personally to do so. And now as some unseemly photos from her past have emerged many of them are deserting her. Talk about fair weather friends.

2) I see in Carrie's story another example of something I have been puzzled about for a long time, namely how many Christian women today see no contradiction between their faith and the suggestiveness of their clothing. That Carrie, a Christian, doesn't think twice about displaying her nearly nude body on national television in a sexually provocative way makes no sense to me. But it also makes no sense to me how frequently I see young women in my own community dress in a way that I don't think any female should, and for church, no less! The bare midriffs, cleavage, stiletto heels, skin tight pants, coy messages written on chests and rears, and dresses that look like baby doll nightgowns leave me speechless. And their conservative Christian parents don't seem to have a problem with it. Call me an old-fashioned prude, but if I were to suggest to my daughter that she wear some of the things that we routinely see on some of her peers, she would look at me like I had lost my mind. She would be extremely uncomfortable dressing that way and calling such attention to herself, and it's not because of any Victorian-minded training she has received from her parents but because her own humility and modesty would prevent her doing so.

3) It was clear from her rather inarticulate answer ("opposite" marriage?) on the Miss USA pageant that Miss Prejean was not prepared for all this attention. If the Christian community had any sense at all, and if they really cared about her as a fellow Christian, they would have immediately circled the wagons in protection of her after the radical press started going after her. Carrie's friends and family should have advised her to lie low and let others speak for her. She should have issued a press release saying in effect that she stands by her answer. And then she should have voiced her desire to move on with her life and speak no more of it. Instead, the Sean Hannity's of the world decided to squeeze some ratings and a few more soundbites out of her. So they set her up for continued silly statements about how her career goal is to become a "motivational speaker" and encourage young women to stand up for themselves and their views. And to think that children used to want to be firemen and nurses and teachers and doctors. Now it's "motivational speakers" and "community organizers."

I'm sorry if I'm being excessively grumpy. By the way, for those who may not have heard, the President has opted to skip any observance (beyond signing the standard proclamation) of the National Day of Prayer today. But of course. Our country is in such excellent shape. And besides, we have Obama at the helm, and he is going to take care of everything. What could there possibly be to pray about?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Not a lot of time to blog right now. It's piano season. On Sunday, the children's choir organization that I accompany for had their year-end concerts. So from about 1:30 to 7:00 I was either sitting at the piano or running around backstage helping with cues, equipment, or crowd control. The venue was North Central College's brand new concert hall in downtown Naperville. I must admit one of the nice things about this job is getting to play pianos like that in places like that.

Yesterday I was in rehearsals all day for several other choirs I accompany, these at a local junior high school. It is a stunningly high level middle school choral program, not at all typical, due in part to the gifted director who just happens to be a member of my church. I have worked with him for the past five years, but at the end of this year he is leaving to build a chorus program at a new high school and I doubt circumstances will allow me to continue playing for him. I will miss working with him. When I first met him I was struck by how much he reminded me of my husband, both in appearance and style. Maybe that's why we have gotten along so well!

Yesterday's rehearsals were in preparation for concerts tonight and tomorrow night--four of them in all, one for each grade level (6, 7, 8) plus one for the Honors groups. The concerts will feature not just vocal choirs but bands and orchestra as well. I am always quite impressed with the level of accomplishment. Maybe it has something also to do with the fact that this junior high feeds into one of the most amazing high school music programs I have ever seen. The opportunities, facilities and equipment available to these students and the superior results rival that of a lot of college music programs in this country. I wonder if these kids realize how fortunate they are?

Today we are having another yard and house work day. This one will not be quite as totalizing as last week's--we can't give the entire day to it--but we still hope to get some big jobs done.

Caitlin is counting down to her stage debut this Friday in Seussical. She has rehearsals every night from 6-9 and performances Friday at 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. On Friday morning I will be helping prepare & serve lunch to the cast. Friday night will be Caitlin's first junior high social gathering--a party for cast and parents at a cast member's house.

The Houston Rockets prevailed in the first round of NBA playoffs! And last night they defeated the Lakers! If you're wondering why this makes an Illinois resident happy, check out my profile. Of course, it also makes several other male people in my house very happy, and that is always a salutary thing.

Speaking of said males, I need to go wake up the older one. Before yard work comes . . . French class. Priorities, you know.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


You know you've reached a new level in the aging process when you go from worrying about lines in your face to worrying about droops and sags and folds. Suddenly those lines don't seem so bad!

Talking About Death With a Five-Year-Old

Scene: Last night, snuggling in bed with Evan

"Mommy, I'm sad that Granddad died."

"I know, honey. I'm sad, too."

"I won't get to see him anymore. "

"I know, Evan. We all miss him. But Granddad was hurting a lot. He's not hurting now. It's better for him this way."

"I don't ever want to die. I wish I could go to heaven without dying."

"Well, honey, you never know. You might get to if Jesus comes back soon. But try not to worry about dying. People who believe in Jesus never really die. They just go to a different place."

"But Granddad believed in Jesus and he died."

