Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Easter is Coming



Not in the best of moods, which is unusual for me. I'm best described as a phlegmatic, no worries sort of gal. I couldn't sleep last night and today is my first day off from working eight days in a row. A couple of co-workers have family emergencies, so I volunteered to work a few extra shifts for them. It was something I was glad to do to help out, and that thought alone helps to keep my perspective. I have several days off next week, and that also lessens the grumpiness.


The sunshine came back--we had nice weather for a while. I went for long walks in the park with a tank top and shorts. Right now, temp is a little cool, back in the normal range for Michigan spring time. I wanted to go for a long walk today, but it looks like I need to add a sweatshirt. I guess I can do that.


I have a lot to be thankful for. Let me count the ways.


1. Husband's love. Thanks, Honey.


2. Health issues that for the most part can be improved at this point. It's up to me, and I'm doing pretty good so far. Praise God.


3. Daffodils ready to bloom in front yard and in the back.


4. Hubby found a new way to save 60 bucks a month. Way to go, Dennis!


5. "Third Day" rocking on the stereo.


6. ESL classes tonight--Yay! My turn to do the questions and I'm making deviled eggs as a snack. I'm also coming to terms that a duty that my husband volunteered for ESL ended up on my lap this morning. There is still some time to address this.


7. Good old fashioned cold, clean tap water in my glass.


8. After putting on my leggings and t-shirt this morning, I can see the visible changes in my physique from increasing my activity level.


9. Easter is coming: "For He has rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossions 1:13


10. I have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so I will walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in my faith, just as I was instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Paraphrase of Colossions 2:6-7.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Swimming, Part Deux



I went swimming for an hour on Sunday, found that my goal of continuously swimming freestyle is slowly being acheived. Baby steps. Or should I say, baby strokes. I'm still pausing at the end of each length, but the pause is getting shorter since I catch my breath sooner. It means, I'm finally getting into cardiac shape. One of the pools in Lansing is offering stroke improvement swimming lessons, and I am considering it. I did sign up for free classes at the YMCA, one for cardio/strength workouts on Mon and Wed; one for interval training on Thurs; and one on Sat for a power workout on lifting weights, using those big rubber balls, elastic bands and medicine balls. I know that I'm up for it. I went for a walk yesterday and found that I could keep walking around Hawk Island twice. That's three miles in an hour.


Today, Den and I walked around the Island once. It was a leisurely walk and talk. We held hands. We reminisced about the days when we were engaged and spent our time in the park making out. We sat on a bench, snuggled a little in the warm sunshine and just enjoyed each other's company. We watched the Canadian snow geese, now traveling in pairs, and speculated how many goslings would be hatching in a month. Tomorrow if the weather holds, we'll have a breakfast picnic, bring our bibles for a quiet time and a blanket. Maybe even relive those engagement park visits. Ahhh, spring fever...



We're going to the gym in an hour. Dennis is playing racquet ball with a co-worker, a guy who is a manager in the contractor and sales department. I'll do a few laps. I've lost weight, so my swimsuits are getting a little looser. I love it.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Memorable Coffee




I've started to drink coffee. Not sip a quarter cup for an hour every morning like I have for the last 20 years. I actually am drinking it, about two mugs full throughout the day. At work, a coffee shop of all places, I usually bring in a V-8 to have with my sack lunch, or drink water or herbal iced tea. I do like coffee. Even with all the choices of lattes and cappuccinos and frappuccinos, straight coffee is still my top choice.


But not too much of it. I drink it for its taste not for its caffeine boost.


Until lately. I've started working the closing shifts, and I found that drinking coffee at home gets me through the day until I head to work. I need it to have the energy to get anything of value done--quiet times, reading times, work out times and cooking times--without falling asleep.


