". . . 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)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Can Thank Me At the End of this Post

Some recent health-oriented headlines:

There is no good reason to do abdominal exercises. In fact, they are not good for your back. Just take a walk instead.

Dark chocolate is healthy for you. It's the flavonoids, stupid.

Caffeine may prevent or reverse Alzheimer's. It may also have a positive effect on memory and blood pressure.

There you go. No more crunches. Get up off the floor, put on your walking shoes, pour yourself a cup of coffee, slip some Dove dark chocolate in your pocket, and head outside for some fresh air, sunshine, and deep breathing.

You're welcome.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Speaking of Unschooling . . .

. . . maybe the whole country would be in better shape if more of our leaders were unschooled. At least that's what I take away from this not-to-be-missed column by P.J. O'Rourke:

"A Plague of 'A' Students: Why It's So Irksome Being Governed by the Obami"

An excerpt:

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: “A students work for B students.” Or, as a businessman friend of mine put it, “B students work for C students—A students teach.” . . .

The U.S. tax code was written by A students. Every April 15 we have to pay somebody who got an A in accounting to keep ourselves from being sent to jail.

Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101. . . .

The C student starts a restaurant. The A student writes restaurant reviews. The input-worshipping universe of the New York Times is like New York itself—thousands of restaurant reviews and no place we can afford to eat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ladies Wearing Hats

Jane, take note.

This afternoon at church my daughter and I attended a "Daughters' Tea." It was a lovely time. The theme was the many different "hats" that we as women and girls wear in our daily lives and how no mattter what "hat" we may have on at any given moment, each of us is above all a daughter of our Heavenly Father.

To bring that theme to life, a woman in our congregation who because of her love of hats is affectionately known as the "hat lady" shared her own large collection of hats for the afternoon. As each lady or girl arrived she was invited to select a hat from the vast array of possibilities. Mirrors were provided to assist with the selection process and once adorned, each of the attendees was invited to have her picture taken either alone or in a group with friends or family. Then all sat down for tea.

And tea it was. Yours Truly stupidly approached the drink table, cup in hand, looking for the coffee carafe, only to be informed that coffee was not on the menu today. Duh. I settled for a cup of mango passionfruit tea. It was delicious.

But while coffee was not on the menu, all sorts of other things were:

There were sandwiches and cream puffs and fruit and truffles. Did I mention cream puffs?

A few more pictures of the fun:


Sophie (Suzanne's daughter)

Ruthie and her mom Carol

Ladies wearing hats while eating

Francesca and Katie (sister of Sophie)

Ina providing background music

Ruthie (with milk, not tea, in that cup)

Lily and Alayna


I am hat-challenged. My head is too big for most hats. But I looked and looked until even I found one that fit well enough for me to suffer a few hours in it. Sorry, no picture. It was not publishable. Trust me.
(By the way, if you don't mind, could you refrain from telling my other tea party friends where I was today? I'm not sure they would understand. They have different ideas about what to do with tea.)


I've been thinking a lot about words lately. (I tend to do that.)

Most recently, I've been thinking about "bad" words--the ones we (or I) tend to avoid in polite company. It seems to me that the line separating "nice" words from naughty ones has shifted over the last generation and that expressions that were once considered vulgar are not anymore.

For example, here are a few words that I would not necessarily label as obscene but that I still think are inappropriate in most situations because of their coarseness:


I also cringe when I hear people using what I think are "soft" ways to take the Lord's name in vain:

"Oh my God" or "OMG"
"Christ" (used as an interjection)
etc. (there are many variations of this--even "my gosh" and "golly gee" and "gee whiz" are permutations of the names of the Father and the Son)

And yet I see and hear them everywhere--on the radio and television, in status updates on Facebook, on blogs, and in everyday conversation--and from what I can tell I think I'm in the minority when I cringe at their usage. Am I wrong about that? Do any of you cringe, too? Or is it just me?

