Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Who's Speaking, Please?"

When you hear that, it's a safe bet that someone's got a Bad Connection.

The transmission is fuzzy, there's no clear signal coming through. Or, it could be something else.

It could be an instance of not liking what we're hearing, and questioning just who it is communicating an undesirable message. In this "Have It Your Way" culture, it's just business-as-usual to default into Personal Preference Mode:

"Pardon? No, I don't like the sound of that. Good-bye."

Context, please!

This is when it's time to not only ascertain who is speaking and what is being said, but also the nature of the speaker's relationship to us:

* A computer-generated database call? Click. You're not being called by an actual person, and there's certainly no personal intentionality going on here.

* A fund-solicitation call? No, thanks anyway. You're a data list entry, and they're calling to enlist your support in a cause that they have a vested interest in, and that you probably do not. But, they'll happily assist you in lightening your wallet, anyway.

* A callback from your biggest supporter, perhaps even your lifelong mentor? Whoa, now. You called him. He's invested in you, and vice versa. You matter enough for him to communicate with. This is a call you can't wait to take...unless you don't like what he's saying.

Ah, there's the rub.

Insert today's latest quote from the Sad and Sadder files of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Today's Associated Press interview, as reported by CNN, includes this token of purported self-awareness:

"Sanford wrote in a message to his political action committee e-mail on Monday that, while he considered resigning, 'I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm.'"

Why does anyone care about the curiously painful descent of this politician's reputation? Well I, for one, can think of only one decent reason; I'm still paying attention because the governor keeps invoking the name of God. By his own profession, he's a devout Christian; I take people at their word when it comes to their own spiritual lives. How can anyone else know those deepest inner details?

But, it's another thing to talk about Someone Who is really there, and blithely gloss over the inconvenient fact that He might have a few thoughts that don't quite jibe with your own prospective scenario. It just doesn't quite sit right. And that's because it ISN'T right.

Taking the foregoing quote at face value, it is apparent that Gov. Sanford presumes that God will open doors for him "next in life." This is not an unreasonable thought. God repeatedly promises to lead us in the way we should go; to counsel us with His eye upon us. To direct our paths. He even promises that we will find Him, when we search for Him with all our hearts..."I will be found by you." [Isaiah 48:17; Jeremiah 29:13].

But, these are not collegial exchanges. The Speaker and the audience are not equals.

Who's speaking, please?

It appears to be only the governor speaking here. He's projecting into the future that God will speak to him and "open doors." And I hope He does.

But, if it's really God the governor wants to hear from, then he needs to remember Who he's talking about. God doesn't blink at our indiscretions and lapses; if He did, He wouldn't be the God of the Bible. And not just because He is all holy [a little-understood word these days]. I am firmly convinced that God doesn't 'turn a blind eye' because that would not be the best for any of us. He loves us with an 'everlasting love' [Jer. 31:3] that never takes the short-cut because short-cuts too often allow a lethal infection of sin to take root.

And, we're too important to Him to allow that: He proved it on Calvary.

So, what next? Well, next is to make sure the infection--the temptation, the miscalculation, the small misstep that has led us on a huge tangent--is thoroughly routed.

I imagine it differs from case to case, but I'm betting that the full course of 'spiritual antibiotic,' the wrenching, probing inside look with the Great Physician, takes time, energy, and not a little courage. Most likely in proportions that add up to a full-time commitment, until the repentance and restoration are complete. And that would be restoration of relationship to God Himself [the future door-opener], to the spouse he made vows to, and to the children for whom he will one day give an account as a father. Oh, yes, and a little further down the list, any future constituents he may have.

These endeavors are too essential to try to wedge into any margins of the DayTimer.

If the governor doesn't see all this as the imperative that is before him as a professed Christian believer, his vision is worse than I thought. And if he sees his only two options as sticking around on the gubernatorial job "to learn lessons" or "running and hiding down on the farm," well, he must really not understand Who he should be listening to. His wires are crossed, and that's no small thing.

