Thursday, January 31, 2008

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.

"A guest," I answered, "worthy to be here."

Love said, "You shall be he."

"I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee."

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame

Go where it doth deserve."

"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"

"My dear, then I will serve."

"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."

So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593-1633)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TV Review

We got a family tier option for cable tv--it includes CNN, The Food Network, Nickalodeon, HGTV, The Weather Channel, etc... for just a few dollars more than we usually pay.

My favorite so far is The Food Network. Don't act so surprised. I usually rent these cooking shows on DVD for free from the library, but after awhile, I've watched them all. It doesn't take long. Watching other people cook is almost just as fun as cooking myself.

Did you know that cooking can be a sport? Yes, there is Iron Chef. It originally came from Japan, where a challenger and an Iron Chef compete in dual kitchens in an arena, featuring a "mystery ingredient" they find out right before they begin. With the special ingredient, they have to come up with fives dishes within an hour. The American version shows the activities of the sous chefs who compete as a team with their head chef, I don't remember seeing much of the sous chefs in the Japanese program. There is a panel of judges, who taste each dish and rate it in terms of originality, taste and presentation. The judging is just as fascinating as watching the dishes being cooked. They really have a hard time being honest about what they think about dishes that don't work, so they are working hard at not sounding too negative (which is never a problem in the Japanese show). The biggest gripe is when something is too salty, which is the mistake made most often.

The other shows feature "celebrity chefs". I never like their recipes, but they entertain me. I actually bought one of Rachel Ray's cookbooks--it was focused on get-togethers and had menus for different themes. When I made some of the dishes, none of them tasted all that great even though I carefully followed directions. But even with that experience, I still enjoy watching "Rache" talk a hundred words a minute as she does her 30 minute cooking routine. Bobbie Flay just put together the grossest looking hamburger I've ever seen, and I really don't believe him when he raves about his creation after taking a bite. What I like about Rachel and Bobbie is that they'll try anything and believe that it's all good.

Then, my all time fave is the "Dinner:Impossible" show. I forget the chef's name--he has an amazing career history as a cook--but he gets a few hours to pull off a meal for 100 or 1000, whether at Graceland or on a cruiseship. And half way through, something always goes wrong. Something involving a deep fat fryer breaking, usually. Or at the last five minutes, he grabs a couple of unsuspecting, drowsy dishwashers from the backroom and put them to work in the middle of the last second rush to finish the 100 varieties of dishes still undone. And you know, whatever the obstacles, dinner gets served to rave reviews. Yes, whenever I think I'm stressed out, I think of this guy's job and feel better.

Which is the main reason I watch this station. Thanks, Rachel, Bobbie, Iron Chefs, and Dinner Impossible guy.

Enjoy the Iron Chef Youtube Video.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Travel Bug Bites

I like to travel, but I haven't been anywhere outside the U.S. and Canada for awhile. Time and money are often a factor, but more often than anything it's about where travel stands in my list of priorities. Maybe it's time for a change in that department.

Where would I like to go?

For one, for our 20th wedding anniversary next year, it would be neat to retrace our honeymoon trip. We took a week and a half to drive from Washington state to California, with a detour to British Columbia. We started in Sequim and stayed at my aunt and uncle's cabin for a few days. I think my aunt sold the cabin a while ago, but there are places to stay near the beach. We stayed at a few bed and breakfasts in Oregon and Northern California along highway 101. It was a great time and really romantic. I think our second time around we would spend a little time in Seattle. I used to live there, in Wallingford near the U-district. We haven't been back for at least seven years, when Dad moved from Ephrata.

As for other places in the world, I guess my list would look pretty predictable: China, Tuscany, Bangkok, Patagonia, Cozumel... but would travel for travel's sake be the best motivation to see these places, meet these people? After meeting people from all over the world and hearing their stories and learning about their cultures through ESL classes, I want something more than to shop, eat, and take a ton of pictures. Although there is nothing wrong with those things (it seems like fun, actually) I want to come away with something more.

Right now, I'm considering starting steps for TESOL, a master's program for teaching english. It involves studying for the GRE and getting accepted at MSU. And lots of money for a two year program. If this is the path I need to be on, a lot of things have to get in motion. It's a desire, and a relatively new one. If that isn't the path for me, I'm pretty satisfied where I'm at. I love being a tutor and helping with conversation classes at our church.

I love what Sara, another tutor involved in our church's ESL and international fellowship, said a few years ago. That she's always wanted to travel, and in a way she travels through her friendships with internationals. Well, that's a pretty great way to go!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Time Warped

On Thursday, I spent most of the morning cleaning my bathroom and organizing the linen closet as well as the undersink cabinet. I found seven boxes of hair color. I added it up, it amounted to almost a hundred dollars worth of product. Since I quit coloring my hair three years ago, this was a mystery how I accumulated all of that dye. It takes two boxes at a time to color all my hair, so I had enough for three sessions, plus one box for touch ups. The problem is that all are three different shades of color: dark blond, brown, and reddish brown.

I sat on my bed contemplating for a few minutes. I have been very happy with my silvery locks. But I did get a little defensive with my husband about our budget and how I need to pay attention to what I spend on personal maintenance. For instance, like most women, I have five or more bottles of different kind of lotions. Lotion for my face--two different kinds, because one is for the summer and one is for the winter. Another for my hands only--my job is brutal on them (Burt's Bees Almond Hand Salve). Two different perfumed lotions that pair with my favorite scents (L'air du Temps and Coco Chanel). And a couple of sets of Body Shop and Victoria Secret lotions that my stepmom and my sisters sent me for presents. And two different kinds I bought on a shopping trip while on vacation with my sister, totally oblivious to the stockpile already waiting for me at home. Lotion is for the most part, a pleasant and inexpensive
little luxury that I indulge in without nary a hesitation, I give in to buying them much more easily than anything else I consider in the marketplace. Don't mention the various little tubes that I stashed in my purse, at work and in my gym locker. My lotion hoarding has become a near obsession.

