". . . 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)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Republican Big Spenders

So far this year the U.S. Senate has voted on five of President Obama's appropriations bills. You might be surprised to find out the names of the lonely four Republicans who have voted against each and every one of them (thirteen Republican senators have voted for all five). One of those senators, often chided by conservatives as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) who would have been as bad or worse for the country than President Obama, was the GOP nominee for president last year. He wasn't my first pick, but I think he often gets a bum rap and I still don't understand those who stayed home rather than vote for him over the current occupant. Had John McCain won the election, I would not be nearly as worried about this country's future as I am right now.

To see whether or not your senator is functioning as a rubber stamp on the Obama spending spree, click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama and ACORN

The President says he's not paying much attention to the ACORN scandal because it's just not that important. Pamela Geller at American Thinker begs to differ. An excerpt:

"This is madness. What this constitutes is a coup on the American electoral system, a usurpation of the will of the people: government by the people and for the people made into a sham. It's a government by the moochers and the looters, for the moochers and the looters, stolen from the good, hardworking Americans. And worse, the American people have sat by and let it happen. Obama's presidency is not an accident of history. It was a very deliberate assault by the hard left on the foundation of the greatest country in human history."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Loving Our Enemies

The Psalm of the Day this weekend was Psalm 54. Here it is in its entirety:

O God, save me by your name and vindicate me by your might.
For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves.
Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Psalm 54 is one of the imprecatory* psalms, which pray God's wrath upon the psalmist's enemies. Christians sometimes struggle with these prayers, wondering if they are in opposition to Jesus' command to love our enemies. But I think most Christians in their heart of hearts (myself included) can also strongly identify with them. We have all experienced times in our lives when we have felt sinned against, wronged, taken advantage of, persecuted, and unfairly attacked and have longed for the guilty one to get what he deserves. When I was a new student in a small rural school who for no apparent reason became the object of scorn of a large number of the girls in my class, you can bet I wished for justice upon them. When I was the victim of a purse-snatching and the theft from my car of a video camera that had irreplaceable tape of my children, I most certainly wanted the perpetrators to be punished. When people in my life have spoken untruths about me or my family, I have found myself hoping that their evil deeds turn back on them.

And yet, as Pastor pointed out in his sermon, that is not really what the imprecatory psalms are about. In order to understand them rightly we need to ask ourselves who the enemies are. Are they those mean girls in my junior high school or the criminals that victimized me or those who bear false witness against me? Certainly they are enemies in the temporal sense. But they are not the real enemies. In truth, in this fallen world we are all enemies of one another and of God, having been separated from Him by Adam's sin and now having to muddle through this messy life at war with His creation. But because of the death of Jesus for all sinners, we who were at war with our Creator may now claim the gift of salvation freely given. The only ones who may not claim that gift is Satan himself, his minions sin and death, and those who persist in following the way of death rather than clinging to the cleansing and life-giving robe of the Saviour.

Here is Martin Luther's introductory note on Psalm 54, from my copy of Reading the Psalms with Luther:

"The 54th psalm is a psalm of prayer against the persecutors who seek the life of the godly on account of the Word of God. Thus Saul and those in Ziph had attempted to kill David on account of the Word of God, through which he had been called and consecrated to be king. The psalmist prays for deliverance from his enemies and for vengeance upon them."

Here is Luther's prayer that follows Psalm 54:

"Lord, our God, who desires not the death of the wicked, convert those who hate us without a cause, and turn the hearts of those who persecute Your Christians. Protect the poor and the innocent against the oppression of unjust men. Grant us patience under the cross, and preserve us in the true faith to our end. Amen."

The psalmist cries for evil to be vanquished. As Luther said elsewhere, any time we pray the Lord's Prayer--"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"--we are praying for the same thing. But our prayer is also that the wicked (among whose number we must include ourselves) repent and come to faith. In fact, the best thing we can pray for our enemies is that they come face to face with God's Law and His righteous anger, that they might be convicted of their sin and turn from it. Those who are baptized into Christ daily pray for themselves the death of Old Adam and the ascendance of the New Man. Certainly we can pray the same for our enemies.

