Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We Are Not Debt-Free

Back in the country where I grew up, we believe in a superstition that whatever your condition is on the first day of the year, it is likely that it will remain that way for the whole year.  As a result it is everyone's goal to set their lives in the best position before the clock strikes midnight on the eve of new year.  People clean their houses really well, fill up their food containers (pantries), get a new hairdo, new clothes, food on the table - enough to be hospitable and generous. etc.  But beyond all these, the most important of them all is the deep-seated tradition to settle all debts before the year ends.  People try everything to be found debt-free when the year turns.  In fact work places give a 13th-month pay to employees just so they may be able to have an abundant table and to settle remaining obligations at the end of the year.  We all, not only Filipinos, find a sense of peace when any accountability is fulfilled.  We all desire freedom.  Who doesn't?  However, I'm not going to continue talking about the debts that we can pay for.

There is a debt that is different from the ones that keep us awake at night.  It is not like the ones that make us want to hide our faces from other people nor the ones that make us grumpy because we didn't pay them on time.  But even if we don't feel this way about this obligation, we ought to because it is heavier than the ones that we all are accustomed to thinking about.  This debt is something we will never be released from.  This is the continuing debt to love one another. Love one another continually.  It is the only way that we will be able to fulfill the law of God.

The verse in Romans 13:8 says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law."

1. Debt to love remains.  No amount of payment will ever free us from the duty to love one another. There is no end to love.  Your mortgage payment will at some point be paid in full but you and I will never be freed from the obligation to love.

2.  Love is not a limited resource.  Love never ends - there is no limit to love.  You can't give it all nor consume it all.  There is no excuse for not being able to love.  For as long as you are connected to the Source, there will always be a steady supply of the grace you need to love.

3.  Love is everyone's obligation to everyone.  In the ideal world people love each other.  However, our human nature compels us to discriminate when we love.  We love those whom we expect to get favor from or those who have shown favor to us - never mind the others.  The scripture says that we are to love others as we love ourselves.

In the Philippine-culture there exist a similar, but not the same, indebtedness - the one that can never be settled.  They are the help extended out of kindness.  The name for this kind of debt is"utang na loob"  (meaning debt that is internal).  This debt remains inside your chest not your chest of gold but the chest that holds your heart.  The only difference from the love that is talked about in Romans 13:8 is that the loving here is limited to the one with whom you owe kindness to.

Once upon a time, there was a King who came out of his palace, and out of his kingdom to come and live in a desperate world of sinful man. These men are walking-dead because they are bound to die with all the punishment due upon them.  The king took it upon himself all their debts paid for all of them with His own.  He lived in poverty and eventually gave up his life in order to pay the full price. He gladly gave it all up so that the walking-dead would have life.  The King is Jesus Christ.  We the people are the walking-dead.

We must love the King who purchased our life with his own so that we get the freedom.  And as people who have been purchased through love - the love of God, he left us a legacy of not only a life of freedom but a life of love.  As free people we have the confidence to show off our inheritance. He said, "love as I have loved you."  With all mercy and grace, He loved us.  We no longer live in scarcity but in abundance through Him.  There is no need to hoard on love, we can be generous now. The problem is, we remain to live our lives as if we are still in debt.  We fail to love because we live in a limited resource mentality.  We fail to be generous because we have not figured out the extent of the inheritance we have.

This is the beginning of a year.  It is time to make a resolution. Make an installment on that continuing debt - one person at a time.  Happy New Year!  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Growing with Our Tradition

Christmas is truly full of traditions with family and friends.  One of our favorite traditions is the making of ginger bread houses which we do with our friends, the Lippuner family.  It started way back when the kids were barely capable of making two pieces of graham crackers stick together, back when they ate more candies than they put on their houses, back when Brahms' house was called a "Junk Yard" because that's what it really looked like.  Last year, however, Marcus made a beautiful Church with a steeple and a cross on the top.  We were then joined by Stephen Denghausen, Shannon's friend, when he made a very simple ginger bread house which was named (by Brahms) "Abraham Lincoln's Cabin".

This year the kids made even more grown-up ginger bread houses.  For the first time ever, Brahms' house was not leaning or in danger of collapsing.  It was very sturdy and even beautiful!  Anna made an Eiffel Tower while Erich made a three story house with decking on the second floor.  Miriam made a beautiful triangular house with fences around it. Even Sue and I made our own houses.  Also this year, Caroline, Marcus' girlfriend, joined us.  She made something similar to what Sue made except that she had something like solar panels on the roof.