Favorite coffee at this point is Casi Cielo. It means "almost heaven". We have run out of it in our store, and it is sold seasonally. I have to wait until next year. Chefs needed a versatile coffee at Seattle's Canlis Restaurant, so this is what they came up with. You can drink it with just about anything and have a perfect complement due to it's complexity. I like the fact that this Guatemalan has floral and lemony features, but also a rich chocolate like depth to it--few things in life are that elegant but adaptable. I once met the owners of Canlis' restaurant at a dessert hosted in someone's home to get to know Ruth Knutsen, a missionary in Kenya for the Navigators. So, the coffee reminds me of God, Ruth had a lot to share about experiencing God's love as she lived with the Kenyans. A memorable coffee brings to mind memorable people.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Eating Well--Progress Report




My doctor and I discussed the recent lab results on my blood glucose and lipids this morning. A lot of good news, plus additional weight loss from the last time we met in January. My blood glucose levels are now in the normal range, and my triglycerides (fatty acids) are way down. She said that this shows that I've made consistent improvement on my diet. I'm elated on one hand, that self-discipline is paying off. On the other, it doesn't seem to be enough. My hdl/ldl levels are still the same, although the ldl reading dropped a little, which is good. That information, coupled with my other results, told us that I need more than diet changes.


My blood pressure dropped on my last visit, but it was high again today. So, I have a new low dose prescription for controlling that and it has the added benefit of helping my kidneys. My doctor detected a heart murmur, so I have an electrocardial test scheduled. My mom had several heart and kidney problems, so I am taking this rather seriously.


So, I am encouraged and a little scared. A part of me wonders if they are sure that these lab results are really mine. Was there a mix up with some test tubes? The lab techs seem like pretty competent people, and they are getting to know me, so it couldn't be that. This is really happening.


I'm also surprised at how much I do care. I put health on the back burner so long these last few years, not because I didn't care, but mostly because I felt discouraged with all the hard work involved. And I am right, it is hard work, however it is hard work that I can do and get results from. I am usually surprised that I actually have progress. But from now on, results are going to be a normal expectation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Swimming



In a few hours I'll be at the gym, working out. Thursdays are tough days at the pool, classes take place around 5 until 7pm, so they closed the lap swim.


The ladies locker room is usually cold and crowded. There are a few women I know there and we might chat, but mostly I find no reason to talk as I get ready. I organize my stuff, take a brief shower and head out to the pool. I greet the lifeguard and ask her how she's doing as I get a kickboard from the shelf next to her chair. Most of the time, the lanes are empty and I can take my pick of whichever one I prefer and have it to myself. I toss my kick board into the pool and I don't pay any attention to the coldness of the water as I enter in. I put my goggles on and swim underwater to my lane.




I usually start out with a few slow laps. My timing on the first lap is usually off- it takes awhile to get my breathing rhythm right. During the first lap I also feel like I hate swimming, why am I swimming. My arms' muscles usually complain to me how mean I am to them. Sometimes, there is water in my goggles, so I have to stop to adjust them or else I'll lose my contact lenses.




The second lap, I get the kickboard and kick my lap through. It is incredibly slow but every time I do it I get better. The kicking technique is something new that I've learned to pay attention to. The position of the feet is pretty important, a lot of it depends on the flexibility of the ankles. So I concentrate on that, going slow but making sure that I'm kicking correctly. On the return, I go faster and get my heart rate up.




I pause and rest until my heart rate drops, just a minute.




The third lap, I do the breaststroke and find that my body has finally accepted that I will carry out my intention to swim purposefully for an hour. The pacing is still rough and still seems to take forever to finish the lap, my mind is not one with my body yet.




I rest, not because of my body needing to, but because I need to stop thinking and just focus on swimming. I think about my intentions and what I plan to do.




The fourth lap is much easier and faster. I finish, but this time I don't stop and just flip and begin swimming the next lap. At this point, I lose myself in swimming, and I don't know when my head is above the water taking a breath or below the water exhaling. The next 8 laps fly by and I hardly feel like I'm swimming. I've entered a state of mind that is meditative and restful. I only get there by continuously swimming and it is the reason why I swim.




When I stop, I really don't feel like stopping. I feel like I could go forever. My heart rate is up but steady. But I stop to think about my last two or three laps. I've added freestyle to my routine, but I have a problem with keeping a steady rhythm. By the time I reach the other side, I have to stop and rest before I return to finish the lap. But with every attempt, it gets better.




