". . . 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, March 31, 2012


Sometimes my daughter and her friend like to be "random." Seeing as how I still seem to be experiencing major blogger's block, I've decided to take a page out of their playbook and post some random life stuff.

It has been a rather disjointed week for us as a family. My husband spent it at Kitsap Naval Base in Washington (state), leading the music (again) for a Doxology retreat. This one, as well as one at Shaw Air Force Base in North Carolina the week before, was especially for Lutheran chaplains. One of the highlights of the week for this naval officer's son was touring the USS John C. Stennis. Phillip is on the right in the burnt orange shirt.

He was also given an official Navy compass and coin as keepsakes. I am so glad he was able to be a part of this week.

While Phillip was in Washington, the children and I also headed west, although not quite so far! After a wonderful spring break with Trevor home, it was time for him to get back to the books. This time I took Caitlin and Evan with me and we spent an extra day visiting friends: two long 12-hour days of driving (thank goodness for cruise control, satellite radio, and mp3/DVD players!), but it was worth it. The drive there was especially challenging as I had terrible insomnia the night before (I seem to be experiencing another one of my periodic insomnia phases these days). I managed to keep myself going with extra coffee and, when things really got rough, a shot of Five Hour Energy. It is a vitamin/amino acid/caffeine drink that promises "no crash" (the fine print guarantees "no sugar crash" but says nothing about caffeine crashes). One shot has the equivalent of only one cup of coffee, but I suppose the caffeine hits your system much faster than with a cup of coffee since the drink can be downed in several swallows. The bottle says a "niacin rush" is normal due to increased blood flow near the skin. The only thing I noticed was a a little pressure in my ears, but who knows, maybe that was allergies or a cold coming on. Otherwise, I tolerated it well and had no jitters (but I have a pretty high caffeine tolerance) and no trouble getting to sleep that night. I was exhausted!

Unfortunately, I did return from the trip with a nasty cold and spent a couple of days in bed. Haven't been that sick in quite a while. I am feeling better now but wishing I could get those two lost days back! On the other hand, it was a good excuse to watch a couple of movies with Caitlin: Pirates of the Caribbean (first time ever) and Stranger Than Fiction (two completely different viewing experiences, both recommended, the second one particularly if you are a writer or avid reader).

In a couple of weeks I will be playing in the pit orchestra for a school production of Bye, Bye, Birdie. I have done a cursory read through the score but need to get to seriously practicing on it. It is technically not that hard but some of the numbers are in some tricky keys. Also need to file the personal taxes (at least the corporate ones are done--must have something to do with that March 15 deadline!). Yikes!

After several years of going without a lawn service, we have decided to enlist one this year. Our do-it-yourself approach is not eliciting the desired result. The construction project that tore up half of our back yard did not help matters. I expect this will be a "rebuilding" year where our lawn is concerned. I am also hoping to revisit a number of house projects this spring. Since making some major dining room progress a few months back, I have stalled where the house is concerned. Next up: finishing painting the kitchen. Wish me luck.

Nothing in the garden yet except for the chives that come back no matter what we do. :-) I am amazed by my friends who plant early enough that they are already harvesting by this time. We do well to get one round of growing done a year.

School has been hit-and-miss for the last few months. I guess Caitlin's studies have not suffered too much--she attends a homeschool geometry class and has regularly scheduled times for piano, voice, choir, and Tae Kwon Do. And her dad stays on top of the French instruction. She is also quite self-directed and is making her way through Apologia Physical Science. But her history/literature teacher (who shall remain nameless) has been AWOL for the past month. Meanwhile, Evan has been unschooled by default this winter. There has been some reading aloud and geography (via Highlights' Top Secret Adventures) and the occasional math or handwriting page, but it's all been rather intermittent, including the piano instruction (the piano teacher seems to have disappeared about the same time as that aforementioned literature teacher--no doubt, they are off somewhere together, probably up to no good).

Speaking of Tae Kwon Do, Caitlin passed her most recent test! Here she is breaking her board:
I finally finished The Hobbit! Yay, reading success! Now I have moved on to The Hunger Games. It is going much faster than Tolkien. Maybe I am learning to concentrate again or maybe it's just a much easier read. Or maybe both.