Psalm 54 ends with a proclamation of the psalmist's deliverance from persecution and victory over his foes, stated not as a hope but as a feat already accomplished. May you and I, as we daily face the pains and struggles of this world, rest secure in that same confidence, fixing our eyes on the cross just as David did. Although he was looking forward in time, and we are looking back, the war and its combatants have always been the same, and the victory is for all time.

*Here is another helpful link about imprecatory psalms.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank God It's Friday

There have been times in my life where "TGIF" has resonated with me--such as when I was teaching public school full time. But it's been a long time since I kept the sort of schedule where I looked forward to Friday.

I'm back to appreciating Fridays. My part-time job playing piano for a local high school requires that I be there M-Th mornings as well as Tuesday evening. But I negotiated to have Friday mornings off because I knew I would need that time for catching up on homeschooling and other household matters. I am a morning person--it's when I think the most clearly and accomplish the most in the least amount of time. But I have now turned over more than 50 percent of my best brain time to a paying job.

I really don't know how two-income families do it. There are so many things that need to be done during the 40-hour work week. How do families where both parents work 8-5 get it all done? How do they find time for the housework and the cooking and the chauffeuring and the car repairs and the doctor appointments and the grocery shopping and the trips to the drycleaner, library, and veterinarian? I had trouble getting it all done before, but as a homeschooling/partially stay-at-home mom I have some flexibility--if I need to cancel school for some higher purpose, I can. But I can't cancel going to work. The number of hours over which I have sole control has lessened considerably.

So when I woke up this morning (at 6:00 instead of 5:00) and didn't have to immediately hop in the shower so as to get out the door by 6:30, it was a glorious, luxurious feeling. I enjoyed a little computer time, visited with my husband, and read aloud and watched a video about the Battle of Agincourt with my two older children. I cuddled in bed with my five-year-old. But I didn't make much headway on the task list--all those things that have been waiting all week for Friday. Suddenly it was lunchtime and then it was time to take my daughter to art class, and then half the day was gone. Where did all the time go? There's just never enough of it. Yesterday between driving to and from work, taking my daughter to and from her afternoon classes at the day school and my youngest son to and from his gym class, and driving to and from two different choir rehearsals, I spent about three hours in the car. Three hours of pure driving. I have finally figured out that all that time in the car should not go to waste and have gotten some books on tape to listen to.

Ah, what I would do if I had more time. I would be able to teach my children the way I would like, to read, to watch those funny YouTube videos and follow the links people send me, to play with friends on Facebook, to follow all the blogs I would like, to exercise regularly, to practice piano more, to spend more time on food preparation, and to keep in better touch with friends.

I don't have that much time. But I do have some. Time to get busy making the most of it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

R.I.P.

I was sorry to hear yesterday about the death of actor/dancer Patrick Swayze. He was too young to die. From what I know of pancreatic cancer, it is a miracle that he lived for two years after the diagnosis was made. My heart goes out to him and his family for what must have been an agonizing couple of years.

He wasn't a great actor or a great singer. But he struck me as being sincere in the work he did in both realms. He was most certainly a great dancer. But what I will most remember and admire him for is his commitment to his marriage. He met his wife Lisa Niemi when she was 15 and he was 19 and she was taking dance lessons from Patrick's mother Patsy Swayze (who choreographed Urban Cowboy). Four years later they married, and they stayed married until Patrick's death. Do the math--that's 34 years, a rarity for anyone these days, but particularly for Hollywood types. Clearly he was a man who had his priorities straight.

My condolences to the family and friends of Patrick Swayze. May he rest in peace, and may you find joy in your memories and comfort and solace in the Lord.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dear Working Man

I have been having a rather interesting (?) discussion with a reader on my "Why We Homeschool" post a few entries back. My last reply was too long to be accepted in the comment field, so I am going to post it here. If you haven't read the post in question or followed the comment thread, you will probably need to back up and do so in order to understand this post. Feel free to skip it, though. I know my readers have busy lives, and this is mostly for Working Man.