Were I to meet him, I think I would like Gov. Sanford. He's certainly willing to be vulnerable about his foibles, and admitting them is the first step, afterall. But there's no one so easy to fool as ourselves; and there are so many who are all too willing to help in the fooling.

That's why it's important to know who's speaking--and how earnestly we should listen.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Of Public Servants and Broken Vows

You can tell there are a lot of "big news" stories converging when one is abruptly pushed from the top of the broadcasts, only to be succeeded by another, and still another.

While the passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson are both sad and significant for popular cutlure and for their respective loved ones, they do not inherently have significant future implications for millions Americans.

The self-made mess of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford does.

Apart from the tragic and momentous damage done to his own family, he is accountable as his state's chief executive to be on duty not only for legislative matters, but also for emergencies-such as calling out the National Guard, etc.

His is but one story in a long line of public servants who seem more focused, at least at certain times, on serving their own interests than the public interest. I draw a distinction between politicians and statesmen. There are, it seems to me, very few of the latter to be found anymore.

But even more than the new news of another politician's moral failings, I am tired of the now cliche refrain: "What others do in their private lives is their own business;" "it has nothing to do with his [and it almost always seems to be 'his' rather than 'her'] ability to do the job;" "don't judge others," and on and on, ad nauseum.

This is a tool for deflecting the burden of accountability--we don't want to be seen holding others accountable, because we don't want to be accountable ourselves. But then our own interests are infringed upon, and then Somebody In Charge better be called on the carpet...

I could note that to those who are vested with power and authority, a higher standard of conduct and accountability goes with the territory. Afterall, we don't willfully elect to office tax cheats, pimps, felons, pedophiles, and those guilty of other crimes. At least not on the merit of those very proclivities. Hmmm, the deduction would seem to be that private morals DO matter, however uncomfortable the implications of that concept may be.

And, it's worth noting that most public servants seem to get themselves into trouble AFTER the authority, influence, and resources that go with elected office are at their fingertips. History, both ancient and contemporary, is rife with examples of many who allow themselves to be corrupted and entitled by the very positsions that they should occupy with a sense of heavy responsibility and honor. Not many discharge such duties nobly. And those who do very seldom make the news.

My "bone to pick", however, is the mindset that fidelity to vows both in personal and public life is of little consequence.

It is not.

The fact that many fail does not diminish the essential importance of being faithful to the roles and duties we assume. No one, to my knowledge, is forced to fill a public office. And apart from some religious or ethnic cultural aberrations, I am not aware that anyone is forced to take marital vows. At least, this is not normative. These are social and personal roles that are pursued, often ardently.

So, whys does fidelity matter? Afterall, we heard during a previous presidential campaign that "It's not the economy, stupid!" And former French President Francois Mitterand's funeral was notable, in part, for the matter-of-fact appearance of both his widow and his mistress at his casket.

But President Clinton's administration was not enhanced by his adultery and lying. I seriously doubt that any viewers envied Madame Mitterand as she publicly shared her grief with the Other Woman, whose very presence proved that her husband didn't value her enough to remain faithful. Did these men discharge their duties effectively? By some measures they did, but in a quieter, deeper way, the example of their lives weakened the fabric of their societies. They illustrated that shirking the most intimate of human bonds was of little consquence. In so doing, they compounded the cynicism with which so many increasingly view the basic building blocks of human society. And breaching trust in one sphere of life makes it easier to breach it in another sphere.

I think fidelity matters--in matters public and private--because morality is real, and functioning societies depend upon it. One need not look far to see the inevitable chaos that results when any of us fail to uphold what we have promised--what others trust us--to do. If a policeman takes an oath to serve and protect, I take it at face value.; I trust that the oath will be kept. I do not set about hiring a private security guard "in case" the police decide to lay off on a whim.

In the private sphere, copious sociological research shows that the next generation does best in intact families. The fact that such families are becoming rarer does not change their value. Even families that do not conform to this social template generally do their best to provide the same nurture, security, and love. This is axiomatic.

But aside from that, discounting Gov. Sanford's personal behavior sends a message that breaking trust, to his family and to his constituents, is really not that big of a deal: we all drop the ball now and then. We all do. That's why repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation are so valuable and so necessary. But, when we "drop the ball", we also lose "yardage." There are consequences that often spill over to others; sowing and reaping.