I get out, return the kickboard to the lifeguard, chat a little with her, hit the showers, and get ready to go home. I feel refreshed and as though I'm floating through the air. I have to remind myself how much I hate to work out. My favorite animal is the Honu, which is Hawaiian for "Sea Turtle". Like them, I am clumsy while on land, but I feel graceful and swift in the water.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Amazing, Amazing Grace



We just came back from watching "Amazing Grace", the film about William Wilburforce abolishing slavery in England. England, by the way, was the first nation to abolish slavery, decades before any other country abolished slavery.

Words fail to describe how this movie affected me. It hits you emotionally and intellectually. I'm glad that the film did "justice" to the issue and the person. It wasn't too melodramatic and it was actually funny in some places--something I didn't expect.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, don't wait much longer. I persuaded my hubby that this was a better movie to see than "300", he got a little nudge from me at the closing speech.

Books

A blossom from an "Althea" plant


Last weekend, I finished He Gave Us A Valley by Dr. Helen Roseveare, an English missionary doctor in the Congo during the 1960's through the early 1970's; and I Dared To Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh, a wealthy divorcee and descendant in a royal Pakistani bloodline and grandmother who converted from Islam to Christianity in the late 1960's, even under a lot of pressure from her community and family.


Helen and Bilquis are honest about their own human weaknesses and sins such as pride, short tempers and being controllers. They share the personality traits of being intelligent strong willed and having leadership qualities. They are also sincere about their strong desire to follow Christ as much as they can no matter what the circumstances or the prices they needed to pay. They also describe times of extreme suffering under the threat of death where they experienced intense peace and reassurance of God's love.


Helen was gang-raped on several occasions while held captive during a rebellion. She spent a year at home, healing. She started to get letters from her African friends to please return, and after several agonizing prayers, she did, even though the country did not stabilize and threatened to be overturned again. When she returned, everything she had done for 11 years had been destroyed and the communities were worse off than before she first arrived. She headed up a relief effort to reach the most inland and cut off villages. She also helped build a hospital and organize a teaching school which was successful in training many medical assistants and badly needed mid-wives, only to have her students mistrust her and turn against her. Helen finally realized that her great accomplishments were acheived by God working through her, and that His appreciation for all she had given Him was enough, and her deepest rewards were the fellowship of His sufferings and working alongside Him for the people that they both loved.


Bilquis was under several death threats, and no protection was assured to her by the police even if a family member was to murder her. Her family, over time, melted by her loving concern for them. She became a quiet and loving influence not just by her words but mostly by her service to her community that had ostracized her. When the government turned from secular to fundamentalist Islamic rule, Bilquis left her family's ancestral palatial home with a suitcase and her grandson never to return until 1997 when she died at the age of 97.


I did not know that I would be reading such rich biographies about such inspiring women! Their stories occured around the same time frame in the 1960's, in different parts of the world. Bilquis Sheikh spoke at a Billy Graham Crusade in Singapore, and Dr. Helen Roseveare spoke at Urbana some time ago.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Than Bread Alone


Salmon Salad from last Summer



Just got back from grocery shopping. I used a list, but somehow I ended up with more than what was on it. Thankfully, the additions are healthy ones, I'm planning on having a few co-workers over for lunch (cold kim chee noodle salad, Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, fruit for dessert). The check out girl complimented me on my healthy choices and we got to talking about losing weight. She lost 100 pounds, she looks like she's never weighed over 100. She says a lot of it was eating right and working out regularly at the gym.




Speaking of shopping lists, there's a cool website to check out: www.grocerylists.org . There is also a blog about shopping, great foodie links and cookbook reveiws.




I've lost 5 more pounds, which makes it 25 total since November. I'm feeling the difference as I'm moving about and by the looseness of my clothes. But I don't see any difference in my appearence at all. Swimming is still my favorite form of exercise--I'm starting to push my heart rate a little harder as well. I could swim for miles, just cruising at a comfortable pace without stopping these days, but that won't help me acheive what I'm looking for--more muscle which will increase my metabolic rate.




