". . . 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)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Well, Well

I just noticed that the previous post was my 1500th. Funny that the title is "Yes, I'm Still Here." I don't usually pay much attention to my stats. I have a Site Meter but go months without looking at it. After noticing on my Blogger home page today that I had written 1500 posts I decided to go look at my Site Meter account. In the 6+ years of this blog (my first post was on May 21, 2007) I have had 136,976 page views. Pretty unimpressive compared to a lot of other blogs out there. So here's looking at all of you nice people who are still dropping by. I guess I'll keep going a while longer.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yes, I'm Still Here

I guess it hasn't been that long. Just a little over a week. I've been sort of busy! Here's the rundown.

On Monday I went to St. Louis to spend some time with Phillip at the LCMS convention. Here's a little about what he was doing.  It was fun. He let me play the tambourine.

Tuesday was my birthday. For the record, it was not my fiftieth. I was happy to run into some Loopers (Lutheran homeschoolers) that I have known online for a long time but had never met in person. I also met up with Rebekah and spent about three hours talking her ear off. (Have I mentioned that she is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet?) Phillip and I then went to regular reader Untamed Shrew's home for a supper of salmon, rice and green beans and a sopapilla cheesecake that was to die for. Thanks, Rev. and Mrs. Shrew!

Then, at about 1:30 that morning, my daughter called. What had seemed to be a mild allergic reaction to working outside had worsened, and her face was swelling painfully. I told her to get my Epi-pen (which I have as a precaution because I take allergy shots), alert Trevor, and call 911 if she had any sign of oral swelling or trouble breathing. I packed quickly and headed home, arriving a little before 7:00. My poor girl looked as though she had been in a bar fight. We went to the ER, where she was given IV medications to reduce the swelling and offset the reaction. She is doing much better, but you can see in this photo where her arms are red four days later. We still don't know what caused the reaction but suspect some sort of poisonous plant in ours or the neighbor's back yard.

We have been doing a lot of packing this week. Sort of (see above).

Phillip's installation at our new church has been set for Sunday, August 18, at 4:00. It is in the afternoon to allow others in the area to come. He had a great time this past week meeting the Oklahoma delegation at the convention! We are overjoyed to be joining them in carrying the message of the Gospel to Christ's people there. Phillip plays his first services at Immanuel today. We will have to be with him in spirit.

And in the "I can't explain it" department, something strange happened to me this week. I can pinpoint the moment. I was driving somewhere in the car, thinking things over, and suddenly some long-felt hurt and anger drained out of me. I don't know why it happened where and when it did, but it happened. Thanks for not giving up on me, God. I knew you wouldn't, but sometimes I wondered how long you would wait.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" - Psalm 27:1

Friday, July 19, 2013

Phillip Doesn't Live Here Anymore

He left yesterday to begin his new call in Oklahoma. The rest of us will remain here until the house is sold and we have a new house to go to. Someone asked why we didn't just move, too, and stay in temporary housing with Phillip while letting the realtor handle the sale of the house. It boils down to the difficulty of finding something that would be large enough for six people plus a dog and that would adequately meet the needs of all involved, particularly my elderly mother. So we are here, while he is there. After a quick stop in Oklahoma, Phillip will drive to St. Louis, where he is lead musician for daily worship at the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's triennial convention next week. From there he will return to Oklahoma to begin his new job in earnest, playing his first service the last weekend of the month. I am going for part of the convention so will get to see him next week, but the children will have to wait until mid-August to see their father again unless we sell our house sooner (unlikely, since we are just beginning that process).