Now, I found myself in a massive collection of hair dye I didn't need, but bought during a time of indecision about what I wanted to do with my hair. Tossing them or giving them away occured to me, but it still seemed like a waste. I saw my husband's point of view quite clearly, now with the boxes stacked in front of me as incriminating evidence. If I tossed them, Hubby will find them. He investigates all the trash before he sets it out in the curb on pick up day. Besides, it is sort of like toxic waste. The chemicals are extremely flammable. And I didn't know anyone who would take second hand beauty products. I wouldn't.

Then I meditated on the difficult growing out period that I went through when I decided that I was sick of coloring my hair. It was ugly and hard on my self-esteem. I didn't look forward to going through it again if I started up again. But then a change would be nice, and I could ease myself back into the routine and ease myself back out if I wanted.

So, I took the plunge. My plan is to start with the lighter shade so it wouldn't be so shocking. And then go darker each shade until I've gotten to my reddish brown again. Which I'm not sure I'll get to, I might just decide to stay brown or light brown.

It took about an hour for the dye to soak into my hair--it's only supposed to be in 30 minutes max. I kept checking it and silver kept showing up. Finally, I was out of time and had to rinse it out before my hair got damaged and I missed my yoga class. I was five minutes late to yoga, and my hair was still wet and icicles were forming as I ran from my car into the gym to join my co-workers. I stopped at a bookstore on the way home, ran into Holly, my friend and after a half hour I was able to get home to see how it turned out after several hours among friends in public and not really knowing.

Dennis noticed it right away, but also saw patches of grey. I looked at the mirror and sure enough, he was right. It was a terrible coverage, but at least my hair wasn't fried, like I was afraid it would be. And to have a little grey was actually okay, it was less jarring after having it completely grey. I've had dark blonde before, it doesn't look bad on me at all. I was platinum blonde as a toddler, and grew darker until I was brunette as a five year old. Throughout my lifetime my hair transformed from medium blonde to almost black brown depending on the seasons and my hormones.

My emotional reaction to covering up my grey hair was really unexpected. I felt like I lost a unique part of me that was different than anyone else. My grey came in very well and not everyone has that happening with their aging process. It was comforting that at least one aspect of my growing old was an attractive one, when everything else seems to be a battle. The pangs of regret really were overwhelming, and hard for my husband to understand.

"But you look 10 years younger!"

"It's just hair color, not a time machine!"

Besides, what happens when 10 years younger eventually will be old, too? In my mid-life, I want to be embracing the next stages, not resisting them. Because to me, understanding them and accepting them helps me through them gracefully. I don't want to look 10, 5 or 2 years younger--I'd want to look and to function well for my age. I know people who are fighting to be youthful, which is not a bad endeavor--being active is a good thing. Keeping up and learning new things is important, too. But I know how my limits have changed since my 30's and 20's. I'll never be 25 again, thank God. I'm not going to get myself stuck in a time warp where I'm still in the 1980's even though the rest of the world is well into the early 2000's.

This I say even though I listened to Bob Dylan's Hard Rain album while taking a shower this morning.

Nope, no time warp here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

For you, my Starbucks Partners who like to eat

Yesterday, I shared some food with my co-workers. Hey guys, if you are reading this, here are the recipes.


Pour a box of Near East couscous into boiling water with 1 teaspoon black pepper and a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover the pot and pull off the heat, and let the couscous sit for five minutes. Fluff with a fork. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the couscous, fluff again to mix. In a garlic press, press 3 cloves of garlic into it, and swirl about a 1/8 cup of olive oil. Mix it all in. Chop two medium tomatoes, put it in with a dash of salt and pepper. Mix about 1/4 cup of black olive tapenade--I use store bought from Sam's Club. Mix it in with a fork and fluff. This is also really good with tuna mixed in.

Sweet Potato Curry

Peel two medium sweet potatoes and chop. Saute them in 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over high heat. Let them brown a little. Add 1 cup chopped yellow onion and 1 cup fresh green beans, snapped. Cook until the potatoes are almost mushy. Add 2 Tablespoons garam masala or curry powder. Add one large can of diced tomatoes (I like Muir's Organic fire-roasted diced tomatoes). This is also good with a pound of ground browned turkey, if you like some protein. Also, salt and pepper this to taste. This tastes good with couscous, too.


Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

Snow-flakes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It's been snowing all day. Time for blackberry tea and gazing out the window to observe the backyard get covered with winter. I like the quietness of days like this. I contemplate life while I watch the inches of snow accumulate. Sooner or later, it's time to shovel the sidewalk. Afterwards, more hot tea. And lots of blankets. And a fire in the fireplace.

Lentil soup for dinner with fresh baked bread.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The last few days have been chaotic with Dennis working extra hours, preparing for ESL on Tuesday nights, getting back involved with the international fellowship at church and my weird work hours. We cooked this weekend, making chili, curried vegetables, corn bread, spinach dip--our refridgerator is packed full. I'm making tabbouleh salad to share at work tonight. We're planning to have a little potluck. But tomorrow I'll have off, with a yoga class. Saturday, we're having an ESL social. I love everything I'm doing, it feels great to get into circulation with people, being more social and relational. Like, having my muscles stretched during yoga, my heart is stretching to people.