Shannon, being a now working girl, was not able to be with us - although I believe that she would have a better picture of houses that are decorated with icing since she now lives in Wisconsin.  This was the first time that one of my own children is not home to make a ginger bread house.  While Brahms is still in college and comes home during winter breaks, a time will also come when he will be bound by other commitments such as job or relationships.  Marcus has already missed other years in the past due to his job and soon Anna's time will also come.  A time will come when there will be only one child at home for both of our families.  But we will deal with it when we get there.

Amber, our transient dog (owned by the Cha Family) was with us again.  The kids love her and she's just the perfect size for our not-so-dog-loving family.

And as we watch our kids grow up we also see ourselves (as parents) grow older.  Where there was once a monochromatic hair color, there are now natural highlights trying to replace the entirety of the original hair. This year I began to show my white hair.  Reluctantly, I began to agree that the color now complements the deepening wrinkles on my face.  It might take time getting used to seeing white hair on my face but eventually this will lead to freedom.  My children are right when they say that it will look awkward for me to have black hair when their father has gray beard and hair. My only argument is that Tim wears his hair short and therefore the gray color does not show as much as it shows on my long tresses. Nonetheless, I am resolved into going along with my age - not ahead but along with it.

The village is changing and so are the people in the village.  :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Season of Hope

(*This post was inspired by my response to an email I received from someone who is undergoing a dark period in life.)

Contrary to being merry, Christmas season is generally a gloomy time of the year.  Meteorological and emotional factors seem to connive in posing impediments to more joyful days. Short days, lack of sunshine, cold weather, the pressures from traditions, people’s expectations, keeping up appearances and thoughts of happier days in the past make us feel defeated sometimes.  It is at this time when people long for things that are not and ignore the things that are. Then the world seem to shrink and you feel squeezed by the current situation.  It is during this times when people resort drastic measures not as way out but an ultimate expression of hopelessness - as if the world ends today.  And yet there is a bigger world outside which is not the same as the tight world you are in at the moment.  There is a way to that place but right now the door is closed.  The question is will you be prepared to get out when that door opens again?   

Christmas is a season and it coincides with winter.  Christmas is like a spark of hope in the midst of darkness.  Like the trees that have enjoyed a period of splendor - will at some point exhaust all their glorious foliage to prepare for dormancy, we need to take the time to slow down.  It is the season to rest.  As a gardener, this is season when we look at the bare essentials of the garden.  When all the garden clutter is gone it is easy to see what needs to be pruned, culled or maintained.  It is also the time to condition the soil and eradicate overwintering pests and their breeding grounds.  Soon spring and summer will be here again when plants begin to bud and bloom again.  Plants will grow because the season for growth will have come. But the new life will depend on how much preparation was done during the rest period.  Will they have a healthy growing season or will they be stunted and deficient?  Will they be weak and susceptible to pests or will they be able to withstand stresses that come along?  Just because growth is not visible during dormancy does not mean that growth is not happening.  Soon when the sun warms the soil, there will be no stopping for growth again. 

God sent Jesus Christ when the world exhausted its all to reinstate its broken relationship with its Maker and failed.  Christmas marked the rest period for mankind. It is the time of peace.  The way out has been opened.  Time to stop trying to find other means to get to what mankind was made to long for - God.  The problem remains to be the wrong focus of our hearts.  And we still keep on doing things. We seem to be stuck on the seasonal rather than the permanent elements of life.  And because we do not allow our hearts to rest, we do not have the time to prepare our hearts for a more robust and abundant spring.  Christmas is not the end but it is the manifestation hope.   Easter is yet to come when God's mercy is manifested in eternal measures. 

Don't get carried away by the temporary concerns of this world but focus on God who is permanent and His undying love.  He set the seasons in place as He brings forth the rain and sunshine at the appointed time.  I was told that Wisconsin is a place that have very definite four seasons.  Unlike California, especially the areas close to the Bay, where the weather varies very slightly from season to season, you can almost wear the same wardrobe for the whole year.  Wisconsin folks learn to enjoy life during the different seasons.  Last spring when I went to help Shannon find an apartment there, we met many people who, strangers as they were to us, made sure they told us about the coming May 24th when the renowned Farmer's Market opens and all outdoor pools will open again.  And when they talked about it there is this anticipation on their faces.  In the midst of the cold they can look forward to the time when they can take away their heavy coats and enjoy the warmth of the sun on their backs again.  Seasons are changing and if we are careful we will see that each season has a good purpose in this life.

Easter is yet to come when God's mercy is 
manifested in eternal measures. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Picture of Kindness

Tim is the most kind person I know. Why am I saying this?  It's because I took this picture as he was passing by and it turned out beautifully!  It reminds me of how kind he is to me. That is who he is all the time but this picture reflects that.  What a favored woman I am to have him. (Thank God!) Even after twenty five years, I still wonder how I got so blessed. 