"His body died. But his soul didn't die. As soon as you die you'll be with Jesus and it won't even seem like you died. You'll look dead to the people who are still alive because your body will still be here. But your soul will be with Jesus. And when he comes back, he'll raise your body and take it to be with your soul in Heaven with Him."

"Daddy's grandma and grandpa and grandmother and granddad are all dead?"

"Yes, honey, and mine, too."

"That's sad."


"I won't ever see them."

"No, not until you get to heaven. But then you'll get to see them all, and they will be so happy to see you. It will be like a party!"

Evan has also expressed sadness about never getting to meet our former dog. She was a fixture in our household for 17 years--until my oldest was about 9--and he has heard many stories about her and seen pictures of her. It strikes me that Evan's extreme extroversion may make him feel more acutely the deprivation of not having met these animals and people of the past and the pain of never again in this life being able to see loved ones who have died. He has cried about it before and he cried again--hard--last night. Finally I got to the point that I just wrapped my arms around him and cried with him, saying, "It's going to be okay, Evan. It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay."

To the moms and dads out there: is there anything different you would have said if you had been in my place last night? I am not good at calling Scripture to mind in situations like this. Is there a particular passage that might comfort his five-year-old heart?

The Constitution is Not an "Abstract Legal Theory"

Here's what President Obama had to say yesterday about what will guide him in nominating a new Supreme Court justice (emphases mine):

“Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice (David) Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as president, so I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.”

This statement troubles me deeply (but doesn't surprise me). It represents a seriously radical and activitist philosophy regarding the judicial branch of the government. Note that he doesn't say he will look for someone who will honor the Constitution, only someone who will honor constitutional "traditions" and "values." He acknowledges that there are limits to judicial power, but qualifies his acknowledgement with the adjective "appropriate"--I bet I know who gets to define what are "appropriate" limits and what are not. He elevates the effects of laws on individuals above the rule of law itself, which sounds like a good and compassionate thing, but which calls into qustion any law that can be shown to have an undesirable effect on an individual citizen. Last night on Fox News Charles Krauthammer pointed out that in fact this is a total skewing of the duties of the branches of government. It is the lawmakers' role to think about how the laws they pass will affect citizens; it is the judges' role to interpret those laws dispassionately and precisely. Otherwise, as Krauthammer noted, a bank could never foreclose on a mortgage, because after all, such an action negatively impacts the one being foreclosed on.

Is this so hard to understand? Why don't more people get it?

Friday, May 1, 2009

If you must put them in your queue, put them at the bottom

Rebekah (one of my bloggy friends that I have never met but sure do like the cyber-version of) recently shared a list of books that she wouldn't wish on her worst enemy (or maybe I'm putting words in her mouth and she would wish them on her enemies . . . you can check my memory here).

Talk about a great blog post! I filed it away for a dry day, and lo and behold, it looks like today is the day. So here for what it's worth is my list of books you should be very afraid of and, if you encounter them in a bookstore, reading group, college classroom, television adaptation, or dark alley, should summarily turn your back on and run screaming from in the other direction. (All you wordsmiths, please don't hassle me about the dangling prepositions, okay? I know they're there. But I'm not in the mood to do anything about it.)

I'm not going to justify my non-recommendations with lots of quotations and critical observations or wax eloquent of witty about them. I hated these books, remember? I've blocked the unpleasantness from my mind. So please don't ask me about plots and characters and themes and such. Just trust me. There are better ways to spend your time than reading these books.

1) Wuthering Heights - Interesting how many "hated" lists this one seems to make. It really is a dreary thing. But it's also a classic. If you've never read it and want to get the basics, you can do so courtesy of Monty Python, who some years back gave the world "Wuthering Heights in Semaphore."
(Be patient; Wuthering Heights is not the very first element of the skit.)

2. Life and Loves of a She-Devil - All I have to say is that I didn't choose to read this. It was assigned for one of my college literature courses. (All you parents that are getting ready to shell out big bucks for college degrees, consider yourselves fairly warned.) You can get an idea of the nature of the book here; to read the entire article, you have to be a member of the site. But why would you want to read the whole article? The first page is should suffice to steer you clear of this book.

3. Equus - also read for college literature. From Wikipedia (full article here): "Equus is a play by Peter Shaffer written in 1973, telling the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological religious/sexual fascination with horses. . . . Most important are religious and ritual sacrifice themes, and the manner in which character Alan Strang constructs a personal theology involving the horses and the supreme godhead, 'Equus.' Alan sees the horses as representative of God and confuses his adoration of his 'God' with sexual attraction." Enough said.

By the way, this is the play for which Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, in case you've been marooned on a desert island for the last decade) disrobed on Broadway.

4. Henry James

5. Romantic and Victorian British poetry

Wonder if the presence of numbers four and five on my list has anything to do with the fact that I took full semesters of each as a grad student in English literature?

If you're a bibliophile and want to play, feel free to jump right in with a comment or go to it on your own blog. Time is of the essence when you're my age and I don't want to waste any in reading purgatory when there's plenty out there capable of launching me straight to reading heaven!