The fact that the governor is now, according to published reports, drawing parallesl between his own predicament and the Biblical story of King David would seem to defy comment. Among the consequences David reaped was the death of his infant son. He's known as "a man after God's own heart," but I'm pretty sure the utter contrition he articulated in Psalm 51 had a lot to do with that. There's no citing of other "precedent" there, no presuming on good graces.

Most adults realize that the most valuable elements of life involve relationship. By definition, others are affected by what we do: positively affected when we keep the trust; negatively affected when we break it. Like it or not, we all set examles.

Our behavior reflects our personal values, and people believe behavior.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What the Doorknob Held...

You Just Never Know....

....and I generally think that is a very good thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have it any other way. Over the past several months, especially, I've tried fairly consistently to have low--or no--expectations. The hoped-for advantages are that (1) I am less likely to find myself being 'set up;' and (2) I am more likely to find myself discovering Happy Surprises. At least, that's my Working Theory for now.

Today held a Happy Surprise.

Pulling into the driveway after dropping the Benster off for his work shift at Perfect Frame, I spied a black bag hanging from the knob of the frontdoor. Too small for a garbage bag; too stiff to be a shopping bag. But, nonetheless, a bag, hanging from string handles. Hmmmm.

Inside, I opened the front door and found wedged between it and the storm door, dangling from the well-worn knob...a gift bag. Black. Which should have been a tip-off.

Lying on top of the contents was a card...one of those photos-of-little-kids-being-cutesy cards...or, in this case, being Cheeky. Little boy with one chubby hand down the back of his diaper. Inside sentiment: "It's your day! If you have an itch, scratch it! Happy Father's Day"
Signed: "Love, David"

So, you just never know.

After so long and so much with this young man, neither of us had any expectation at all about Father's Day yesterday, other than for Bill to acknowledge that this is not the easiest of holidays anymore, between the protracted heartache with David over these years, and the passing of his dad last April.

Under the card was a set of Chicago Cubs pajamas...which took some thought, time, and expense.

After the double-take, Bill shook his head for a moment. It's a small sign of caring. Nothing to blow out of proportion, but nothing to ignore, either.

You just never know.

But God knows.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Family Relations

Of Dads....

I am greatly blessed to have a wonderful dad, whom I was able to spend part of this Father's Day with. I love you, Dad!

I am married to God's greatest blessing to me, the wonderful, godly, committed, sacrificially loving father of my five children. I love you, Bill!

Of Big Brothers...

I am the oldest of two girls. But I always thought it would be quite advantageous to have an older brother [perhaps I thought this because I didn't have one!!] In my rosy view, Big Bro could watch out for me, drive me around, have cute friends over, listen and share pithy nuggets of wisdom (when asked)...

However, I have gradually learned that some of those who actually are blessed with male siblings are...at times, unappreciative....

Percolator (moi): Ah, Cecily, you are so blessed to have THREE, handsome older brothers!! I think it would be so nice to even have ONE! Aren't you lucky?

Miss Cee: [incredulous scowl, followed by dead serious pronouncement] - NOT so lucky!

Would she care to elaborate?

*vehement shaking of head!*

But, it seemed like such a good idea at the time!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Not That It's My Business, But....

Butting in.

Not something I really like to do, and certainly not something I am good at. Well, the Hollidayettes might dispute that, but being their mom is my job-just sayin.'

But--'butting in,' 'giving a piece of my mind,' 'sticking my nose in,"--notice how all these idioms refer to the person who purports to Generously Share of his/her perspective? Yes, it seems to echo the often all-too-personal nature of these little social forays.

Another characteristic is that many people don't mind being the Sender of these nuggets, but very, very few of us care to be the Receiver. I would even venture to say that those who can graciously receive a 'butt-in' are likely mature individuals for whom the actual need for such 'verbal encouragement' is rare.


This morning, I found myself compelled to be come a Butt-in-er.