He is very aware of what I think.  As I often tell him, "You are very nice to me... (long pause) except when you're not very nice to me."  This phrase is safe and useful because it covers not only the beautiful moments but even those those uncommon times when (you know) husband and wife forget that they are husband and wife and they act like enemies. It makes him laugh when I say it to him because I speak in a staggered fashion so that he gets a few seconds to savor the first part of the statement and then he's brought back down to earth with the second part.  Now whenever I complement him, he holds his breath and waits to see if my sentence has ended or not.  It has become a joke between us.  In fact he has used the same complement including the leveling second part on me. :)

It is so unconventional that Jesus would use the relationship of a husband and wife to describe His love for the church.  But the more I spend time with Tim the more I understand my position in Christ. I know how much my husband loves me, everything around the house reminds me of that - the coffee maker, our bed, the couch, the table we eat our meals at, the stove where we both prepare food and many more.  They are there as reminders of that kindness that he is to me.  And even then, as we get older the more consciously I consider his thoughts before I do a certain thing.  I would have thought that it is the other way around.  But knowing my husband more makes me more aware of what works to experience joy and peace.

The question then is, if Tim was to take a picture of me what would he see?  If God was to take a snap shot of my life, what would that picture show?  

Pictures speak louder than words, so they say.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Little Christmas Tree

This is the second time since we moved to this house and third time since Tim and I got married that we used a natural Christmas tree.  We bought our first real tree during our first Christmas together on Helene Lane in Morgan Hill.  Since then we only used a seven-footer artificial tree until last year when we were too lazy to set it up and we bought a 3-foot tree. 

The one we have now is a four-foot Noble Fir.  It is seated on top of my small desk.  No furniture was moved to accommodate it except for my computer - which is not a furniture.  Brahms and Miriam decorated it and they are very pleased at how it turned out.  The only things I had to do was to add more lights and re-position the ribbons.  Shannon who is not home was glad to hear about the size of the tree we got because she has always been a proponent for a small Christmas tree.  

And so I must say that the value of Christmas trees comes not from their inherent size but on the ornaments that we put on them that bring out their sentimental quality - reminiscent of the season. We all are like a little Christmas tree in the eyes of God; on our own merits we are nothing.  By nature we are hopeless and separated from Him. With Christ covering the soul with his own life, man's life sparkles at last. 

Little Christmas tree
 no one to buy you give yourself  to me...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Home Sick

Miriam is enjoying some rest time today.  The hectic school and band schedule finally caught up with her.  There are not a lot going on at school today that resting at home with a bad cold is more important  matter than any of her school commitments today.

As parents, we've always been sensitive to how our kids feel when they are sick.  We are aware of their seriousness about school that when they say they are not feeling well we always give them the option to rest.  Sometimes they insist on going to school but when they say they want to stay home- that is it - no questions asked.

So today, Tim and I also took the chance to catch some needed sleep.  We got up early but when we found out that she's not up to going out we sent back to sleep.

Even our bunny benefited from Miriam being home.  She got a bath and took a long nap.  :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

All I Really Want

At the Lewis House, Christmas season begins after Thanksgiving – not sooner. So it happened that we start listening to Christmas music. Just the other day I was listening to “All I Want” by Steven Curtis Chapman, and it struck me that the world is so lost.

A very long time ago in the time of Moses, a generation of god-seeking people replaced the true God with a product of their hands- a golden calf. God was mad that he would have struck them dead but he forgave them.

A long time ago in a slightly closer past, Jesus came down into the world for a purpose – to give this destined-to-hell people what they needed – a Savior. God gave His Son, out of his love, so that we could have a life with Him in heaven if we believe in Him. He was with us. He lived with us. He took our intended punishment upon himself – even to death on a cross- to free us from eternal damnation. God gave us what we desperately needed, an abundant life. This is Christmas!

We have replaced the source of our joy with things we can hold instead of the One who holds us in His hands. 

But here we are again. Another generation of people, who has seen, lived with or heard of the Savior, is seeking yet another thing in His place. We celebrate Christmas with so many traditions. We have now replaced Jesus Christ with material things. The meaning of Christmas has long been gone and –downgraded. People complain about the phrase “Happy Holidays” and the red Starbucks cups. May it be that we revere the Son of God more than choosing the phrase “Merry Christmas” and drinking coffee in a snow-flake and snow—man decorated paper cup. We train our kids to make wish lists. We buy them the one toy that will make them stand out from the other kids. We believe that the latest electronic gadget will make them happier than everyone else. We have replaced the source of our joy with things we can hold instead of the One who holds us in His hands.

