". . . 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)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Thursday

We arrived in D.C. one week ago today! The plane ride was uneventful. I think I handled it better because it was dark outside. Evan spent part of the trip writing in his journal.

It was late when we landed so all we did Wednesday was check in to the hotel and go to sleep. We had planned a full day for Thursday. The hotel (Hyatt Regency, Crystal City) provided a shuttle to the Metro station. After a slight delay as we figured out what sort of train ticket to buy (we settled on all-day passes), we boarded the train for the Mall.

First stop was the U. S. History Museum at the Smithsonian. We saw one of the original Kermit the Frog puppets,

Archie Bunker's chair and Bob Dylan's jacket, 

a 1980s (I think) computer,

Dorothy's ruby slippers,

and a bunch more stuff. A favorite area was that containing Presidential and First Lady memorabilia. We enjoyed looking at the gowns of the First Ladies as well as the Presidential china. We noticed that the official china has gotten more nationalistic in theme in modern times, probably coinciding with the string of 20th-century wars in which the U.S. has been involved. We saw the desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence (not a full-size desk but more of a writing easel) and so many other items that I can't begin to remember them all. I should have taken more pictures.

Probably the highlight of this tour was seeing the original Star-Spangled Banner, the one that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become our national anthem. It is huge, kept in a closed case in a darkened room where pictures are not allowed. Yes, I cried.

From U.S. History we went to the building known as "The Castle."  It houses the Smithsonian administrative offices and serves as a repository of information/memorabilia about how the Smithsonian came to be. There is also an exhibition room that I think changes content periodically; currently, it houses a collection of Civil War photography, which we found very interesting. We had lunch at the Castle cafe and nearly had a heart attack when our bill (for things like sandwiches, salads, and chips) came to over $60 for four people. Lesson learned the hard way (as so many of them are).

Our third stop for the day was the National Gallery of Art (see previous post). Evan liked this atrium room. The focal point was the French fountain in the middle of the room, Cherubs Playing with a Lyre. I know that is what it was called because Evan took time to take notes about it in his journal. :-)

I am so glad I happened to walk by Renoir's Girl with a Watering Can. I didn't know it was in this museum, but it is one of my favorite all-time paintings. My mother had a print of it when I was a little girl and she used to tell me I was the girl in the painting. I have used it for my profile pic in the past here and on Facebook. Maybe some day I will have a reproduction hanging in my house.

From the National Gallery we had hoped to visit the National Archives, but it was already closed for the day. :-( So we boarded a train for our last planned stop, Arlington National Cemetery. Our goal was to make it in time for the final (5:00 p.m.) public Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It was a long, cold hike up the hill (and an even colder walk down), but we made it, and I am so glad we did. I will never forget it.

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns from Cheryl on Vimeo.

I will write about Friday in the next post.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mini Art Lesson: The Copley Family

Last week while in Washington, D.C., we were able to visit the National Gallery of Art. We had only a few hours to spend so saw only a small number of rooms. We made a point of seeing Michelangelo's David-Apollo, currently on loan from Italy. And we sought out the French impressionists and the Americans.

One painting that held our attention for a while was this one by John Singleton Copley. (I'm sure our tarrying near it had nothing to do with the fact that there was a nice bench, big enough for all of us, positioned right in front of it.) Copley was a Colonial painter born in Boston who moved to England in 1774 for artistic, not political reasons, and ended up spending the rest of his life there. Copley was known best for his portraits, and the painting below is one he painted of himself and his family. We knew from the label in the museum that this painting was of the Copley family and that it was painted in 1776, but we didn't know anything else and so set about trying to interpret it. After some discussion we decided that the seated gentleman is probably father to either the woman or the man standing behind him and we wondered if perhaps his sour expression reflects some dissatisfaction with his son/son-in-law. Could he be a Royalist and the younger Copley a Patriot? We also noted the older gentleman's disinterest in the little girl on his lap and wondered if his unhappiness is due to the apparent absence of a male heir (all the children looked female to us). We also noted that the little girl in front seems to reflect a seriousness and maturity older than her years--she struck us as almost queen-like. And we thought that there must be some significance to the doll that has been tossed aside. Could that in some way represent the loss of innocence of a young nation?

