Friday, December 17, 2010

1980 NBA playoffs Western Conference Semifinals Seattle Supersonics vs Milwaukee Bucks

This is highlights from the 6th game and intro to the 7th.

This one is the first few minutes of the 7th game.

I wish I could find the last quarter.  I'd love to see it again.

On the Place of Sports in Society

My husband an I have made a conscious decision to avoid over-involvement in extracurricular activities for our family members.  That is not always a popular decision.  We do understand that as the kids get older, they will want to participate in more things, but family must always come first.  A person could make themselves crazy trying to support each child in a multitude of various activities, and we've decided that is not where we want to expend our time and emotions.

Because of this, there are some who suppose we don't like sports.  I am not going to answer for Joe, because, well, I'm not him.  But for myself, I LOVE SPORTS!!!  I was a huge tomboy growing up and would sneak away from my household chores any chance I got to ride bikes or play football or basketball with the neighborhood boys.  I thought it grossly unfair that girls could not play football in those days.  There was a stage when I even wanted to learn to box.  I had a thing with "tough" in those days.  It was my number one goal.

My family watched the Seattle Seahawks and the Sonics regularly and I joined in these pursuits.  I think it was during my sixth and seventh, maybe even eighth grade springs, that the Sonics did especially well.  I took it quite personally (must have been the final moments of the final game of the1980 playoffs) when that big Milwaukee Bucks center, Bob Lanier, grabbed Jack Sikma in an obvious and horrific assault, and threw him down, risking the foul and its ensuing free throws rather than let him score the pretty much guaranteed lay-up.  In the process Sikma's collarbone was broken and so went Seattle's chance for the rest of the playoffs.  I think they did beat Milwaukee, but they couldn't get past the Lakers without Sikma.  Sigh.  Can you tell it still rankles?  I can still see clear as day, Denny Wilkens, with his satiny collared shirts and light colored jackets, pacing the sideline hollering out cues and reprimands.

I remember one series, one of the final games was the same night as our spring skit night at school.  I remember huddling backstage (in the stairwell to the church basement, where we had our "stage"). Someone had a small radio back there that we took turns passing around getting updates and sneaking in a few minutes of the action. I think some of the parents in the audience were probably doing the same, sneaking out to the car here and there rather than watching the skits.  Exciting times.

We got to several Sonics and Mariners games throughout my youth, with various church groups, I think.  It was fun to try to force our way down to where the Sonics came onto and went off the court, trying to get an autograph or at least touch the sleeve of a warm-up suit.

One special highlight occured during one of the Sonics' playoff bids. The upper grades from our school were at the Sea-Tac Airport for a field trip.  The tour guide mentioned that if we were cooperative so that we could finish our tour on time, she would finish off the tour by leading us to the gate where the Sonics were expected to land that afternoon.  We were all very good. We got to the gate with plenty of time to spare.  I still have the two postcards I had purchased with probably 6 or 8 autographs scrolled around each.  It was wild.  Here we were, all us little grade schoolers, amidst the throng of fans with signs and banners and other fan paraphernalia.  We were like rats in a maze, winding our way around all the grown-ups to get to our favorite players.  "Gus Williams is coming!" or, "Hey, there's DJ," (Dennis Johnson). They were everyone's favorites, but there was Jack Sikma and Fred Brown, Paul Silas, Wally Walker, Johnny Johnson, and Lonnie Shelton...They were all getting off the plane and wending their way through the cheering fans, patiently signing autographs and visiting a little.

I don't have much time for baseball.  Just too slow moving, I guess.  And although I enjoy watching and playing football, I especially love basketball.  There is something about the sound of the sneakers squeaking on the court, the bouncing of the balls, the ref's whistles, the calling among the players, the bullhorn for a timeout or substitution, the pep band rowsing the crowd.  It's the whole thing.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I was out and about visiting an older member of our congregation with a friend.  Before we left, the friend I was with was trying to find something on the TV that the woman wanted to watch, scanning channels with the remote.  I was not paying much attention, but even while still visiting with the elderly woman we were visiting, I was instantly filled with a mini-adrenaline rush when the channel flipped briefly to a basketball game.  Even without looking at the TV, the sounds were all there.  I knew it was basketball and wanted to turn and watch.  Good thing I didn't have the remote.  The other ladies may have lost me for a time.

But we don't have a television in our home.  So we can't follow our favorite teams.  Actually I stopped following sports after I left home for highschool.  When one lives in Wisconsin, it takes a bit of extra effort to follow the Seattle teams.  I tried to check the scores when we had current events.  But that's just not the same as watching and hearing the games.  I love the Superbowl, but have only probably watched it two or three times in the last 20 years.

I was always in sports in highschool.  I wasn't a star player and our school had a pretty competitive sports program.  I generally made the teams, but also, I generally sat on the bench.  Some years if I didn't want to sit on the bench or didn't make the team, I played inter-murals.

I almost always went to the basketball games in high school.  I was blessed to attend a Lutheran prep school and so lived right on campus in the dorms.  Some kids found dorm life restrictive, because of all the necessary monitoring the dorm staff has to do to keep track of all those kids.  But having been raised to appreciate privileges when they come, I reveled in the freedom of being able to be involved in things on campus.  All I had to do was sign out that I was at the game.  And then walk across the quad to the gym. And there I was.  In the middle of the crowd, singing the national anthem and the school anthem, rooting for my team, following the lead of the cheerleaders, singing along to, "We will, we will, rock you," with the pep band, being a part of something bigger than oneself.

And that brings us back to my current stand on school sports. I've heard all the talk about being part of something bigger than oneself.  About learning good sportsmanship and teamwork.  About keeping out of mischief.  I can understand all that.  I can also remember the good clean fun I had both participating in and cheering on my sports teams.  But there comes a time when....

It is just too much.  When middle school and junior high kids have to miss family time to be in sports, it's too much.  When young kids' sports come before church and church activities, it's too much.  When parents don't have time to help their kids with homework or their Sunday school or confirmation homework, but they spend hours traipsing around for sports, it's too much.  When families have no possible time slot available for a family meal, it's too much.  And when volunteers are solicited to help with these things and parents feel obligated to help out in order for the "oh-so-beneficial" program to continue, the family unit is put under further strain by that one more obligation, yes, you've guessed it, it's too much.

I do want my kids to be in sports, but at the high school level, not younger.  I do want them to experience the thrill of being part of the team, of being cheered on by adoring fans, or of being an adoring fan.  But at this point it's hard.  We have small (and medium) children at home.  Those kids need homework help and chores monitored, and supper and bedtime on a schedule.  They need the stability of home life.  They need mom home when they get off the bus.  The bigger kids are ready to stretch their wings and be a bit more involved.  So how do we balance everything?  How do we set limits and decide what things are priorities?

Right now we've allowed the older kids one extra curricular activity a year.  They also have choir and band, which I consider academic, so we allow them, even though they also involve a bit of evening time.  We have chosen to be frank with the teachers, that if there are non-school-day activities, our children may be unable to participate.  Sometimes that may even mean a lower grade.  But the way we see it, the grade is not as important as the stability of the family unit, nor is the risk of a lesser grade reason to forgo the musical opportunities altogether.

We do have a son on the cusp of being a driver.  A daughter will follow closely on his heels.  We anticipate that this will help somewhat with the transportation issues involved in extracurriculars.  Or it may just add to the general confusion of raising a large family.  That remains to be seen.

Each family has to find its own balance.  But I do wish there was not so much societal pressure to do everything.  I wish the sports programs did not begin at progressively younger ages. I wish the younger kids could just be kids without so many "opportunities."  All the opportunities easily become temptation for parents to take on too much.  I wish more parents perceived that they do have choices in these matters.

And sometimes, sometimes, I wish I could watch the Sonics play.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thoughts on Palin

I'm in the midst of a discussion with a fellow conservative woman about Sarah Palin.  We're bemoaning how "pop-culture" she has become.  It's as though her persona is a marketable commodity.  Even the respect she may have once elicited seems to be evaporating because of this pop-phenomenon. This makes me somewhat sad, since I consider myself a Palin fan.