Context: Last week we took the plunge and joined a large local fitness club here, as a family. The purpose is to make an effective investment in our health (especially we two Ancient Hollidays), and to provide a compelling alternative to rampant CP (Couch Potatoism) here at the Circle H Ranch....

This morning, Alina and I were finishing 45 minutes or so of pushing and pedaling (weight machines, cardio machines, etc.....I know, but use your imagination!)

As I wended my way to the upper level to check on my little fitness mate, I found my gaze lighting on two Barely Teens sitting at the vending machine bar area. Not that I go looking for these little scenes. On the contrary. Gack. Yes, a boy and a girl, technically sitting on two stools, but with her knees wedged all the way in between his spread legs...which is better than it COULD have been, but still....

As I strolled back the other way, even less light seemed visible between them, at least to my cursory glance. Gack!

Now, I realize that pre-teens and teens are notorious for having unseemly amounts of sex hormones coursing through their systems at any given moment. I think we've all been there, as kids ourselves and, more scarily, as parents. And there needs to be an outlet for the resulting, um, energy. Any physical exercise has LONG been recognized as an effective and appropriate "release valve." Hmmmm....let me think....we are in a huge health club....HELLLL-OOO!!!

Perhaps I would be a bit less sensitive to such displays were I not the mother of 2 teenagers, one post-teenager, and one almost-teenager. But, I doubt it. Kids have it hard enough growing up in this numbingly oversexualized culture as it is.

Hence, the butt-in.

I just couldn't take it. So, sending a quick prayer that there would be no snark in my words, I approached the check-in desk and eyed one of the attendants.

"Hi. Uh, I just had a question...this is maybe kind of a personal taste issue, but I was, um wondering...if there was any kind of policy or anything about kids, like, sitting on top of each other right over there in the vending machine bar..."

Eyebrows arch. Mildly embarrassed half-smile.

"Oh, uh, well, if we were to SEE something like that, we would most likely try to say something to them..."

See? Even here, we have a middle-aged mom (that would be moi) and a 20-something responsible-looking facility employee--both made uncomfortable and embarrassed by the hormone-driven behavior of a barely adolescent male and his somewhat-acquiescent little girlfriend. More proof that the reality of ingrained adult authority has been signficantly eroded in this culture. Or so it seems to me.

I smiled back. "Oh, that's good to hear! Thanks so much for that!"

And I shepherded Alina through the door and out to the far more boring landscape of the parking lot.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Download? Delete? Different?

Who knew?

Well, I guess I do now, sort of.

Almost as intense as the near-horror I felt upon discovering my many, treasured e-mails had "vaporized" was my abject relief upon spying them again...albeit in an entirely different File.

I admit it is a bit distressing to realize how distressed I was becominig about this Really Rather Minor in the Whole Scheme of Things cyber-snafu.

Happily, I was contacted today by Ms. Customer Support Brainiac from Comcast whom, I strongly suspect, skims along life at a considerably higher intetellectual altitude than I can imagine. It is good to have these 'hyper-minds' on Our Side!!

Within less than 10 minutes, she led me through a series of buttons and screens...a veritable guided tour of discovery!...and patiently explained, 2 or 3 times!, that my e-mails had not been literally deleted, but that "The Program" [think: wizard behind The Curtain] had been downloading them into a different file, in my case, the Microsoft Outlook e-mail file. Ah-hah.

And, so, why did It think it had the freedom to do that, I queried.

Ms.Brainiac: "Well, ma'am [this proves I'm old] have you ever tried to share an e-mail or something that you found online and send or copy it to another person?"

Hmmmm, well, yes, yes, I believe I may have...delving back mentally to the last time I recall e-mailing a cnn.com news story to someone who probably didn't care to receive it....

"You see, when you do that, ma'am, it opens up a program that essentially downloads your e-mail....it actually takes it off, or downloads it from our Comcast server directly on to your computer. So, those e-mails are not really GONE, but in a different place, so you can't find them where you used to be able to."

Ah-so. Yes, this is starting to sound like a similar pattern to oh-so-many things in my life of late...what my husband's work phone is, why I walked into a room a few minutes ago, where I put my glasses, the place I stashed my last nugget of Secret Chocolate....yes, it's all starting to Resonate.....