Before I post my comment, though, I do have to say that I find it interesting that someone that I don't know in any way (at least I don't think I do) would invest so much time in discussing politics with me. I am not any sort of political guru. I am not a pundit. I don't have hundreds of people reading my blog on a daily basis to see what latest brilliance I am going to emit. I am just a homeschool mommy and self-employed musician that keeps a blog as a personal outlet and means of communicating with family and friends. Most of the people that read and comment here are either people I know or people that I have come to know as a result of sharing some common ground (chess, homeschooling, Lutheranism, etc.). I don't know how "Working Man," the commenter to whom my response below is addressed, discovered my blog or why he cares what I think. The blogs that I take time to comment on are the blogs of people I know, either in real life or in cyberspace. (I read some other, national blogs, but I don't comment on them, since no one, either the writer or the other readers, would know who I am or have any interest in what I might have to say.) The online political discussions/debates I have had have thus been with people that, again, I know in some capacity. I may know them in cyberspace only, but I don't consider them anonymous because I know something about them, or I know people they know, or we are on the same email list, or belong to the same denomination, or SOMETHING. And because there is that connection and common ground I care what they think and suppose that maybe they feel the same about me, and we can have some meaningful, enlightening discussions. But I find myself a bit perplexed at why an anonymous reader with whom I have nothing in common (of which I am aware) is spending so much time arguing with me, someone he doesn't even know.

Anyway, here, for what it's worth, is my final comment to Working Man. Working Man's words are in quotation marks.

"Your right, the number has changed. I see that as truthfullnes on his part. If the number he was given to begin with was 45 million, and now he has learned it's more like 30 million . . . "

So, Working Man, you suggest that perhaps the number "he was given" was wrong and that now "he has learned" otherwise. He has been throwing the 46 million number around for at least a year. He's trying to take over 1/6th of our country's economy. He is the President of the U.S. He is responsible for the numbers he puts out there and uses as a basis for remaking our health system. So I guess best construction is that he's too incompetent to do that. But I don't think he's that incompetent. That leaves us with dishonest.

"As for Rush and his statements. Sexist; He said when Bill Clinton went To North Korea to bring back those two reporters. Where is HillarY Is North Korea too important for the girl."

I don't get your point here, Working Man. Are you saying it was sexist for Rush to call Hillary a girl? Last time I looked, that's what she was. Or that it was sexist for him to question why Obama sent Bill to North Korea and not Hillary? Seems like a fair question to me. I don't see why either of those things suggest sexism. Rush is definitely anti-feminist. I guess in your mind that makes him a sexist. But that is a position I reject. To embrace traditional male/female roles and accept that there are differences between the sexes does not make one a sexist. Furthermore, I don't see how someone who has supported any number of female politicians can be called sexist. When Palin was brought on as McCain's VP candidate Rush went from being totally down on the GOP ticket to supporting it. He supported it because of the WOMAN on the ticket, not the man. That is not the mark of a sexist. Of course, you will probably discount that example because it's Sarah Palin, and in your mind and the mind of many liberals she doesn't count because she embraces traditional values, and so it's not politically correct to support her.

On the issue of Hillary, anyone who has listened to Rush for any period of time knows that while he is not anti-woman, he is definitely anti-Hillary, and yes, he has gotten much mileage out of making fun of her over the years. But that's because she's Hillary Clinton, married to Bill Clinton, not because she's a woman.

The quotes you provide on the topics of slavery and James Earl Ray are disputed, and WikiQuote acknowledges them to be so. There is no evidence that he ever said either one. The only source for both of them is a book by Jack Huberman in which he did not provide air dates or source material for the quotations. So let's not waste our time on those.

"Take the bone out of your nose and call me back."

I'm not sure I even get this one. But I looked it up and found that it's over 30 years old. He said this back in the 70s when he wasn't even known as Rush Limbaugh but was doing a top 40 show as "Jeff Christie" on Pittsburgh radio. WikiQuotes says he has expressed regret about it. Can we let that one go and deal in the here and now please? Or maybe in the last 10 years, at least? It seems a bit of a stretch to make statements about a man's character today based on a 30+ year old remark.

