Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hawaiian Soul

My parents played an album when I was a kid that just knocked me out--I first heard it when I was around 7 years old. It was a Hawaiian choral performance from the King Kamehameha High School. I loved it. This video is recent, not from 1969, but it sounds just the same. There's something about this that calms my spirit.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Philippians 4:8

Vacation is over.  I am sad, but the time off has done its job.  There is a renewed energy and a better attitude--not that I didn't have energy or a good attitude before, but there is an improvement.  I'm refreshed.

I'd post photos, but I still am a horrible photographer, even with all the digital help I have.  Whenever I've taken photos, I've been disappointed that the pictures don't capture the entire experience I was having at the moment--the visuals are so limiting to me.  The colors aren't what I actually saw, the feeling is lost and everything seems so flat.

For instance, Sun Young Park and I are sitting on rocks in a sheltered cove at the Point Lobos State Reserve.  The sun's warmth is competing with the chilly wind blowing in from the Pacific.  Sun Young is contemplating a few changes to her schedule, because she needs a break from work--the tension is rolling off her countenance as she gazes at the waves breaking against the shore.  She forgot what peace and tranquility felt like.  And it's a five minute drive from her apartment.  I am listening, and the gorgeous scenery I am beholding is affected by the beauty of  the honest conversation I'm having with my tired friend.  We pray for wisdom to seek God first and avoid the tyranny of the urgent.  We praise Him for the wonder of His creativity--He didn't just build ocean and land, He decided to make their junction breathtaking to our human eyes.  And the appreciation of my experience at that moment with this particular friend has taken on a whole new dimension because I know God is present.  Can't take a picture of that.

And while I'm scrubbing toilets at home or at work, the strength of that memory gets me through the monotany and the mundane. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

California Dreaming

The temperature outside yesterday was 100 degrees. Obviously, not in Michigan.  I'm visiting family and a friend in California--not enough time and gas money to visit everyone I want to, so if you are left out of the loop--I'm really sorry!

There are several angles I can take this blog post--the adventure or misadventure of travel, how fast nieces and nephews grow up, contrasts between CA and MI, the beauty of the ocean, the particular beauty of the high desert (where most of my family tends to live), fun with sisters, stepbrother, Dad and Starla, stepsister-in-law, and missing home and hubby.  And food.  Tons of food.

So, I will take them all. Here goes!

Adventure of travel:  I hate flying.  But I got an el cheapo ticket for 240 dollars from Detroit to Burbank.  Catch is that I had a nonstop connection from Detroit to LA, then a connection to Salt Lake City, then I had a connection to Burbank.  Was the dog leg worth it?  I got to see the mountains in Utah and  I had a lovely chat with an international student from Brazil studying in Washington state who seemed really lonely because he just said goodbye to his family who came up from Sao Paulo to see him in LA.  This was definately an unexpected pleasure. 

At Burbank, I got an el cheapo car rental and drove to my Dad and stepmom's in Palmdale.  At rush hour.  On I-5 and CA-14.   Price I pay for being my own travel agent.  I am so Thankful that this kind of daily commute is no longer a reality for us and I got through it like it was second nature to me--safe lane changes, merges and smooth exit and entrances without road rage or frustration.  If only gas prices were a little more el cheapo. 

Nieces and Nephews:  What are they feeding these kids?  Some of them have their own apartments now and jobs,too.  Like the U.S. Marines and such. And engaged to be married?  A few are now world travelers.  A few are still in grade school--but I know that will change in a blink of an eye. My siblings have all worked hard as parents, I am proud of them. 

