Monday, June 18, 2007

Brahms and Shannon Attends Sac State

Academic Talent Search (ATS) allows young students to experience university instruction. Shannon and Brahms both passed the qualifying exam. Shannon is taking Neurobiology and Flash Animation. Last year she took Poetry and Chinese which she truly enjoyed. I believe that she would have taken other course this year if the schedule was not in conflict with our trip to Belize.

Brahms took a class in Flash animation and Cartooning. He is fascinated with computer animation and would like to do a lot more himself. We might have to buy the software that would allow him and Shannon to apply what they learned. It is quite expensive but we could get the student version for $200-$300.

Brahms at Ridgeview Park, 2007

He and Shannon had so much fun because they both took flash animation but at different schedules. It was good to see them discuss things which both of them knew or learned from the same day.
Yesterday, we got their grades and they were all excellent and that their teachers made very encouraging remarks. Shannon is going to talk to their school councellor to see how her points earned from ATS classes will apply to her high school requirements.

Tim is Back From Asia

Tim was gone for two weeks as he travelled to Beijing and then to Tokyo and Osaka. He was travelling with Guarav who is a vegetarian and doesn't like sushi. Needless to say it was difficult to find a place to eat with him.

When Tim travels he makes it a point that he calls me everyday, emails Shannon and Brahms and entertains Miriam on the Instant Messanger at night. That way we get to know what is going on with him on that day and vice versa. One time I was talking to him on the phone and surprised he tells me that there is a man, outside his hotel room, cleaning his window.

For his Starbucks mug collection he brought one from Osaka and another one from LA. Unlike his last trip to Taiwan he did not forget the mugs in the plane this time. It seems that Starbucks is coming up with more colorful designs these days. For his children he brought them some mini teddy bears from the hotel in Beijing. He brought me some green tea but I think that he does not know how to buy good tea.

One thing that he does when he comes back from a trip is to tell me of the unusual food that he had and if he likes one thing then he would try to make it and have me try what he had. I'm sure it is not the same as what a professional chef would make but it gives me an idea. This time he tried an omelette with cheese, turkey and rice as the filling. It is very Asian but I would have never thought of putting rice in there. It was good.

He siad that in Japan it is considered rude to talk on your cell phone in public. Text messaging is acceptable. Also carrying your food is alright but eating it while walking is not. This reflects the lifesyle that they live in Japan.

Now that he is back I don't have to make my coffee again. I feel at home again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Belize It or Not

Our family is going on a missions trip to Belize! Tim and I have decided that we would do something different this year. Instead of a pleasure trip for the summer it will be service-oriented. It will be educational, full of history, adventure and even fun.

STEM (Short-Term Evangelical Missions) is one of the few organizations that would take a six-year old girl, like Miriam, to be a misssionary. Yes, she is the youngest in the team. During our orientation last week she was asked to say something about herself and reason for going. She was very confident when she responded. "My name is Miriam. I have a big house... I want to go to Belize because I want others to know about God". We didn't teach her.

Everyone is getting ready: Shannon is polishing her skill in playing the flute. It should not be too hard since she has been in the award-winning Camerado Springs Concert Band; Brahms is collecting all props for a puppet show to teach kids about the parables of Jesus. He is a pro in this area being an active member of the puppeteering group in Cornerstone. Miriam is reading a lot about Belize. Tim is preparing a couple of sermons and devotional topics. He has done all the logistics of this trip from getting our fees and air tickets paid to getting a visa for me. He checks the weather in Belize everyday so we could get accustomed to it. My job is easy: Telling my family about life in a tropical third world country. This includes food (quantity and kind), humidity, temperature, lack of air conditioning, insects or bugs, people, etc. I'm also in the process of making mosquito nets for us to bring. Having slept under one for almost all my life in the Philippines, I know that mosquito nets work well as a barrier between me and mosquitos, centipedes and even cockroaches.

We will soon be asking friends and relatives to start praying for us and our team.

School Year is Over

Shannon finished 8th grade with honors. She did really well and I am very proud of her. Next year she will say Hello to Oakridge High School. Brahms will be going to 7th grade, still in Camerado Springs. Miriam will be in 2nd grade at Brooks Elementary. Three children in three different schools. What a year it will be?!

In the mean time we had to celebrate for all of them having done well during the past school year. Last Wednesday (May 30) we hosted a party where Shannon invited some of her 8th grader friends, Brahms invited his 6th grader friends and Miriam invited Erich, her special friend. There were a lot of fun things to do: LAN games, xbox, ddr, air hockey, pillow fights, chatting and eating.Tim was incharge of grilling ribs and tri-tip steak. The food was good overall. It was a very successful party. All three of them were really happy at the end of the day. Brahms hugged me several times to thank me for making the party possible. Shannon was all smiles as she remembered all the events that went on.