Dinner last night was Buckwheat blueberry pancakes. This morning we were out of cereal, so I ate ricotta cheese, tomato wedges and a tablespoon of olive oil. Lunch was at Wendy's--a chicken frescetta sandwich. Tonight, I had take out sushi and Pomi pomegranate lychee green tea for dinner.




I've planned the menu for the next week: white bean and kale soup;chickpea salad;tomato, cucumber and goat cheese spinach salad; sweet potato, black bean and chipotle stew; couscous salad; sushi hand rolls (the nori is shaped like a wide cone); pasta with albacore tuna and tomato sauce. Breakfast will be mostly oatmeal or raisen bran. Lunches will be mostly veggie burgers, without the bun.




My favorite sushi is the masago roll: rice with cucumber, avocado, crab and flying fish egg. The egg is brilliant orange and has a wonderful pop when you bite it.




When I was in college, I lived in a dorm most of the time. The dining hall was my least favorite place. If it wasn't for my friends, I would've chosen never to go. I had a few rules: never have seconds, eat most of my meal from the salad bar and rarely have dessert. I would have a cookie once in a while, but not often--I chose fruit most of the time to take back to my room as a snack while studying. Sometimes, I'd sneak that precious apple into the library. And going out to eat was a luxury, even if it was pizza. Driving also was a luxury. When I decided for some weird reason to go on a diet, I was borderline anorexic about it. If it wasn't for a few friends who noticed that and confronted me about it, I would have definately had an eating disorder.




After graduating from college, I had a commuter lifestyle in Seattle and started to gain pounds also due to the fact that I delved into comfort food to deal with the stress of making a living on my own. I was crazy about cookie baking. When I lost the recipe, I didn't try too hard to look for it. After marriage, I began a downward spiral of medicating a depression with food. I began walking a couple a miles a day or bike, but again, I wasn't pushing that heart rate very much. When we moved to Georgia, I started to see the light that I needed to challenge myself a lot more. I dropped about 45 pounds. While in Denver, I was fine, not dropping any more weight, however even though I was not gaining. After we moved to Michigan, it began to creep up again until my doctor told me that things had to start turning around.




I know that I need to be more conscious about my food choices. It may cost me more now, but rather pay now with my food bill than later with medical complications. I've always known that I need to get a lot of fiber, but it happened occasionally not regularly. And vice versa with the ice cream, my ultimate in comfort food. I've forgotten what it tastes like.


Which brings me around to "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Matt. 4:4 Bread takes up a lot of my time--buying it, cooking it, serving it and washing up after it's consumed. I'm convicted by this verse that I do not always give this much attention to what feeds my soul.


I may be cutting back on calories for my physical self, but I need to start dining more spiritually. I can never gain too much weight there. So, in this way, I'm encouraged. Hopefully, the obedience to eat responsibly will be a part of my spiritual life as well.



My Favorite--Blackberries










Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Day Off


This morning, Dennis and I went to FlapJack's for breakfast. After that, he went to work and I worked out at the "Y". I spent 15 minutes stretching, 15 minutes on the elliptical, 2 minutes on the weight machines (the old guys--the 70 to 80 year old set--kicked me out. I was too slow and holding up the show. They didn't have to say a word, I could tell that they were getting impatient.) and 45 minutes swimming (9 laps breast stroke+ one lap back stroke,+three laps freestyle= a little over a 1/2 mile).


After the gym, I shopped for greeting cards at a bookstore--friends having babies, our engagement anniversary coming up. I found "The Confessions" by Augustine. The first time I read it was in college and I lost interest in it rather quickly. I'm giving it another try, because a lot of things I didn't like when I was college turn out to be my favorite things now. And vice versa.


Then I spent about 5 hours at the library, reading my bible, working on my organizer calender, finding some books and a DVD (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath--which I read in high school, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth A. Tucker, and The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and "Being Julia" featuring Annette Bening)and reading the newspaper and about 6 magazines. I can't start any of these until I finish the books I borrowed from the church library (I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh, He Gave Us A Valley by Helen Roseveare and A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle).