After several e-mailed brainstorming sessions with this friend, I summarized my opinion as being along the following lines.  Although I think she may be doing herself political harm by allowing herself to become pop-culturized, I still think she's good for America.  I'll get into my reasons later, but I want to take a moment to point out that in her book, Going Rogue, she makes no bones about the fact that she's not "out to get" a national political position.  She is waiting to see what God has for her to accomplish in this life.

That's very like how I live my life.  People often ask if I planned to have ten kids.  I didn't plan anything.  There was a time, if I think way back, at which I held onto some non-child-bearing hopes and dreams.  But I also realize that God's ways are not my ways. (Is. 55:8)  He knows what is best for me and His kingdom.  He has plans to prosper and not to harm me. (Jer. 29:11).  That's just to big for me to attempt to overwrite.

Back to Palin, I appreciate the fact that a woman of national political and also pop-cultural reknown holds those same guiding principles.

But more than that, I think Palin symbolizes what might be called the clash of cultures in our country.  I posted this excerpt on Facebook a few moments ago.  It is from an article on Patheos by Timothy Dalrymple, titled "Palin Enragement Syndrome."
For the populist Right, Sarah Palin is a personification of all that is still good about America: rugged individualism and bootstrapping success, toughness and pluck, firm devotion to Christian family values, a commitment to the cause of life, and the kind of folk wisdom that cannot be gained through graduate degrees but is packaged in common sense and reinforced through the experience of a hardscrabble life.
Mr. Dalrymple seems to have encapsulated why people like Palin.  And for me, it is an apt description of why, whether or not she pursues national office, I think she's good for America.  In the world of national media, pop, political, and social, its refreshing to see someone I can point to who holds values similar to my own.

My family is a bit different than some (go ahead and laugh), in that we don't have a TV.  So sports figures, Hollywood figures, etc, are mostly just names my kids hear on the radio or among friends.  But as they get older and have more access to the internet and magazines and friends televisions, they become more familiar with pop culture.  Oh yeah, lots of Hanna Montana a few years ago.  Now it's Lady Gaga.  Mmm, now there's a roll model I'm overjoyed over.  But if one of my kids happens see Palin's show at a friend's house, or a snippet of it goes around the e-mail or facebook circuit, I probably won't feel like I need to preview it.  I probably won't need to cringe.  And it might even elicit conversation.  Of course the other pop figures also elicit conversation, but they tend to be somewhat one-sided, "Did you hear those lyrics?"  or "What is she wearing now?"

I realize that, as Dalrymple also points out in his article, there are those who don't appreciate the values portrayed by Palin.  He theorizes that the entire reason many people loath her is cultural rather than political.  Most of those who despise her know little more about her political views and record than the exaggerations and outright lies that were spread during the campaign.  (Case in point, the "I can see Russia from my house," line.  That was Tina Fey on SNL.  Most people think Palin said it.)

According to Dalrymple, from the point of view of those who oppose Palin culturally,
Palin lacks everything they pride themselves on possessing, possesses everything they pride themselves on scorning, and stands for everything they pride themselves on opposing. She lacks cosmopolitan tastes and elite university credentials, a well-worn passport and fluency in foreign tongues, a blueblood vocabulary and literary speech patterns, not to mention a fashionable address and a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. She possesses a beauty-queen title and the wrong kind of good looks, a large brood of lily-white children with outdoorsy names like Track and Piper, a commoner’s cadence and a steady supply of you-betcha folksy phrases, and a background in conservative white evangelical and even Pentecostal churches. And she stands for the defense of the unborn, for heterosexual marriage, for premarital abstinence, for the extraction of our natural resources, for small government and second amendment rights, for conservative Judeo-Christian traditions and for American exceptionalism.
How can a person argue with that?  Those types of cultural values cannot be argued.  We all hold our personal values so deeply that they are like breathing.

And that is exactly why Sarah Palin's presence in the American scene is important and good.  She gets people thinking and talking and trying to define and articulate those things they love or hate about her.  Once we can speak coherently about those things we oppose, and also those things we hold dear, we stand a much better chance at civil discourse.  And civil discourse leads to peace, stability and progress.

I don't know if I'd support Palin for national office.  It will depend upon the other candidates who come forward.  But whether or not she ever rises to the presidency or another national office, I still say she is good for America.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Life of Riley

I remember my mom using this phrase when I was young.  Most often it was in the context of me not doing my chores in a responsible, "This is not the Life of Riley, Mary."  Although I do remember asking once what it meant, and although I did understand, contextually, what Mom meant, I really don't remember where the phrase came from.

So today, in typical sound like mother style, I used that phrase on my daughter.

I was quickly inspired to do a google search to investigate the origins of "the Life of Riley."

From several sources I learned that most agree the phrase originated among Irish American immigrant in the early decades of the 20th Century.  It appears to have been in somewhat common use among Irish American immigrants by the nineteen teens.

There seem to be some earlier references to a wealthy Riley or Reilley or O'Reilly in song and theater, but nothing that seems to be generally acknowledged as the source of the phrase.  The most well known of these was in a Vaudeville song by Pat Ronney in the 1890s, in which Mr. Reilley is a wealthy hotel keeper.

The earliest written reference appears in a Hartford Courant article, in December 1911; the author has the phrase in quotes as one might a new or less familiar idiom.

Later, the phrase commonly used among Irish American soldiers in World War I.

And finally, the phrase came into popular use because of a radio and TV character, Chester A. Riley. The radio show began in the 1940, with a feature film coming in 1949, followed by the television series that ran for seven seasons.

And there you have it, The Life of Riley.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christian Freedom

For any readers who might not know, I belong to a Confessional Lutheran Church. It's hard to put everything into a nutshell, but it means I accept the Lutheran Confessions as the correct interpretation of the Bible. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and its literal interpretation. In a practical sense, it means some would consider me a religious fundamentalist or extremist. I do believe in heterosexual marriage, I don't believe in divorce (except under very limited Biblical exemptions), I don't believe women are allowed by God to be pastors, and yes, shudder, I believe that wives are to be submissive to their husbands.  I also believe in creation and the flood and all the miracles of Jesus.  I believe these things truly happened.  I believe God has given us a set of rules (the Ten Commandments) by which we guide our lives.  I believe no one can ever do this perfectly.  But God is good and gracious and sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life for us and to suffer a heinous death, He suffered the very pangs of hell, so that we may live eternally with God in heaven.

I also have other non-Biblical values that are strongly associated with the kind of "fundamentalist" Christianity I espouse. I these are not mandated by God, they are simply things that in my world view seem to make the best sense or to be good and wholesome life style choices. I prefer to see moms stay home to raise their kids, or at least one parent. I prefer to see people living simpler non-materialistic lives than our typical western society endorses. I like it when women wear dresses to church. It makes me happy to see couples let God choose their family size and spacing.

But I can't make a Biblical mandate out of this second category of things. God, in His Holy Word, is very clear how He feels about our adding to or subtracting from that Word. He warns us against setting up our own laws over and above His, and claiming that they are His will.

I was thinking about these things today after reading the article, "Why Would a Woman Convert to Islam?"   Herbert London, the article's author, asks and then attempts to answer this question in light of the recent conversion of Tony Blair's sister to Islam.  The author of the article makes certain assumptions that I'm not sure are accurate.  But I do think his broader point is valid.

Our Western culture has become so licentious that some people are seeking life style bounds.  It is sometimes much easier to follow precepts than exert self-control.

Mr. London seems to assert that Christianity is somewhat to blame, because the West, in our Christian culture, has not clung to any sort of religious strictures.

At its foundation, even in stricter or more old-fashioned denominations such as that to which I belong to, Christianity is a religion of freedom.  We are free from the bondage of sin.  God created us with free will.  He doesn't make people believe in Him.  He loves us all the same and His son Jesus dies for all to give us salvation and freedom from the bondage of sin.

Our good behavior, our ability to align our behavior with God's will, is not what makes us right with God.

In order to regulate their behavior, God gave His people in the Old Testament the Ten Commandments.  Jesus Christ, God incarnate, later summarized those commandments as "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  And Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22:35-40).  He also has given us the entirety of His written Word.  Within that written Word, we find more details about how to carry out those two directives.