"I shall run the way of Thy commandments, For Thou wilt enlarge my heart." Psalm 119:32

How can I run in obedience? How does God enlarge my heart? I know that I will never see perfect obedience and a large enough heart in my lifetime, but I will always long for these things. My prayer is that I will always be aware of this longing that the Holy Spirit has put within my soul. And when I finally reach Home to be with Him, I know that longing will be fullfilled.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


"You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it's obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!"
Galatians 3 from The Message by Eugene Petersen

When I forget what Christ has done for me, it has repercussions in my life. Like the Galatians, it would be very easy for me to lose clear focus on Christ. It is His beaten, bloodied and crucified body that brings me back to spiritual sanity. Paul shakes the Galatian church by the scruff of the neck by emphasizing God's sacrifice, that Jesus "became a curse and at the same time, dissolved the curse." The whole point of the Gospel is not what we do, but what Jesus has done for us, and continues to do in us and through us.

How did your new life begin?

Did it begin by good deeds like showing up in church every Sunday? Trying to attain good standing with God by doing things you think He would appreciate? Having everyone like you? Agreeing with everyone else all the time? Daily quiet times? Working yourself to death in order to be the good person that you want to be? Trying to be positive all the time and stuffing those negative feelings down inside where you never want to look at them, much less let anyone else?

Or did it begin with hearing about Jesus dying on a cross for sins that you could never make up for, to clean you from dirt that you could never wash yourself, to give you a chance to know God intimately in a way you could never know Him on your own?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Randomocity, Again

Randomocity. It's not a real word. Maybe I heard it once, in passing, overheard in the cafe culture that I work in. I'm not sure what it means, or even if I spelled it right. Perhaps I'm indulging in post-modernism if I use it as a sort of polymorphic way, letting people define it as they feel like it. A shapeless word without an anchor.

In ESL (english as a second language) classes, I often struggle to put meanings in words and idioms that are common in our culture in a way that would make sense to internationals visiting this country. And as soon as I do that, another American helping in the group, makes another contribution similiar to mine, but not quite the same. Or vice versa. We are not attempting to confuse people, but in the course of the conversation the complexities of a word are fully understood. And that it is grasped that American English is crazy. And ever-changing.

Four years ago, a Japanese friend asked me in what circumstances Americans use contractions instead of saying the words completely separated. I tried to explain it was more of a style issue than a proper usage issue. We Americans tend to be very casual in speaking and another way in writing. And even that has it's variations--for instance, style in writing a thesis or a research paper or a cover letter verses a personal letter to a friend or a blog. I know people who rarely use contractions and tend to have a stilted, formal way of speaking. But that's their personality and preference. And maybe their upbringing.

I tried to convey to my Japanese friend that he has to consider the diversity in America, that there is no one particular way to use a contraction in conversation. But using or not using contractions adds dimension to the tone you try to convey. A teacher, therefore, will set a tone of authority in her class if she informs the students that they "can not" speak until they raise their hand and wait for her to call on them. "Can not" emphasizes that the instructor has laid down a rule. Or, a friend informs another friend that they "will not" drink and drive, emphasizing the friend's resolve to put safety ahead of pleasure. Or a wife asking her husband won't he take care of the garbage please, the contraction softens the statement to her loved one's ear, making it sound less like a demand and more like a gentle request.

Since then, I've learned that there is a formal Japanese and an informal Japanese and very specific times and places that you use each of them. There is a code universally understood among them and if you violate it, then there is cause for someone to feel disrespected. Or depending on the situation, you made a gigantic mistake and you've disrespected yourself.
So my friend was in a rut in how to make a decision using various forms of American ways of speaking. He didn't want to offend by being too casual, so he always used the more formal tone to be safe. Which, as I think of it, was very considerate of him. It was a subtle way for him to show honor to his American friends, which unfortunately, few of us picked up or could have known enough to appreciate. Unless we asked. Perhaps, it would have been an insightful thing to have noticed it and asked my Japanese friend why he spoke so formally. And realize that he wasn't always so formal with everyone.

And discoveries like this is one of many reasons I love to make friends cross culturally.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Random Stories of My Day

Yesterday before work, I used my bread machine. With it I made two loaves of 12 whole grain yumminess. One I added herbes de Provence and some garlic powder and baked in the oven. The other I left plain and let it bake in the machine. What really was great was the way the house smelled. We finished off the plain loaf today--it made excellent toast. I'm going to make another loaf tomorrow and add sunflower seeds.

I also swam today, as I have for the last two days. When I got to the pool, I was the only one in the water. Half hour later, the place was packed. I ended up sharing my lane with an older guy who didn't even say hello or ask me if I'd be willing to share. There's pool etiquette, ya'know. I really can't say "no", but it promotes good will to ask. But, no prob, until he took up 3/4 of the lane and insisted on doing the backstroke on the return of each of his laps. After a few close calls with getting hit in the face, I saw another lane open up and went over. Just as I started to swim, there was another older guy who was trying to jump on my new lane there, too. I stopped and asked him if he wanted this lane, and he declined and left. I swam to the deep end, only to see a younger man swimming below and heading right towards a head to head collision with me. I pulled back sharply and nearly screamed. But the young guy just said he was sorry and moved over to the next lane. A couple doing a deep water work out a few feet away asked me if I was all right and said they saw what he did. They didn't believe it was an accident--he was headed right towards me.

After I finished that lap, a little shaky and on the look out for the troublemaker, another guy sat on the edge of the pool and asked if he could swim on the right of the lane. I said sure, and that I was on my last lap. We joked and laughed about it, and I noticed the guy who scared me a minute ago sitting on the side watching the whole transaction. After finishing my lap, I went to the activity area and just watched while I stretched my muscles in the water. The young man was trying to find a lane, but didn't know how to ask to share or wait for one to open up. He looked confused. I thought about going over to talk to him, but decided not to.

There's all types that come to the "Y" and some of them are developmentally disabled even though at first glance they don't seem to be. The young man looked like a physically healthy and muscular person who took care of himself, but his erratic behavior was a signal that not everything was as it seemed. I'm just thankful that we didn't collide. The rate of speed at which he was swimming to the surface was really fast and I'm positive that I wouldn't have come out of it very well if he did hit me. He didn't even flinch, slow down or move over to avoid me.