"I left out the one about Donavan Mcnabb the Eagles Quarterback."

Oh, let's not leave that one out. For anyone who doesn't know that story, here is a summary:

http://www.adversity.net/special/rush_limbaugh.htm

I don't accept that acknowledging that the NFL would consider it to be a positive to have a black quarterback do well to be a racist remark. And I don't accept that someone who would repeatedly ask Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell to guest host for him is a racist.

"Homophobic; He made a joke about Barney Frank that was disgusting, of course he only made it because he was gay."

I am not familiar with the joke, so I can't comment. Perhaps it is a joke that I would object to based on its crudeness. I don't care for crude humor, and sometimes Rush has said some outrageous things, but crudeness and outrageousness do not equate to sexism and racism. And if your argument is that saying anything that could be seen as critical of homosexuality is homophobic, then we may as well give up the conversation now, Working Man. Because I do believe that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. But that doesn't make me homophobic. I don't hate gay people. I don't think they should be made to sit on the back of the bus or drink from their own water fountains. I don't think they're less human than anyone else. But I do think homosexuality is a sin, just like I think a whole bunch of other things are a sin. So if you're going to call me homophobic based on that I guess you also have to call me fornication-phobic, and adultery-phobic, and liar-phobic, and anger-phobic, and profanity-phobic, and whatever else you want to add to the list. Basically, I guess I'm sin-phobic. Now to be clear, that doesn't mean I'm not a sinner, too. I'm a sinner through and through. So I guess I'm also self-phobic.

"If I or anyone makes a derogatory joke about lets say confessional Lutherans would you consider that humor?"

That's a false analogy, Working Man. It is not a sin to be a confessional Lutheran. At least I don't think it is. Readers? And for the record, I have heard a lot of great jokes about confessional Lutherans! And I have enjoyed them!

"I don't care who makes any of these statement right, left, or moderate they are still unacceptable."

That we can agree on. But I'm afraid we disagree on what is considered to be an acceptable/unacceptable statement.

"Lies, to create a false or misleading impression. I think death panels or funding illegal immigrants qualifies as lies"

I disagree. I think both of those phrases peel away all the pc, pretty rhetoric and get to the heart of both matters.

"Finally if Jesus was not sent to judge the world but save it. why do you and so many like you feel that they can judge."

You have it wrong, Working Man. Jesus is God, and God is both Judge and Saviour, both Law and Gospel. He is the only one that can condemn, and He is the only one that can save. To identify right and wrong, truth and lies, good and evil, is not the same thing as judging. Naming is just that--naming. In fact, naming is one of the jobs God gave Adam to do. But the judging (and saving) are left to God.

Working Man, I think you and I have exhausted this discussion. I would kindly ask you to now let it be. This all grew out of an offhand remark on what I thought was a homeschooling post on my personal blog. The debate has been interesting. But I don't really see what there is to be gained by you and I continuing it. I'm getting ready to head into a busy week, and I'm sure you are, too, and I don't know that either of us or my readers have anything to gain from our continued sparring. Our world views and foundational beliefs are too different. What say we give it a rest?

God bless.

America is speaking, Mr. President. Are you listening?

Earlier this week President Obama referred to Americans who oppose his government-expanding and overspending policies as liars and obstructionists. Yesterday a disputed number of those so-called liars assembled in Washington, D.C. (the estimates range anywhere from tens of thousands to several million). American Thinker has published the observations of several demonstrators, along with a link to a time-lapse YouTube video showing the progress of the 3-4 hour march in just one or two minutes. It is worth noting that there was no violence and no disturbing of the peace, nor was there a big name figurehead spearheading the event. It was instead the result of the vision and execution of everyday citizens across the country, people like you and me, who are tired of being ignored. Similar demonstrations were held in other cities around the nation. Lots and lots of people are trying to speak to this President. The question is, is he listening? And will he truly try to understand instead of assigning to the demonstrators straw man positions that do not represent their true worries and fears?

