". . . 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)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Something Has Changed

Thirty years ago one of my favorite things to do was to take a piece of literature and pick it apart in that way that so many high school students despise. It was what led me to follow up my music studies with undergraduate and graduate degrees in literature. For a number of years I put those English degrees to good use, teaching first high school, then college English, and sometimes I even stumbled on students who seemed to enjoy the subject as much as I did. But the longer I taught English the more discouraged I became at the shocking unpreparedness of many of my students as well as the socio-political agenda that seems to drive many college English departments. I ultimately left English teaching behind and returned to my first love, music. 

For the last ten to fifteen years I have worked much more in the musical than the literary realm, and the older I get, the more I think I want it to stay this way. These days when I read I just want to read. I have little desire for the sort of close, analytical approach I learned in my English classes. It's hard enough just to read! I also can't help wondering whether something has changed in me beyond the length of my attention span. There is something about literary analysis that seems inherently destructive. That is not to say there isn't value in it for the deep understanding and appreciation of a work. Sometimes to truly understand something one must take it apart. But I think I may be at a time in my life when I am much more interested in building up than in tearing down. And music is about nothing if not building. Whether it's the practicing, or the composing (which I don't do), or the putting together of all the parts within an ensemble, the goal is synthesis, the creation of something beautiful. In literary analysis, all the effort is in the opposite direction, towards taking apart rather than creating.

Maybe that's why I have also continued to blog. Even if I didn't have the few of you reading that I do, I would still get the satisfaction of creating something, however small. Maybe one of these days I'll write something bigger than a blog post, or maybe I'll learn a new musical skill. Then again, maybe I'll just do more cooking. . . .

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Fever

"Don't you know what that is? It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want--oh, you don't quite know what it is you DO want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! It seems to you that mainly what you want is to get away; get away from the same old tedious things you're so used to seeing and so tired of, and set something new. That is the idea; you want to go and be a wanderer; you want to go wandering far away to strange countries where everything is mysterious and wonderful and romantic. And if you can't do that, you'll put up with considerable less; you'll go anywhere you CAN go, just so as to get away, and be thankful of the chance, too."

--Tom Sawyer, Detective, "An Invitation for Tom and Huck" by Mark Twain

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Today at church, Evan and I shared one of those moments. You know the kind I'm talking about--when you're so full of Jesus that you think you might just burst.  I hugged him and he leaned his head on my shoulder and I whispered, "Isn't church great?" He smiled and nodded and then replied, "When I was little, like about three years old, I didn't understand church. I didn't know what to do and I just waited for it to be over. But now I get it."

Like I said. Sweet. :-)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Anything But Facebook Update

I am doing well on my Facebook diet, but I had a little help this week. I finally succeeded in getting HP to send a box to our current address (rather than our previous one--took three attempts) so that I could send my laptop for warranty service. That means I now have to beg, borrow or steal from others to get computer access. Additionally, I spent most of the week on the road. First, Phillip and I managed a 27th anniversary getaway. Second, I went to Nebraska to pick up Trevor for spring break. Somewhere along the way I also picked up a cold. Welcome, spring!

So, here's my random thought for the day. I noticed during one of my Facebook visits (hey, I'm dieting, not fasting) that the internet (or at least my corner of it) was alive with chatter about the death of someone whose name I don't want to include here. It was a name I didn't recognize so had to look up, at which point I found myself wondering why? Why do so many of my Christian friends feel the need to mark the death of such a disturbed individual? (The person in question called himself a Christian but did some horrendous things, supposedly in the name of Christianity.) Wouldn't it be better to let his passing go unremarked rather than draw attention to it? It is a question I have asked myself at other times. Whether it's starlets behaving badly or preachers teaching falsely, it sometimes seems that we give these people a lot more of our time and attention than they deserve. I wonder what would happen if we utterly ignored them and spent the time saved on promoting and participating in those things we find to be more edifying, focusing on building up the true and the good rather than bemoaning the bad. Probably nothing would change in the world at large. But maybe our own lives would be the better for it. That would be something.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Smarter, Nicer People

The kind of reading discussed in this article used to account for the majority of my reading. It doesn't anymore, unfortunately. I am trying to rediscover the reader I once was, but it is hard. I find it difficult to shift from the fast-paced, scanning type of reading I primarily do online to the chew-and-digest-every-word type of reading I used to do all the time as lover of literature. These days when I do the latter type of reading, I have to consciously work at not skipping chunks of text and at soaking in the words the way I once did rather than merely extracting meaning from them. One of the nice things about a book, as pointed out in the article, is that there are no hyperlinks to turn your attention away from the page you're on (and no ads or Facebook notifications). It's just that page and nothing else. And if you turn off your phone and step away from your computer you might even get through that one page without a real world interruption. At the very least, the probability of doing so will increase. And as the link suggests, you will likely walk away a better human being.