Later on this evening, I went to yoga class. It was a good experience, but I could tell that I would have been much better at this when I was younger. And thinner. The instructor even gave me a compliment on one of my attempts at a pose that stretches your middle back by lying on your crossed upper arms, making you look like an alien. I will probably practice some of the poses throughout the week. As uncomfortable as I sometimes felt during the session, afterwards I really did feel good. After yoga, I went out with my husband to join some co-workers at a college hangout joint for some wings (50 cents each) and a salad. We had a good time getting to know each other better and just relaxing.

Tomorrow, I'm making soba noodles with kim chi and snowpea pods. A good accompaniment would be a hot and sour soup, with shitaki mushrooms. We'll see.

Every day is an adventure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Postcards from the Edge

I really like postcards a lot, I'm not sure why. They're small, have interesting stamps and postmarks, and brief messages. It's like the place is consolidated efficiently in one piece of paper, a pretty picture of the sights on one side and a slice of the sender's experience on the other. I have a postcard I recieved from Weight Watchers after I signed up. That postcard is my favorite one of all. No picture, but a greeting instead, "WELCOME! You've made a step in the right direction." with a personal handwritten (!) note on the other side from the staff. I have it on a photo clip next to our computer, to remind me that I'm going in the right direction with WW and to encourage me to keep it up.

Speaking of that, time to go to the gym.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Encouraged Me Today

Through our pastor, Kevin DeYoung, our church has an opportunity to go through the Heidelberg catechism as a weekly devotional. Here is a part of the first installment that really encouraged me:

Heidelberg’s emphasis on belonging to Christ
probably comes from John Calvin. Some people
have the impression that John Calvin was a rigid,
dogmatician who dryly analyzed theology like it was
some math problem to be solved. But listen to the
passionate beat of Calvin’s God-entranced heart in
this passage, which finds an echo in the Heidelberg
Catechism: “We are not our own: let not our reason
nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds.
We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our
goal to seek what is expedient for us according to
the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can,
let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.
Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for
him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom
and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s:
let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward
him as our only lawful goal” (Inst. III.vii.1).

I've never heard of the Heidelberg catechism, but I have heard the first line that begins the Westminster catechism ["Q. What is the chief end of man? A. To glorify God and enjoy him forever."] many times. It never fails to encourage me and I even have it memorized without having to memorize it--some things enter your heart and never leave, I'm glad that it applies to the good stuff, not only the bad.

So, I'm looking forward to learning something new, or something old in a new way. They'll be posted on my church's website if you want to go on this journey too, check it out at

For You, Miss Meliss

A week ago at work, Melissa asked me for recipes. She was bored with what she was already doing and was ready for new ideas. Since she liked the Morroccan Beef Stew I made once and already has been making it on her own, I've got a few recipes for her. Ready, Melissa?

Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
One 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut
into chunks
One 19-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (1cup)
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions; cook, stirring as needed, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute, stirring. Add spices--cumin, pepper, cinnamon--and cook one minute, stirring.

2. Stir in the carrots, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, bay leaf and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, 45-55 minues; discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve. Makes 4 servings, from Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian. 7 points per serving

Curried Cauliflower with Black Beans

1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegetale oil
1teaspoon cuury powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 small cauliflower, cored and separated into florets
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
One 14- ounce can crushed tomatoes
One 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tabled spoons minced cilantro

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the curry, cumin and coriander; cook, stirring, until just fragrant, 10-15 seconds. Add the cauliflower, pepper flakes and 1/4 cup water; cook, stirring as needed, until the cauliflower is well-coated and nearly all the liquid is evaporated, 3-4 minutes.

2. Ad the tomatoes and 1/4 cup water; cook, covered, stirring as needed, until slighly thickened, about 10 minutes. Gently stir in the black beans; cook until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro. Makes 4 servings, from Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian. 3 points per serving.

Turkish White Bean Stew

1 cup great Northern beans, picked over, rinsed and drained

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Soak the beans overnight (cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water in five quart saucepan. Cover tightly and refridgerate 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.)

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the beans and 3 cups water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Drain, leaving the beans in the saucepan.

3. In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the oil. Add onions; cook until softened, stirring as needed, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic; cook, stirring as needed, until the celery is golden, about 5 minutes.

4. In the saucepan, combine the beans with the onion mixture. Add the tomato paste, sugar, pepper flakes and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Add half the parsley, the lemon juice and salt; cook 10 minutes. Serve, sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Makes 4 servings, from Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian. 5 points per serving.

Well, Melissa, I hope you find these helpful, even though you don't need to eat Weight Watchers or lose weight. Tell me what you think!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Change Would Do You Good

After my one day retreat, I capped it off with a forty-five minute swim. I hadn't been swimming for a month (the weather was too cold, not feeling well, usual excuses) and I had to drag myself to the pool. I did almost a half mile, about 13 laps. I timed myself and found that I was getting faster and faster. That's not news. What was exciting to me was that I felt I was getting more efficient and gaining speed with more ease in the freestyle, my least favorite type of swim stroke (I usually feel like I'm drowning myself with it) because I finally decided to try something that I never had before.

I don't like change. But as I swam I noticed that my right was working harder than my leftside, and I was always exhausted after every lap. If I stretched a little on my left, I could extend my left arm out longer in my stroke. It would mean rolling my head more to my right, which I feel uncomfortable with. I have to train my brain to not panic with a move in the water that I'm not used to. This is a major mental adjustment, because my mind is trying to keep me from drowning. What I've been doing for years has been okay with my brain and it was set in its ways, especially in 12 feet of water.

But when I divided the work more evenly between my right and left, I found myself not so tired and reaching the end of pool faster than usual. Therefore, I informed my brain that it was wrong and that I was going to survive. Even in 12 feet of water.

