". . . 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, September 25, 2011

Be Careful What You Dream

Last week at a rehearsal of our parish children's choir, our associate cantor (filling in for my husband) was working with the children on singing vowels. At one point she instructed them to pretend to pick an apple off a tree, the plan being (I think) to have them "bite" their apples, resulting in wide, open mouths and lifted soft palates. But no sooner had everyone started reaching up arms to pick "fruit" from their "trees" than one conscientious young lady raised her hand and observed, "You're not supposed to do that. Picking apples is against the law. So is picking leaves."

Sigh. Having taken over the real world, political correctness has now moved on to our imaginations.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


This is Horla. She lives in Brazzaville-Congo, where my husband has recently spent over a week teaching liturgy and hymnody to French-speaking African Lutherans using the (relatively) new hymnal from the Lutheran Church in Canada: Liturgies et cantiques luthériens.

Horla was an attendee at the conference my husband led. She lives in the church/parsonage where the conference was held, having been taken in by the pastor when she was forced to leave her home (for reasons unknown). She earns her keep by helping out around the church and house, so at times she missed part of the conference. On the other hand, since she lives at the parsonage, she benefited from having greater access to the hymnals, which were kept at church when people went home for the night.

Towards the end of his time in Brazzaville, my husband was singing with a group of women and asked for requests. Horla selected "Humble et doux Jésus" which we know as "O Jesus So Sweet, O Jesus So Mild." This hymn was not taught during the conference; Horla had discovered it on her own. Phillip taught it to her in short order and then videotaped this conversation with her. At the end of the interview he prevails upon her to sing the hymn, even though, as you will observe, she is shy about doing so at first. I invite you to watch. I think you will agree that she does a beautiful job, as do the ladies who join in for later stanzas.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Michele, Not My Belle

Two posts in one day. It's either feast or famine around here. I started writing a Facebook status and realized what I really wanted to write was a blog post. You're welcome. (Or not, as the case may be.)

I have not decided whom I will vote for in the Republican primary. I do know that in the general election I will vote for the Republican nominee, whoever he or she is. If I believe anything at all, it's that we must repudiate the current President and his failed policies and that our only chance of doing that is uniting around the Republican challenger.

Of the frontrunners right now, I am leaning towards Rick Perry. He is not perfect, but I think his positives far outweigh his negatives. Of the second tier, I like Rick Santorum. But for whatever reason, I do not see him gaining enough of a following to be a contender for the nomination.

In recent years I have had a very high opinion of Michele Bachmann. I was glad to see her enter the race. But as I have watched her compete for the nomination, I have become less impressed. In the past week she has struck me as making mistakes born of desperation. Her Gardasil offensive on Perry has been completely over the top, as she has drawn vivid word pictures of an evil government forcing "injections" on "little 12-year-old girls." She has continued to hammer the point even though Perry has admitted he made a mistake in issuing an executive order (that was never enforced) mandating the vaccination in Texas. To his acknowledgment of error she has responded by saying that the President of the United States has to get it right the first time--that there are no "do-overs"--and she assures the country she will.

Really, Mrs. Bachmann? There is no room for error, at all, when you hold executive office? You don't expect that as President you would ever make a single mistake?

My guess is that she, like all of us, has made mistakes in the past and will probably make more in the future, President or not. And what scares me more than someone who might make a mistake is someone who will not admit it.

In fact, Mrs. Bachmann did make a mistake. After the CNN debate in which she went after Perry, Bachmann claimed that a woman came up to her thanking her for her remarks on Gardasil and claiming that her daughter had become mentally retarded as a result of the vaccination. That comment made its way into some of Bachmann's post-debate interviews, as there she continued to attack Perry on the issue. But since then there have been questions about the source of the claim and whether such a person actually made it. There have also been several high-profile repudiations of the claim that the vaccination has been shown to be dangerous and Bachmann has had to back away slightly from that claim. (What, Mrs. Bachmann? Do you mean to say that you didn't get it right the first time?) Ultimately, introducing vaccination fear--a different issue--into what started out as a legitimate criticism of the use of executive power has weakened her argument. But when Perry neutralized her attack by admitting his error I guess she thought she had to find a way to keep up the attack. How much better for her and the entire GOP field (and our 2012 chances) had she thanked him for taking the high road and gone on to do so herself.