Contrasts between CA and MI:  No one talks about weather in California because it is rather boring talking about perfection.  It is actually taken for granted. So shocking to me. Then I remember when we lived here and how I never gave the weather a second thought either.  In MI, it's all we think about because it affects every aspect of our lives.   Oh yeah, there's peaches at a farm down the road from my sister's house, sold off the tree by the 10 pound box for five dollars.   In the store, peaches are .98 cents a pound.  Everywhere I go, there's produce growing or a Mack truck hauling it.  I had to swerve the other day to avoid hitting a box of lettuce that fell off one of those trucks. If I had hit it, I would have made a tossed salad with my car.   No, I didn't stop to pick it up--too dangerous. Again, another thing I was blind to while living here.  However, I don't have a lot of landmarks to go by while in Hanford, CA visiting Amy, my youngest sister.  The houses, rancheros, malls and streets all look the same---I'm gonna get lost.  In Michigan, I had specific visual keys to remind me where I was and how to get where I was supposed to go--there wasn't the sameness that you get here in California with stucco and clay tile roofs. 

The beauty of the ocean:  I took a break from the Mojave and went to Monterey to visit Sun Young Park, who graduated from Michigan State University 8 years ago to work at the Army Presidio's Defense Language Institute.  I spent some time with her at Point Lobos Seashore Reserve--we had some good talks as we gazed at the breakers hitting the rocky shoreline.  Before that, I got an el cheapo room at the Hostel and spent a day in prayer at Lovers Point, where Dennis and I hung out as an engaged couple.  Lots of great memories from our life there.  I watched a guy swimming in the ocean--not an easy thing as the water is terribly cold and he didn't have a wetsuit, and the currents are really strong.  I was tempted to go in myself, but thought that it wasn't a good idea on my own.  The Pacific's beauty I never took for granted, however, I saw colors that I didn't notice before.  I couldn't soak it in enough.

The particular beauty of the high desert:  I spent most of my time around dry wide spaces, which reminds me of  eastern Washington where I grew up and the plains of North Dakota where I also grew up.  Again, I began to see beauty where I didn't see it before.  It's there, and it's more subtle. Thank you, Creator, for Your imagination.

Fun with sisters:   Fran came up from San Diego to Amy's house and we hung out.  We made a run to Starbucks, Target and Save-More, played Pictionary with the kids, Wii with the kids, watched movies, talked, made potato salad--Mom's amazing recipe, but we added bacon-- talked some more and ate potato salad.  I  turned 50, Amy is turning 40 this week and Fran is somewhere in between.  It was a great time of just connecting, listening and making jokes of each other's idiosyncrisies.  And then we ate some more potato salad--Mom's recipe, but with bacon. 

My trip isn't over yet, so I will fill you in on my time with my parents, stepbrother's fam, my Hawaiian aunt and uncle and food.  Did I mention that potato salad?  The one that's Mom's recipe, but with bacon?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Dylan's Tempest

The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 [Disc 3] Composers: Jeff Rosen/Bob Dylan

This is Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand", one of the bootlegged songs that originally was a studio demo. His voice is really haggard and the whole thing is rough and raw--a background vocal is off time and a dog is barking in the distance. I imagine several things--he's in his living room with his kids in the backyard playing with the dog, and it feels personal. The bootleg is like a snapshot, like being in Shakespeare's study watching him bent over his rough draft of Henry V or Michelangelo doing sketches on the Sistine chapel.

 "Every Grain" is a lyrical masterpiece, I love the way it articulates the situation of being a fallen creature fearing but craving the nearness of a holy God--nothing is good without Him, but it is a trembling experience being in His presence, if not for His saving grace. As Dylan expresses it, I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man. He is speaking of damnation. Quite a subject to be sung in such a tender, sensitive song.

Which brings me to my first impressions of Tempest, and the reviews I've been hearing about it. Dylan is sounding violent and angry, and in a video of one of his more playful songs, a kid is beat up and left on the sidewalk, while Dylan and his motley crew steps over him. Not what we'd expect. I've watched it five or seven times. The ending leaves me hanging, and I have to believe the kid gets help (a young punk girl clad in black in the rear of the entourage is missing as the video follows Dylan going on down the road--did she stay behind with the poor kid and become a good Samaritan?)and will resume his relentless pursuit of that pretty freaked out girl.