This is the first year that a member of our family resides in another state- a faraway state. Now I wish to have all of us together on Christmas Day with all the traditions (including listening to Kenny Roger’s “Christmas in America” and making ginger bread houses), food (yummy= high fat and sugar content), friends, presents, and games (Catan and Civ) that we have been accustomed to. But most of all, I want my family to be reminded of and act according to the gift we received in Jesus Christ. For what is family without the love of Christ?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Celebrate Diversity

Today as I opened Facebook and scrolled down the news feed, I got this strange feeling of amazement at the diversity of life.  The small circle where I belong is a classic example of this.  In this sphere are my friends who are made up of people I met during the different stages of my life. There are also groups that I follow – some of them I do because they are what my friends like to promote – but most of them are groups I’d like to be identified with because they are related to what I am doing at the present time or to an experience in a previous time of my life.   Each one of them represents something different. 

Diverse World.  Here’s a glimpse of what I saw on my news feed – which made me smile:
  1. Art professor posting about Art work
  2. My niece praising God for passing her physicians license exam
  3. Missionary friends eating Ethiopian food
  4. My former dorm mate advertising a job opportunity in the college she works at
  5. Self-taught artist showing her new finished work
  6. A young niece getting her selfie to send her parents
  7. Pastor challenging Christians to choose their priorities in this world
  8. Former pastor announcing a Badminton tournament
  9. Pastor’s wife announcing a new Women’s bible study
  10. Friend in Canada showing off a growing dahlia (mine is about to fade away)
  11. People greeting people on their birthdays
  12. Cousins in the Philippines sharing articles about the corrupt government
  13. People eating at restaurants
  14. Ladies cooking food
  15. Friends posting pictures of their dogs
  16. People meeting friends
  17. Grandparents showing pictures of their grandchildren
  18. One sister showing picture of her not-so- little-anymore sister
  19. Former coworkers at the Department of Agriculture posting pictures as they attend conferences
  20. Pastor asking about Siri
  21. People showing images at their job
  22. Person in love and in a relationship now missing the simple days
  23. Friend sharing important points from a Sunday sermon
  24. Friends from Natomas showing a caterpillar eating precious plants

Be You and Be Enough.  There you see a diverse world.  We’re all different people making up one community.  We are part of a community that is made up of different talents and gifts and different levels of energy.   The problem arises when some of us want to be like another member.  Our culture promotes imitation.  Find those who are labeled with superlative adjectives, choose the one you want to apply to yourself and then copy.  The problem is – physical characteristic don’t translate verbatim when transferred to another because there is an underlying unique character in each of us that determines the outcome.  And we try and try again, sometimes draining us of peace, to be like someone else.  Don’t stress.  We were meant to be different.  And it is so freeing to know that we were meant to be different.  In this case to be different means to be who I am and be enough

Strobe Lights Hide Things.  The next time envy and discontent creep at you remember someone is dreaming to have your life.  Maybe your friends seem to be eating all their meals in fine restaurants overlooking the ocean, or they seem to be traveling all over the world and they never seem to go home ever; your rich friend buying yet another house or car; your old acquaintances now showing pictures of themselves in a sophisticated-pouty look holding the most expensive purse you’ve ever seen and it makes you wonder what happened to you.  Think again.  They are not showing you everything. Maybe you have that same effect to that friend. The media is a stage where we present ourselves - to be seen.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is only a stage of strobe lights.  We get to show only what we want to show and hide things we’d rather not show.  And if you are the one watching these shows, you are only seeing snap shots, which are a representation of a split-second in the life of a person.  The show is properly managed so that the lights turn on only during the seemingly good times. Therefore, don’t let yourself be shaken by the skin of a tomato (sorry for the Helenism there).  

In the end, there is only one person we should all strive to impress, and that is the author of diversity - God.  You are his workmanship and everything around you is as they are because he allowed them to be.  

Be proud to be your own original self.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Prenuptial Counseling

Today, Tim is doing the second  prenuptial counseling session for Josh and Malia.  I think there will be one more meeting before their wedding which is on December 18th.  This is different from all the other couples he married in the past because we knew Josh from when he was a very young boy. His parents are our friends and shared many memories with them when we lived in the Bay Area. That's right, children of some of our friends are now getting married which means that our turn  to see our children plan to get married is not far from now.  We are getting old. Old enough to see young kids grow to adulthood and now stepping into married life.  It is very exciting!  

I believe Josh and Malia will make a good couple...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Without Shannon

We did the normal things to do - cook Turkey and all the trimmings - the only difference was that Shannon was not there.  It was a relatively quiet day considering how loud the house would have been has Shannon been here.  Nonetheless, the house was still noisy with a lot of conversations, laughter and games.  