The straw that broke this voter's back as far as Bachmann is concerned was seeing her on Facebook today attacking "Obamacare" in the same breath as "Perrycare." Excuse me? This is intellectually dishonest and shallow language. She is doing neither herself nor the cause (which is bigger than she is, after all) any favors with such an approach. She will not have my vote in this primary.

Life Update

*Sigh.* I am not the blogger I used to be. Almost a week without a post, and at this point I am little motivated to write anything that would require serious thought or wordsmithing. So instead you get an update post.

Yesterday was a week since Phillip left for Congo. I have received one Facebook message from him on a borrowed smartphone and two phone calls made on a borrowed cell phone. He arrived safely at his destination but took a cold (the same one I have) with him. A friend remarked, "Better to take something over there than bring something back here." She has a point. Other than the cold he seems to be doing okay. I was worried he might lose his voice, not a good thing when his reason for being there is to teach singing all day. But his voice is holding out, as is his stomach, and he is in good spirits. During one of his short calls he told me that there are many challenges to the work he is trying to do--there was no time for elaboration--but he was extremely upbeat about all that is being accomplished. He was on a particular high that morning because he and his class had just finished recording "Oh, Lord How Shall I Greet You" and his students were loving singing it. (A major part of the work consists of recording teaching tapes for use in the parishes of those who are attending the workshop.) He said it is very interesting to go back after a year and see how the things he taught last time have fared. Some have continued to be embraced, one or two has been set aside, and others have been slightly adjusted. :-)

As mentioned, I have had a cold, and that has severely impacted my ability to make the most of this week. I had plans for much higher levels of productivity but lost a good four days to the cold (it is a doozy). I sat in bed and watched the 9/11 observances and was alternately depressed and inspired. Both President Bush's and President Clinton's speech at the dedication of the Flight 93 memorial fell into the second category. I was impressed by the progress that has been made on the Ground Zero memorial. People say that ten years is too long--that we should have already slapped up another building by now. I disagree. We needed time to clean up, to grieve, to consider what to do. Anything worthwhile does not get done overnight. I think New York City should be commended for the memorial and the progress they have made on it. If you haven't familiarized yourself with it yet, you should do so. It is beautiful.

I started returning to some feeling of normalcy on Monday, so we did start school, sort of. I tend to be the kind of person who wants to wait until the house is clean and everything is in order before I can wrap my brain around intellectual pursuits. I decided if I waited for those things to happen before we started school we would be on vacation until January. Of 2015. So we started, amidst the chaos that continues to be my house. Caitlin and Evan are so far enjoying their extracurricular classes and activities. Bowling is supposed to start Monday after being postponed for one week to allow for more sign-ups. I'm hoping it doesn't get cancelled.

We had a voters' meeting at my church this week and there were two awesome outcomes. One, the voters approved some major repairs to our aging organ. Two, we approved the calling of a third pastor for youth. I am so-o-o-o-o excited about the person we have called and hoping and praying that soon he and his family will be joining our church family.

Today is full so I better run! Piano student this morning, haircut and orthodontist appointment for Caitlin (her braces are coming, Evan got his a few weeks ago), homeschool co-op, and tonight a little R&R. The plan is to make s'mores on the grill and watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Boy, these life update posts are much easier to write than social commentary. Maybe I should do more of them.

P.S. My daughter has closed her old blog and started a new one. It's worth checking out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Ghost of 9/11 Past

Recently on Facebook I posted a link to a photo retrospective on the 9/11 attacks and made the comment that as painful as it is, we need to continue to remember that day. A good friend of mine said she worried that in all the remembrances and commemorations what we are doing is wallowing in our grief and that she thought those who lost their lives that day would want us to move on.

I understand what she's saying. Sometimes when I see the events of that day replayed on my television screen I think about those who are watching and taking pleasure in the suffering they caused. For them it was a great, victorious occasion and when we relive it perhaps we are feeding their celebrations. On the other hand, I think that we have no choice but to remember what happened and to teach future generations just as we have always taught about terrible things in history, as much as it hurts to do so. We don't turn a blind eye to slavery or war or the Holocaust. These things are facts and we have to face them and teach our children about them. And I guess what I can't figure out is how we remember painful events without revisiting the pain. With time and distance the pain is not so acute, but I think it will always be there. And I think it should be. If we get to the point that we can remember horrible events without feeling horror, I wonder if we're truly remembering.