So, I wait for what I hope will be another insightful work by Dylan when it releases on Sept. 11th. And I know from past experience, I won't be disappointed. The weird thing is, I'm anticipating something good on a day that represents a horrific event eleven years ago, which brings up a lot of conflicting emotions. Including guilt.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


For the last few days, I've been lurking on Craigslist's used RV's postings.  It's been an interesting use of my time.  I've been thinking about RV's ever since I saw a refurbished one on Pinterest.  It was super cute, with new carpet, new mod wallpaper and simply done window treatments.  The young couple gutted it out, basically, to make it their second home for themselves and their young son (see "Hugo Gets a Facelift")

This  inspiration led me to Craigslist, wondering about the possibilities of taking a tired old RV or camper trailer and updating it.  Which is not like me at all. Dennis had pitched the idea to me 15 years ago, and I pitched it right back.  Dennis was in the military back then, and  the gypsy lifestyle didn't appeal to me at all, when all I longed for was to be in one place for at least four years.  We have been in Lansing Michigan in the same home for 10 years. The pendulum has started swinging in the opposite direction.  I'm the one who's comparing Winnebagos, camper trucks and five wheelers. 

I don't want to think about the bathrooms in these vehicles--no bigger than a fridge and located in awkward places in the layout.  I don't want to think about loud generators, dump sites and grey water.  I don't want to think about steep grades, punctured tires and sway bars.  Anything that would puncture holes in my fantasy of climbing into a rolling baby apartment with my honey and taking our time going where ever we want to. 

When I was sixteen, I went backpacking with my fellow Girl Scouts in northern Washington.  We would scoff when we encountered these behemoths sporadically when we went off the trails and into the campgrounds.  Who wants to watch tv while camping?  We did secretly, but that was beside the point.  Camping was for enjoying nature with nature occasionally making our lives miserable.  We had become proficient at pitching tents, making fires and putting up with being semi-clean, and eating unpredictable food.  And hauling our own drinking water, sleeping on the hard ground and the romance of taking everything we needed for life on our own backs. 

The fellowship of commiseration while the sun beat down on our heads as we climbed up switchbacks, or huddled in our tents fighting boredom during rain, or even aching muscles helped us be alert to not miss why we were doing what we were doing--the unforgettable vistas on top of South Baldy, finding wild blackberries for breakfast in remote places that weren't over picked already, waking up to hummingbirds zipping around us, sleeping under the stars watching them fall, taking a cold shower under a waterfall and for me, hiking a short distance in front of the group and therefore the only one who rounded a bend to see a buck jump over the trail, crashing down the side of the mountain with one magnificent leap. I was thrilled then, but now I think, what if it was a bear coming out of the brush above me? I had no way of knowing--the noise I heard before it appeared was definitely bigger than a squirrel.  I would have been an appetizer, not a privileged witness of  God's glorious creation. Well, I still would have been, but  in a vastly different way.

I think back to those trips, and it amazes me that I actually did that.  I've forgotten the blisters, the arguments among the backpackers about pace (yes, Girl Scouts argue), the mud, being hot and sweaty without relief and being  freezing cold.  I'm glad I did it, but I did it with the expectation that sometimes I would be uncomfortable because I wanted to truly "rough it".  When it comes to RV's, my expectations are higher and probably unrealistic. The RV experience is about comfort, leisure and luxury.  I would be comfortable, but would I really enjoy it more?

Dennis is not thinking about camping in a camper, but about traveling in a different way.  I am thinking about camping but having more protection from the elements and bears.  I see that the right RV could meet most of our desires, but it's a big investment and from what I heard, a different lifestyle. Hey, what about backpacking again?  I was looking at newfangled backpacks at an outdoor sports store.  They look a lot more comfortable than the one I used 34 years ago.  There are tons of new types of gear available.  Might take an RV to haul it all.
Before renovation: http://www.designsponge.com/2012/06/before-after-hugo-gets-a-facelift.html

Monday, July 09, 2012

Dana the Soon to Be Tenth Grader Part 2

A second part to my long forgotten story  "Dana the 10th Grader"  You might need to read it before the following post:


Kellie sat quietly next to her while Dana sunk deep into her own thoughts. Dana loved introspection and was ready to brood all day but she was interrupted by Kellie's sudden leap to her feet.  Kellie started to whoop and Dana raised her head and saw what caused her friend's excitement.  Both of their mothers were coming around the bend in the road, back from their morning hike, with Mrs. Johnson smiling in response to her daughter's warm greeting.