What is about change? As I get older, I probably resist it more. Perhaps because I lose a sense of adaptability and flexibility when I know what I like or think I always know what's best. But there always new ways of looking at things, different things to try and more knowledge to gain. The problem with experience is that more of it you have, the more you think you know and the less you desire having a broader experience than you've already had.

When I was in my 20's, I longed for an expansion to my life. I wanted to go places and do things and see things that I never had before. I was afraid that my small town upbringing would narrow my vision. And I think God granted my desire as I have lived in different parts of the country and met all kinds of people and made several friends of varied ages and backgrounds. It's been an amazing 25 years since I prayed those prayers. But it's not over yet.

"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

Jeremiah was trying to tell people of Isreal that big changes were on the way and to trust God to keep His promises even though the circumstances were difficult. They were to gain more than they lost, it was for their good. What great and might things will God tell me when I call to Him? How open am I?

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I'm reading a book that advocates a weekend away to spend with God. Where you don't get distracted by chores, computers, phones, etc... Where you read the Bible, journal, pray. I've done these before. And it's been awhile.

So I'll do a one day retreat with God this Saturday. I'm not sure where I'll go or exactly what I'll do. But I'm thankful that I have a day to spend pursuing Him.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Friend Like Her

When I was 10 years old, my best friend was Robbin. She always wore her dark brown hair in two long braids on each side of her head that came down to her waist. She had freckles and hazel eyes. We spent most of our time together telling or writing stories, and giving each other our critiques of our work. Sometimes, we collaborated. She provided all the action, and I slowed the plot down with emotional dramas. We sometimes drew our scenes, like moviemakers with their storyboards, but our intention was never to do a comic book, like a lot of our friends were inclined.

Robbin preferred historical dramas along the lines of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I did too, but I often branched out to science fiction. Our collaborations were very interesting. Like, little Mary on the Prairie who had an encounter with a mutant mouse while cleaning house. It was sort of a "Planet of the Mice" instead of Apes idea. Yes, the adventures Mary and that Mouse had, going back and forth in time. Why didn't we ever get them published?

Even when Robbin and I were doing something else, like swimming in the Columbia River close to her house, we were planning a story. During our swims, we came up with a story about a group of orphans who lived on the riverside and had to survive on their own. To get to civilization they had to build a raft that could stand against the raging river's current. They nearly died every time they launched out. But they were tough and lived another day to try again. Robbin and I experimented with raft building to come up with one that our orphans could actually use. We never did. But it was fun researching.

Our friendship was built on lots of time sitting under trees with our notebooks, lighting each other's creative sparks. She would listen to my stories and give me ideas. I would listen to hers and give her mine. A lot of my stories were fueled by Robbin's ideas. She took a lot of what I had to offer and ran with it. I loved hearing her read something in class that included my input. We had a bond built on intellectual exchange as well as imagination.

When I was 12, my family moved away from the Tri-Cities to Ephrata. Robbin's father was a nuclear scientist at the Hanford Reservation, and when his project was done, they moved back east to Maryland. We wrote awhile. I was always trying to compete with Robbin's letters in terms of expressiveness and vocabulary. But it was short-lived, surprisingly since we were such serious writers. But the whole point wasn't the writing or the stories, really. It was being listened to.

There's just something about having a friend who hears what you are saying. I remember the warmth I felt when it was my turn to read my story to Robbin, of her warm hazel eyes intently on me as I told her chapter 5 of the ongoing saga of the boy with an alien living inside his transistor radio. She never laughed. She understood the serious complexities of the relationships between humans and creatures from outer space, that we could be on the brink of war because of one very minor misunderstanding. It was stressful having an alien in your radio, uninvited. Humanity depended on you not to make a stupid mistake.

And I never yawned when Robbin told me yet another situation that her pioneer girl got into while moving west with her family, encountering new landscapes and angry natives. She was lonely, and her best friend was her horse, who rescued her from a wildcat by getting right between her the beast and kicking it over a cliff into a canyon. It was a strange place and strange things were always happening, but her family was always nearby. And her horse.

[I really liked that horse. Robbin knew how to create wonderful animal personalities without them turning into cartoon charachters. Her favorite book of all was "Black Beauty" and the influence showed in her writing. My animals had to be mutants so they could talk. Hence, science fiction. Sci fi always solved my storytelling delimmas. Robbin warned me to not rely on it too much. It would get too predictable. ]

I often wonder what would've happened if Robbin and I were allowed to keep writing and reading to each other and using our collective imaginations and ideas to prod each other on. It was a gift, a priviledge to have a friend like Robbin even if just for a few years.

It was sad to lose touch with Robbin, I never had a friend like her before. I've been looking out for one since. A really good listener who can hear or read between the lines. Who gives me timely writing advice or challenging intellectual feedback. Who models daring leaps of thought in their own work. Once I find one, I'll make sure that I would stay in touch. It is really hard to replace a kindred spirit. Actually, impossible.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Need to Read

A co-worker likes to relax on his breaks with a book, he's currently into "The Thirteenth Tale", a book I read last summer. I can't read at work, because it involves putting the book down and transitioning back into real life, and even worse, a busy day at our cafe. I go into another world when I read and it's hard for me to get out of it.

Tomorrow, I'm running various errands on my day off. As a reward, I'm planning to find a comfy chair in the coffeehouse of my choice and just read for a few hours. Although I prefer to read at home most of the time, it will be nice to get a break from the pets. Carly my cat likes to play with the pages as I turn them. Ginger, my golden retriever puppy, thinks reading is boring and wants me to spend time doing better things, like walks and playing fetch or tag. Sometimes, they give up and start taking naps all around me. But then, it makes me tired and want to take a nap, too. And where does that get me?