A few months ago President Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, got some grief for his pejorative use of the word "retard." That word was prefaced by another one that started with the letter "f" and ended with "-ing." I remarked at the time that I was more offended by the obscenity than I was by the word "retard." A friend of mine who has a Down syndrome child explained to me why for her it was the other way around--she was much more insulted by the use of the word "retard" than by the obscenity. I understand her point. But I find it revealing that I heard nothing at all in the mainstream media that was critical of Mr. Emanuel for the profanity. It seems that we have become so hardened to that sort of language that no one thinks anything of it anymore.

I am not saying that I never let a naughty word slip. My go-to profanity is the one that starts with "s" and ends with "t." It comes out when I stub my toe or break a dish or spill something or look in the rearview mirror and see flashing red lights coming up behind me. But after I use it I feel ashamed and remorseful that I descended to that level. What good did it do?

Come to think of it, that is about the only bad word that ever escapes my lips. It seems fitting somehow when something icky happens to use a word that names something icky. Maybe I'm rationalizing, but to me the "f" word seems so much worse. I can't make myself say it if I try. For me it is not just a passing expression but a word that invokes all sorts of things and has a power far beyond itself. It also horribly degrades one of God's precious gifts to humankind. And yet that's the word that everyone seems to be using and no one, not even the President of the United States, seems to mind. I find it beyond offensive that neither the President nore the Vice-President seem at all concerned about what sort of example they are setting for young people when they can so easily laugh something like this off.

So what do you think? Am I being hopelessly silly and pietistic? Am I attributing power to language that it doesn't or shouldn't have?

Maybe I am overly sensitive because of my upbringing. My father was an alcoholic who, when he was drinking, have a pretty salty vocabulary. He was also what he referred to as a "shade tree mechanic." I vividly recall multiple incidences of his working on our cars in the driveway and venting his frustration with the cursed machines through a steady outpouring of profanities, most commonly the "G.D." one, that must have been heard throughout the neighborhood. It was painful then and painful now to think of.

I wonder if my adult intolerance for just about any raw language is kind of like an allergic reaction. Allergies can occur when you go from excessive exposure to a substance to not being around that substance for a very long time. When the substance is reintroduced, there is no tolerance at all for it, and an allergy is born. My father was also a chain smoker, so I grew up breathing smoke. Now I can't be around cigarette smoke without a severe allergic reaction. Maybe it's the same with the language. I got enough of it my first 18 years to last the rest of my

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. What words bother you, if any? Do you think our society has become generally desensitized to obscenity? And if so, do you think it matters?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unschooling Reality Check

Good Morning, America recently did a segment on the educational approach known as unschooling. Leave it to the mainstream media to get it all wrong. A quotation from the report:

Ann Pleshette Murphy, parenting expert and "Good Morning America" contributor, questioned the unusual approach. "This to me is putting way too much power in the hands of the kids, something that we know kids can often find anxiety-producing, and it's also sending a message that they're the center of the universe, which I do not think is healthy for children," she said.

"Center of the universe"? That is hardly the attitude of the unschooling parents I know. Instead, their children learn that the world is much bigger than their little piece of it, that it is expansive and inviting and full of many more possibilities than are apparent within the walls of a traditional school building or the limits of a packaged curriculum. They learn that the things that are going on in the world--things beyond themselves, involving real life and people--are more important than arbitrary assignments and deadlines and tests. And yes, they learn to look to themselves for validation rather than to their peers or their teachers. Since when is that a bad thing?

Clearly, GMA was not really interested in promoting understanding of the unschooling philosophy but rather in providing a limited and biased picture that would only contribute to the general public's suspicion of not only unschoolers but homeschoolers in general. Interestingly enough, one of the first people to point that out is a columnist for The Huffington Post:

I know I'm naïve to expect the mainstream media to cover a subject like "radical unschooling" as anything other than a freak show, but the recent hatchet job that George Stephanopoulos and Good Morning America did on the topic was so hopelessly biased that it'd make Rupert Murdoch blush.

(Click here for the full piece by Lee Stranahan.)

