Saturday, December 31, 2011

Private Music

While piano-hunting, the salesmen repeatedly pointed out the benefits of the earphones that can be plugged into a digital piano. They told us how great it is to be able to practice without disturbing the people around you. I can see benefits there. If you live in an apartment, you can play without annoying the people upstairs. If you work odd hours --or if you awaken in the night and want to play hymns for comfort-- the earphones make it possible for you to make your music while the rest of the household slumbers away. If you're learning a piece and embarrassed to be heard, you've got privacy because of the earphones.

And yet ...

Is that good?

Isn't there something good about all of you hearing the same music? Isn't there something good about learning to take turns -- someone playing piano for a while and then someone else listening to the tv or radio -- sharing the airwaves? Isn't there something instructive about listening to a person learn to play, whether it's the primer book, simple scales, or more complicated pieces? Isn't there something good about the whole family hearing Jill's piece for the recital 287 times in one week?

When we use the earphones, we disassociate with each other. But that's not all. We also take away our exposure to someone's fumbling about while in the learning-stages. And that's not a good thing. Especially in our day of recorded music (where there might have been over 100 attempts at getting the recording Right before the entertainer finds a "keeper") it's important that we experience the process of learning. Children especially need to see that mistakes are made, and that we all do a cruddy job in the beginning phases of gaining a skill, and that it takes work and practice before a piece is smoothed and polished and refined.

I'm not going to toss my piano's earphones into the trash. We will keep them. Sometimes we will use them. But for the most part, earphones seem like another wedge to family togetherness, as well as another way to portray excellence while hiding the path of hard work and the plethora of errors that led to that excellence.

Today's Laugh

George was having a grand time at the local bar, jigging around to the music. Suddenly he felt the call of nature and had to pass gas. He held it back for a while. But eventually he decided that the loud music would drown out the noise, so he let it fly. He looked around and noticed that everyone was staring at him with an accusing eye. That's when he remembered: he was listening to the dance music on his iPod.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Follow-up to "Nothing to Do"

Played some piano. Reviewed Hilde's descant for "O Savior of Our Fallen Race."

Made bread.

Cleaned the oven and the stove's grates.

Goofed off on Facebook and wrote some blog posts.

Went to the post office and library.

Flushed the water heater.

Paid bills, did the December budget, and set up the files for the new year's budget-stuff.

Talked briefly to Paul about his vaccination record.

Listened to my pastor on Issues, Etc. (I wish I'd known earlier this week that he had a week-long stint on the show. He's doing a whole series on the Table of Duties, and if it turns out to be anything at all like what he wrote in Catechist edition, it'll superb.)

Cleaned two bedrooms.

Mopped those bedrooms and the bathrooms.

Shrimp stirfry for supper.

Watch Pizza My Heart with Gary. It's a cute, simple, clean, predictable, lightly funny movie that's kind of a chipper take-off on Romeo and Juliet.

Vacuumed the basement furniture with my new Dirt Devil. #1 -- It's shocking and disgusting how much cat hair was on those chairs. #2 -- Why don't women like tools (like Dirt Devils) for Christmas gifts? It makes a task quicker and easier, which means it's essentially a gift of time. And everybody seems to want more time. I certainly treasure gifts-of-time more than gifts-of-jewels or gifts-of-perfume or other supposedly romantic things. After all, if I have more time to read a book to a kid or cuddle with my sweetie, what thing could be better than that?

Early to bed so that I can be out of the house extra-early for opening at work tomorrow.

Back to RegularLife tomorrow. And on my vacation I didn't even start on the Christmas cards, the Epiphany introits, or the school records. But no! I ought not look at what I didn't accomplish, but at the things I did. Right? Right? Yes, I can brainwash myself into this.....!

Paul's Trip to Haiti

My son is headed off to Haiti in January, three weeks hence. His godfather's congregation serves as the Lutheran University Student Center for the Milwaukee area, and a group of college-aged folks are going to help with the ongoing reconstruction after the devastating earthquake two years ago.

If you might be inclined to help defray the cost of the trip for those who will be smashing their thumbs with hammers and getting splinters in their feet, you could send $5 (or $20*) to

Luther Memorial Chapel and
University Student Center
Attention: Rachel Ploetz
3833 N. Maryland Avenue
Shorewood WI 53211

with your gift earmarked for Paul G. (Shoot, I was about to write my last name. I do not want to do that on this blog. Um, well, most of you who will send a check already know Paul's last name. If you don't, I'm sure Rachel will have no problem figuring it out.)

By the way, Mom, as long as we're on the topic of Wietings, Ben announced his engagement today. And I don't think I mentioned that Hannah had another little boy last winter.

*Or $100, if you wish.

Driving Stick

I never understood why my mom and others would say, "You're DRIVING in those FLIPFLOPS? How can you drive like that?" Why? What's the big deal?

I think I've figured it out now. I've driven my stickshift Corolla with my flipflops and my Birkenstocks, and I've driven it with my workshoes and my tennies. It's so much easier with shoes that hang onto your feet! Especially on days like today, where your flipflops are wet.

The First Commandment

Many of you will laugh at my cluelessness, but nevertheless, here goes.

Until yesterday, I didn't know the difference between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. In my self-defense, I point out that both are scientists known as scientists, both atheists, both professors at those distinguished British universities, and (most importantly) both have A-W-K-I-N in their names. (Hey, I'm more of a big-picture person. That little detail of the name starting with an H or a D ... yeah, well, sometimes I fail to take note of those things.)