I don't know if he has yet had any reaction to the march. It would not surprise me if he completely ignored it. To comment on it at all would probably, in his mind, grant it legitimacy and additional media attention. But whether he listens or not, the "Tea Party" Americans are not going to go away, be quiet, or give up. One thing I can give Mr. Obama credit for: I think he may have awakened the proverbial sleeping giant. The question is, does he even care whether or not he and his party retain power? If so, there may yet be hope of putting the brakes on cap and trade and socialized medicine and more harm to the economy, not to mention the ongoing compromising of national security. But my fear is that he and his posse may be willing to fall on their swords if it means furthering their agenda. Perhaps they are thinking that if the power grab is big and successful enough, they will ultimately be able to reclaim control even if they temporarily lose it. If so, they aren't going to listen to the giant, no matter how loudly he stomps.
And that means that this giant better not go back to sleep anytime soon. Because even if he succeeds in ridding himself of the current administration in a few years, he may have to face the effects for a long time to come, in which case he needs to keep on stomping to have any hope of reversing the damage that has been done.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nobody Here But Us Fish

Last night I attended Evening Prayer at my church. We normally don't have a service on Friday night, but this weekend my congregation is hosting a gathering of pastors who have been participating in Doxology, a three-part spiritual renewal program led by Rev. Harold Senkbeil and Dr. Beverly Yahnke. This weekend was the third part of the series, entitled "The Reunion," when the pastors who have been attending return with their wives (parts one and two of the program are, respectively, "The Gathering" and "The Encore"). There were several workshops designed specifically for the wives, with consideration given to what it is like to live within the "stained glass fishbowl" of parish life when one is the spouse of a church worker. Although I am not a pastor's wife, I found that I was able to relate to much of what was said. I guess cantors' wives often swim in that same fishbowl.

During the Service of Light at the beginning of last night's liturgy, when the Paschal candle was processed, my five-year-old turned to me and, concerned, asked, "Mommy, who are those pastors? Where is Pastor S_______?" He had noticed that only one of our parish's two pastors was involved in the procession; the other two coming down the aisle at that moment were unfamiliar to him.

I explained that the other two pastors were our guests and that they were participating in a special gathering of a whole bunch of pastors at our church this weekend. "In fact," I told him, "if you look around the sanctuary, almost everyone you see here tonight is a pastor!"

I thought he would find this to be a fascinating piece of information. Pastors loom large in our family's daily life as the bearers of Word and Sacrament and Christ's vicars on Earth, those to whom we turn for guidance on questions big and small, spiritual and temporal. But instead of being impressed by the august company in which he found himself, he became even more perplexed: "But Mommy, there are girls in this room!"

And so there were. I quickly corrected myself: "Oh, I mean almost all the men in the room are pastors. The ladies are the pastors' wives."

Reflecting on this I find it sadly ironic that I of all people--myself the wife of a full-time church worker--could look at a room full of pastors and their wives and somehow forget that the wives were there. Of course, I didn't really forget. But I think my overlooking of them as I described the occupants of the room exemplifies what often happens in the church on a large scale. Our pastors are so important to us in the work they do--in their preaching and teaching and administering of the sacraments--and they so command our attention, that it is easy to forget their families--the women and children who by virtue of their family ties also live in that fishbowl.

Interestingly enough, the overlooking of the pastor's family with regards to care may often go hand in hand with looking too closely when it comes to his family life. What are some of the elements that can make life in the fishbowl rather stressful? Here are just a few, taken from one of Dr. Yahnke's sessions (but put into my own words):

The pastor's family life is looked upon as a model for the families of the congregation (and thus often held up to unreasonably high standards).

The parish may see itself (and behave) as though it is one big extended family of the pastor, weighing in with its opinion on family matters which are none of its concern.

The pastor's wife is often used as a means for communicating with her husband, sometimes innocuously, sometimes insidiously.