As a result of Shannon's absence, Miriam officially took over the making of our traditional Herbed Rolls.  She did a great job - the bread was yummy and it reminded us of a Lewis special occasion. Brahms made all the pies and he made the Pumpkin Pie from scratch.  He's nailed pie-making! 

 It was difficult to make plans for the rest of the family when one is out there and will not be a part of the celebrations.  To make myself feel better, I suggested a menu for Shannon - along with the shopping list to go with it which included the links on which item to buy and where to buy them. I was very relieved when she decided to go with it.   Once a helicopter mom, always a helicopter mom.  :)

As a family, we have a lot to be thankful for everyday. God has always been good to us.  In the end Thanksgiving Day is the day to recount all what we have and to acknowledge the source and the grace that lies behind them.  Thanksgiving Day is a celebration of peace that we can enjoy and not a lamentation over a longing that cannot be satisfied at the moment.

Thanksgiving Day 2015:  Cold and Sunny 

           And so Thanksgiving 2015 went by...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

1.   ORHS Marching Band in Folsom.  The awesome Oak Ridge Marching Band joined the parade in Folsom.  Of course the families of those in the band were also there.  Even visiting family members were there.  Brahms who was off from work and school for the day decided to come home but guess where he spent a good proportion of his time?  The good thing was that he got to look like a good community member, he was with us and had the chance to meet Miriam's drum-line friends.

2.  Rise of Nations.   Miriam has been busy with band and school that she does not have time to  play video games.  Since it was a holiday and he brother was here, they played some.  I remember when Shannon and Brahms were in high school, they always tried to finish their homework early so that they could play some games.  But Miriam hardly ever have free time.  I think the other reason is that she does not have anybody to play with.  Oh the joys

3.  Ukulele.  Whenever Brahms comes home they seem to always find time to sing together.  It's not the serious singing but more like the comical style.  The last time he was home they wrote a song about her learning to play the ukulele.  If they were not laughing I would have thought that it was a real song.  Wait, it is a real song - an original song!  :)

4.  Jamming. Whenever two or tree of my kids are together, the house sounds very happy and noisy.  The noise come from different mediums - laughter, silly singing accompanied by some instruments, joking, story-telling, computer games, video games, board games, eating, washing dishes and depending on the time of the day, snoring :)  This time there was a lot of jamming.  They went on and on until it was time for brother to go back to Davis.

And that is how the day went in this house.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Breaking Barriers for Friends

James, Jane, Mary, Max, Virgie, Vicky, Tim, Tin-tin, Helen, Verma, Marites, and Beng (behind the Camera).

After so many months of not been able to have people over, due to work schedule, thank God, I did it this time.  I am hoping that my mind will work with me so that this will be the beginning of many more gatherings with friends in our house.

A layer of our cover is peeled off every time we get together.

People put on many layers of masks because we are not sure of the people around us.  Self protection and preservation from each other is a natural human behavior.  But when they get together, a layer of their covers come undone.  Subconsciously, we reveal a little bit of ourselves but there is a lot about us that we keep hidden.  Only through repeated exposure of ourselves to the same people do we let loose of our vulnerability.  This may sound dangerous but it is the very way to have peace with everyone - and ultimately to have people we can trust.  For as long as we keep ourselves disguised, there remains a turmoil within us.

As a host I am not always sure that my guests will approve of my house and the food I serve.  But my guests are so good at easing this problem by eating what I serve and also bringing food to share.  That way, they also subject themselves to the same vulnerable position as the host.  Like I said earlier, a layer of our cover is peeled off every time we get together.

Tim teaches the kids to play Pit. 
When we get together, we chance an arm for the sake of friendship.  :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Brahms Goes to Wisconsin

When Shannon moved to Wisconsin last summer, Tim and decided to spread out the visits that we'd make to Madison among the members of our family.  That way we would reduce the length of time between  family visits to her.

Today Brahms travels to Madison to go see his sister.  This will be his first time to travel alone  on a plane.  He had to take care of his own transportation from his apartment to the airport and vice versa. He is a veteran traveler and a curious one so he should be fine.

It was so nice to see both their reactions when we told them about this trip.  It seemed  natural for both of them. They asked no questions, they just started to plan for it. These kids are always very close to each other.  If they will continue to care for each other long after they leave home, that will make our life as parents a happy one.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sophomore Year Begins for Miriam

It is hard to believe my baby is now a sophomore in high school - but true. Three more years and she will be on her way to college.  I should not think of that - but it is good to be reminded of it so that we can intentionally spend as much time possible to enjoy the time at hand.  

In band she will be playing the snare drum this year.  The thought of her drum line buddies tickles her every time.  That is where she made real friends and deeper connections.  She gets excited about music - it is something I don't understand this but I see it happen on a regular basis.  