"All right, it's time for breakfast!" Kellie shouted.  Mrs. Johnson stopped in her tracks and pretended to lose her smile. "Let's have pancakes!"

Dana's mom came over and extended her hand to pull her daughter to her feet.  "We had a great hike, Dana! We went all the way to the top of the ridge over there.  And it didn't take long, either."

"I'm a little winded, though, Cary."  Mrs. Johnson came over to hug her daughter who seemed overjoyed at the prospect of an immenient meal.  Dana thought Mrs. Johnson looked just fine--hardly tired at all. "I think the girls can handle breakfast, don't you?"

Kellie stopped jumping.  The older women laughed at her quick change of mood.  Dana wondered if they knew how she and Kellie created disasters when it came to cooking.

"C'mon, I mixed the batter already at home and it's waiting in the cooler.  I will walk you through how to cook them in the pan.  It's easier than climbing mountains, all you have to do is pay attention."  Mrs. Johnson turned the girls towards the campsite. "Mrs. Smith and I are going to cool down and make some coffee." 

Since Kellie and Dana were in the Outdoor Ed class together, they found out that Kellie's parents and Dana's mom worked at the same hospital.  That revelation turned to dinners over at each other's homes and a friendship between their mothers casually progressed.  Kellie's mom, Deborah, was a pharmacist part time while Dana's mom worked as an R.N. , so they often had lunches together or coffee in the cafeteria.   For most of the year, Kellie's dad was in Iraq working in the medical support unit, but now that he was back home, he'd stop by to join them if he wasn't busy with his rounds.

In the last few months, Dana and her mom had been attending church on Sundays with the Johnson family.  It seemed like a natural thing for Kellie's parents to invite them and it seemed just as natural for them to accept. Dana's mom used to attend church as a kid, and welcomed the opportunity to restart that tradition again.  For Dana, it was a whole new world that sometimes seemed really boring, but not that bad.  She liked the youth group and all the activities--some were designed for sheer fun, and some were planned to help others in the community and the congregation.

Since Dana's father left them, her mother had a hard time adjusting even though she did her best to cover that up by being really busy with work and upkeep in the home. The long hours her mom put in at work gave Dana a lot of independence at home at her young age, but sometimes she felt adrift.  Dana also felt as though her mom was always angry at her, because they didn't spend time together and when she did speak to her, it was for not putting her stuff away in her room or forgetting to put the trash can out on pick up day.  She wished that her mom would understand that hers wasn't the only heart that was breaking in their little apartment. 

Dana saw that the time in church gave her mom a lift and a sense of hope that she didn't ever recall her having before. Her bitterness and grief were slowly fading away until about two weeks ago, her mother spoke to her about having returned to God and making a commitment to Jesus whom she believed in as a young woman but left her faith to follow her own selfish path.  The harshness in her mom's voice turned softer and gentler, and Dana felt as though she was really being seen when her mother looked at her.  Her mom's work schedule was more regular, and they started eating dinner together most nights. She didn't understand the whole God business, but she did understand her mother's love and sanity had somehow been restored by him and the church.  And for that reason, Dana didn't mind the new direction her mom was taking them. 