Speaking of selling the house, our realtor team came over earlier this week. They are old friends, and we have great respect for their expertise and their commitment to selling our house. But I have to admit I was surprised by the primary focus of their visit. I expected them to generate a list of suggested updates and minor repairs. There are several things we had already decided must be done before putting our house on the market, and our friends did take note of a few of them. But the majority of their advice was focused not on repairs or even on cosmetic changes but rather on the presentation of our own belongings. I am familiar with the real estate concept of "staging" a house* and had come up with some of my own plans for how to reduce clutter and crowding. But their advice went beyond what I expected, extending to suggestions for rearranging our own furniture. I mentioned the topic of staging on Facebook and was surprised at the strong opinions people have about it. A few of my friends said to follow the realtor recommendations, but a great many others argued against them, calling them a waste of time.

After considering both viewpoints, I am coming down somewhere in the middle. We do have a lot of stuff, and we have a large house that may not come across as large because of all the stuff. So in addition to general purging and tossing, we have ordered a PODS unit and will be working on filling it with boxes and some furniture so as to emphasize the space that is in our house. We are even going to take a few books off the shelves (we were told our custom bookshelves have so many books that the beauty of the shelves is not being adequately showcased) and move a few pieces of furniture. But we are not going to pay a professional stager, nor are we going to spend money on decorative items for a house we are about to sell! And that piano and organ? They are staying right where they are. Potential buyers will just have to use their imagination. Let's hope they have some!

*For the curious, here are some of the other things that were suggested:
remove coats from coat closet--just leave a few jackets hanging
remove as many items as possible from bedroom closets
clear off surfaces (such as dresser tops and kitchen and bathroom counters)--things sitting out suggest insufficient storage space
remove personal photographs, knick-knacks, bulletin boards, children's artwork, refrigerator magnets, etc.--this is for the sake not only of decluttering but of depersonalizing the space
take leaves out of tables to make them smaller

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Sunday was Phillip's last service at Trinity. Our time with the saints there was too short, and we have been humbled and touched by the love shown to us this week as we leave after only one year. You would think we had been there for twenty! Over and over again I have heard, "We are so thankful for the time we had with you." That feeling is mutual and makes our leaving much harder than I ever anticipated. Still, we trust that God knows what He is doing and give thanks for the time we did have with these truly godly people. Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

Going away dinner with elders and their wives

One of the TWO cakes!

Evan eyeing the other cake.

Cantor preparing to cut the first piece!

Saying goodbye to a young friend. :*)

What it's all about.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Memory Lane, Part 2

Speaking of memorabilia, the most unexpected thing I came across in my sorting today was a piece of mail addressed not to us but to someone in Prescott, Arizona. The return address is that of our former next door neighbors in Peoria. The letter was returned to them with an "address unknown" stamp. I can only assume that the mailman accidentally put it in our mailbox. The postmark is January 3, 2000, which would have been within a few days of our move from Peoria to Chicago. I found the letter in a group of farewell notes written to us by our church family in Peoria. Probably I meant to take it to our neighbor but failed to do so, and it has been sitting in a box in our closet ever since. Oops!

Memory Lane

Purging and organizing have begun in earnest as we look to a move in the next few months. Today I spent a good deal of time going through memorabilia, including many notes, cards and letters that people have written to us--and particularly to my husband in his work as a church musician--over the years. As I was reading through some of these treasures, the thought occurred to me that not only did they offer encouragement when they were first sent, but they are offering encouragement today. To use a cliché, they are truly gifts that keep on giving! Little did the people who sent them know how their words would live on.

Sometimes in life the voices of criticism, however few and weak and insubstantial they may be, can drown out the voices of approval. I think of my piano students, and how I like to tell them that it takes twenty times of playing something right to balance the one time they played it wrong. Unfortunately that seems to hold true for life as well. One person tells you you're no good, you're not worth his time, you're an impediment or a problem, and that's the person you have a hard time ignoring in spite of the hundred voices that are saying something else. So if there is someone in your life who has been a blessing to you, I encourage you to let him or her know. Not with an email that will get lost or even a phone call that will be over when you hang up, but with an old-fashioned card or note. Your subject will not only be encouraged when he reads your words tomorrow or the next day, but he will be encouraged when he rereads them five or ten or twenty years down the road. And as he soaks in your love and affirmation, gaining strength for the next part of his journey, he will think of you and be glad.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Goodbye to a Friend

Yesterday I had coffee with a friend. Because due to our move I'm not sure when we will see each other again, I asked the lady at the next table to take a picture of us before we said goodbye.