We are not an unschooling family. But I think it is a completely valid approach to homeschooling and I have personally met many of its success stories. And the underlying philosophy of unschooling—that children are more motivated by real life than by the created demands of a school or an extremely structured curriculum—is something that informs my husband and me in our own approach to parenting. We give our children great latitude to pursue their interests and passions on their own schedules. We do provide them with books and resources and some general expectations about what we want them to study and when. But we don’t worry much about grades or deadlines or “covering” material. And we never allow the demands of “school” to become more important than the day-to-day of caring for one another as a family.

And you know what? Our kids are not couch potatoes. They rarely watch television or play video games. Yet their days are remarkably full. So what in the world do they do with all that "free" time that's left when they are completed with their "schoolwork"? Well, let me think . . . they read. A lot. They write. They study their catechism and Bible and attend youth group and pay attention to current events. They play piano and sing in choirs and play chess and learn Tae Kwon Do. They help out around the house. They are so busy they sometimes have trouble finding time to do all they would like to do in a day.

We didn't tell our son to become a Master chess player. We didn't tell our daughter to write a novel. Yet they did. And "schooling" had nothing to do with either.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day of Silence

The high school where I work part-time recently participated in the national event known as the Day of Silence, in which students who wish to take part resolve to go speechless for one day to show solidarity with the LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) community.

I can't help wondering whether such an event would be promoted or even allowed if the purpose were to show solidarity with all the voices that have been silenced by abortion in this country. I doubt it. Yet LGBT students, while they may feel censored by societal mores*, are in our midst, able not only to speak but to eat and breathe and walk around, whereas the aborted, having been put to death, can do none of those things. So I ask, who are the truly silenced?

*I wonder, though, if that is the case anymore, considering how "alternative" lifestyles are celebrated by the mainstream media today.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tea Party

We went to a Tea Party yesterday--our first one. The day couldn't have been more lovely. Blue sky, 90 degrees, gorgeous.

According to the Chicago Tribune, there were about 500 attendees. I'm terrible at estimating numbers and distances and such, so I don't know if that's an accurate count. Here are some crowd shots. What do you think?

The speakers for the event included former Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Andrzejewski and Dan Proft and Culture Campaign president and FOX News contributor Sandy Rios. Dan Proft was my personal choice for governor in the Illinois primary. Here's a shot of him speaking to the crowd:

On the way to the demonstration, I tried to explain a little to my son Evan about what we were doing. Not an easy thing to explain to a 6-year-old. It boiled down to something about government wanting to take our freedom and money so they can have more control. I told him about the Boston Tea Party but I don't know if he got that part. But something sank in. After we had been at the Tea Party a little while, he was saying he was tired and ready to go home because he was feeling "government sick." Aren't we all.

One of the warm-up speakers was a 19-year-old firefighter. I am sorry that I didn't get his name, but one of the organizers talked about having met him through his Facebook page and being very impressed with his intellect and writing ability. He was an excellent speaker as well. He talked about having just come from another Tea Party in Rockford and how as he was arriving in Naperville his thought was, "We aren't in Rockford anymore. Man, you guys have some nice stuff."

This morning as I was looking for reports on the tea party we attended, I came across a falsified write-up by a citizen reporter on a CNN site. I couldn't believe the untruths. It was completely made up and included the requisite description of "angry white people." Well, yeah, there's anger. I know I'm angry at what is happening to my country. But anger was not the prevailing mood. Instead, there was hope, love of country, determination, and optimism. There were parents, children, teenagers, working people, and retired people. And they weren't all white (although white people were the majority).

Here's a close-up of one of the angry mob. He's a handsome one, isn't he?

There was one counter-protester that I saw early on, walking around with an anti-Bush sign. The crowd essentially ignored him until he interrupted one of the speakers and was booed.