Most of our conclusions were wrong. (Hey, we are musicians, not artists, remember?) We were right that the seated gentleman is the grandfather of the family. His son, standing behind him, is John Singleton Copley, the artist. But it turns out there is a male heir--the youngest child, sitting in his mother's lap and commanding all of her attention. (We forgot that very young male children of the period typically had long hair and wore long gowns.)

We sincerely enjoyed looking at this painting. It is a very large work, almost life-sized, and there was just so much story in it. We wanted to find out more about it so did a little research when we got home. Here is one article I found that, although it is highly gender-driven in its approach, nevertheless had some interesting and helpful observations.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

And People Say There Is No God

We got back from Washington, D.C., and the 40th Annual March for Life, a few hours ago. Our flight was due to depart D.C. at 2:00; it was delayed, and we didn't get off the ground until about 3:30. Here's a photo of our tired crew waiting at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

The flight was extremely full and it was a chaotic and rushed boarding as the crew tried to recoup lost time. We had to divide ourselves as a family between the two sides of the aisle, one of which had two seats and one of which had three. Caitlin and Phillip took the two-seat side, and Evan and I took the three-seat side. There was already a young man sitting by the window, and Evan demurred at sitting by a stranger, so I took that seat and gave Evan the aisle seat. By this time, rather stressed by the boarding process, I looked at the young (20-ish) man by the window and mouthed a "Phew!" He smiled sympathetically and we struck up a conversation. He asked what had brought us to D.C. and said, "Cool" when I told him my husband had served as the musician for a Lutheran conference that was held in conjunction with the March for Life. He asked what sights we had seen and then volunteered that at this point in his life he was rather unimpressed with the nation's capital since it was his hometown and he had been going on field trips to all of the attractions for years. Further conversation revealed that he is currently studying video game design at Columbia College in Chicago. Well, that was all it took. I became invisible as Evan and our traveling companion proceeded to talk video games nonstop for the rest of the 1-1/2 hours we spent in the air. About ten minutes in I suggested that Evan and I trade places, a move which afforded me a good hour's worth of personal time for reading, prayer ("Please, God, let us land in one piece") and reflection. Evan's new friend pulled out his computer and shared one of his current school projects, showing my budding game designer what is actually involved in working with a team of people to create a video game, from conception to planning to writing code to testing and I'm not sure what else. He was impressed that Evan has designed his own video and board games on paper and encouraged him to keep doing so. He kindly listened to and encouraged my son's nine-year-old thoughts delivered in nine-year-old fashion. About halfway through the flight the lady sitting directly in front of me turned around and smiled: "You hit the jackpot, Mom." It turned out she was a retired third grade teacher and was so impressed with Evan's knowledge and conversational skill that she asked whether he was in the Gifted and Talented program in school. When I told her we homeschool she nodded and said, "Good for you." With an bit of an eye roll she said she used to be one of those "evil Chicago teachers." I noticed that the friend she was traveling with was wearing an "I regret my abortion" button.

As I think back on the day I find myself picturing God sitting up in heaven grinning at the dots that got connected on this flight. A young video game designer in the seat next to me? A former third grade teacher (Evan is in third grade) in the seat in front of me? And to think that during the last 30 minutes or so before we boarded I was beginning to have pretty serious anxiety as I imagined everything that could possibly go wrong with our flight, in spite of having taken the anti-anxiety medication my doctor prescribes to help me deal with my fear of flying. Instead, a more tolerable--nay, perfect--flight I could not have conjured. My one regret is that we will probably never see that young man again, and I was not bold enough to ask for his contact information. I think I will wonder in years to come what became of him--whether he succeeded in his chosen field and whether that success earned the approval that he said his father was only starting to show signs of granting his vocational choice. One thing I know: whether Evan ends up clinging to or letting go of his video game designing goals, I will always be thankful for a young man in the seventeenth row who took the time to listen to a nine-year-old's dream.

Monday, January 21, 2013

International Center Recital

French Suite No. 2 in C-minor by J.S. Bach from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Rhapsody in G-Minor, Op. 79, No. 2 - J. Brahms from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Gargoyles, Op. 29, by Lowell Liebermann from Cheryl on Vimeo.

I ran out of memory before the final movement of Gargoyles. Here is another performance that includes that final movement at about the 4:20 mark.