So yesterday I figured out the differences between the men. Dawkins is from Oxford; Hawking is from Cambridge. (Yeah, like that's gonna stick in my brain??) They have different first names! Hawking is the physicist whose books Rachel read in high school; Dawkins studies animal behavior. And Dawkins is the militant "missionary" for atheism. I was prodded to figure this out when a friend linked to an article about Dawkins's fervor to spread the message of atheism.

This one clip from the article intrigued me.
Dawkins once told me that he found the first of the Ten Commandments — "You shall have no other gods before Me" — to be the most personally offensive. At the time, I was not sure what he meant. Since then, however, it has become clear that Dawkins, having aspirations of his own, did not like this exclusivity clause. Something of an object of worship himself, ...
He found the First Commandment most offensive. You know what? That man has a better bead on Christianity than a lot of Christians. How often do Christians think their religion is a set of rules on how to behave, how to love, how to be nice, etc? And yet, every single command in Scripture (whether in the Ten Commandments or elsewhere) is subsumed under the First Commandment. If we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we will not steal or commit adultery, because we trust that the goods and the spouse God has provided us are the very best, and that we lack nothing. If we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we will not insist on having our own way, asserting our rights, but will be willing to sacrifice in love for others.

The main message of the Christian faith is that all my righteousness is filth before God, utterly useless to make Him like me or to earn me anything good, and that Jesus is my righteousness and that He has done everything to save me, paying for my sins and giving me all His holiness. That means He's God, and I'm not.

Apparently Richard Dawkins understands that. He rejects it. But he understands it. And he's right about its exclusivity and its offensiveness.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Follow-up to "Nothing to Do"

Because I knew I would come to the end of the day, take a look at all the unfinished tasks on my to-do list, and bemoan having "done nothing all day," I kept track of what I did do:

Cleaned behind and under the refrigerator. Dusted the coils. Pulled out the stove and cleaned behind it too.

Laundered the boys' sheets. Bathroom towels too. And three loads of clothes.

Remembered to take my vitamins (no small feat, unfortunately). Hit the neti pot repeatedly to fight back at the problem instigated by a tooth having been whacked by a popcorn kernel. (This week I'm understanding Gary's reticence with regard to eating popcorn.)

Several little jobs, like sweeping the stairwell, scrubbing the kitchen sink, sharpening knives, cleaning out my purse, and dusting the bathrooms.

Smoothie for breakfast.

Mopped and triple-waxed the kitchen floor.

Two-mile walk, in the sunshine!, fast enough to get sweaty, followed by a hot soak in the tub with my magazine. (Hey, I had to do something while the wax was drying on the floor that's smack-dab in the middle of the house's traffic.)

Watched a cooking show while I ate my lunch and wrote some thank-you notes.

Ran three quickie errands in town.

Soaked feet and treated split heels.

With Gary's help, took the piano out to the garage, awaiting either the garbage men or someone who wants a near-free piano.

Broke down the large and sturdy box the snow-blower arrived in [wow -- what a gift!] and cut-and-tied it into a size acceptable to the garbage haulers.

Scrubbed the shower walls and the bathtub instead of doing the regular 2-minute swiping/cleaning. Tried it with baking soda today instead of SoftScrub. I think it worked okay.

Bottled kombucha and started two new batches.

Fried chicken for supper.

Watched a sitcom with Gary.

Cleaned the rest of the kitchen (that is, whatever wasn't cleaned when I mopped & waxed this morning).

Now, when I read that, it doesn't look like quite so nothing. And I've got another day of this "nothing to do."

Nothing to Do

The kids are with some friends for the week. Gary's at work. I'm not scheduled to work. Nothing's on the calendar at church. No doctor appointments or other things penciled onto the calendar. Two whole days stretched out before me. I have nothing to do.

Except cooking and baking and laundry. And long-overdue straightening and cleaning. And Christmas cards and a desktop-publishing project for church. And errands and a list of phone calls. And catching up on school record-keeping. And school plans for the next semester. And maybe a little self-indulgence: writing, going for a walk in this beautiful sunshine, playing piano, wasting time watching a movie or maybe even reading?

What shall it be? So many options for "doing nothing"!

I started the day with a sudoku.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweet Flowerets

Holy Innocents. The children murdered by Herod the Great in his attempt to snuff out the life of this newborn king he'd heard rumor of.

The imagery in the hymn is something that struck me tonight like it never did before:
Sweet flowerets of the martyr band,
plucked by the tyrant's ruthless hand
upon the threshold of the morn,
like rosebuds by a tempest torn, ...

I remember my friend Jenny writing about her peonies. A few years in a row after she planted them, a driving rain came and took out the flowers just as they were blooming. No flowers. No perfume. They were lost.

There have been times a wicked storm tore through the area. The ground is littered with twigs and ripped-up leaves and flowers torn off the trees and shrubs and flower-stems. It's so sad to see flowers scattered across the lawn or the road, just part of the debris left by the winds and the hail.

But in addition to the beauty-turned-mess, there's the loss. Rosebuds held a promise of loveliness of shape, loveliness of color, loveliness of aroma. And with those buds gone, gone also is what you were anticipating. Like Jenny's peonies.

Death stinks.

But I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas on a Sunday

The problem with Christmas being on a Sunday is that we get cheated out of a Sunday. Isn't Christmas supposed to be an extra day of going to church? So we still have our Christmas service, but we lose our Sunday this week and next week. (I'm currently being envious of the folks in South Bend where they have church every day through Christmastide.)