We thank God for the children He has given us. They are good kids. May he continue to guide and protect them.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Distinction vs Mediocrity

As I read the Business Journal today, I came across a page about a construction company in the Sacramento area, that has been awarded the honor of being a WCCC Project Winner for the last five years. Then I asked myself, how could one company get such distinction. My default reaction was to parallel it with the real life situation. Our life is like a construction company. We begin by getting ourselves involved in a relationship, a project, a job, or a ministry in church ( just to name a few examples). All these require commitment and investment. We often do our business in life with our minds set on the benefit we derive in the end. We ask the questions: What am I going to get out of this? What will I gain? How much profit will I get? How much better will I look? What recognition will I get? Will my neighbors or friends look at me with envy afterwards? These are the questions of a common man. These are the questions of an ordinary construction company.

Aragorn the character from the Lord of the Rings said right before he took off to fight in the battle against the forces of darkness, "I leave nothing for myself!" He was all devoted to the cause that he was fighting for. That is a fiction. However, we know of a real story of a man who gave up everything he had including his life so that mankind would have life. He suffered (whipped), he bled (pierced to death), he gave up his pride (spat upon and considered as a thief) and he gave up his throne. Yes, he was Jesus, the King of Kings. If we analyze his situation before the end, we would think it is a tragedy. Not so. Jesus was glorified in heaven and now sits at the right hand of God . Aragorn, the fictional king, was triumphantly crowned King in the end.

How much do we usually leave for ourselves? Yes, it is hard to give beyond what is comfortable. It is hard to imagine giving up the things that make us feel good and secure. We hold on to our comfort zone and we shun risking our time and resources for a good cause. Our sight is short. We tend focus on the events before the end. We forget that there is one more chapter beyond what we see - the awards ceremonies.

Mediocrity takes over because we reserve huge a allowance for the unknown. We refuse to give it all. We desire distinction and yet we skimp on faith.  No wonder there are more ordinary than there are award-winning construction companies. It is no wonder that there are more pseudo followers of Christ than there are Christians.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sixteen Years Today

Today Tim and I have been married for 16 years! Sixteen years and we still like being married to each other, a lot! May our Lord God continue to bless and guide us.

We have always celebrated our anniversary as a family starting when Shannon was a little baby crying while we ate our anniversary dinner at Sizzler in Morgan Hill. The other day the five of us: Mommy and Daddy, Shannon, Brahms and Miriam went to dine at Zinfandel Grill in Folsom to remember the day when Tim proposed to me. Previously we often did something special just for the two of us on this day. In the past years we either went to see a play, a movie, ate at that fancy restaurant at the San Jose airport called Aero Squadron, ate at not-so-fancy places like Marie Callenders, wrote our state-of-the-marriage letter to each other, went shopping for some jewely, stayed at our favorite hotel on Monterey, another year in Sacramento, or a surprise trip to Seattle.

Today is different because instead of doing something special for the two of us or for our family, we did something special with our Friday-Night bible study. I cooked a nice dinner for all of us and we had fun eating and sharing about our lives. Today we shared the joy of having a beautiful marriage with others. I think we have morphed from being selfish about our anniversary to being service-oriented. That is a good thing!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nobody Wins In A Draw

There was a child in a first grade class, where I was substitute teaching, who was very unruly. When I asked what his problem was, he gave me the impression that he is on medication (for ADD). "I didn't take my other medicine that's why I'm having a bad day!", he said.

In a different school, I called the attention of a child who was misbehaving. When asked what was wrong, he said "I'm a victim of child-abuse".

I wondered how many times these kids have said the same thing to other people to explain their misbehavior. They are convenient excuses. They are easy to come and reliable. However repeated use of such excuses make them less effective, in fact they become sour.

In chess, this situation is called a draw. A draw can occur when one player repeatedly moves one of his pieces to avoid a mate or losing another piece. Repeated moves occur when one player found success with such move and is now relying only on that one position to succeed. In a draw both players are not capable of advancing because of one player's resistance to take a progressive move.

No one wins in this situation. It may seem safe to end a confrontation in a draw but in reality, both parties end up in a status quo. Progress is hindered when there is no willingness to take risk. The kid who can determine that his behavior is due to his failure to take medication is also mentally capable of knowing that a behavior is inappropriate and therefore should be avoided. As a teacher I feel that I am on the other side of the board. Therefore, the challenge to change the situation in order to avoid a draw is also partly resting on me. It is my role to to encourage this child to make a strong-wise move. Encourage him to be strong and bold in taking responsibility for his own actions and be humble enough to admit that he could improve on his manners. There is one key factor in the success of such attempt: love.

Helen T. Lewis

Helen, the name of the person who owns this blog. Helen is married to a great and loving man and they have three beautiful and smart children. She and her whole family are christians. They love and serve God in many different ways, small and big, in secret and in the eyes of man.

At present Helen is a substitute teacher for the El Dorado County Department of Education in California. In addition to that she is an Adjunct Professor of Horticulture at the Los Rios Community College District - Cosumnes River College (CRC).

She used to be a Horticulturist working on potato research for the Philippine Department of Agriculture and the International Potato Center.

These information will serve as benchmark in understanding some of the things that Helen will write in the future.