This year she will be taking the following subjects: Spanish 2; Chemistry; Calculus, AP World History; Honors English; P. E. and band.  She is a diligent student and a smart cookie. 

God please help her to be the person you want her to be.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Special Day

Fifteen years old!  I praise God for this gift that he has given us through our youngest child. The Lord is truly gracious.

Firstly, we started the day with the birthday breakfast:  crepes (with toppings of nutella, peaches, whipped cream and maple syrup) and bacon - Miriam's favorite breakfast savory item.

Secondly, we were joined by Becky Carmickle (M's best friend)  drove to Sacramento in our new Jeep Cherokee (4 days old) to see Mission Impossible on IMAX. (it must be a good movie because I didn't sleep during the show)  Stopped in Shingle Springs for a refreshing Fro Yo.

Thirdly, her big brother pulled out one the classified hamburger recipes in his files and we had an amazing birthday dinner - Lewis Style NorCal Burgers!  And that was just to prepare Miriam to open her amazing presents.

Fourthly, we sang the obligatory happy birthday song with the obligatory candle - unfortunately we had none of the traditional birthday candles so we used what was available.   It worked!  We got to eat a yummy Carrot Cake.

It was very nice that her brother was home.  It makes all the difference in the world when two or more of my kids are together.  Even Shannon who is in a far far away state was on the phone in celebration of Miriam.  

To God be the glory! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Solving a Puzzle (Part 2)

Brahms and his daddy have joined me in finding the similarities between life and solving puzzles.  Here are some of the points they have added:

It is full of many small victories.  Every piece in place is a mini-victory that fuels the motivation to keep on in spite of the monotony.

Sometimes a piece for a definite position will surface while searching for another one.   Surprises are unexpected joys along the way.

The list is still open-ended.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Silver car

The old van now belongs to Brahms.  As a consequence we got to replace it with a new vehicle.  It looks  ordinary but it is brand new (odometer reads 14 miles) and it came loaded with modern gizmos.  I'll have to get used to them but they look fun.  Tim likes it that he can turn on the engine remotely and also read texts messages on the screen.   

God is very good to us.  He is the source and owner of everything we have.  We like it that way  :)      

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Stuff Game

Having the same address for fifteen years allows one to see the deterioration and the proliferation of stuff around you - and at one point or another we get to deal with their disposal and replacement as necessary. That was the case with this family during the last couple of days: a Costco delivery of a new and disposal of an old mattress, two trips to the dump, new wall art replacing an old one, and hours of cleaning the garage - and there still a lot to be done.

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." 
- William Morris

I like to think that I am guided by the quote above.  However, the guidance remains more in my head than in my actions.  The challenge here is a function of the accumulation/elimination ratio. 

The interest in acquiring things come like waves - it comes highs and lows at a consistent interval. "Oh, I love that chair.  It will look good in the reading room."  "Oh no, these rugs are old, I need new ones." "These lamp shades are outdated." And you know what comes next. People are like nesting birds - always adding a twig or fluff to make the home feel or look better.  This situation results in high odds of accumulating not-so-useful and not-so-beautiful things.

On the other hand, the urge to purge comes like a tsunami (at least in this house).  As if we slept in hibernation for so long and finally spring is inflicted upon our every nerve.  Life takes over and everything must be new so we want to the place to feel new again.  But then, accumulation urges kicks right back in and the cycle goes on.

I still dream about the absence of senseless things in my possession.  :)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Date at the Bancroft Garden

Today Tim and I drove to Ruth Bancroft Garden.  The garden features water-conserving plants that ranged from small succulents to large trees (Pictures of plants that caught my interest will be posted in  Mastering Horticulture.)   It was a date in a garden - or it could also be a date in the car.  Although the garden was our destination, the means of getting there was where most of the excitement happened.  The garden experience was mostly for me but everything else was equally enjoyed by both of us.

Driving for three hours was an opportune time to superficially evaluate the vehicles on the road.  This is something we need to do because we are soon to buy a new vehicle after Brahms takes the Nissan Quest.

Eating outdoor at Panera with my dear husband was very nice considering the temperature was 75°F in Walnut Creek.  And of course, ice cream cone on the road is always appreciated.  (I always finish my ice cream first but Tim won't let me help him finish his.)

In the end, we were about to reach El Dorado Hills when "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx started to play.  Tim started to sing - soon after that I joined him.  We were singing a song that was painfully meaningful to us when we were engaged and separated; I was in the Philippines and he was back in the States.  It seems as though whoever wrote the song, knew what we were going through at the time.  :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lewis-Style Scones

Now that Shannon is living away from home and out of state, it has become more challenging to make food for her.  Whenever I make the things that we used to enjoy together, I can't help but think of her and feel really sad.  Soon Brahms might land somewhere further than where he is now - UC Davis.  So I now begin to write some of our family recipes one at a time so that they will have somewhere to refer to whenever they feel like cooking foods that remind them of home.