So Christianity is two things, a set of strictures we can never hope to follow perfectly; and at the same time, perfect freedom, in that our very worst sins, when followed by a sorrowful heart, are fully covered when we give them to Jesus to do so.  We are truly bound by God's law; and yet we have perfect freedom from that law in Jesus, God's son.

The way I see it, if Mr. London is correct in His assessment that Christianity's current licentiousness has caused people to crave the strictures of Islam, individuals within our historically Christian culture, have three choices.  Firstly, leave things the way they are, some pursuing hedonism, consumerism, solipsistic behaviors; others clinging to what some call fundamentalist sects; and some falling other places on the continuum between the two.

Second, people could rush towards more strict religious experiences such as pietistic Protestant groups, traditional Catholic groups, or some other moralistic religious group, such as Islam.

I should take a moment to define the term pietistic as I'm using it.  Pietism is adding laws and rules to God's Word.  These laws and rules are often things that are good and wholesome.  Things such as not smoking and drinking; wearing a certain kind of clothing; or not dancing or listening to rock music; etc.  These laws and rules are presented in such a way as to allow performance of such laws and rules to bring a person closer to God.  Those who perform these lifestyle choices are granted a bit of righteousness on account of the choice for holier living.  But God's Word tells us that "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Is. 64:6).  And, "By grace are you saved by faith.  And that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works.  Lest any man should boast."  (Eph. 2:8-9).  Any religion that adds rules to God's Word, strictures that are not Biblically mandated, however wise they might be as lifestyle choices, can be called pietistic.  The choice to live within a certain set of moral choices is not the point.  The distinction I'm making is when these moral choices are tied to a person's faith life in such a way as to grant a degree of righteousness before God.

This brings me finally to the third choice I see for people from Western and specifically Christian worldviews.  (And yes, my bias is showing here.)   We might return to Scripture in its original intent and interpretation, for both freedom and moral guidance.  Think about it, we are free to behave how we choose.  Jesus forgiveness will cleanse us from bad behavior if we are sorrowful over and repent of those sins.  In a spirit of love and thanksgiving, we will want to adhere as closely as possible to the will of God.  We will seek to love God with all our heart, soul and mind; and love our neighbors as ourselves.

And how hard that is.  Even in light of the least pietistic choices, there are far too many ways to properly love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and to properly love our neighbors as ourselves.  We just can't do it.  As Dr. Martin Luther pointed our in his large catechism, there are already plenty of ways to serve God aright.  We don't need to add to them.  If we could ever reach a point of being able to follow the commandments perfectly, then we might worry about extra rules ( only if not tied to righteousness before God).  But until then, focusing on the rules already designated by God in His Word is enough.

There are plenty of strictures within the freedom of Christianity.  We as a culture do not need to flee to non-western religions to get that.  But we do need to study our own founding religious document (Holy Scripture, the Bible) to know what it says; we need to to be able to decipher its demands; we need to be able to balance its freedoms.  We need to hear again and again of God's love for us and the path to salvation He has designated.  We need to be reminded again and again that we can lay all the muck of our lives at His feet.  It's all covered.

And most importantly, we read and study God's Word to receive the faith God promises through His Holy Word.

Is. 55:11
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For your listening pleasure

I love the this version of "500 Miles" by the Journeymen. The lead singer (is it Scott McKenzie?) has a voice that resonates with the haunting loneliness of the lyrics and the simple accompaniment. And the vocal harmonies add perfect richness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rotten Potatoes re-visited

Ok, so long time blog readers may remember a post from almost exactly two years ago.  (blogger's link button isn't working right now.  If anyone is interested, check   In this post I soliloquized on Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic.  I bemoaned the fact that this particular beer tasted more like Rotten potatoes than spiced bananas as the promo claimed.

I was reminded of this post tonight as I reached into a 50 lb bag of potatoes.

No further comment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Weather Comparison

Since I have many relatives in the Puget Sound are of Washington State, I like to keep my eyes on their weather.  They tease me about my cold, long winters.  I tease them about being less than stalwart when they get winter weather.

Today's is kind of fun, since both areas are experiencing Winter Weather situations.

From weatherunderground
Puget Sound, WA
... Winter Storm Warning continues until 10 PM PST this evening
for the Seattle... Tacoma... Everett Metro areas including the Hood
Canal area... the Kitsap peninsula and the eastern Puget Sound

The National Weather Service has continued the Winter Storm
Warning for the Seattle... Tacoma... Everett Metro areas including
the Hood Canal area... the Kitsap peninsula and the eastern Puget
Sound lowlands for heavy snow... which is in effect until 10 PM PST
this evening.

* Timing... bands of locally heavy snow will continue across the
area though the evening hours. The snow will end later this
evening from the north... but some drifting of the snow is likely
tonight as northerly winds increase to 20 to 30 mph and gusts to
40 mph.

* Accumulations... expect total accumulations ranging from 2 to 6
inches. Snowfall accumulations will be quite variable around the
area with heaviest amounts occurring closer to the Cascade
foothills and in localized bands around the central Puget Sound

* Wind... expect north winds to increase to 20 to 30 mph with gusts
to 40 mph this evening. The gusty north winds tonight will cause
some blowing and drifting of the snow. The combination of the
strong wind and temperatures falling into the lower 20s will
give wind chill values of 0 to 10 degrees above zero tonight.

* Impact... gusty winds near 40 mph could result in local power
outages... thus consider alternate... but safe... sources of
heat in case this occurs. Otherwise make sure you have
plenty of extra warm clothing or blankets.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A winter storm warnings means severe winter weather is occurring
or imminent. Those planning travel in the warned area should be
prepared for hazardous... winter driving conditions and plan
Oklee, MN
Statement as of 9:13 PM CST on November 22, 2010

... Winter Storm Watch remains in effect from Wednesday morning
through Thursday afternoon...
... Winter Weather Advisory has expired...

The Winter Weather Advisory is no longer in effect. A Winter
Storm Watch remains in effect from Wednesday morning through
Thursday afternoon.

* Light snow and flurries will continue through midnight... with no
significant additional accumulation expected.

* Another storm system moving in for Wednesday and Thursday will
bringing another round of snow and possibly strong winds.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow... sleet... or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.
 I didn't catch our  local Winter Weather Advisory before it expired.  So unfortunately, I can't share that exact wording.  But we have at least 5 inches now.  Some nearby areas already have 8-12 inches.  Blowing and drifting.  Many places drifting up to a foot or more above the regular accumulations.

We have only a 10-20 mph wind; fairly calm for us.  The Puget Sound area wind is surprisingly much worse.

They are supposed to get two to six inches.  That's a pretty impressive snowfall for that area. 

Schools let out in Seattle late in the day.  Tomorrow is canceled for them, I understand.  My kids got off the bus a bit later than usual.  Maybe 15 minutes late tonight.  Our bus driver is optimistic about tomorrow morning.  My kids are the first on the bus, so she will be coming a mere five minutes early.

My kids hardly ever get snow days.  When I was growing up in the Puget Sound area, I can remember snow days, sitting in the little three or four inches of snow, rapidly making whatever sculptures we could manage, as the snow quickly melted away by late afternoon

There was one time we had enough, and it stuck around for long enough, that we had a snow fort at school.  One time.

I am quite amazed thinking back on it.  We didn't own snow pants.  I don't think anyone did.  There was one boy in our school who wore facemasks. I don't think most of us even had stocking caps.  I remember one time I made a chair out of snow.  I sat there for quite awhile.  Imagine...body heat, wet snow, jeans...I really don't know why I would do that.  I must have been sopping wet.

Now I am raising my kids in a much more frigid clime.   Lots of snow; not much melting.  Lots of cold, cold days. 

I spent many of my young adult years in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  We had lots of snow, but most of it melted or sublimated now and then during the winter.  The drifts and snow plow hills would stay the same all winter, but the regular stuff would disappear and then get covered anew several times a winter.

Here, well, here I think we actually get less snow than southern Minnesota or Wisconsin.  I could check on the exact statistics, I suppose, but I am just giving it a guess.  But the snow we do get here builds up all winter.  None of this melting and re-snowing business.  When everything finally does melt in the spring it actually leaves a mold sitting on the ground.  They call it snow mold and many people suffer terribly from allergies on account of it.