I mentioned in my last post my newly discovered passion for sushi. In recent weeks I have had some "cadillac" sushi and some mediocre sushi. The former is some of the best eating I have ever done in my life. Tomorrow we are going to take Caitlin and Evan here after Palm Sunday worship. I think Caitlin will love it--she has a very sophisticated palate. Evan, probably not so much (we did make sure they have a children's menu). Who knows, maybe sushi on Palm Sunday will become a new family tradition! :-)

I am feeling rather resigned about this election year. Not that I am resigned to losing. But whereas I did lots of blogging about the 2008 election, I have not felt motivated to do much this time around. Maybe that will change. But maybe not. I figure most of my readers already know what they think and probably don't need to hear my sophomoric political ramblings. And I am just also feeling rather fatalistic--as if what's going to happen is going to happen and my worrying and thinking and obsessing about it is not going to make any difference. Ora et labora.

This type of blog post doesn't need a conclusion, right?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Phillip and Cheryl's Excellent Anniversary

A week ago yesterday my husband and I embarked on what turned out to be a magical celebration of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect two days. Thanks to a gift of "points" from my sister-in-law, we were able to enjoy a luxury stay at the JW Marriott in downtown Chicago. The only cost to us was parking (even internet and taxes were included)!

We left home Sunday after church. The first thing we did upon checking in was to report for our previously scheduled massage at the Valeo spa in the basement of the hotel. When we arrived at the front desk the smiling hostess asked if we were there for an "experience." We nodded nervously, trying to pretend we knew what we were doing but secretly hoping we weren't getting in over our heads (the same ones, by the way, that have "Clueless Suburbanites" tattooed across the tops). Nevertheless, our names were quickly located on the schedule and we were taken to separate locker rooms to change and then shown to our gently lit "transition" room, where we were invited to enjoy some hot tea while listening to the relaxing music.

When the time came for our massage we were taken by our respective "providers" to a room set up with two massage tables next to one another. I wish I had snapped a picture but in my awe failed to do so. Our masseur and masseuse left the room so we could get situated on our tables and shortly returned for our 30-minute candle-lit treatment. After our massage we were invited to enjoy a soak in the hot tub, complete with aroma and light therapy, not to mention chocolate-covered strawberries (we passed on the wine, anticipating drinks later in the evening). I began to see the wisdom of calling the whole thing an "experience," for in its appeal to all the senses it was definitely not your garden variety massage! It is only the second time in my life I have had a massage; it was my husband's first. He followed up with visit to the steam room while I had another cup of tea. Then it was back to our room to get ready for supper.

Probably the most pleasant surprise of the weekend was our upgrade from a basic room to a luxury suite. My sister-in-law had informed the management that we were celebrating our 25th anniversary, and they said they would do what they could to make it a special getaway. I have to hand it to the JW Marriott--they went far beyond what we ever anticipated, upgrading us to a luxury suite:

Our "front" door--we stayed in the "Quincy" suite

View out one of our windows--we had a corner room, so we had two different views

Living room with welcome tray of bread, cheese, fruit spread and Evian

Wet bar with stocked refrigerator (we were told not to move things around in the refrigerator unless we wanted to purchase something--doing so would trip the sensor so that we would get charged for the moved item even if we didn't consume it)

Bedroom (note the mounted reading lights on each side of the headboard)

Sitting area in bedroom

Guest bathroom (not that we had any guests, but it was nice to have a second facility!)

Tub in main bathroom (I have a photo of my beloved soaking in this tub but I'm going to leave that one to your imagination)

The mirror had a built-in television screen for watching while soaking.

Shower (it was big enough for five people--seriously). It had two shower heads, one regular and one huge "rainshower" head (seen in the ceiling)

Two sinks

Vanity (I really need one of those lighted magnifying mirrors for home--then again, perhaps blindness is bliss)

Walk-in closet with complimentary his-and-her robes

The plan for our first evening was dinner at Fogo de Chao. This was not our first time to go to Fogo, but it is definitely not a place we get to visit that often. If you ever get the chance to eat there, grab it. It is a dining experience unlike any other--one price, all you can eat. You can see how thrilled I was as we headed out to dinner!

While we waited for our table, we enjoyed a couple of caipirinhas (Fogo's signature drink) at the bar.

Phillip is getting ready to "go green" (indicating to the meat-serving gauchos that he is ready for some protein)!

My plate after a trip to the salad bar

My plate after being visited by several gauchos. The side dishes--polenta, fried banana (further south it would have been plantain) and black beans--are seen at the top of the plate. The meats pictured are chicken, sausage, and some cut of beef (can't remember which).

Dessert was compliments of Fogo!

View of the Chicago River while walking back to the hotel after supper. It was a gorgeous evening.