So many books. I figure that I could pursue my love of reading as long as I find time everyday to move--work out, take a walk, etc... Keep the balance, you know. When I went into the library, the sun was shining and the temp wasn't that bad. When I finally left, the temp had dropped to freezing and it was snowing. It's kind of nice, sort of a cozy at home feeling when it snows in the evening.


I nuked a veggie burger (no bun) and steamed veggies for dinner and called a friend. I turned on American Idol while I'm writing this blog. I can't stand these programs, but can't stay away from the show. It must be Simon Cowell. My favorite singer at this point is Chris Sligh.


Dennis will be coming home in an hour. I'm watching the program "House" our favorite so that I can tell him what happens.


See ya' later.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Giving



I spent about an hour watching a famous woman speak on PBS to women about personal wealth. Generally, I usually read or listen when this woman talks, because she is usually knowledgable about financial planning. She spoke to her audience about a flaw that women usually have--they give and give without getting something back from it. Later, she picks "generousity" as one of several characteristics of a wealthy woman--that it is alright to give as long as the woman is also just as generous to herself, or if she gets something out of the act of giving.


She also exhorts the crowd of ladies that "you are not on sale", that they need to value themselves and what they do; to not give themselves, their talents or their time away for free. And probably after listening to the financial woes of many women, both stay at home moms and business women, I'm sure she has a reason to say what she does. Women are good at sacrificing, almost too good.


And women feel guilty, especially if they feel that they have been selfish in saying "no" to a request. Or "stop" to a system that isn't doing them any favors. Or if they hadn't given enough to make everyone happy. Or if they make others jealous or resentful because of their successes.

And, if for once, they have to think of themselves first for a change. From where I stand, it's hard to find that boundary. That balance.

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind
let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely
look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of
others." Phil. 2:3-4

A lot of what happens for the glory of God is done by Himself alone, sometimes He will use people if He wants. Is the glory of God selfish? No, we are all helped by His glory. We need it like we need air to breathe, food to eat and clothes to wear.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Aloha 'Oe

Picture of my Great grandmother and Great granduncle.

Aloha(Alo = presence, front, face) (hâ = breath)"The presence of (Divine) Breath"

I'm a little depressed. I misplaced some important items and can't find them again. Losing things drives me crazy--I avoid it as much as possible. And when I do lose things, I usually find them within hours. But the objects in question have yet to show up after a week. When I was young, I had perfect recall of what I did and when I did it. As much as I have been trying to remember when I last saw the vanquished possessions, it is a total blur.


Jesus tells a parable of people losing things. Coins. Sheep. Wayward offspring. Lots of emotional energy is spent. Worry. Maybe anger. Maybe guilt. And what joy that they have when they are reunited! Peace is re-established, connections are re-booted, friends are invited over. Party on! The feeling is similar to the angels rejoicing over one repentant sinner.


I've been thinking a lot about lostness. One of my favorite animated films is "Lilo and Stitch" and it gets me every time in two scenes whenever I watch it: Lilo's older sister singing "Aloha 'Oe" to her after she tries to hold the family together and failed and Stitch alone in the forest, realizing that he was at fault for the whole problem and mourningly says "I'm lost."


(If you don't know what "Aloha 'Oe" is about, it is a Hawaiian song written by Queen Lili'uokalani about saying farewell "until we meet again" but knowing you never will. Or if you do, nothing will ever be the same again.


Ha`aheo ka ua i na pali, Ke nihi a`e la i ka nahele, E uhai ana paha i ka liko, Pua ahihi lehua a o uka.


(Chorus) Aloha `oe, aloha `oe, E ke onaona noho i ka lipo, One fond embrace a ho`i a`e au, Until we meet again.

Translation: Proudly sweeps the rain clouded by the cliffs, As onward it glides through the trees, It seems to be following the liko, The ahihi lehua of the vale.


(Chorus) Farewell to thee, farewell to thee, Thou charming one who dwells among the bowers. One fond embrace before I now depart Until we meet again.)