So this evening the ground is covered.  It will likely remain so until about mid April.  My kids will get very few snow days.  But they will bundle up in snowpants and coats, and gloves (sometimes doubled) and facemasks, sometimes with a second stocking cap on top, and scarves, too.  They will be strong and hearty and they will make good Norwegian Minnesotans.

I will stay huddled inside and send them to feed the cats and take out the garbage and get the mail.  I will walk briskly across the yard to church once a week.  And I will occasionally get to town to go to the library or to get groceries.  I just don't have that proper Norwegian Minnesotan blood.

And I will hypocritically tease my siblings and their families about being wimps.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reading the Classics

I remember reading once, I believe it was in These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder, that when Laura was expecting one of her babies, I think her second, a son, she was given a hand-me-down box of Waverly novels.  She describes how reading them was only thing that enabled her to survive the first yucky months of her pregnancy.

Ever since reading this, I've been curious as to what Waverly novels were/are.  I've always imagined some candy-type reading from that era.

Because of the ease the internet has brought to historical research, I recently uncovered the answer to this oh-so-pressing mystery.   In the purest sense, the Waverly novels are those historical novels by Sir Walter Scott which were published anonymously, labeled as being by "the author of Waverly", Waverly being the first of his fiction books. He wrote under six various pseudonyms during this time of his early novels.

Sir Walter Scott (August 15,1771 –September 21, 1832) eventually claimed authorship, and also published additional books under his own name.  In a more general sense, all of Scott's books of historical fiction are also referred to as Waverly novels.

Scott's literary accomplishments were not limited to historical fiction.  He was a poet of original works, he anthologized volumes of poetry, and he translated a large volume of poetry from German.  He was involved in various historical and literary publishing enterprises.

With this new knowledge under my hat, I understandably had to request something by Sir Walter Scott from the library.  Scott's Ivanhoe has been on my "to read" list since reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm several years back.  Rebecca tells of being named after the character from her mother's favorite book, Ivanhoe.  But somehow, as with so many of the books on that ever increasing list of mine, I've not yet managed to read Ivanhoe.  Now that I know more about Scott's life and works, I decided to start at the beginning, with Waverly.

I started it today.

Definitely not candy reading.

The first chapter is all of three pages.  I couldn't get through a paragraph without continual rereading.  Finally, after my allotted two cups of "reading time coffee" were gone, I said, in tone of utmost exasperation, "Joe, I think I am too dumb to read Sir Walter Scott!"  It is not unusual for mothers of small children feel this way.  It's very frustrating to feel as though I have lost my powers of intellectual synthesis.  Keep in mind, I've felt this way the better part of the last 18 years.  

Since my reading time is my personal little reward and refreshment time, and since after the emotional onslaught of attempting to read this book I was most definitely NOT refreshed, I gave myself an extra few minutes.  I went into my room and closed my door.  I read without interruption (do you hear, without interruption) and guess what.  I am smarter than I thought.  The first chapter is a very wordy and somewhat meandering explanation of how Scott chose his title and subtitle.  But after I managed to get through that, the book started rolling.  I still am not completely involved.  The story line is beginning to tug at me. It might be a bit of a challenge to continue amid the usual household interruptions of my daily life.  But I will give it a few days' effort.  I can be very tenacious when I want and I guess, well, I do want.  I want to be able to read an author I've never read.  I want to be able to learn from the historical settings Scott is famous for.  I want to experience great literature.

And yes, I must admit, I want to compete with Laura.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Information, Too Much, Not Enough, Left Leaning, Biased Right.....Frustration!

I've written before about some of my frustrations with the growing options in conservative media.  Yes, I consider myself politically conservative.  Yes, it ought to be obvious to anyone who cares to think about it objectively that the Mainstream Media is biased left.  Yes, the growing variety of neutral news sources or even those biased toward the right (when it is openly so) is a good thing.  Options are good.  Variety of voices and opinions are good. 

But that doesn't mean I don't get frustrated sometimes with the quality of news coming out of the right leaning sources.  And anyone who claims that we "Right Wing Extremists" are just sheep following blindly, if you ever took the time to ask, you'd find we "extremists" do have our own opinions.  We like to do our research and check up on what we read and hear.  Our thoughts and frustrations and opinions sometimes differ markedly with those of our news sources.  This post is one lowly example.

Wow, that's a bit of statement insurance, is it not?

The subject of my current frustration is the seeming obsession with the cost and opulence of President Obama's current Asia trip.  Every station I turned to when I was in the car for a little while yesterday afternoon was full of it.  Several links on my husband's news readers were filled with it.

OK, I understand that we're talking about a huge amount of money.  Yes, our nation is struggling economically here at home and some might find this money badly spent.

But in none of the news sources did I see or hear a comparison to what previous presidents have spent.  Nor did I see or hear specifics of what Mr. President or his security detail ought to have cut out or changed.

I'm going to pull some examples from this Daily Mail article.  Yes I do realize it's a British source.  Regardless of the source, these are the kinds of complaints I heard and saw everywhere yesterday and this morning, and they are handily in one location for me to cite.
Probably not since the days of the Pharaohs or the more ludicrous Roman Emperors has a head of state travelled in such pomp and expensive grandeur as the President of the United States of America.
This is the opening paragraph.  Kind of sets the tone for the article.  But it makes it sound as though the Obama's are living the high life.  Perhaps they are, but I don't see specifics of that in the article.

The paragraph immediately following the above reads,
While lesser mortals – the Pope, Queen Elizabeth and so on – are usually happy to let their hosts handle most of the security and transport arrangements when they venture beyond their home shores, the United States creates a mini-America on the move to ensure that nothing is left to chance.
Should we begrudge our president his security.  Or lessen it since we're in tough economic times?  Is it even the president's choice to have this style of security arrangements?  Is it out of the ordinary compared to the arrangements of previous presidents?  Should we choose the security measures we demand for our president based upon the arrangements made for dignitaries of other countries?

The article continues by describing the "near tank" quality of the limo the president will ride in, his use of Air Force One, its luxury accommodations and its expense to operate.  Again, we provide all our presidents with these same measures, don't we?  If we don't like it, we can go through democratic processes to gradually change the standards.

Or maybe we don't provide these same things for all our presidents, but if not, then tell us how it's different.

There is, apparently, a squadron of naval ships patrolling off shore.  A fleet of 45 armored limos (half decoys), and a collection of dogs trained to sniff for explosives.

The president has reserved the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel.  Again, security measures were cited, since the hotel was the target of an attack in 2008 by Pakistani militants.

The author of the Daily Mail article goes into great detail describing how the US security forces decided to secure the President's visit to the Ghandi museum using an above ground bomb proof tunnel (nearly a kilometer in length) to get him inside safely.  The entrance to the museum is within shot of a sky scraper and within a highly populated area that make the area difficult to secure.

The article describes some of the cost figures being bandied about.  I heard one talk radio personality scoff that the White House will not release the exact cost details.  He couldn't accept the idea that a detailed listing of security measures might compromise the security being sought.

Please, if this is out of the ordinary for American presidential security in a post-9/11 world, please tell me how it's different.  Tell me what specifics might be unnecessary so I can come to an opinion of my own.  Don't just complain.  And please do not imply that the the expense of the trip is presidential luxury instead of his safety.   If there are unreasonable luxuries the Obamas have chosen, then tell me that.  Don't list security details as examples of opulence.

The article then continues with a lengthy description of President Obama's business goals for the trip.  Since I'm not really up on international business, you'll have to read this part yourselves.  I've heard President Obama repetitively criticized for not doing presidential things.  For not addressing the economy enough or doing enough to help American business.  The goals described in this article and the manner the president is trying to achieve them seem reasonable.

To sum this up, I don't agree with President Obama on many policy issues.  I do think he behaves in a manner, and has in the past written in a manner, consistent with Marxist philosophy.  I do think most of the things he has striven for so far in his presidency will hurt America in the long run.  I do agree that in international situations, he generally seems to have his "America tail" between his legs.  He does not speak up for the good America represents, and he even seems ashamed of us internationally and almost grovelling in his manner.