"Gargoyles" - Op. 29 by Lowell Liebermann from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Piano Recital

"Round Dance" Op. 101, No. 60 - F Beyer from Cheryl on Vimeo.
Sonata in D, L. 463 - D. Scarlatti from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Nocturne in E-Flat, Op. 9, No. 2 - F. Chopin from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Norman Dello Joio Suite for Piano from Cheryl on Vimeo.

January Update

My mother, who broke her hip on Christmas Day, continues in rehab. She had her first post-surgery appointment and x-ray last week, and healing is progressing on schedule. In two more weeks she will have another x-ray, and if things still look good, she will get the go-ahead to start bearing her full weight on the repaired hip. I am hoping that at that point her progress will accelerate and she will soon be back home.

We are going to Washington, D.C.! My husband is serving as musician for the LCMS Life Conference, which is taking place in conjunction with the 40th Annual March for Life later this week. We decided we couldn't miss this opportunity to see our nation's capital--my husband has been there, but the rest of us have not. We will leave on Wednesday so as to enjoy a full day of sight-seeing together on Thursday. On Friday Caitlin will be accompanying her dad on the March while Evan and I do some more sight-seeing. We realize two days in Washington, D.C. are hardly sufficient, but we will see what we can. At the top of the list is the Smithsonian, which Evan learned about from a Peanuts history video. We also hope to visit some of the monuments, at least see the outside of the White House, and if time allows, drop by Arlington National Cemetery. We come home on Saturday. Prayers for safe travel--and for calm for your aerophobic blogger--would be most appreciated.

As mentioned a few posts ago, Caitlin and I have started reading Paradise Lost. She has read some of it before, but this time we are going to work our way through the whole thing. I am looking forward to it. Milton holds a special place in my literary heart. 

Speaking of Caitlin, she is reading Evan his first Little House book (Little House in the Big Woods). Earlier this week, after reading about how the Ingalls made butter in a churn, Caitlin asked me to buy some cream so that she and Evan could make some, too. It is so nice having not only another teacher in the house, but one who enjoys the hands-on approach to learning that I tend to neglect. 

Phillip has recently started a program of study to receive his colloquy as a Director of Parish Music. Until very recently there was no such path for a musician in the LCMS. We are so pleased that now there is and that in a matter of months Phillip will be able to complete the requirements leading to his becoming a rostered worker in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He began studying for his colloquy some years ago but put it on hold due to the unsuitability of the program. It was geared towards teachers and there were classes that were not a good investment of his time and money and that in fact duplicated courses he had already taken or ignored his extensive on-the-job experience. Now our church body is offering a program of study customized to the parish musician, and Phillip is very much enjoying his studies.

If you've been wondering about the ABP (Anything But Politics) Challenge, it is still mostly on, but it really isn't a challenge anymore. I am still not watching cable news or listening to talk radio. I gave some thought to downgrading our cable package but discovered that even going down one package would save us very little. We would have to go all the way down to basic and if we did that other people in the house would probably object. So I guess we will keep the news stations and I will keep on ignoring them. Every now and then I click on a link on Facebook or an article in my Google reader, but I'm wondering if I will ever again feel that it is worth my emotional investment to pay much attention to the outside world.

We got a light dusting of snow in Chicagoland this morning. There is the possibility of more later this week while we're out of town. Poor Evan. He has been waiting for a good snow all winter long.

It seems that so many people are sick! Way more this winter than I remember hearing about the last few years. We have somehow avoided all of it so far--both the flu and the intestinal virus that has been going around. We do not get the flu shot, and when I hear about people who did get it succumbing nonetheless, I feel vindicated.

Willard the puppy is about six months old now and is fully trained and settled in to the family routine. My kitchen floor is staying much cleaner between sweepings these days!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This Is Marriage, Part 2

As illustrated in the previous post, being married for a long time means being able to communicate, sometimes, without even talking. It also means accepting the other person even as he or she changes over time. For example, in the old days my husband and I would sit in the same room together and he would read politics while I read Shakespeare. Now we sit in the same room together and he reads theology while I post silly pictures on Facebook. What is rather surreal is when he reads the theology out loud while I am posting the silly pictures.

Sir, I am too old to learn. - William ShakespeareKing Lear, 2.2.99

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This Is Marriage

When your husband lifts his eyes from the pages of Koehler's Dogmatics long enough to look deep into your own, and, relying not on words but on the strength of nearly thirty years of communicative history, to send the silent but unequivocal and performative message: "Coffee."