I usually make a list of books I want to read for the next year. I finished last year's list by September. Perhaps I should make it more challenging.

2008 Reading List:

*Truth and Beauty, Anne Patchett

*Lipstick Jihad, Azadeh Moaveni

*The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster, Kaye Gibbons

*True to Form, Elizabeth Berg

*All Aunt Hagar's Children, Edward P. Jones

*Moby Dick, Herman Melville

*My Antonia, Willa Cather

*Secrets from the Wine Diva, Christine Ansbacher

* Julie & Julia, Julie Powell

*The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters

*Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

*Kabul Beauty School, Deborah Rodriguez

*Reading Lolita in Tehran, A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi

Well, that's a good beginning.


Dennis and I don't spend a lot of time on "home improvement" projects unless we really have to. We were thinking about getting a "fixer upper" when we moved to Lansing, but steered ourselves away from having to work on endless projects that would take time away from what we really wanted to invest our time in. We painted a few rooms--our living room into a cozy red, and the family room a light vanilla.

As for furniture, most of our stuff is garage sale deals or second hand. Every few years, we might add something. We like to blend old with new. It's a gradual thing.

I make the lion's share of decisions of how to decorate. Dennis has a few requirements, but he leaves most of it up to me. As a woman, my environment tends to be an expression of my personality and tastes. And as a woman, I face the temptation of making my environment be an indicator of my self worth.

The essence of a home is not how it appears. You might have the finest decor, but it doesn't matter if there is no love there. The heart of a home is how the residents treat each other. People focus how inviting the great room is or how luxurious a master suite is, as though their lives depended on it but neglect to serve each other or listen to each other.

As women, we have an eye out for magazine covers, perusing Pottery Barn catalogues, watching HGTV, and Martha Stewart tv programs. But there is a difference between interior design and making a home. For me, home is a retreat, a refuge not just for the occupants but also for our guests. I like a feeling of intimacy and a warm and comfortable spirit in my home. Yes, a great home involves what you see, hear, touch and smell, but it also is made up of things that you can't sense physically but what you can sense spiritually. That not only are you welcome but you also belong here. That there is history of something intangible but vital occuring under this roof. That God resides here with you. That prayer occurs often here. That restfulness and nurturing occurs often here. That there is a glimpse of our home in heaven somehow occurring here.

You can't buy these things. You won't find them on the internet. And they have to be experienced in relationships to be known, and a heavy investment of time is required.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Wonderful and Politically Incorrect Post

I've been following Beauty From The Heart, a blog by three young women: Kristin, Hannah and Lindsey. Hannah recently posted this wise but controversial story, a part of which I've pasted here:

Brave Bloggers: Kristen, Hannah and Lindsey

...I am on the verge of making a very politically incorrect absolute
statement: There’s no place like home. The statement (albeit cliché) is ever so
true. Even for organizationally-challenged (I.e. naturally sloppy) people like
me, a tidy, cozy home in which God is held at the very center, is something to
savor. I’m not the only one. However uniquely individual women have been
designed, with varying arrays of talents, I believe unshakingly that every woman
was created to love the home.

There was a woman Carole Mayhall wrote of in her book, Come Walk With
Me, who emanated this love.A missionary wife who traveled constantly with her
husband in the bush, migrating from hut to hut, she had no steady house. Yet it
was so much a part of her identity to make a comforting environment, that
everywhere she went, she carried a set of silver candle sticks. She’d set them
on her makeshift table in an effort to turn every hut she lived in into a home.
Like the missionary wife, all women have the capability to cultivate homes that
are refuges, and nurture godliness.

I believe that it is specifically the calling of women to do so.
Although it may not be a woman’s only calling, she is told by Scripture to
fulfill this task.(See Proverbs 31 and Titus 2.) In the midst of a culture
radically adverse to any sort of distinction between men and women, my
persuasion is a part of a minority (and a minor minority at that).

George Bernard Shaw, a bitingly agnostic socialist wrote, “Home is the
girl’s prison and the woman’s workhouse.” Thus is the common perception of
homemaking. (Jane wears the quote like a T-shirt…in fact, it’s may be on a
T-shirt.)To an extent, I agree with Shaw; the home can certainly be a prison and
workhouse. Likewise, any kind of rules concerning a woman’s nature can be seen
as imprisonment-- from one perspective.

From where Jane is standing, the home doesn’t look like all that and a
bag of chips because work is tiresome and rules plead for obedience. But the
grass is always greener on the side of disobedience, until we reach that side
and look back at the lush plants where we were. With a right, Biblical
perspective, knowing full well the freedom that comes with obedience, home is
less a cage than a stage to display God’s glory.

I like what Touchstone, the wise court jester in Shakespeare’s As You
Like It, observed about contentment. Upon arriving wearily to the forest of
Arden, he declared, “Ay, now am I in Arden; the more fool I; when I was at home, I was in a better place: but travellers must be content.” While it’s fun to see places abroad, only when we find our identities in the locations God places us---be it in Connecticut or the Congo--do we discover contentment.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

California Photos

While visiting my dad and my sisters in California in October, I drove through Tehachepi pass just enjoying the scenery. When it was safer to do so, I got my camera out and started clicking as I drove, literally, pointing and shooting.
I couldn't get it very well, but the windmill power farm was amazing. And I missed most of the dangerous looking clouds at the peak, very dramatic, but I had to drive.
A few days after my trip, I read about a big accident--a hundred car pile up--in the same place I got these pictures. Gusty winds blew dust and the visibility was zero.

Photos of Home, 2

Photos of Home

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Progress Report

I lost three pounds last week. This week, I lost three more.

I haven't been hungry for a couple of days. Just don't want to eat. I made myself eat a banana and a yogurt on the way to weigh in at Weight Watchers. And a hand full of nuts afterwards.

I'm just ready to be a normal size again.