The pastor's wife may be expected to function as unpaid staff, sacrificing herself and her family in order to serve the needs of the church.

I have a lot of friends who are pastors' wives, and over the years I have heard from many of them about some of these very things. I am happy to say that, although I have often felt much in common with my friends who are pastors' wives, my husband and I are blessed currently to be in a congregation that does not have the fishbowl mentality. Our parish seems to understand the difference between the church worker and the church worker's family and does a good job of respecting the family accordingly. (If you're a parishioner reading this, BLESS YOU!)

At the same time, I can very much relate to the following list of the top five things that pastors' wives worry about:

1) financial issues, 2) time demands, 3) their husband's high level of stress, 4) parishioners' opinions of their husband and family, and 5) criticism of their husband by parishioners.

All of these are strongly in my mind almost all the time. We live on a church worker's income in an affluent Chicago suburb. My husband easily works sixty hours per work, often more, and I work part-time while homeschooling our children. The demands of the schedule are a constant source of stress. And while we are blessed to be in a congregation that is enjoying a welcome stretch of peace, we have sadly experienced more years than I care to say in congregations that were in conflict, so I know well what it means to face daily criticism and always be worrying about what those in the parish think of you. Even now when things are better, I am hypersensitive to the opinions of others and I think my husband is, too, as we both worry often about whether we might have said or done something that could be misconstrued or that might have offended someone.

When I started writing this post my intent was to tell a cute story about my five-year-old. But I guess that story struck a nerve. I think a lot of my readers already know about life in the fishbowl, either as fish themselves or as those who love and care for the fish. So for those I guess this post is not sharing anything new. But maybe there is someone reading who is getting a perspective he hasn't before. If so, I hope it leads you to see the fish in your life in a new way and, if you haven't in the past, to start today to pray for them regularly.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why We Homeschool - Exhibit A

Sitting here comparing our homeschool day to that of institutionally educated children around the country, I am reminded yet again of why we do what we do. Had my children been in "regular" school today, here are a few of the things they would have missed out on:

French class with their father.

The joy ;-) of waking up and spending time with their little brother.

A morning phone call to their grandmother, who is approaching the end of her life, and who is at her most lucid early in the day.

Midday prayers around the table with their entire family.

Filet mignon for lunch. (I hasten to add this is not normal. Jewel had a buy-one-get-one-free sale. Additionally, due to my husband's likely departure in a few days to see his mother, an evening church voters' meeting which makes cooking tonight a challenge, and many fresh vegetables on hand from Saturday's trip to the Farmer's Market, we decided to have a big hot meal for lunch rather than dinner. Tonight we'll snack.)

A lesson in how to make fried okra.

Rush Limbaugh on the radio during lunch preparation.

Clean-up duty after lunch.

If they had been in public school today, of course, they might have been able to hear the President's speech on why they should stay there. You know, when I first heard about that speech (and the accompanying lesson plan, which has since been changed) I was concerned about Mr. Obama's turning the nation's schoolchildren into a captive audience for what I feared would be political indoctrination masquerading as a pep talk. It didn't turn out that way. I read the text of the speech earlier today, and it's actually not bad. (It's rather ironic, since it is a call for personal responsibility, but I digress.) And knowing the condition of public education in this country, I can't say I can blame the President for wanting to do his part to encourage students to tough it out. Because it's not easy, yet for many of them it's all they've got, and for better or for worse they need to get through it somehow. How sad that for many it's not a place where they can thrive, but one where they must endure. And for the record, the reason that it is that way has nothing whatsoever to do with money!

I am so thankful for the ability to be able to provide a "school" for my children that is not a place they have to be talked into attending but rather is one that nurtures their whole being and that makes them feel safe and loved.

As for them, I think they like the cafeteria choices.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

And These Are The People Who Want to Run Health Care?

Back in April, oh around the 15th of the month, my 16yo son wrote a check to the Internal Revenue Service. It's not that he made enough money in wages to owe taxes, but rather that he won enough chess tournaments to do so. You see, prize winnings are not subject to to the same exemption as wages. Taxes must be paid on every single cent. So my son, being the good citizen that he is, sent Uncle Sam his cut.