Speaking of which, I think I'll close the laptop and read another chapter of The Little Prince

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Some people sing in the shower. . . .

. . . I write. If only someone had invented a shower-friendly laptop, I would have surely been famous by now. ;-)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoroughly Modern Millie

A few weeks ago I started attending rehearsals for the local high school production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. I am serving as rehearsal accompanist right now and will play in the pit orchestra during the show's run in early April. Today we had our first rehearsal at the Performing Arts Center in downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (no garden variety auditorium for this highly rated music program). It's an impressive facility! 

The Performing Arts Center was built by and for the school district but also serves as the venue for non-school productions and guest performers. Later this week my daughter Caitlin and I will be attending a concert and master class there featuring Kristin Chenoweth (original Broadway cast of Wicked), a Broken Arrow native.

Chenoweth's appearance will benefit local arts and education. I don't think it's her first time to make a significant contribution to the folks back home.

But back to rehearsal. I'm very glad I have been given the opportunity to participate in this production. So far I am quite impressed with the talent of the cast and the effort going into bringing this Millie to the stage. Here's my home away from home for the next few weeks.

I have to admit it leaves a little to be desired. (My fellow musicians will understand what in the picture below. For those who don't, the music rack was not big enough to support my book, which kept falling off or flopping over. Luckily, when the music director arrived, he found a free-standing music stand for me, which we put behind the piano for my book. A bit of a reach to turn pages, but a vast improvement over the original setup.)

Meanwhile, just a few steps away, there was this. Sigh. I guess that's show business!

A Taste of Immanuel

For those who are interested in what Okies do on Transfiguration, here's a sampling. I really like my new church.

Communion Sequence, Transfiguration Sunday from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Sweet Boy

"I love you so much, Mom. I promise I'll never leave you. When I go to college, I'll stay in town. By that time you and Dad will be getting elderly and will need help with the chores."

Said amid tears while brushing his teeth last night. I just love this kid (even if he thinks the fifties are elderly). I didn't tell him there is a good chance he will feel different in eight years. :*)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Schola Cantorum Rehearsal

And in the "what I did today that mattered way more than Facebook" department, here are a few videos from our Schola Cantorum practice. Probably of interest only to you church music types. The first one is a favorite warm-up of this age group (first-fifth grade). It combines stretching and posture awareness with working on developing a unified head tone. The eager beaver who tends to try too hard by oversinging and jumping in when it's not his turn is, yes, my offspring. The second video shows the Cantor kinesthetically teaching the concept of terraced dynamics. The kids loved it.

Fold in the middle! from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Learning About Dynamics from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Anything But Facebook, Day 2

Don't worry--I'm not going to torture you, Chinese water style, with forty days of this. But a Day 2 report seemed in order. Here's what I discovered. Limiting what I look at on Facebook is not hard. Breaking the habit of looking at Facebook repeatedly throughout the day is. I created my "Close Friends" group (those 200 or so people I decided to keep track of), and that's all I've looked at yesterday and today. But the fact that there is not as much to look at as before has not curtailed my desire to look. I can only hope that the decreasing supply of my drug of choice (There's nothing new! Go do something else!) will eventually lead to a decreasing craving for it. Here's hoping. Otherwise, I may have to take more drastic measures. . . .

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's Called Volunteering, Not Employment

The definition of volunteering seems to have changed.

Yesterday I took Caitlin to the library to drop off a volunteer application. She is seriously considering a future in library science and would like to get more experience behind the scenes in a real library. She would also like to use her skills to contribute to her new community. While we were at the library, not five minutes went by before she was helping a patron find a book. It seems to come naturally to her: books lead to Caitlin, and Caitlin leads to books.

When the manager of the library came out from the back room to take Caitlin's application, her first question was, "How many hours do you need?" Caitlin paused, slightly confused. And then it dawned on me. The manager was assuming that Caitlin needed to fulfill a school requirement. It's common these days that high school students have to log service hours in order to graduate. I stepped in.

"Oh, she doesn't need the hours. We're homeschoolers. She's doing this because she wants to."