I can lose weight, but am I willing to do what it takes?

So far, it hasn't been a problem. I walk the dog. Find projects to do. Swim a little. Scrub the floors. And don't eat anything that might look like it is more than 500 calories all at one bite. Have oatmeal for breakfast (usually). With the WW plan, it is easier to focus my efforts.

I bought a food scale, to weigh my food to get the portion sizes right and calculate the points.
And scoops to get the volume right, so I'm not overeating. I was journaling, but that has been harder to keep up with.

The Tuscan Crockpot Chicken that I made yesterday smelled good, but I don't want to eat it. It tastes good, but it doesn't appeal to me at all. I'll freeze it for later. Dennis liked it and has taken some of it to work.

I read recipes like some people read novels. I can imagine how it will taste, smell and look. It's amazing and an ability that I use everyday at work when remembering coffees. But as of late, I'm going through cookbooks and can't find one thing I want to eat very much of or at all.

On the flip side, I went to McDonald's last week and bought a hamburger. It made me sick. I really didn't like it. The same for my old obsession with Taco Bell. I don't like anything, and the last time I had a taco there, I felt nauseous afterwards. Last night at work, I had to eat something for dinner and I didn't want the chicken I made, so I went to the giant burrito place next door. I had a vegetarian burrito, but I couldn't finish it. It tasted bad to me. Usually, I have guacomole in my burritos, but this time, I really had an aversion to it. A co-worker gave me a sample of a gingerbread cake, and it was too sweet, I threw it away.

Maybe I'm changing. I don't like food anymore.

My co-workers are reminding me of the days when I'd bring food in to share. I've been telling them that I'm not cooking as much as before, and most of what I brought was high in calories and fat. Except the sushi and fresh spring rolls and most of the salads. But even those things seem disgusting to me.

This is new to me--let me emphasize--really, really, really new to me. I've asked for God's help to stick with losing weight and keeping it off. Maybe this is the way He is doing that.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Heart Breaking

I schedule daily coffee tastings for each shift. This week, we're tasting Kenya, and remembering the people of Africa in our hearts and prayers. I wrote that in, and I don't care what my partners think.

The news coming out of Kenya isn't clear, but it sounds incredibly sad. Pray that the leaders would come together for a peaceful resolution of the election conflicts. And that people would stop killing each other, but begin to love each other. It only takes a few with big knives to create a problem. Most of all, that God would turn the angry killers into repentent followers of Jesus.

What a way to start a new year.

Lord, help us all.

More Random Topics

It's noon, and I finished my morning chores, including making a Food Network recipe "Tuscan Crockpot Chicken" (they use crockpots in Tuscany?) for tonight's dinner in my clean and super organized but tiny kitchen. I have a few hours before work to round out some projects that I've got going, including getting my co-workers signed up for yoga class at the YMCA. My company agreed to pay for half our registration fees for the six week long yoga instruction. Wow--I love where I work. There will be seven of us co-workers, it should be really fun. It's been fun already as the instigator of the activity.

I walked Ginger, and she's taking a nap under the desk curled around my feet to keep them warm. My kittycat, Carly, is snoozing in her basket next to my desk. Ginger is the fun pet, but Carmelita is far more interesting. I re-organized furniture in the house to keep her from climbing and leaping from the dining room to the living room on the lower level. She's an acrobat, a flying trapeze artist without the trapeze.

A repairman came over yesterday and I put Ginger in our bedroom to keep her from being the overly friendly pest she usually is with strangers. I closed the door, but fifteen minutes later, out she comes to see us happy as she could be. I told the repairman that the cat opened the door for her. The repairman laughed and said that they were quite the team. I said that they are actually little pirates. Carly is obviously the Captain.

Dennis is working as a sub for the U.S. Postal Service, taking over a few rural routes for mail carriers on vacation. He also sorts mail early in the morning before he goes out. It's a small postal office in a small community not far from where we live. He likes the work, but the snow is pretty deep at curbside after snowplows are done clearing roads. So, it's cold. He'll be home just around the time I leave for work. I hope he likes the Tuscan Crockpot Chicken.

I bought him an ipod shuffle for Christmas, it was going for $79, but the clerk at the electronics department clipped a coupon for me that I didn't know existed and brought the price down to $64. I nearly jumped the counter and kissed him on the top of his bald head, but instead I told him he made my day, in fact, my month. He got really shy and said that someone should benefit from those coupons, really, no big deal. He was a little guy, but had a big heart. God bless him. As someone who always goes the extra mile for others, including customers all day long, I appreciate the rare small kindness that comes my way.

Dennis listens to the ipod while sorting mail, and likes it because it is easy and small. He is not tech inclined, he barely uses the computer at home or knows how to operate the digital camera he gave me for my birthday last year, but he taught himself how to download music off itunes and our cd's. We have The Message on cd, so he is going to download that to his ipod too. Wait until I tell him about podcasts. All in all, I think this has been his favorite Christmas gift ever from me.

Well, now I don't know how to conclude this blog--not telling a story or sharing a deep thought, but perhaps the best way to end the post is how much I feel blessed and thankful to God for all He's done for me, and hopefully, through me to others, most of all to my favorite mailman and even to my little pirates.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Deep Cleaning

Yesterday at work, a few partners and I were given some special projects involving taking down Christmas decorations and doing a new set up. And some deep cleaning. Our store is very clean, but there is always a few spots that need some attention. We moved shelves and cabinets around and got underneath them for instance. We got up high and dusted hard to reach spots. It was a very good feeling to go finish my shift knowing that my workplace was at its very best.

Today, on my day off at home, I'm re-organizing and deep cleaning the kitchen, inspired by my efforts at work the other day. It's harder than at work. I've been practicing hit-and-run cooking a lot--that is, making a meal in less than 15 minutes and cleaning up in less than 5 minutes. It takes its toll in the small galley-size kitchen without hardly any counter space. Plus, I promised Dennis that I'd give up a table that I was using for all my coffee paranphanalia--espresso maker, syrups, demitasse cups, etc...