That said, he is our elected official.  Our President.  We do live in dangerous days.  I wouldn't want his security compromised.  Within my limited understanding of international business, I can imagine that the goals discussed in the cited article are worthy and might help our economy.

I don't know how President Obama's security measures and their costs compare with those of previous presidents.  And really, only the second President Bush ought to be used for comparison.  Things need to be different in the post-9/11 world.

There may very well be valid concerns about the cost of the trip, the extent of the security measures, the opulence of the accommodations, even the business goals. 

I'd like to be given some information on those fronts.  From my conservative news sources, within the limited amount of time I was able to listen and read, I only heard and saw complaints of the cost.  I didn't even hear details of things the commentators thought were wrong.  I didn't hear anything about the business goals the president hopes to achieve.

I only heard complaints.  And scoffing.  And criticism.  That doesn't help me to form an opinion.  It just makes me mad.

And it disappoints me.  And embarrasses me.

If we conservatives want our ideals to flourish and if we believe them worthy of being passed on, we better make sure we have the information we need.  If we want to avoid the accusations of the left regarding our bitterness and shallowness, we had better not fall into the habits of the left, of merely complaining and criticizing and using emotive language designed to rile up an audience.

We are smarter than that.  We need to demand better of our news sources.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Purple Literary Silliness

While I was preparing today's post for my Poems and Paintings blog, I found a plethora of interesting information about Gelett Burgess's well-known poem, Purple Cow.  You all know the one I mean,
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.
According to Wikipedia, the poem was originally 8 lines; and Mr. Burgess added an additional four lines at a later date when he was sick of the poem.  I found several sources that included the preceding two lines that I have included in my other blog,
(Reflections on a Mythic Beast
Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.)
 I found one source that included a third preceding line,
The Purple Cow's Projected Feast:
Reflections on a Mythic Beast,
Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.
But I didn't find any source that included an eight line original.

Karen's Poetry Spot includes a parody of Purple Cow by Burgess's contemporary, O. Henry.
I never beat a rotten egg,
I never hope to beat one;
But this you'll understand, I beg,
I'd rather beat than eat one.
Purple Cow Parodies includes several parodies that people have done in imitation of famous poets, such as this one by Susan and David Hollander, in imitation of an Edgar Allen Poe original.
One lonely, gloomy, windswept eve
A mournful sound did I perceive.
I cast my eyes beyond the pane
And to my horror down the lane
Came a sight; I froze inside
A spectral cow with purple hide.
Project Gutenburg has a wonderful digital copy of the original periodical in which the poem was featured.  The illustrations are wonderful.  If I had money to spend collecting rare books, I think I'd want to possess some of this ilk.

And finally, the later four lines that express Burgess's frustration of the constant use of his original lines,
O yes, I wrote the Purple Cow,
I'm sorry now I wrote it.
But I can tell you anyhow,
I'll kill you if you quote it.

Bloggin on facebook

I have a post for this blog scheduled to go up in just a few minutes.  But since I've just recently joined the modern age (fb) and since I even, with the help of my dear husband, have figured out (I think) how to get my blog posts to show up on facebook, I am giving it a try.

I feel a bit strange about this.  I've blogged for several years now and try not to push my blog on people.  I did recently add a signature onto my e-mail advertising them, but otherwise I putz along with a small readership of those who want to read.

But this facebook thing.  Yes, I know I didn't force anyone to be my friend.  But still, there is a corner of my brain that feels like I might just be forcing myself on you all.

But I suppose you can just "unfriend me" if you feel assaulted.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

For Two Special Boys

I came across these nickname etymologies and thought they were interesting.  Who knows how accurate these things are.  My husband, who is a bit of a linguist, dislikes amateurish use of inaccurate etymologizing, especially when used in Biblical argumentation.  But since this only for fun, I hope he doesn't mind too badly my repeating of etymologies the accuracy of which is unknown.

Henry is one of my Godsons and John is my youngest son.  Have fun boys.

Why is Hank short for Henry?
The name Henry dates back to medieval England. (Curiously, at that time, Hank was a diminutive for John.) So how do we get Hank from Henry? Well, one theory says that Hendrick is the Dutch form of the English name Henry. Henk is the diminutive form of Hendrick, ergo, Hank from Henk. Hanks were hugely popular here in the States for many decades, though by the early 90s it no longer appeared in the top 1,000 names for baby boys.

Why is Jack short for John?
The name Jack dates back to about 1,200 and was originally used as a generic name for peasants. Over time, Jack worked his way into words such as lumberjack and steeplejack. Even jackass, the commonly used term for a donkey, retains its generic essence in the word Jack. Of course, John was once used as a generic name for English commoners and peasants, (John Doe) which could be why Jack came became his nickname. But the more likely explanation is that Normans added -kin when they wanted to make a diminutive. And Jen was their way of saying John. So little John became Jenkin and time turned that into Jakin, which ultimately became Jack

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond Ludicrous Screed

Joe just posted this link on his facebook.   Read the article.  It only takes a minute. 

I am amazed at the stupidity of the statement,
'It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement,' Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. 'There are no exemptions to that.'
Just think about this for a minute.  It is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.  I'm  not a constitutional lawyer, but I cannot imagine that a statement such as this can be legally defensible.

The third meaning from the Free Dictionary's Thesaurus function
discriminatory - capable of making fine distinctions
discriminating - showing or indicating careful judgment and discernment especially in matters of taste; "the discriminating eye of the connoisseur"
From Princeton's Wordnet, the first and third definitions of the verb and the adjectival definition,


  • S: (v) discriminate, know apart (recognize or perceive the difference)
  • S: (v) discriminate (distinguish) "I could not discriminate the different tastes in this complicated dish"


  • S: (adj) discriminate (marked by the ability to see or make fine distinctions) "discriminate judgments"; "discriminate people"

And again from Princeton's Wordnet, the second definition of the noun,


  • S: (n) discrimination, secernment (the cognitive process whereby two or more stimuli are distinguished)
I've included several definitions of discriminatory.  Please note, discriminating is not a universally negative thing.  We discriminate every time we make a choice.  Every time we hone a statement to eliminate confusion.  Every time we choose between right and wrong behavior.
I prefer wheat bread, please.

This store is too expensive.  Let's go to Goodwill.

No, no, please don't hit sister.
Come and get me,  Ms Haynes.  I dare you.  Sock me with a big discrimination suit. 

Obviously Ms Haynes takes this to heart.  She is incapable of discriminating between various nuances of the word, "discriminatory".  Every homophone must from henceforth remain ambiguous.

I can see I'm going to have problems with this.  I've always prefered clarity.  Oops, there I've blown it already.

Monday, October 25, 2010

If I Were a Wealthy Man

Perhaps I've posted this video previously.  Sorry, if it's a repeat.  Mentioning it it the previous post made me want to see it.

A Public Radio Synopsis: Some fun, some not so much.

I don't often listen to the radio around home.  I have trouble with the extra noise in my life.  But when I'm in the car, I do like to listen.  Especially if I have a car full of kids, I am much more able to tune out the backseat commotion, if I have the radio to concentrate on.

Generally, I listen to conservative talk radio.  But on weekends, or on the winter evenings after the sun goes down and our AM stations power down for the dark hours, I listen to public radio.  Usually I listen to the news/ talk public radio, but I will also very occasionally listen to the music stations.

I had to go into town this evening.  On the way there, I heard mark Levin interview Sharron Angle, the Senate candidate who is running against Senator Harry Ried in Nevada. I've heard much about her, but this is the first I've heard her interviewed.  She seemed very knowledgeable on the subjects and very fluid in her communications.  She had a pleasant speaking voice and seemed able to laugh at some of the difficulties her opponent has thrown in her path.

On my homeward trip, it was already dark (6:30, grr.  I know, in two weeks it will be an hour worse, then by the winter solstace, it will be worse yet again, double grr).  I was unable to get reception on any of my normal stations.  I first tuned into an AM Canadian station.  I didn't catch any of the names or even the station, but the topic was Canada's being awarded the Dodo award at the biodiversity conference in Japan.  The Dodo award is "named after the dodo bird, the quintessential symbol of biodiversity loss."  One of Canada's sins...they allegedly hold too rigid a position on the use and promotion of biofuels.  Apparently African nations are concerned that after all these years of developing agriculture in their countries, they will have to use their land for fuel rather than much needed food.  There is also concern that global trading of carbon emission will also take crop land out of food production.