The camping trip was fun for the families and they were doing a lot of interesting things.  However, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson and Dana's mom were in deep talks about the possibilities of doing a kind of short term medical mission as part of a team that was going out next year.  At first, Dana had not paid attention to their discussion, but as it dawned on her that this might also affect her somehow, she started having the same anxious feelings that she had when she contemplated rock climbing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1 Corinthians 15:55

Hi everyone.  I'm still around.  I've been busy, but from time to time I think about blogging.  Every once in awhile, I think a thought and it strikes me that it might be fun to blog about it.  Blogging is good for exploring an idea or two.  Either I haven't been very adventurous lately or my thoughts haven't been that interesting enough to keep me seated in front of my computer for a couple of hours.  Maybe both.  Ambivalence kills blogging.  And I'm turning 50 pretty soon.  I'm too old to be ambivilent--that's the luxury of the young and inexperienced.  Age and experience helps us find some certainty.  Just a little. 

Lately, I've been thinking about death.  About the loss of Mabel and Rawle, as well as friends who have lost loved ones.  It all came together in the last few weeks.  I know I'm getting older now, when death becomes a common event in my family circle and social network.  Or at least, some close calls. 

After some sadness for the last month, because I care about the families involved, I had a moment of peace while talking to God.  He reminded me that I didn't chose to come into this world, and I have little control how I would be leaving it.  And every moment in between, is a gift.  It felt like a shroud lifted from my heart and soul.  I felt alive.  I felt real. 

Most of the time, I'm thinking about the next thing.  How to get up and get ready for work.  Which way to go home.  Who to call and meet.  When and where to pray.  What I need to read by tonight. What I need to memorize this week.  How I am going to rest in the afternoon and stay off my feet until the heel heals.  What to eat, wear, cook and clean. Who is coming over. Food shopping.  What's going on in the world, what's going on next door.  How I am going to get my husband to get more fiber in his diet.  That he eat everything but the apple I put in our sack dinners tonight before ESL.  And that I found adult chewable fish oil pills at Target.  How did gasoline get so expensive so fast?  If I put on the AC in the car, does it affect the gas mileage? What about rolling down the window?  How is it that nearly all my undergrad international student friends are graduating this year?  They were just freshmen a minute ago!  Is this DVD worthwhile or a waste of time?  How movie reviews tell me very little about what I really need to know. Like, if I will be polluted by the ideas and images in that film.  Who is this young girl who keeps poking me on Facebook? And I need to paint the bathroom walls.

(No wonder I'm not blogging.)

So, the death of someone who I used to know (Mabel), or enjoyed frequently over the years as a regular customer (Rawle), or was the beloved wife of an old college friend (Monica) or was a close friend of a friend has a compounding affect on me since it was just a matter of days that I heard about their passing.  If all this had happened in the space of a few weeks or months, I would have been affected but not as much as this particular streak of news.  Because of it, I can't just tuck this reality away in between trips to Kroger's or the shifts I work at the store.  And the reality of this is, someday it will be my turn.  Anytime, anywhere. 

I'm thankful for the good news that it doesn't matter--that in Christ, I am safely kept in God's sweet lovingkindness and soveriegn goodness.  This has a focusing effect on me, to deeply love but also long for everyone to know this freedom in the Gospel.  The heartbreak isn't wasted on me.  The hope that springs from paying close attention to Scripture fills every breath I inhale. 

Are you ready, Thea?  I admit that I am not,  but I pray that I am getting ready. 

Where is my treasure?  It isn't in the trunk of my car, in my bank account, in the stockmarket, in my closet or in the basement.  It is eternal--like human souls and God's Word, it is a spiritual inheritance, and it is waiting for us in Him.  It is costly and precious--it was paid for by my Savior's blood. 

In the meantime, there is abundance.  I have feelings to feel, love to share, thoughts to think, words to say, connections to make, deeds to do and life to live.  Through this meager person, God could do something significant within and through her--nothing important as the world deems important, but what He is pleased by and displays His glory:  a smile, a hug, an encouraging word, an inside joke, a tear. 

Death, be not Proud (Holy Sonnet 10) 
               --John Donne

DEATH, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,

For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, 5

Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,

Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,

And poppy, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,

And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;

One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.