There was also an infiltrator. About halfway through the rally there was a lull, as the final two main speakers were running late. To fill some time, an impromptu speaker was allowed to come to the microphone. I don't remember who he was or if the organizers said they knew him. But it turned out to be a mistake to let him speak. He began by talking about the government radios that the Nazis provided citizens during WWII, and how those radios were a tool of political indoctrination because they only gave the government side of things. Then he started rattling off a list of conservative talk radio and television personalities. The crowd was cheering the names and probably thinking, like I was, that his point was going to be that these people help provide the balance to the American mainstream media that are so skewed to the liberal perspective. But as he wrapped up his list it became clear instead that he was comparing the list of names he had just recited to the disinformation apparatus of the Nazis. He was quickly asked to leave the stage, and he did so without resisting. The event emcee handled the faux pas well, saying that we don't have to agree with him but he has a right to his opinion.

This should go without saying, but the comparison is completely illogical. A better comparison would be to sites like Yahoo, where many people in this country get their "news," not realizing that their information source is biased and selective.

A few more pictures. I was glad for the fountain, which kept Evan entertained for a while.

We ended up leaving before it was over, due to Evan's government-sickness and everyone else's schedule demands. But it was a great afternoon and I'm so glad we went. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, in home school we spent April 14 learning how to file our taxes, and April 15 learning how to protest them. What a country.

One thing I couldn't help noticing as we walked the few blocks to our car was the business parking lots. Notice the empty spaces. Remarkable, don't you think, that none of the protesters decided to "borrow" those spaces? They must have a healthy respect not only for the rule of law but also for small business. What a surprise.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm all in favor of breastfeeding . . .

. . . but I think this is inappropriate government intervention in the workplace. For those who don't feel like clicking on the link for the full story, it outlines one of the many aspects of Obamacare that are only now coming to light: a requirement that any business with 50 or more employees provide a designated space for working mothers to breastfeed or pump. If the language is similar to that in the Family Medical Leave Act, that means any company with 50 or more employees will have to provide such a room, even if individual locations within the company don't themselves have 50 or more employees.

I'm going to make a rather scandalous proposal here. What if breastfeeding moms simply stayed home with their babies? Hmmm? Then we wouldn't have an issue, would we?

It's almost as if the government is trying to make it as easy as possible for parents to leave their children in the care of others. Now why would they want to do that?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Praise Chorus?

Today the Church catholic (meaning the Christian church around the world, not just the Roman Catholic Church) celebrated the Second Sunday of Easter by hearing the story of Thomas, who when told by the other disciples that they had seen the Lord, replied, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe" (John 20:25). Because of his insistence on seeing Jesus, for himself, in the flesh, Thomas has long had the adjective "Doubting" attached to his name. But I think Thomas had it right. He wanted to see his Lord, and when he not only saw Him but touched the wounds in Jesus' hands and side, he believed and confessed: "My Lord and my God!" In that short sentence, Thomas models the spiritual life of the Christian who, when called to faith by God and confronted with Law and Gospel in the person of Christ, can do no other but exclaim, "My Lord and my God!" It is one of the best stories in all of Scripture.

Today at my church, a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, we heard the choir sing the traditional Tanzanian song "Nimemwona Bwana" (the song was sung by the junior high choir at one service and the adult choir at another). The full text is simple--

Nimemwona Bwana, anapendeza.

Here's the translation:

We have seen the Lord, and He looks good!

(Sometimes instead of "good" the translation is "nice" or "beautiful"--but I really like the word "good." What is the Lord if not Goodness incarnate?)

Anyway, it strikes me that there are those, maybe even some of you reading, who might not appreciate this text being sung for a church service. If you don't like what has come to be known as a "praise chorus" in Christian worship, you might not like this song. It has some of the elements of what some object to in contemporary Christian praise and worship songs: the text is simple, it appears to be light on doctrine, it doesn't tell the full salvation story, and it is repetitive (my friend Susan recently wrote about that last item here). AND it has percussion and swaying bodies!

Yet I think this was a perfect song for this day. Think about it: we hear about Thomas, who wanted to see, and who when he did, believed. And then we hear joyfully proclaimed by the choir the words, "We have seen the Lord, and He looks good!"