I have a small toy cupboard that my grandfather made for my mother when she was a little girl. It's made out of scrap wood and missing pieces, like a door and a pull out cutting board, but it is beautiful in its rustic way. I like it on my countertop, but finally I realized that the sacrificed area for aesthetics was too high a price. I need room to cook, not be sentimental. So, I hung it in the dining room. I would rather put it in the kitchen where I'll see it everyday, but I gotta do what I gotta do.

I don't have room for things I don't need in my kitchen and although I gave a lot up for the yard sale earlier this year, I still have too much stuff that I don't need. So, I'm culling still more junk out of my cupboards. A baker's rack I bought five years ago for storing my cookbooks became a catch-all for junk. And then, I had a drawer reserved for oven mitts and potholders which basically became a junk drawer by some wierd process. I didn't have room for my oven mitt. So, I threw everything in that drawer out.

After a while, I noticed that I have a lot things in my kitchen with berries on them. I like berries to eat, but also they remind me of living in Seattle and my childhood of visiting Seattle. As a kid, I'd go out and pick blackberries and gooseberries in the empty lots around my aunt and uncle's place. When on our honeymoon, we stayed in my aunt's cottage by the ocean in the Olympic Peninsula. It was early September, but the blackberry bush outside the back door was still producing fruit. I made breakfast for my new husband with them. While backpacking in Idaho, a friend and I stopped to pick wild strawberries along the path--they were tiny but the best strawberries we had ever tasted. My friend was a new Christian and it was so great to see her growing in faith, and have that time to spend together talking about God. So, the motif has a special meaning for me. It helps me remember everyday of what is important to me.

Spiritually, I also need "deep cleaning". Of letting the Holy Spirit get to those places in my heart that are hard to reach in order to scrub out the dirt, get cluttered with junk and bring out momentos that guide me into the right direction. Only He can "create in me a clean heart". Psalm 51.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Some things I'm looking forward to in the new year:
  • Knowing God more
  • A study about Jesus and women in the New Testament that I'll help Sarah lead for female international students in our church

  • An expanded role in helping with English as a Second Language students

  • Yoga class with co-workers

  • Cross country skiing--the snow is perfect right now

  • Dennis' new job as a mail carrier for the U.S.P.S.

  • Taking international students from MSU for a Spring Break trip

  • A new Starbucks opening in my neighborhood

  • Camping more often

  • Getting to know our neighbors better

  • Serving God

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Random Topics


When I moved to another state across the country, I emailed a friend to let her know where I was. Her response intrigued me. She asked me how Georgia smelled to me, what the air was like, how the light from the sun was different from California, and other questions like these. It caused me to think differently as I composed my answer. I never looked at another place the same way again. To me, Georgia was a place where your skin and the air around you came together--where I felt like I absorbed the place through my pores. I didn't just smell the jasmin heavy in the air, sometimes I felt it on my face and arms.

And lately, I've been pondering how to describe my physical experiences of Michigan. Where I felt bound in Georgia's atmosphere, in Michigan I resist the tendency to float here, feeling the chilly wind as it buffets me around, and I wrap up and dig in to stay on course. When I drive, I lay a small blanket on my lap to increase the coziness factor even in the car. I crave warmth, snuggling, and cloth. I wear a jacket under my parka, to keep out the frosty drafts inside buildings even after I peel off the outer layers.

This is all I can come up with right now.

Carmelita, Our Cat

When she runs outside, I usually can catch her. It's usually a ploy of fake left and go right. This last week, she wasn't catchable. Usually, no problem, because she comes to the door a few minutes later, done with investigating whatever she needed to investigate. But for several nights, she didn't come back. It was snowing. I thought that she had enough of us, she found a new home to crash in. Then, I saw her later with a boyfriend and realized that she was in heat.

In heat? She is too young, so I thought. I thought I had at least another month to get her spayed. I was wrong. The healthy young tom that was visiting was a jet black fluffy short hair tabby with amazingly bright yellow eyes. I saw him a few years ago, hiding in our bushes as a little kitten. There was a dead, eviscerated mole next to him, his lunch caught by his jet black feral mom watching nearby. He mewed at me, but wouldn't let me near him. It's likely that a neighbor caught him and raised him. So, there he was, all grown up and a handsome dude at that. At least, Carmelita thought so. They were inseparable, and Carly preferred her romance than coming back home. She was somehow keeping dry and warm.

She finally came back, and I put her in Ginger's kennel to keep her away from our overjoyed and pesky dog who missed her terribly. She slept, drank a little water, had a bite and slept some more. She was gone for five days. But she looked fine--I wondered who was feeding her. She's snoozing right now, in her basket next to my computer, like she never left.

Carly was in heat during the holidays, and our vet's office was closed. I'll bring her in to get her checked, and spayed. There is a strong possibility that she isn't pregnant. She had only one male, and he might have been fixed. If she is, it's too bad. I would love the kittens but she's too young to have them. If my vet says otherwise, though, I'll change my mind. A co-worker put a request in for a couple of male kittens if Carly has some.

Ginger, Our Dog

She's fixed. I saw pictures of Golden Retriever puppies and felt a little pang of regret that Ginger wouldn't have any. But a dog in heat is entirely a different matter than a cat (whom I didn't even realize was ready). So, I got over it.

She's growing bigger and lost her puppy looks and behavior. It's nice that she understands what we want, and that she can get us to understand what she wants, which is pretty basic: food, outside, water, play, play, play....and snacks. I like mature and well behaved dogs. She's getting there--and having fun along the way, making friends with everyone. She is right next to me, on the floor next to my feet, taking a nap.