Imagine being concerned about something like that.  What's feeding the people compared to biodiversity, anyway?  This is so symptomatic of this crowd.  Mother earth and plants and animals above humans.  At first glance, I'm glad the developing nations are rebelling against it.

I should add that although the station, being Canadian, only mentioned Canada as the Dodo recipient, the EU also shared that honor.   It almost seems backward to me.  I mean, the award is supposed to be given to the nation or group that hinders the efforts at biodiversity.  But the biodiversity nazi countries who seem to want to cram it down everyone's throat are getting the awards.  If anyone can explain this conundrum, please do.  Perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye.

After this cheery interview, I switched to MPR station 102.7 FM.  I tuned into Lisa Mullins and her PRI show, The WorldMore cheery news.  Apparently Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  Our American soldiers are putting their lives on the line, our National budget is funding the expense of rooting out Taliban forces from Karzai's country, and American dollars are helping him to develop his country and economy.  Meanwhile, he is also taking money from Tehran to support the Taliban.

But now we get fun.  Sony will no longer be manufacturing its Walkman.   This little blurp is great to listen to, if only for the retro music they pipe in behind the interview to get us all in our Walkman mode.  Great fun.  Unfortunately the clip on the website doesn't include the final music which was a song I haven't even thought of for years and cannot even now remember.  It was a good one, too.  As my kids would say, "Oh, snap!"

 Then came an interesting discussion of Isreal's growing ultra-orthodox Jewish community and the burden this community is putting on Israel national economy since the men don't work, but study Torah all day.  It reminds me of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.  He wanted to sit at the city gates and advise people on spiritual matters.  But Tevye was not wealthy, so he had to provide for his wife and daughters.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stepping on Toes in the Nation's Capitol

Picture yourself in an urban area rich with restaurants of a variety of ethnic traditions.  I use State Street in Madison Wisconsin as my model.  I haven't been there for years, but I can't imagine it is much changed. 

When walking down that street, each few steps tantalizes ones taste buds and digestive juices with a different olfactory experience.  Here's Chinese... now brats... ooh, fresh baked bread... espresso... Middle Eastern... hamburgers and fries... gyros... North African.... Mmmm. 

All combine into part of the urban experience.

But the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson wants to take a part of that experience away from one Washington, D.C., neighborhood.  Steptoe and Johnson has filed suit to close the local hamburger joint, Rogue State Burgers, because of the offensive cooking smells.  And D.C. Superior Court Judge John Mott, has ordered the restaurant closed. Click here to read the text of the sign put up by the restaurant owners.

On exactly whose toes is Steptoe and Johnson stepping? Obviously Rogues States', but also those of their customers, and even the toes of those who just enjoy that rich urban neighborhood food smell.

On the flip side, Rogue States may be stepping on the noses of the Steptoe and Johnson employees and clients. 

Perhaps the burger joint should change their name to Stepnose Burgers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poems and Paintings

I'm once again starting a new blog, Poems and Paintings: Day by Day.  One of my long term plans is to edit a poetry book that includes a daily poem and coinciding painting or work of art.

I plan to be adding to this blog little by little.

Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Top Five Pieces of Homeschool Advice and One More

I've been homeschooling for at least twelve years.  That figure is somewhat squishy depending upon at what age of preschool/kindergarten/first grade-ness one considers their child as starting school.  My oldest child is seventeen and a half, and a senior in highschool. Define it how you will.

Sometimes I have people ask me what it's like homeschooling; or how I do it with so many; or what advice I'd give new homeschoolers.  In public service, after a person has stepped down from active service, he or she is called an elder statesman/person.  His or her opinion is sought after and respected just by virtue of his or her past position.

Now I am only homeschooling one child (unless I am teaching four, there is that aforementioned pre-school squishiness).  I might consider myself an elder matron.  I'm no longer immersed in the homeschool world.  But merely by virtue of my past work in the field, regardless of the merits of my ideas, I am asked.

Well!  I've always given my opinion readily, but now I have some status, I guess.

Here is my list of top five pieces of homeschool advice.
  1. Focus on the one thing needful.  Spiritually training our child(ren) is really our primary parental responsibility.  How does this work out in real life?  Each family will fulfill this differently.  But it must be fulfilled.  
  2. This one is kind of a continuation of the previous point, but it is needs it's own number.  Take time to think about and write down your long, medium and short term goals. This will give you a rubric against which to measure your days.   And it will help you make time for the spiritual things even when it seems there is just no time.  It will give you justification to leave that load of laundry or that sink full of dishes or that football game or piano recital.  It will help you decide whether to include Latin or violin in your days and weeks.  All of the above are worthy things.  But only one is needful.  I've written in the past about time management (It has it's own indexed link, but this is my favorite).  When a couple decides to school their children at home, they are adding a large chunk of time to an already stressed parental and homemaking load.  Something has to give. Having written goals will help you decide what that will be.  Having long, medium and short term goals will give your goals perspective.
  3. Don't compare yourself to other homeschooling families.  All kids are different; all families are different.  Temperaments are different, abilities are different.  Teaching styles, learning styles, home management styles, discipline styles...all different.  A husband's career may effect how things are done.  Does the mother work part of full time?  Are there two parents in the home?  Are the parents and kids motivated?  Curious?  Physical?  Active?  Thoughtful?  Quiet?  Loud?  Witty?  Each personality will result in different combinations of everything.  It's really easy to beat yourself up as a homeschool mom when other kids appear to be further ahead or better behaved or more athletic or more curious or more responsible or more of anything...Don't give into that temptation.  Your kids are great, unique persons.
  4. All kids are smart; it's up to you as a homeschool parent to find the way to reach them; or to find their smartness. It may not be the same way for any two kids.  Be creative, be insightful. Watch. Listen.  But don't bind yourself to traditional pigeon holes.  They may not work for your child.  Each of us has a unique God-given personality and has been called to unique God-given vocation(s).  Sometimes that involves traditional paths; other times it does not.  Be content with and even rejoice in who you are, who your husband is, and who each of your children are.  Remember, God gave to you your particular child(ren) because you are the best one for them.
  5. Trust in God and His promises and His guidance.  He will direct you along the paths you need to travel.   Don't fret about what curriculum is best or what teaching philosophy to follow or at what age to introduce which outside activities, etc.  It's OK to consider such things, to read about what others think, and to discuss things with those whose opinions you respect.  But don't cross the line into worry.  Sometimes it is easy to be fearful.  Since a homeschool parent is the primary person responsible for all aspects of a child's development there is a big temptation to take it all too seriously.  It's easy to wallow in worry.  It's easy to feel our responsibilities so heavily that we become paralyzed when confronted by life's many different choices.
And finally, one more.  It's not so much a homeschool tip, but a homeschool attitude caveat.  Something with which I've had to struggle recently.  We as homeschoolers can be a bit self righteous.  I don't mean this in a bad way, necessarily.  But it can easily cross the line into a bad self-righteousness.  We have chosen a lifestyle that involves huge sacrifices in order to give our children the very best homelife, education, and religious training we can.  It is such an obvious decision to us.  This is so very, very obviously the right choice.  Why doesn't everyone choose this?  Duh!

But we must guard against judging others.  God uses many different kinds of individuals and many different kind of families.  He has not given you your neighbor's or brother's or best friend's child to raise.  We need to let those people make their own best decision for their own families.