Monday we slept in and then walked to the Art Institute, stopping for lunch on the way at The Berghoff (another one of our Chicago favorites).

I have been to the Art Institute several times with children, but this was Phillip's first time to go. We spent most of our time looking at the paintings (and we didn't make it to all the rooms--sorry, Medieval/Renaissance masters!).

One of my favorites: Renoir's Woman at the Piano. I often use it for my profile pic on Facebook.

I have recently discovered a passion for sushi. Monday night we ate at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion.

This was the dessert we ordered (chocolate souffle with ice cream).

This was the dessert our waiter brought out for free upon discovering we were celebrating our anniversary! (Have I mentioned how much I love this town?)

On Tuesday it was time to check out (sigh). We wrapped up our time together with lunch at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill.

I can't think of anything else to say except, "Honey, can we have another 25th anniversary next year?"

If you missed my 24th anniversary post, here it is, featuring some historic pictures, including a few from the day I cast my lot with a certain cantor, making the best decision I have ever made in my whole life. Here's to 25 more, my dearest husband. Thank you for giving me my best life now, every moment of every day, and for working as hard as you do in love for God's people and for us, your family. I love you with all my heart. :-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Brother Died

At least I thought he was my brother. I was not listed as a sibling in his obituary, nor was I notified of his death. I stumbled on the news on Facebook today on another relative's page.

I am the youngest child of a combined family. My father was a widower with four children. My mother was a divorcee with six. They married and had me, and I am quite a bit younger than all my siblings. I grew up in a two-sided family, and I have never really known which "side" I belong to. Sometimes I don't think I belong to either. But for my whole life, when people have asked about my family, I have responded by saying that I have six sisters and four brothers.

My brother who died several days ago was my father's oldest son. I am kind of confused right now, not sure how I feel about this or how I ought to feel about this. I do not feel his loss deeply on a personal level, as I did not know this brother well. I did try to keep in touch with him over the years through Christmas cards and the like. I think when I first heard about this today I just had to set it aside for a little while. Now I find myself grieving, not so much the death of my brother, but the death of a dream of the kind of family I always wished for but never really had.

I may not be my brother's sister, but I still consider him my brother. When I die, I would like my obituary to state that "Cheryl was the youngest of eleven children."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


There's a new show on ABC called GCB. It's named after the book on which the show is based: Good Christian B*****s. As I understand it, for a while the show was going to be called Good Christian Belles but then it became simply GCB. I'm not sure why since very few people these days seem to have any problem with the "b" word (for the record, I do).

One of the stars is Kristen Chenoweth (Glinda from the original Broadway production of Wicked), who actually plays the main antagonist. According to what I have read, the show is set in Highland Park, Dallas, and follows the lives of some women who attended high school together. The protagonist is a newly widowed woman with two children who moves back home only to discover that the girls she used to torment in high school are still around and hungry for revenge.

Here's a trailer for the show. Warning: some adult dialogue/situations.

Obviously much of the humor in the show is going to arise from the over-the-top character played by Chenoweth (I have to admit I smiled at a few of her lines--can't imagine anyone else delivering them quite like that). Because her character gives lip service to Christianity while behaving in consistently un-Christian ways, the series has already received some negative press and calls for boycotts. Personally, I think they're probably making a mountain out of a molehill. (Where are the calls for boycotts from Texans, who are also depicted poorly? I'm from Texas, and I didn't know people like that, but then again, I didn't grow up in Highland Park.)

The show strikes me as farce--satire. It's a soap opera, and we all know how realistic soap operas are, right? They aren't to be taken seriously. Real life isn't like that. I also don't have a problem with Christians being depicted as sinners. We are, aren't we? Christians can and do behave in mean, nasty, and despicable ways, all while claiming the name of Christ. The difference between Christians behaving badly and others behaving badly is that a believing Christian acknowledges the existence of sin and its hold on him and knows his need for a Saviour. His sin grieves him. I doubt that we will get any of that in this show because ultimately that's not what the series is about. The church setting could be changed to something else and the show's premise would still be intact: grownup women behaving like the worst high school stereotypes you can imagine.

And that ultimately is why I don't plan to watch GCB (not that I have time for another TV show--it's all I can do to keep up with the two I am currently enjoying): not because it depicts some Christians in a negative light but because it appears from the trailer that the show is not going to offer any thoughtful commentary on life but rather a non-stop exercise in sex jokes and vulgarity. The occasional laugh is not worth the ick factor.

And, oh yeah, did I mention that I have a problem with a show that has "b****" in the title?