Ms. Brain then guided me through Outlook E-mail Account Settings and had me click a check box --"but ONLY the first box, ma'am"-- which was meant to halt this cyber-stealth in its tracks.

I hesitate to mention that after I hung up the phone with her and again entered my SmartZone Comcast inbox, it was...empty. But, it was. However, I smartly reverted over to Outlook, and there all the little darlings were...practically winking at me!!!

All of which causes me to wonder whether it might not be best to just try and bypass the entirely misnamed "Smart"Zone program on general principle. But....once it sensed my own particular electromagnetic "aura"--or whatever it is that it doesn't seem to like about me!--this "fix" would no doubt be overridden also. Sigh.

However, I am still better off than I was last night, and I profusely thanked Ms. Brain for her able assistance.

And, I'm not even going to quibble about the mind-bending logic of how I must reinstate my phantom e-mails back into my proper SmartZone Inbox:

"To do that, ma'am, I'm afraid you'll have to click on those e-mails and Forward those Back to yourself. That's something we can't do from our end."

No comment.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of Vaporized E-mails...

Greetings to all....and....A RANT WARNING!!!

Having thoroughly established in earlier decades of my life that I am [to all intents and purposes] devoid of a 'left brain,' I find myself ill-equipped to respond to conundrums such as I now face....to wit, the utter and apparently final (and vicious!) vaporization of my entire e-mail Inbox. Gack-and double-gack! What's up with this?

When this same Phlustration occurred at the beginning of May, I was nonplussed, but tried to comfort myself with the realization that my Sent file seemed to be totally intact. Of course, this is like being able to listen to only one side of a phone conversation, but it was, at least, Something.

Now, I readily admit that I will not win any Tidiest Inbox awards; I might more easily qualify for any contest to determine who has proven the greatest Inbox cyber-capacity. Not because I particularly like to wade through oodles of communiques, and I am learning to tighten up my spam filters, but I am deeply afflicted with Classic Aversion to E-mail Deletion; I just like to have communiques between myself and those I care about (read: anyone who wants to write to me whose last name isn't Spam). That is, retain these for at least for a few weeks...sometimes longer.

And, just when I was canoodling on the possibility of using these comparatively unscheduled summer days to review and purge...THIS has to happen. Again. Just last night. Eeeesh.

As with any Stealth Operation, there is no warning, no presentiment that cyber-doom is looming. Nope, you just click your way into SmartZone land (a no-longer hilarious misnomer for our Comcast e-mail program) , intending to check and respond to your daily quota of e-mails, and 'File Empty' bounces out at you.

Somehow, in the past few weeks, I not only found the Actual Phone Number for the Customer Support Service [none of these cutesy little virtual animated "Help" characters for me!], but I wrote it down...in ink...in a place I could find it again. This is progress on my part!

So, I called. It's a Sunday afternoon, so I didn't even have to wait long. A gentleman with a Southern drawl and suspected head cold answered. After a series of questions and answers that, I think, both of us reasonably understood, he tap-tap-tapped his diagnosis of My Issues into a series of help resource screens. In the fullness of time, he pronounced that,

"Ah think yer gonna need a higher fix."


Can this not be resolved by your Very Competent Self and the presumably vast Web resources at your fingertips? Well, no.

"Ya'll need a ticket...so I'm gittin' ya one."

Does this at least entitle me to a latte? Ah, that would be a NO.

Well, what is a ticket anyway, and why do I need one?

Those of you who are more 'Net savvy than Yours Truly--which is probably all of you--will no doubt intuit that this is a means of identifying my SOS call by assigning a Customer Reference number, or CR....[hey, CR also happens to be the secret code my college girlfriends and I used when we suggested to one another that we go out for a Cinnamon Roll at a local dining institution near campus...but, I digress...]

So, within the next 48 hours, I am to expect A Call from a yet-higher echelon of cyber wisdom...and cross my dancing digits that this mess can be put to rights...