But here is the flip side of that.  The thing with which I've had to wrestle lately.  Don't bind yourself into a homeschool mentality.  Those of us who are called by God to school our children at home often see that as our primary vocation.  This is the lifestyle choice that defines our parenting philosophy.  But things change.  God may put additional jobs before us; one of our previous tasks may need to bump homeschooling out, temporarily or permanently.  Think of homeschooling as an option to fulfill the academic aspect of child rearing.  If any of the other aspects of child rearing are being neglected, that may be an indication that something needs to change.  That change may involve a different educational choice.  It doesn't have to be a permanent change.  But sometimes things do need to change.  It's easy to put homeschooling on such a pedestal that it becomes an idol.  If we trust that God is guiding us, we have to listen to His prompts.  Sometimes that involves doing things we may not have been able to imagine doing previously.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Favorite Piano Pieces

Now that my kids are in school, I've been taking advantage of my new found (relatively) free time to play a bit more piano.  I'm not really much of a pianist.  But I enjoy doing it.  I play better now than I have in the past because I play for the Sunday School kids when they sing in church.  That keeps my fingers nimble and makes me take time to practice.

But now I can play a little bit just for fun.  I still can't play much Beethoven, but it doesn't keep me from trying.  He is my absolute favorite composer.  The power in his compositions always amazes me.  The richness of the harmonies is stunning. 

But few people play Beethoven really well.  Every once in awhile, after I've butchered one of his pieces sufficiently, I have to download a audio file to remind myself what the pieces are supposed to sound like.

Pathetique is my favorite Beethoven piano Sonata (opus 13).  And Freddy Kempf plays it so very well.

Man, I wish my fingers could go like that!

I also enjoy the frolicsome sound to Rage Over a Lost Penny (Rondo a Capriccio opus 129). I didn't find a video with Anatol Ugorski actually playing, but the audio on this one is terrific.

Hope you enjoy listening.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A few posts ago, I posted Steve Lee's I Like Guns video.  This is the The Lee Band's cover of It Ain't Me, Babe.  I think it is very well done.

It has an upbeat sound that makes me happy listening to it. I listened to versions by several artists and I think I like this one better than any of the others. It is somewhat hard to compare, though, because the artistry in the video contributes part of my enjoyment. The versions by the older artists are either life performances or coupled with a still shot or a collection of still shots. Trying to separate the music from the visual impression is difficult.

This version by the song's author, Bob Dylan is not appealing musically or visually. It is rather moody and uncomfortable.  Perhaps a little travelogue through the counter-culture of the 60s and 70s.

It looks like many people covered this title, and I listened to parts of a few of them.  Nancy Sinatra, The Turtles, Joan Baez, and others.  I read through some comments on some of the videos.

It seems as though most listeners favor the song done by Johnny Cash and June Carter.  I found the following rendition sung by them that someone put together using some very touching photo shots.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is Self-Sufficiency for the Birds?

It was today at the Abrahamsons'.  Joe and I butchered the last five of our chickens.

When we did the first and second batches of butchering, I was conveniently busy with other things.  The kids were home, so Joe put them to work helping him.

But now almost all our children are in Public Schools.

So today mom got to help.

(I learned that linguistic trick while playing cards with our good friends Alex and Carrie during Joe's seminary years.  "I have to go first?"  I'd ask.  Alex would always reply, "No, Mary, you get to go first.")

So yes, I got to help butcher chickens.

I have written periodically in the past about my desire for self-sufficiency.  And how the older I get, the harder it is to really want to bother.  The grocery store is pretty convenient, isn't it?   I don't really like to try new things anymore.  And I am content and fulfilled already.  I no longer need to prove how tough or strong or bold I am.

But today I learned something new.  I am now tougher and stronger and bolder than I was this morning.

I got to hold the chopping block steady while my husband chopped off the fowl heads. (Yes, the pun is definitely intended.)  By the time we did the last one I wasn't even shutting my eyes, though.

I got to pluck the feathers off the hanging birds.

After the first two birds were done, and we saw how much more quickly it went with mom helping as opposed to the kids, we decided to just forge ahead and finish the job in one sitting. 

After that, I got to be more involved so Joe could carry on handling the plucked birds.  (The gutting and cutting, etc that I am still not tough or strong or bold enough to want to do.)

I got to catch the flopping chicken bodies by the legs.

I got to dip them into the boiling water.

I got to dip them into the cold water.

I got to hang them by the foot from the noose.

And I got to pluck them.

Am I cool or what?

Oh, and by the way,  when you set your beheaded chicken down and he starts a-flopping, make sure he is far enough from the house so he does not fall into a window well.  Not a pretty sight.  Guess what we get to do tomorrow?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Emotional Malaise Due to Fiction of Medical Compromisation

Did that title make any sense at all?  Hopefully it will when I'm done venting my angst.

Did you ever read a book or see a movie that left you feeling icky afterwards?  Over the weekend I read Tess Gerritsen's Harvest.  Throughout the day today, I would recall some aspect of the troubling plot and would suddenly feel sad.

There are some genres of literature I avoid because of the intensity of the suspense or the goriness of the story line or the graphically violent or s*xual descriptions.  This book does not really fall into any of those categories.  I would call this story a thriller of medical ethics.  It is realistic enough that the possibility of a situation similar to that described in this plot seems plausible.

I don't like stories that imply that someone into whose hands I may at some point need to lay my life might be immersed in unethical behavior.  When a person is unconscious or in a compromised condition, they ought to be able to trust those into whose care they are surrendered.  I don't like to be reminded of the human nature of caregivers.  I don't want to know about the possibility that some health care provider may make a decision for a patient's care based on things other than the patient's best interest.

Unfortunately I saw the movie, Kill Bill, at the theater with my husband.  (Yes, he likes those comic strip-ish martial arts movies, but that would be another story.)  There was a situation in that movie that left me similarly saddened and unsettled.  The heads getting chopped off didn't both me.  That part was obviously fictitious.  But the behavior of the hospital personnel was realistically heinous.  Ick Yuck.  People ought to have peace of mind that their care during times of physical compromise is above board.

It's Ticker Time Once Again

I decided to go with the fall amoeba theme.

After a summer break from organized exercise and the slowly creeping upward of my bathroom scale, I've felt the need to return to some structure. 

Readers may have noticed the disappearance a month or so ago of the "miles run" ticker?  Yes, well, I don't want to talk about it.

I was inspired by Mr. Bronski's performance on Saturday at the Virgil Crest Ultra 50 mile race.  Pete finished in 7th place (out of 48 runners who started) with an official finish of 51.4 miles in 11 hours and 43 minutes.  WOW!  Great job, Pete!

The top 100 mile finisher was  Angus Repper who did the 102.8 miles in 23 hours and 4 minutes.  Can you imagine?

I noticed there were several 40 somethings who finished in both the 50 and 100 miles versions.  The oldest 100 mile finisher was 48 years old and the oldest 50 mile finisher was 58.  Yes, I'm pretty impressed.

But I blame it all on the scenery.  Yes, that's it.  If only I had a more scenic place to train, I could probably do 50 miles easy.  Don't you think?

Friday, September 24, 2010

See Pete run. Run, Pete, run.

Tomorrow Peter Bronski, of No Gluten No Problem, is running in the Virgil Crest Ultra, in the mountains and forests of New York.  I follow Mr. Bronski's blog for tips and information of the gluten free life style.  But I also am drawn to the sense of adventure he portrays in his blog.  Mr. Bronski according to his personal business website is "an award-winning writer, photographer, speaker and adventurer."  And somehow he brings that through even in a gluten free living blog.

A little over four months ago, after an extended illness over last winter and early spring, Mr. Bronski began training for the 50 ml Virgil Crest Ultra.  He's kept his regular readers up to date on his progress and challenges, and training statistics.  For those of us who are less than successful at our own personal training, it's inspiring to read about the success of another.  And it gives me kind of a vicarious adventure of my own.

Mr. Bronski is using his run to raise awareness of Celiac Disease and to raise money for Celiac research.

I hope you have a great day tomorrow, Pete!  I'll look forward to checking the race stats when I get home tomorrow afternoon.  Be safe.

See also Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christiphor McDougall, for everything you ever wanted to know about ultra marathoning.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gun Related Contests

Impact Guns is running a series of giveaways in the months to come.  In order to enter the current one, a person must post a comment on a gun related site or a gun related comment on a personal site.  The winner will receive a .45cal Smith & Wesson M&P pistol.   Jeff Quinn at Gunblast has a thorough review of the S&W M&P.

Thank you impact guns.  I look forward to winning.