Imagine our puzzlement, then, when a month or so later he got a bill from dear old "Unc" for unpaid taxes plus interest and penalties. But, but . . . he paid! We checked with the bank and sure enough, the money had come out of the account. So we printed off copies of the cancelled check, front and back, and sent them in, trusting that this would settle things.

Hahahahahahahah. Apparently, Uncle Sam is not only greedy, but his eyesight is going, too. Yesterday another letter came. Apparently the tracking numbers on the check do not meet Uncle's legibility requirements. Another copy of the check has been requested, along with a form on which we have been directed to write down all the numbers that have been stamped on the check in the endorsement area. Let it be noted that these are the numbers Uncle Sam himself stamped on the check. Apparently he can stamp but he can't do so legibly enough that he can go back and read the numbers later. So he needs us to help him with that, poor dear.

So let's get this straight. My 16yo son made a couple of thousand dollars last year at most. A portion of that was prizewinnings. He paid his tax as required by law. The IRS cashed the check. And now for almost six months they have been spending unnecessary time and money harassing a minor about $150 that he already paid them. This is the same government that can't seem to send out the checks it promised to dealers in the Cash for Clunkers program or make timely Medicare payments (don't get me started on that one). And they think they can establish and enforce a huge new bureaucracy, one equivalent to one-sixth of this country's economy, and get it right?

Oh, I forgot. We're the only ones that have to get it right. They're the government. They don't have to actually get it right--they just have to pronounce it right, and it's so. That's what bullies do. Even old, fat, blind, drunk with power Uncles who say they care about you but are really just looking for a few more easy bucks to feed their gluttonous ways.

Memo to Uncle Sam: My son, like so many other young people, is working hard right now so that he won't have to depend on his Rich Uncle in the years to come. Leave him alone, will you?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Blaze

The 2009-10 season of the United States Chess League has begun! Chicago's team, the Blaze, played their first round Wednesday night against the Arizona Scorpions and unfortunately got pretty badly stung. But hey, it's early. There are nine more weeks remaining in the regular season. So stay tuned!

My son is honored to be a member of this year's Blaze lineup, especially since his chess teacher is also on the team! To see some photos and read the team blog, click here. The slide show starts as soon as you land on the site, so if you miss the first few pictures be sure to restart it and watch from the beginning. There are several great shots of Trevor. :-)

(For you observant ones who may notice and find yourself wondering why all the game shots show only one player, the answer is that USCL chess is played online. So each player has a computer on which he makes his moves electronically while his opponent does the same somewhere else in the country. Meanwhile, each player also keeps a physical board set up with the current position. That is why you can see both a computer and an actual chess board in front of each player in the photos.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More on Gifting

Okay, as usual, I'm late to the party. Here's a 3-year-old article my husband found that explores the verbification of gift in some detail:

"Especially During the Holidays, 'Gift' is a Verb that Keeps on Giving"

Last night during a discussion of this matter with my family, we consulted several dictionaries in our house, including the Oxford English Dictionary Concise Edition. It turns out the use of gift as a verb is not a new thing but has some history behind it. But what struck me about the definition in the OED is that it empasized the formal or ceremonial aspect of "gifting."

Think about it. We use the word "give" all the time to indicate mere transmittal of data or objects. "Give me your phone number." "Give it your best guess." "Give it a try." "Give me a moment." Give me your thoughts." "Give me that book." Giving does not necessarily mean the bestowal of a gift. I would bet that it doesn't most of the time.

So maybe the use of the word "gift" instead of "give" is an effort to emphasize the "gift" aspect and its specialness. Is that so wrong? Is it necessarily self-aggrandizing?

I acknowledge that I am a bit of a grammar snob, and I'm still not sold on all the "gifting" that is going on out there. A lot of it does strike me as an attempt to use a fancier-sounding word. But I am also starting to think that there might be a place in the lexicon for thoughtful gifting.