I first came to know Melinda about 13 years ago, when I joined the staff of Young Naperville Singers as a choral accompanist. At the time she was already accompanying several of the choirs of the organization, including the oldest, most advanced group. I don't think I had even actually met Melinda when I experienced her kindness for the first time. Arriving at my first rehearsal, I found a gift (I think it was homemade bread) and card waiting for me on the piano, warmly welcoming me to the group and wishing me a great first year. This was only the first of many such thoughtful acts from this lovely lady over the years.

Life being what it is, I have taken several breaks from YNS (one to have that nine-year-old who so often makes his way into my posts), but for most of that time Melinda was a constant presence in YNS, impacting it as only she could have done, both with her musicianship and with her humanity. When she left a few years ago to take a full-time position as staff accompanist at an area high school, her absence was acutely felt. Meanwhile that high school got three people for the price of one. Melinda is one of those individuals who, because she cares so much, does not know how to give anything less than her all. And what is her all? Oh my. It is a level of musicianship that I can only dream about--technical excellence that makes everything she plays seem bewilderingly effortless; an ear that hears things very few people do and a level of artistry that knows how to carry a musical idea from conception to reality; and an incredible range of ability that runs the gamut from classical masterworks to jazz improvisation and everything in between. As if all of that weren't enough, she is above all a collaborative musician, one who is happiest creating ensemble by working with others. I was honored to sit on the piano bench next to her several times on choral pieces requiring two pianists. Oh dear, was I nervous. I mean, this lady has worked in New York City and Graz, Austria. But I shouldn't have been. If you are a musician you have probably met other musicians whose primary goal is to draw attention to their superiority. Melinda could do that if she wanted to. But instead her primary goal has always seemed the exact opposite: to build up others in their musical confidence and sense of worth. Melinda once told me she admired my touch on the piano. I wonder if she realizes that I got about ten years worth of musical and personal mileage out of that one comment?

Melinda brought me a gift again yesterday, one that reflected the thought and care she put into it. I have never been very good with gifts but am okay with words so this post is for her. Thank you, Melinda, for your friendship, your kindness, your encouragement and your heart. I will miss you greatly!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Poem

Dictated to me this morning by Evan.

My Sister
My sister is agile
Fast as the wind
She is very truthful
No other doubt
Her bones are quick
Her bones are strong
She is very trustworthy
No lying skin
But this sister of mine
She lies asleep in the morning
When she can be doing stuff she can
Man, what can make this person so pooped?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

God Bless You, Rev. Harrison

Pleased, but not surprised, to wake up to this news today:

Harrison Elected to Second Term as LCMS President

Three years ago I wasn't nearly so relaxed about the outcome.

As I have followed Pastor Harrison over his first term two things have stood out: one, this is a man who understands vocation; two, this is a man who loves God's word. Time and time again, what I have seen in Pastor Harrison's public words and actions is the obvious joy he takes from living out the vocations of father, husband, pastor, musician and yes, synodical president, combined with a commitment to pointing those in his care to the source of all truth. While others politick, argue, debate, mudsling, plead, lobby, cajole, crusade, and agitate, he gently teaches and preaches and blesses. Would that we could all learn from his example. I have, myself, participated in an internet dispute or two. I can't really point to any such instance where I successfully convinced anyone of anything. I can point to relationships harmed and lost. Which makes me wonder, how much more would be accomplished for the Body of Christ if more of us followed President Harrison's lead, eschewing the endless back and forth of logic and snark and one-upsmanship and instead returning, repeatedly, to Scripture and the Confessions.