Fruited Scones
(This is something we started making after we came back from our family's first trip to the UK in 2004.  The recipes we see on cookbooks are often harder and less sweet than what we'd like scones to be.  So Tim and I experimented on existing recipes and came up with something we like.  We serve our scones with freshly whipped cream.)

                1/3 cup margarine or butter
                1 ¾ cups all-purpose-flour
                6 tablespoons sugar
                2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
                ¼ teaspoon salt
                1 egg, beaten
                1 cup dried fruits –mango, cranberries or raisins
                4 to 6 tablespoons half-and-half (or up to ¾ cup buttermilk)
                1 egg, beaten (for brushing the dough)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Hydrate dried fruits with hot water for 5-10 minutes.  Cut margarine into flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with fork or pastry blender (I prefer to use my hands) until mixture resembles fine crumbles. Stir in one egg, the currants and just enough half-and-half so dough leaves side of bowl.  If you prefer soft scones use buttermilk enough to make the batter sticky and soft.
Using spoons shape and then drop them on cookie sheet.   Brush dough with beaten egg.  Bake 10-12 minutes (depending on oven) or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; cool. Serve with freshly whipped cream accompanied with a cup of tea.

About 15 scones; 130 calories per scone.

Savory Scones
(Way back when, I made this recipe for a Parent/Child Chess tournament that my kids participated in.  It was a big hit to the kids as well as their parents and the teachers.  To this day, Miriam and Brahms still remember how good they were.  They might have forgotten how the tournament went but the scones were definitely memorable.)

                1/3  cup margarine or butter
                1 ¾ cups all-purpose-flour
                3 tablespoons sugar
                2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
                ¼ teaspoon salt
                1 egg, beaten
                1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
                ½ cup bacon bits
                 ¾ - 1 cup buttermilk
                1 egg, beaten (for brushing the dough)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Life is Like Solving a Puzzle

This summer, we have been solving puzzles.  One puzzle board is set on the dining table at a time and whenever someone needs a break from whatever they are doing they'd go sit down at the table and try to fit a piece or more depending on the time available.  The one previous one we worked on took us more than a week to put together. And when we were down to the last piece, we had to wait for everyone to be there and Brahms makes the sound effects for drama, for the final piece to be added.  I contribute very little in these puzzle activities, but I make sure to put at least a few pieces in place. 

 Life is like solving a puzzle.  We have a big picture to put together.  The resources are there but they come in small pieces and scattered around.  The pieces are in the wrong places.  In solving the puzzle you are trying the wrong piece in the wrong position or the right piece at the wrong angle.  Here are some of the simple truths I've learned just by watching my family work on the puzzles. 

Perception and focus determines the length of time involved in the completion of your puzzle. Scattered pieces require a collected mind.  Every time a piece is set in position a mini success is achieved. And it all begins in your grasp as to the way pieces appear and extrapolation as to their best possible position on the board.  Each piece carries a clue as to its position in the big picture and discerning that clue is what we the challenge is.  

Attention to detail is key to finding the right piece for a specific position.  Puzzle pieces look the same at first glance but each one is made different no matter how much they seem to resemble each other.  

Ease and security are the real test to the right fit.  Given the permission I would trim pieces to fit into the puzzle. Sometimes that's how we deal with life - trying everything to make the wrong piece fit.  It is my observation that this will only create more problems - deeper problems.  The right piece is still somewhere waiting to be found. 

Team work can make the the journey more fun.  Sometimes we feel alone in our endeavors but in fact there are those around us who are working with us.  Don't try to do everything.  

Distractions are necessary every once in a while to reset our impressions about a particular piece.  Trying the same piece into the same place over and over again is not progress so it is a good idea to go do something else.  When another problem solving time comes again, you might be able to see it differently.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Underground Sac Tour

Old Sacramento is a favorite destination when it comes to learning about the history of California including the gold rush, trains, and railroads are among the topics often featured in the local museums.  One aspect of Sacramento's past that has had little publicity up to this point is the Underground Sacramento.  But now, Underground tours are offered daily to the public.  

My family is a bunch of history geeks with one exception - me.  So we went on the subterranean tour of Sacramento.  We learned why the city got to go higher than its original elevation and how the people did it.  One can only imagine that the work was hard and workers lived a difficult life.  But I'm sure they didn't know back then because that was the only life they knew.  However, we all appreciate and benefit from the result of the hard work of people who came before us.  
After the tour we had lunch at Joe's Crab Shack.  This time we did not have to wait in line for thirty minutes.  The day was generally fun!  I just wished my oldest was with us.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Miriam in Hawaii (Part 1)

I can't remember when we (my husband and I) decided to make a proclamation that stated that when they (our children) would turn 14, they get to travel alone with one parent, but we stood to that promise to our children.  And this year, it was Miriam's turn and she chose Hawaii as her destination. Fortunately for me, I had to go with her.