The problem with losing something, it causes me to obsess over it. I feel a jab to my spirit everytime I think of it being gone. It's difficult to say "Aloha 'Oe" to it, even if it is a small item of no real consequence, or if it can be replaced. But, now, I need to move on. If it is still gone by now, then it will be unlikely I'll be seeing it in the future. It's been too long. Aloha 'Oe, Aloha 'Oe, E ka onaona noho i ka lipo


"Because of Aloha, one gave without thought of return... "--Queen Lili'uokalani


Good-bye, my lost one.





Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday

This morning, I opened the store at 5:30 am. We had been slow all week, and our manager was trying to cut back on scheduling hours. Everyday, people were being sent home early, and I was expecting today to be one of those days. Not. We had a healthy and steady business, a lot of people not just getting coffee, but buying beans and inquiring about our coffee machines. Really a great Saturday at work.

I do love my job--I love my partners that I work with and my customers. And I love coffee. I don't know why this job is such a good fit for me. When we are busy, even overwhelmingly busy, I'm happy. I'm happy when we have a line around the building to the drive-through and hoards of people in the store ordering at the counter. I'm happy when I'm "working bar" and cups are lined up ready to be made. I'm not selling just one pound of coffee, but two per customer every single time. And I know each coffee, intimately. I remember how each one smells and tastes, and I have instant recall of it everytime I'm describing a coffee to a customer. I know where it's grown, how it's processed and what tastes best with it, and not necessarily just what is in the pastry case. And, I have stories. Stories about the coffee, the farmers and the history of coffee. When I come home, I smell like coffee. It's in my hair, my clothes and my skin. Sometimes, ground coffee is up my nose, because before I press a coffee, I smell it beforehand.

If it sounds like I work hard at my job, well, it really isn't work to me at all. If I really worked hard, there would be so much more fun to be had. I have just touched the tip of what I would want to know about coffee. I see that there is so much more ahead of me.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Summer Days

When it seems like winter never ends, I like to reminisce about warmer weather.



Dennis' favorite hangout: our back deck. I sure miss those green trees.

The white-tailed deer that came to visit every so often. I wonder if they made it through hunting season last fall?
A neighbor who just popped in for lunch on our deck.

Eating "Sideways"--just like the movie.
I sure miss those flowers in our front yard...
And the green grass...
Jerry Kim, an International Business student who meets with Dennis and stays with us sometimes. He loved our back deck.
I sure miss that red umbrella.


Biking at Hawk Island with Bob and Donna.


Bob and Donna.


Yep, really need to do this more often.


The Origami craft table at the Spartan International Student Fellowship Asian Night at our University Reformed Church last year.




Keiko and Kayo showing us how to fold origami paper.


Here are photos from last summer at a farewell BBQ at Peter's and Jason's loft for our partner Amy "Racey". Amy is now a shift supervisor in Grand Rapids.


Valentine and me--we should get out more often.
Amy, Aimee and Aimee's awestruck son, Damien. I wonder why? Colin, Amy and Val; who will keep these guys in line after she leaves?
Aimee and her son, Damien--Mommy tip # 205: a cracker in each hand keeps the little guy out of trouble.

Colin and Dennis; I would love to put in a funny caption, but the picture is funny enough on its own. The photographer was going for a candid shot, she needs to get her timing right.



Amy and Nikki--the smart blondes


Peter is in the red shirt with his boyfriend, Jason--thanks for your hospitality, guys!

"Racey" and her boyfriend, Scott.

After awhile, I see pictures of sunny beaches or flowers and try to remember what it was like. Good thing I took pictures, it should get me through the next three months.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

ESL pictures

Our English as a Second Language Class
Dennis helps with picking up Internationals for ESL--he drives safely!


Our small group discussion class includes people from the Middle East and Asia--right now we are discussing the important difference between "scarf" and "shawl".



Snacks and a large group meeting with introducing the topic of the day.


Here, we conclude that "scarf" is the thing that goes around my shoulders and "shawl" is what Amni is wearing on her head.



No big thoughts or quotes, today. I'm all out.