I thought that's what volunteering was all about: doing something because you want to serve, not because you expect to get something out of it. Silly me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Anything But Facebook

A little over a year ago, in frustration over the 2012 election result, I decided to intentionally focus my attention away from politics and onto other, more edifying things. For a while I blogged about the things I was doing instead of politics, calling it the Anything But Politics Challenge. I think it's time to do that again, only this time not with politics, but with Facebook. I am still paying less attention to politics than I used to, and I think that has had a positive effect on my frame of mind. When something tends to cause more frustration and restlessness than not, it is time to reconsider its place in your life. So tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, I am kicking off my Anything But Facebook Challenge. It will coincide with the season of Lent, but I am not looking at it as giving up Facebook for Lent. In the first place, I am not going to totally give up Facebook. In the second place, I am hoping that at the end of my ABF Challenge I will find that I don't immediately revert to my previous ways. I would like this to be a permanent life change.

I joined Facebook in August of 2008. For a while it was just this thing that I didn't understand, a place I existed in name only because I never signed into my account. Over time I started spending more time "there." It was fun. It was often informative and sometimes intellectually stimulating. I liked having a place other than my blog to share things, especially things that seemed unworthy of blog posts. I reconnected with some people that I had lost track of, including the maid of honor from my wedding.

But over the years Facebook has become too important to me. And in the last few years, especially, it has become an escape. When day-to-day life becomes a source of increasing pain and confusion, it is nice to have a place to run to, a place where affirmation comes easily and where you feel like you have a bunch more friends than you do in real life. It is nice to have something to do when you can't find the energy or motivation to dive into the day. "I only have 15 minutes until _______. That's not enough time to do anything meaningful. I think I'll check Facebook." Before you know it, you're checking Facebook twenty times a day. Imagine if all those little 15-minute blocks were invested in other pursuits.

So here's my plan. I am not going cold turkey. There are people I want to keep tabs on. But, with apologies to my 500+ Facebook friends, I don't need to keep tabs on everyone. If I miss something, I have a feeling I'll survive until such time as I really need to know what I missed. So I am going to whittle that list of 500 friends down to the small group I actually tend to interact with regularly and with whom I truly desire to keep in touch. I am not going to unfriend anyone but instead will go from reading my news feed to reading a custom group. Into that group will go family, local friends, long-distance friends who are dear to me, and a few Facebook friends with whom my relationship exists only online but whom I have typically found to be a positive influence on my day. It's looking like the number in the group might be around 200, although I would like it to be even lower. For Lent I will only be checking in on that group, plus a couple of other private groups to which I belong. I also plan to limit my own posting to sharing links to my blog or videos plus no more than one other "share" per day.

I know. It doesn't seem like I'm giving up all that much. Shows you how high my Facebook usage has been if this is what cutting back looks like!

As with the Anything But Politics Challenge, I will do some blogging about the things that I am doing instead of Facebook. I don't know if I will blog every day. I would like to but am not sure I can keep it up for forty days.

I'm hoping that in addition to making more room in my life for things that matter, this Facebook diet will benefit my reading life. I used to be an English major. I ate books for breakfast. But between parenting and aging and life, I have trouble reading in depth anymore. I think Facebook bears a large share of the blame. Facebook trains the eyes and brain to scan, not read. I have found myself reading longer texts as if they were Facebook. It is very difficult for me to read every word of a blog post or newspaper article, and I think it's because I am so used to scanning that it is hard slow down and digest every word. Not only my reading but my attention in general has been affected, as I find it hard to concentrate for long on anything.

If you would like to join me in the Anything But Facebook Challenge, comment here and write a similar post on your blog. We'll do it together and keep each other accountable. (I like that idea better than this one.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014


For a time when we lived in Illinois we had a subscription to the Chicago Tribune. We got fed up with that paper and discontinued it years ago. When we moved to Oklahoma we inherited the previous occupants' subscription to the Tulsa World. It has been helpful in getting to know our community, and my mom in particular seems to enjoy it. So when the subscription recently ran out, we renewed it. My mom is getting her crossword, Evan enjoys the funnies, and I am cutting coupons again. Plus, having a paper makes this possible:

Willard Gets the Paper from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Also, it's nice to have decent rubber bands again!

The Harsh Reality

"Mom, something just hit me."

"What, Evan?"

"Well, by the time we get all these boxes unpacked, we're going to be ready to move again."

 Thanks for pointing that out, honey. Not sure I would have thought of it otherwise. ;-)

The current state of our garage, not much different from a month ago.