Dear Rev. President Harrison, please keep modeling for us how it's done. Who knows, maybe some day a few of us will learn that the best contribution we can make to the world and to our church is to serve those God has placed before us while studying, hearing and sharing His word whenever and wherever we can.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A European Debut

I am mother to an international pianist! A little while ago Trevor made his European debut, playing a recital of Prokofiev and Haydn at the Abbazia di Mercogliano in Avellino, Italy. The picture above is of Trevor and his teacher following the recital. How I wish we could have been there!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

First of July Update

For the interested, and anyone else who needs one more reason to put off mopping the kitchen floor.

It's a little quieter around here today. As I write this, Trevor should be finishing up his first day at the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in Maiori, Italy. He left two days ago and arrived yesterday after about 24 hours of traveling. His route took him from Chicago to Montreal to London to Milan to Napoli via air and then to Maiori via shuttle. The reason for the less-than-direct path was our need to pay for his airfare with accumulated credit card points. (Ironic, isn't it, that it takes more planes, more time, more labor and more fuel to get there more cheaply.) Trevor was awarded a grant for part of his cost and is paying for the rest out of his own money. He auditioned and was accepted into the Young Artists' track, which means that in addition to studying with some amazing teachers he will also be performing a solo recital. Needless to say, we are extremely proud of him, not only for the hard work that earned him that honor but also for his success in traveling internationally by himself for the first time ever. He has spent the last several months learning some basic Italian! It seems to have helped. Not only did he find all his gates on time, but he found a place to trade his dollars for euros in London, and he caught a cab from the airport to his hotel in Napoli, spending the night before catching a cab back to the airport for the shuttle to Maiori the next morning. The thought of doing all that alone is scary to me, so all I can say to my son is "Bravo." Here's a picture of Trevor on his first day in Maiori. He is on the right; his teacher is in the middle.

There have been a few mix-ups. In Montreal his carry-on, which was valeted due to insufficient space in the overhead compartment of the small plane, was sent to baggage claim by accident instead of being returned to him. This meant he had to leave the secure area and go through Customs to retrieve his bag and then clear security again to catch his trans-Atlantic flight. In addition, we discovered that even though we visited our local T-Mobile store ahead of time to get instructions on calling internationally between our cell phones, his phone is not working in Italy, resulting in some tense times for the parentals as we awaited his check-in calls (luckily in London he was able to find an internet kiosk so as to send us an email). Finally, his computer, which he decided to pack in his luggage rather than carrying with him, was damaged by baggage handlers who did not take care to return it to its cushioned location after inspecting his bag. He seems to have not been too fazed by any of this (or if he is, he's putting on a good front for his worrywart mom).

Here is the website for the piano portion of the festival. If you click on "People" and then "Young Artists" you will see Trevor's bio along with those of all the other remarkable young pianists chosen for the performance track. Prepare to be blown away. There are several child prodigies in the mix.

Moving right along, Caitlin is one week into Drivers' Ed (Driver's Ed?) and is doing great. We practiced yesterday and I didn't scream or grab the steering wheel once. At least I don't think I did. Maybe I am just blocking it all out.

Evan recently took another swimming class. You can read his swimming journey here. The first attempt, a few years ago, did not go well. Last fall we tried again with private lessons and he made great progress. Now he is building on that progress! Here he is trying out the big slide for the first time:

As usual, we are continuing "school" into the summer months. Considering our hit-and-miss, um, relaxed homeschooling style, we have never been able to justify taking the summer totally off. Right now Caitlin and I are reading Hamlet, and Evan and I are trying to wrap up the Life of Fred elementary series. Piano lessons, continue, of course, as do Bible and catechism study.

And, oh, did I mention we're moving? Dad is in Oklahoma right now, laying the groundwork for things to come. It looks like God cooled things off a little there this week. I'm sure that was done with my husband in mind. ;-) It's been a long time since we experienced summer in the South!