I don't like praise choruses in church either. But I loved this song in our liturgy today. So I had to wonder, in light of the similarities listed above, how is it different from a praise chorus? Well, to help answer that question, I have posted a video of our junior high choir singing the song. Please note that there is nothing in the performance that overtly calls attention to the performers or their personal experience of the song. There is no brandishing of microphones (no microphones at all in fact--those young soloists are projecting entirely on their own), no exhorting of the congregation to respond to the "performance" (to show that they are feelin' it, too, donchya' know), no effort to repeat the chorus ad infinitum in order to "prepare hearts" to receive the Word. The song is presented in a completely declamatory way, and I think this is why it does not fit the popular definition of "praise chorus." The goal is not to express the feelings of the singer or manipulate those of the worshiper but rather to proclaim the Word by telling the story.

"Nimemwona Bwana" from Cheryl on Vimeo.

(If you really want to know, the Cantor tried to get them to loosen up a bit more than this, and you can see a few who took his encouragement to heart, but it's not easy to take the suburbs out of suburban Chicago kids!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where's Cheryl?

Some photos from one of my "day" jobs. They were taken at a recent concert at the high school where I work as a staff accompanist. This concert was actually the first in which we were able to perform in the auditorium, as the school is newly built and construction is ongoing.

It looks like my hair is in my face in the shot of the final bow, but it's not: that is a shadow of some sort.

In the second photo I am sitting on stage near the piano but not playing: the other accompanist and I had to switch out between movements of Leonard Bernstein's Mass because she needed to prepare to play on another number performed from a back corner of the auditorium immediately following this piece. It would have been terribly distracting for me to clomp across the stage mid-piece, so I positioned myself onstage at the beginning of the piece and at the proper time she slid off the bench and I slid on.

The third shot shows me actually seated at the piano, playing. I like this one because the lights bring out the red in my hair! (I have too often been told in the last 10 years that I have brown hair, and I beg to differ. It's red, I say! RED! )

By the way, this is my 1000th post. :-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Weekend Recap

Some photos from the weekend for my readers who are not on Facebook (hi, Mom!). There are also a few here that I didn't post on Facebook.

Easter Egg Decorating

Vigil (Evan loves helping build the fire)

Evan and friends looking for their Alleluia butterflies

The only picture I got of Trevor (center) all weekend. He was too busy, helping his dad out at every last Good Friday and Easter service (that's seven services in all).

Evan in his Easter bonnet

Evan and his dad

Caitlin & her dad

Caitlin in her Easter dress


Something to Celebrate

While the United States of America continues to be held hostage, it appears that things may looking up for my denomination, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

The Numbers Are In

Probably the majority of my readers already understand the significance of this information. For those of you who don't, trust me: it is very good news and gives me hope for the future of my church body and its commitment to bringing the Good News of Christ Crucified to both its members and the world.

is additional analysis from the Brothers of John the Steadfast.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."--John 14:18

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I spent close to an hour on the phone today trying to handle some of my mom's medical affairs. Later I found myself driving in the car with my 6-year-old. Evan has been thinking a lot about heaven lately, as evidenced by his many questions regarding what it will be like there. Some of the questions I am able to answer, but some are "above my pay grade." ☺ Today I finally just had to tell him, "I don't know, Evan. But when we get to heaven, all our questions will be answered."

I had to laugh when in the back of my head a little voice continued, " . . . in the order in which they were received."

I think I'm suffering from post-phonetic-stress-syndrome.

Troubling Morning Headlines

Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms

So, no nukes. Not even as a response to a rogue state attacking us chemically or biologically. Great.

Obama's 17-Minute Non-Answer Answer

Roger Simon of Pajamas Media says this is just more evidence of a President with a "serious personality disorder."

Finally, Mort Kondracke observes that Obama Constantly Puts Mideast Blame on Israel, not Arabs. Why am I not surprised?

Not a great way to wake up. These were three of the five headlines on today's Real Clear Politics Early Morning Update. Pretty discouraging stuff.

So I think I will turn my attention to a more encouraging headline, and really, the only headline that matters:


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

I've enjoyed the uptick in my sitemeter that daily posting has brought about this week. But for the next few days I have some other things to focus on. May each of us fix our eyes on the Cross and see there both our condemnation and our only Hope. God bless you and yours.

In Christ,