Mr. Help and I determined that Something is deleting my Inbox "without yer permission, apparently", despite the fact that my Preferences are set to "Never" delete, my McAfee is up-to-date, Windows Vista is exceedingly more reliable that the old, buggy Windows ME of yore, and that we are running Explorer 8.0.

As if this weren't crazy-making enough, this also seems to be a case of gender bias! Bill's Inbox is entirely intact!! I was already insecure before THIS happened....

In any event, if any of you gentle and long-suffering readers has e-mailed me lately and wondered (hopefully not fumed) at the lack of my response, please know this is the status. Furthermore, Mr. Help pulled no punches and told me it is quite "unlahkly" that I will be able to recover any of the purloined e-mails. Sigh.

Hoping to have better news next time, I remain--

Your Faithful, but Befuddled, Correspondent

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Miss Cee, the Role Model

Wed., 10 June 2009


Following is the latest dispatch from the above referenced Institution of Charm and Finishing:

"Pedagogical Theory" versus -

At various and sundry times, you may find yourself in the company of young gentlemen to whom you are Not Related. This can be a Ticklish Situation, but managed properly, and with Discretion and Forethought, you have nothing to fear.

For example, consider the following Real Life Example.

Bouncing down the stairs with your 'Felicity' American Girl doll in your arms, you turn the corner only to find your Youngest Oldest Brother playing host to one of his gentleman friends from school.

Now, we all understand that in the Feminine Vernacular, this clearly would be understood to constitute a "Play Date;" and no one would be troubled in the least that the term "play date" may connote, to a few insecure types, an activity generally enjoyed by Children. However, no such presumptions of unalloyed maturity should be made in reference to those of the Masculine Persuasion--at ANY age. You do well, gentle readers, to bear this in mind.

Trust the generously shared instincts and experience of your older, wiser mentor here and mentally label this occasion a Virtual Field Exercise...or any other male-friendly label that will not raise hackles.

It is generally advisable NOT to sashay into the room, brazenly insinuate yourself into their Theater of War, and demand, "Whatcha doin'!!??"

Unless all of the planets are in perfect alignment (which should never be assumed), you will NOT endear yourself to your brother or to his guest(s). To the Contrary, dear sister, you may well find yourself shunned, ignored, or the particular recipient of scowls, snorts, or worse.

It should go without saying--but may not-- that neither should you schlump down anywhere near a game controller or remote control (ACHTUNG!!!! VERBOTEN!!!)--and CERTAINLY! -- do NOT, under ANY circumstances, attempt to usurp a cushion or (worse still!!!) Stand in Front of the Screen!!!

Such behavior may well be hazardous to life and limb. At the Very Least, it will only serve to accelerate your progress to the top of their Persona Non Grata list ...and all the tattling, sniveling, cajoling, or bribing in the world will not 'right your ship.'

Just sayin.'

...versus "Real Life, Observed"-

2:20 p.m. this afternoon, Holliday family room. An eerie, charged atmosphere prevails...

John, Classmate David, and Miss Cee, in this order, are lined up, tummies-down, on the floor. All six glassy eyeballs are assiduously trained on the flickering screen, and each slackened mouth slightly gapes. No drool, is detected, however. It's early in the skirmish.

John: "AHHHHH! No fair! My guys weren't in position yet!!"

Classmate D: [no sympathy here!] "Heh!!! Too bad...you knew it was harder at this level!"

John: [squirming] "Yeah, but....wait a minute---CECILY!!!! Mom, Cecily's bothering us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Miss Cee: [oblivious] "C'mon, c'mon, punk! Just a little further...oh, yeah!!! You punk, you! Gotcha, punk!!! Didn't see THAT coming, didja?" *smirk*

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D Day

Today is a somber day.

We just finished watching a C-SPAN rebroadcast of the 65th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony at Colleville-sur-Mer, France - the beaches of Normandy. Fourteen years before my own birth, the D-Day invasion turned the tide of modern history. I find it humbling to see the surviving veterans of the Allied Forces who journey there to pay honor to the thousands who laid down their lies there at a moment in history so much bigger than any individual, but comprised of so many brave individuals committed to pay whatever price was required to secure victory and freedom. It is doubtful that those of us on this side of the Conflict can ever really understand.