Here are a couple of columns I recently read on this topic. Again, I can see both sides. Dr. Gene Veith writes about grief and outrage "fatigue" and 9/11 "exhaustion." He says he wishes we could move on. On the other side, Peggy Noonan says "We'll never get over it, nor should we."

What do you think? Can we remember that day without remembering the horror and grief of it? If we downplay those things, are we truly remembering? It occurs to me that in the 21st century our ability to relive past events is much more technologically advanced than it used to be. We have the capacity to replay the news footage from that day in a way that puts us right back in the midst of it in real time. We haven't always been able to do that, so maybe that is part of the dilemma here. We can relive, not merely remember, and maybe my friend is right that instead of remembering, we are wallowing. I don't know. But I do know that in spite of our ability to relive the events of that day I sometimes worry that we have not learned what we should have learned from them. And if that is the case, I suppose wall-to-wall week-long commemorations aren't going to make much difference.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to School, Part 3

This is the third of three installments in my "Back to School" series. This time around there is not much for me to say as I am no longer the teacher of this student. I am not even his advisor unless you're talking laundry and, oh, maybe a few other things. But I am still Mom and head cheerleader and always will be. So here is my first official post as a Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader!

We moved Trevor into his dorm 2-1/2 weeks ago. On the Friday of move-in weekend, UNL hosted a full day of activities for new students. One of the goose-bumpiest moments was the Freshman Tunnel Walk, in which new students get to walk through the same tunnel the football team uses to take the field at Memorial Stadium before a home game.

Here's a video of the walk if you have a few minutes to kill. We were so excited when we were able to spot Trevor in the crowd.

A photo of Memorial Stadium lit up against the night sky.

We spent several days with Trevor, helping him move in and get to know campus a little better.

He is living in Neihardt Hall, the oldest dorm on campus and also the Honors dorm. (They are dorms--I refuse to call them residence halls as political correctness apparently dictates these days). Neihardt is divided into four wings, which as I understand it sometimes compete with one another à la the four houses of Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Neihardt is also rumored to be haunted, but several intrepid Daily Nebraskan reporters could find no such evidence a few years ago. Trevor will have to let us know if he experiences any of the strange phenomenae himself. :-)

Speaking of Trevor (that IS whom we are speaking of, right?), here he is, all moved in:

We were pleased with his room and his roommate (whom I unfortunately did not get a photo of--maybe next time).

Trevor is a music major, and his class schedule reflects that status: very heavy on music classes with just a few academic courses squeezed in around the edges. He is taking piano, organ, men's chorus, theory, introduction to music (a sort of music appreciation class with, I think, some introductory history thrown in), keyboard skills (higher level skills such as improvisation, transposition and open score reading for advanced pianists), English, and history. I think that is all this semester--I think that's enough, don't you?

One of Trevor's primary reasons for choosing to attend UNL was the piano professor with whom he will be studying. At the end of the first week of classes, Dr. Barnes hosted a party for his students. When I first saw this photo I was most impressed with how much fun everyone seems to be having! Dr. Barnes is seated at the far right.

This past weekend, after Trevor's first two weeks, I took Caitlin and Evan back to see him in his home away from home (they had never been there before). As far as we can tell, Trevor is doing wonderfully. He made it through the first round of laundry, his room was quite presentable, and he seems happy. This photo was taken in the home of my friend Lutheran Hen, who generously invited us to stay with her family during our visit.

We are missing Trevor so much around the house. It hits me in little ways, such as realizing there aren't as many socks in the sock basket, or that I don't need to buy so many bananas. It hits us all in a big way when we sit down to a meal and there are only four plates instead of five. But we are adjusting and taking great pleasure in the knowledge of what Trevor is getting to experience in this, his first semester of college. I have found myself transported back to the fun and wonder of my own college days . . .

. . . my own piano teacher . . .

. . . and a special young man I met that first magical year.

Trevor's dad is going to visit him next month. The rest of us will probably not be seeing him again until Thanksgiving. Seems like an awful long time from now. But it will be one of the most festive Thanksgiving celebrations I think we have ever had!

See you soon, Trevor. In the meantime, carpe diem! I know you will!