I've recently been introduced to Australian folk rock singer, Steve Lee.  He's come into widespread fame in America due to his recent youTube hit, I Like Guns

According to his website
, Mr. Lee decided that there haven't been enough songs of late celebrating the manliness of guns.  "When had grown men stopped singing about shooting and started singing about love?"  So he produced an entire album celebrating guns and gun ownership.  Some songs are original; some are covers of old gun songs.

The second video from the album, I'll Give Up My Guns, is also up on youTube now.   This song is more political, a musical commentary on loss of freedom.

I've checked out his family's albums and their web site, too.  I'm intrigued by this guy; he exhibits what appear to be conservative values.  He is obviously very patriotic and family oriented.  He loves freedom and at least acknowledges his Christian roots.  I don't want to presume too much on that point. They homeschooled their kids.

But here is the thing I think is cool.  He and his wife raised their kids on the road.  Singing in small venues throughout Australia.  I suppose it appeals to my somewhat rebellious nature and wanderlust.  Here's a family who marches to the beat of their own drum.

The Lee's are talented singers with an engaging, friendly style.

In line with the contest theme of this blog post, the youth hunting organization, The Future of Hunting, is sponsoring a guided whitetail hunt for a lucky youth hunter and attending adult.  But wait, there's more.  Fellow participant in the giveaway hunt ... the aforementioned Steve Lee.  Walker Hollow Whitetails in central Ohio is donating the hunt.  So register your youth hunter to win now.  No, wait, don't.  I know I have more youth hunters than some, which increases my odds of winning, but still, don't enter.  Ohio is so far away, isnt' it?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Poem: Life at the Abrahamson House While Mom Was Writing Previous Post

Two little sisters jumping on the bed
One put powder on her head
She put it on her sister and then they said,
"We've never had so much fun, jumping on the bed!"
I should never take time out to think.  No.  I should never take time to record my thoughts.

One of My Age-Old Questions Resurfaces

When I spend time thinking about our country's founding documents, I inevitably end up in a philosophical catch-22.  The Declaration of Independence, and therefore the entire justification of the American Revolution, uses some phraseology with which I am uncomfortable from a spiritual standpoint.  The following provides an example.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Now, much as I'd like to think it true, I don't think we are endowed by our Creator with any rights except the right to life.  And even that is not so much a right as a gift.

But the entire idea of Natural Laws and Laws of Nature and Natural Rights, etc, to which Enlightenment thinkers such as our nations founders held, does not sit well with me on a spiritual level.  We are worthy of nothing in the eyes of God.  We have no rights before God.  We do have gifts and blessings of which we may or may not even be aware.  The word, "Rights" however, implies something to which we're entitled.  And I don't think the Bible supports this.

In the history of the world, humanity has been granted by God various civic rights and privileges at various times.  Within various civic systems throughout the history of the world, some have lived free, while others not so much so.  But as the apostle Paul exhorts us in Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject to a higher power.  For there is no power but of God.  The powers that be are ordained by God."  Even under what may seem the most heinous civic situation, God's people are cared for and blessed according to His Good Pleasure.  We have no right to demand of our God-instituted civic body any particular freedoms or rights or blessings, etc.

At times God has chosen to use the civic authorities to grant certain freedoms or rights.  For instance, under our American system of governance, God has blessed us richly with many freedoms and with certain privileges to participate in our government.

I found the following quote from Thomas Jefferson in Glenn Beck's new political thriller, The Overton Window, which I've reviewed here.  I know there are a handful of theologians and political historians who read my blog.  There are also a handful of armchair theologians and armchair political historians; and also some readers who may not have any particular theological or historical training, but are astute and wise, nonetheless.  I'd like your input.
Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
I've been thinking about this quote.  At first glance I cringe from it because of the ideas I expressed above.

Again, Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject to a higher power.  For there is no power but of God.  The powers that be are ordained by God." That seems to me to be straightforward enough.

But some well read and devout friends and acquaintances have been trying to gently lead me to see, implicit within the Biblical Commandments, especially Commandments 4-10, kind of (forgive me if I'm saying this inaccurately) an inside out endorsement by God of what we might think of today as Natural Rights such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, along with those rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, and other human rights.  For instance, if we steal, we are infringing upon someone else's right to have that thing; therefore, God endorses private property.  I believe Martin Luther defends this view in his Large Catechism in the section on the Ten Commandments.

With that in mind, I can stretch my imagination to see Jefferson's statement as truly noble and insightful.  When we resist tyrants, we are protecting the rights of our friends and acquaintances to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, along with all the other unalienable God-given rights.

But I wonder, is Jefferson's idea insightful or simply "inciteful"?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

School Morning Musings of a Formerly Homeschool Mom

Here it is, ten minutes after seven, and the morning rush is done.  I have served my children hot breakfast--we had rice custard this morning.  We had morning devotions--Joe read the first half of Galatians 5, and had the kids recite come commandments.  The older kids have their daily chores accomplished.  Six of my ten children are dressed.  Five are on their way to school.  Breakfast dishes are mostly cleaned up and I have nothing to do.  (This last bit is called hyperbole--obvious exaggeration.)  Of course I really do have things to do, but it amazes me that I have so many things under my belt and it is not even fully light.

Now it's time for my cup of coffee and a bit of Mom Time.

I love seeing all my kids race to the bus in the morning.  Don't ask me why.  I feel warm and mushy seeing their legs pumping and their lungs so strong.

There is comfort in knowing I've done my part to prepare them to go out in the world.  This is ongoing, of course, but the foundation is laid.

Now the building continues, but the responsibility is shared by many hands.  That part does not sit quite comfortably with me.  It makes me squirm inwardly not a small amount, when I stop to think of how many varied influences my children will have coming at them each day.  I pray for them, for strength, wisdom, and faith, as they examine these influences through the lenses of their baptismal grace.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quiz time

Among my friends and acquaintances, there is only one person I know off the top of my head who I imagine would know the answer to the following questions readily.  There are a few others I think might have such obscure knowledge.  And anyone can figure it out by googling.  Go ahead and post an answer, but tell me whether you had to research the matter.  I'm going to wait to moderate any comments until I hear from someone who know the answer already.

What is skiffle music?  What musical group of renown got their start playing skiffle?  Name any other well-known musicians who played skiffle.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Important Family Update

This is important to me.  As in, it is a BIG DEAL around here. I think Joe will write about it and include pictures, since he's the more tech savvy one around these parts.

But...For anyone who has not yet heard the news, we have enrolled all of our school aged children, except Louisa in the local public schools, Red Lake County Central-Plummer and Oklee. I can't believe I didn't write about this earlier, but I've been too swamped to even think about blogging until today. OK, I did squeeze in a few book reviews and a few just for fun things.

But I really wanted to give this topic a nice post all of its own to present the things that lead to our decision. But I've decided they are to many to list and a few  are somewhat private matters.

Suffice it to say that maternal overload was a big factor. As was our positive experience with the Oklee school, the teachers and administrators with our older two last year.

It's all been very exciting and somewhat overwhelming. But we had a good week for the most part. We managed to get to bed on time and get up on time. I made hot breakfast all four mornings.

The kids mostly like school. They love seeing friends each day and having structured things to do. For the most part, they like the classes, too, but some things are difficult compared to how we did them here.

Sophie is pretty tired at the end of the day. She's is a bit frustrated by her reading level compared to the other kids in her grade. I've been in touch with the teachers and principle about this and we are sitting on it for now.

The Plummer school has a very nice program in place that combines the kids in third and fourth grades; and then again the fifth and sixth graders. Each of the two pools of kids is then divided into ability levels so that the kids can be taught closer to their ability level than a simple grade division would accomplish. The children are given brief assessments several times during the year to determine that they are still working at the correct level; and also to look for red flag areas in which the child might need that little bit of extra help.

I'm pleased with how things are going and I look forward to hearing from the teachers this week on whether they think Sophie would benefit from bumping down a level.  I'm touched by the amount of care and personal interest the teachers are able to give.

I spent my time at home this week well and have begun the arduous task of reclaiming my domicile from it's years of neglect.    I just keep saying to myself, as in What About Bob?, "Baby steps with the laundry, baby steps with the kids' rooms, baby steps around the house."