An ice storm hit this morning. There's an icy sheen over the snow and the trees. I'm off from work, and Dennis is going in later this afternoon. A late breakfast of oatmeal and currants, coffee and toast and marmalade.
I lead a small group at our church's ESL program on Wednesday nights. Last night, our group was small--one guy from China and a young mom from Pakistan. We talked about diversity in America and diversity in their countries. They learned words from a vocabulary list that they've never heard before: sexism, racism, politically correct, target group, prejudice, discrimination, ableism, ageism, classism... We talked about the treatment they've received as foreigners, especially as foreigners who don't speak english well. Our Chinese friend had a bad experience at IHOP the other day, he and I discussed it even before we knew what the topic for discussion was (I forget which week is which). The Pakistani lady said that she had not encountered any problems. The Chinese guy said she hasn't been here long enough.

I shared stories from my own family's experience. Things that no one else remembers but burned a hole in my memory even from a young age. My family is especially resilient, they brush off insults and prejudice like it's nothing. Because, it is. My father had a talk with me once about people who are ignorant and unaware of the big world around them, that they are afraid and so that is why they are bigots and teach their kids (some of my playmates at the time) to be the same way. He told me to feel sorry for them, they miss out on so much and keep themselves ignorant.

We had no problems in our neighborhood until a family moved in two houses down the street. Later that summer, my brother, five years old at the time, was attacked by the older boy from that house and a couple of other boys around the same age, about 10. I was inside, horrified but not sure what to do or say, I was 6. My dad was doing yardwork a few feet away, with a frown on his face but staying calm. When my brother stopped crying and got mad and started to swing at the bullies, then my dad stepped in with a hose, spraying them until they ran away. My brother went after them, shaking his fist and yelling for them to stay out of our yard. A few minutes later, he was playing with them again like nothing happened. The new boy was the ring leader, because the other boys had never been mean before.

There was a few more incidents like that. I heard my dad getting called names I had never heard before. Neighbors coming over in tears apologizing for the mean behavior of their kids. We had been in the neighborhood for a long time and my dad had a reputation for being friendly and helpful. When he rescued a stray puppy that was stuck under a car, he became the neighborhood hero in my playmate's eyes. My playmates talked about how my dad was so nice and brave. The bigoted family eventually invited my siblings and me over to play in their yard and to have lunch. My parents accepted the invitation. The bigoted dad came over to our backyard and chatted quietly with my dad, fear still in his eyes. My dad made him laugh a little before he went back to his own yard. By winter time, the bigoted family were no longer afraid. We went skating in their backyard, and the dad helped me and my brother lace our skates tightly and encouraged me not to be afraid of falling down. My dad came over to watch us and laughed with the former enemy dad over our pathetic attempts to stay upright.

Their older son, however, remained a bully, often making threats against us when both our parents' backs were turned. But I remember the way he trembled and spoke softly when my dad talked to him gently once. I felt sorry for him because, like Papa said, he was afraid. This was all in the late 60's, when the Civil Rights movement was big news and we lived in North Dakota where most of my classmates were German and Scandanavian. The kids from the Indian reservation were getting bussed over to our school and it must have been really hard for them, it was no short trip.

The boys all played together with the white kids, but the girls kept to themselves, speaking quietly in Souix language or jumping rope. I would go over and sit near them, hoping that they would invite me to play with them or even talk to me. I think they just thought I was weird, so after awhile, I gave it up. After that, they asked me to hold the rope while they jumped rope, but I was a terrible jumper so I was too ashamed to jump when they invited me. I asked their names, expecting to hear "Little Tree" or "Bird-That-Flies-In-Circles" but instead they were Sally, Mary and some other names ending with "-ette" which I didn't know at the time were probably French. After awhile, I did bravely try to jump rope with them, my glasses jumping off and on my nose and let them laugh at me. The girls were older, so I never got to know them. I think they were feeling sorry for me! They might've been calling me "Little-Geek" or "Wannabe-Indian-Girl". I didn't mind, I learned a lot from trying and for a shy person like I was at the time, it was no small thing.

That's all the talk story I've got now. Time to go to the "Y" and swim.