I watched the faces as the camera panned over the assembled veterans and wondered what they might be thinking as they watched Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, Prince Charles, Gordon Brown and the Canadian Prime Minister on thie dais...all of them too young to have remembered the actual day in history; perhaps all of them not even yet born in 1944 (don't remember how old Charles is). I listened to the carefully crafted words of President Obama as he paid honor to the valor of those present, and still more to the many thousands who were lost; and I wondered if the sentiments he voiced would have any echo in the policy decisions he is implementing and developing. I would not want to be in his shoes.

We silently counted all 21 firings of the 21-gun salute over the shore, wondering if they were World War II vintage guns. And it is always affecting to watch a military flyover and then see the solitary plane peel away into the open skies. When the bugler finished playing "Taps," Bill looked over at Ben and thanked him for helping to play this last year at his dad's funeral. Not easy.

Apologies if this has verged into the maudlin.

Of course, the sad and more personal context for us is that today is our oldest son's 20th birthday; he is out there, but not among us. I dropped a card into the mailbox for him yesterday but couldn't stop a small stream of tears as I drove away. Happy Birthday, David.

* * * * * * *

A few hours ago, Bill and I returned from Naperville, where we attended the last day of the ICHE [Illinois Convention of Home Educators]. We haven't attended for the last few years - like most things, it requires planning and effort to attend, and those quantities seem to be in short supply here, more often than not.

We were glad to have gone, although it is always tiring to try and absorb so much information, navigate through crowds, decide which workshops to attend, and the like. It's also another reality check on the passage of time; the first time we came to this convention, everyone but Bill and me was a Hollidayette; John was a toddler, and Cecily was not yet a 'gleam.' [Sheesh, I hope I don't have to explain THAT expression to her anytime soon...] To say we were overwhelmed at that convention would be An Understatement. But this path has proven to be a good decision. The best things are always the harder ones, it seems.

In fact, I have 'decided' that there is an inverse relationship between the need to do something and the ease with which it can be done. For example, I knew this would not be an easy date for us, and that attending this conference is not a 'walk in the park.' Although there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, some parts of it were quite hard for me. But we've come home with the kind of fatigue one feels after having done something one knows should be done.

One of the richer, wrenching sessions was the afternoon keynote by Chris Klicka, the attorney who helped found the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association). He recounted some of the legal challenges he was involved in during the 1980s, when homeschooling was legal in only a handful of US sates, and some families were prosecuted. Today, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and, as he related, there are homeschool families overseas in countries like Germany, where home education is illegal, and France, Austria, and South Africa [where it is heavily regulated by those governments] "who look to the US as a source of hope in their struggle to rear their children according to their own family values in an era when mention of God is often prohibited in classrooms.

I have heard Mr. Klicka on radio programs over the years, and vaguely remembered that he had an illness. But it was a bit of a shock to see him maneuver himself onto the platform in a motorized scooter due to the progression of the multiple sclerosis he was diagnosed with in 1994. MS is often a pitiless diseas in terms of its speed of progression.

"But, I prayed the 'Hezekiah prayer' and asked the Lord to give me 15 more years. That was 15 years ago, and here I am."

He proceeded to quietly and humbly share some recent details of his personal struggle as a still-practicing attorney and homeschooling father of 7. Although he did well, you could tell his word retrieval was becoming a little more affected by the disease; he also excused himself from the final workshop session he was to present, presumably due to fatigue.

I suppose Mr. Klicka is close to may age, maybe a couple of years older. He ended by reflecting on how he faces the challnges ahead by looking behind him and remembering how far the Lord has carried him thus far. It gives one pause to listen to a person like this...perhaps it is an awareness that the curtains giving on to the vestibule of eternity are not far away...seemingly close enough to feel the air current as they start to move. The opportunity to hear him was a privilege.

One of the last things I wrote down from his session was this paraphrase:

"God enables us to endure, far beyond our ability to endure."
2 Cor. 1:8.

Until next time,

Your Faithful Correspondent