Here you go, love. Mind if I join you?

He speaks (or not); therefore, he drinks. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Things I Learned (or Relearned) in 2012

It is the time for taking stock, no? Here are some of my random thoughts about 2012--either things I learned or things I was freshly reminded of.

That thing you think is impossible? That you would never in a million years have believed could happen? It can happen.

If you think you can safely predict where you will be and what you will be doing at this time next year, think again.

The human capacity for self-deception and rationalization is truly unlimited. (I include myself in the category "human," by the way.)

The things that people say are often not the things they believe but rather the things they are trying to convince themselves to believe.

If someone is mean on the internet, he will be mean in person.

If someone is mean to others, he will be mean to you.

You find out who truly cares about you when you become less useful and more inconvenient.

Your gut instinct is more reliable than you know.

How people behave around children says a lot about their character.

The best way to salvage a relationship is in person, not writing.

Ninety-nine percent of internet debate is a waste of time.

I am happier when I don't watch, read or listen to the news.

You can't make someone care about you.

God takes care of His children. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Very Good Day



Still playing


Where does he get this stuff?

Me: "Did you have fun playing with the piano students, Evan?"

Evan: "Mmm-hmmm. Once again, joy has been restored to my heart."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Many a Weary Foot

Happy new year!

I have been meaning to do a follow up to my Christmas post. First, my mom is doing as well as can be expected. She has moved to a skilled nursing facility and is starting the process of  rehabilitation following her  fracture and surgery.

We have had quite the week. On top of my mom's surgery, Evan developed an eye infection. We called the doctor's office and tried their home remedies for a couple of days, to no avail. We called back but they were unable to work him in for an appointment and advised us to go to urgent care. The doctor at urgent care was so concerned she called the pediatric ER doctor at the hospital. Apparently what began as a sty went into cellulitis, which is not something to be messed with, particularly not on the face. Antibiotics were prescribed and within a day we were seeing improvement. Again I give thanks for modern medicine.

Our puppy enjoyed his first Christmas! Here he is lying on his new pillow, covered up with his new blanket, chewing on a new bone, with new toys close by. Did this orphan hit the jackpot when he landed at our house, or what?

All seemed to like their presents. Here's the Cantor trying to decide which one of his spirit-filled chocolates to try first. 

Here's Caitlin displaying one of her gifts. It's about writing. Are you surprised?

Willard is going to miss Trevor as much as the rest of us when he returns to college in a few days.

This pic of "The Quintet" was taken Christmas Eve.

I was thrilled to receive several items on my wish list. Trevor and Caitlin got me a Garmin for my car (they know, more than anyone, how much I need it) and Phillip got me a new video camera (my Flip is dying and for months now I have been taking video with my phone). You video watchers can rejoice with me in that one. Better quality coming soon!

When Evan gave me his present he told me it was going to change my life. It absolutely has. I didn't have a necklace like this and now I do! Oops, I mean pendant. Every time I call it a necklace I am corrected: "It's not a necklace, Mom; it's a pendant." Whatever it's called, I love it! According to Phillip, Evan picked this out himself. He did a good job, no?

We had a lovely New Year's Eve. Watched some TV, including A Spongebob Christmas, ate leftovers, drank some wine, watched the ball drop in New York City, and afterward sang "Auld Lang Syne" (it was only 11:00 but we pretended it was 12:00). I found myself wondering how many more years we will all be together on New Year's Eve. Our children are growing up. The day will come when they will have others to whom they want to cling on New Year's Eve. That is as it should be and as I pray it is. But as the years go on each "Auld Lang Syne" seems to be getting more significant than the last. These days are not forever.

I leave you with today's Writing from the Treasury of Daily Prayer. I read it last night with Evan and Caitlin and had them repeat with me the following words: "I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!" What else need we say?

"Should the Christian stand all day long at the grave of all joys which he enjoyed in past years? Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which does not drain away, but streams forward with his life until its waves carry him into the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all day long that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by God in the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greener and whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like a short winter's nap, out of which an eternal spring--an eternal youth--follows. . . .

Now then, all of you who believe in God's Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: 'I am baptized!' Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence . . . nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: 'I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!' And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!" - C. F. W. Walther