Breakfast at Mauna Lani

June 1, 2015.   Miriam and I flew to Kona, Hawaii and arrived at the Mauna Lani Hotel at 10 o'clock pm where we were offered with cold face towels (a sensible thing to have after a long flight from Sacramento) a glass of cold fresh guava juice (an upgrade from the soda we had in the airplane)  and beautiful leis made of fine shells (as a reminder that we were about to begin our vacation).  Then we were escorted to our room - they said we had an ocean view but at that time it was too dark for us to verify.  

Akaka Falls

 It was our first time to be in Hawaii outside of the airport.  I always thought that Hawaii, because of its tropical setting and the pictures seen on magazines or books, that it is all lush and green - a rainforest that is full of orchids, passion fruit vines, and ferns.  Well, I just realized that this was only part true.  The island (Hawaii) is divided by the volcanoes into two major classification - the dry and the wet side.   Kona is the dry side where the area get very little rain.  Volcanic rocks dominate the scenery.  One can drive for a long time without seeing any vegetation apart from the fountain grasses along the roads or the man-made oasis around hotels. The place is so clean and untouched - the rocks are fresh from the earth's core, they have not undergone weathering at all.  I'm exaggerating but you get the idea.  This is the touristy part of the island because it is always sunny - hardly any rain. People can sun-bathe all day everyday in Kona.


On the other side of the island is Hilo, capital city, where an average of 130 inches of rain is dumped annually.  This is where the rainforests are found.  When we visited this side, we were supposed to take a helicopter tour but it was raining so hard that the flight was cancelled.  Nonetheless, we were in a place where where waterfalls flow unceasingly into rivers that never seem to run dry.  The air is heavy with humidity and the vegetation is glossed by frequent showers and rains.  Miriam and I zip-lined across some of these rivers, water falls, and some green pastures that are saturated in water. We had fun except for the fact that we did not have rain jackets and we were in a high elevation area.  Miriam was particularly cold. 

Kilauea at dusk

The other thing about Hilo is that it is the home of one of the most active volcanoes on earth - Kilauea.  We went near the crater at dusk to watch it glow. As the sun fades away and when you see the color of the crater slowly turn orange, you cant help but feel that you are actually looking into a portal to the center of the earth (don't you dare get into it!).  Well, there was another igneous portal that we entered but it is a cooled down version of the orange one we saw in the crater - lava tube that is so huge a bus could fir in it (I think).  

To be continued...

Miriam in Hawaii (Part 2)

Vacations are great because they provide a temporary break the monotony of the everyday.  First of all,  the setting change.  The place that says chores in every corner is behind you and you're headed to some place where everything says relax and have fun. Often times, our family vacations are a combination of relaxation and experience.  We always begin with a good hotel because when you stay in a nice place there is no requirement for anything more- everything else is icing on the cake. Our trip to Hawaii was no exception.  All that Miriam asked for is a nice place to stay with access to a sand beach.  We got both at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel And Bungalows.  

High tide or low tide, the beach offered Miriam fun things to do.  The morning's low tide gave her the chance to walk on the volcanic rocks and discover the wonderful marine life that reside in them.  In the afternoons we sat on the beach and waited for the sun to set while the water slowly rose beneath our feet.  We spent many hours doing nothing but experiencing God's creation.  It is amazing how the waves slapping on our feet brought so much surprise and laughter as we laid on the hammock.  

One of the things that Miriam and I enjoyed so much is the warm water both of the ocean and the swimming pools.  This is something I took for granted when I was growing up in the Philippines.  I always assumed that the ocean is always the same anywhere until I moved to to a place where the water is really cold even in the summer. So spent most evenings soaking in the pools and just being silly.  

Mauna Lani Bay, featured marine life throughout the hotel grounds. There was water everywhere and every water-feature contained different fishes - including the honu (sea turtle), sting ray, shark, and brackish water fishes of many colors.  Although we spent some time following turtles and fishes in the shallow waters of the sea, most of the species we would have seen there are already swimming by the stream that runs along the Terrace Bay (where we ate breakfast) and the Canoe House.

It was a short five-day vacation but I could not account for every things we experienced together. I am very sure that Miriam has a compilation of her own memories of that time.  The important thing is that we will always have something that is unique to just the two of us and we will remember them as a time when we had each other's undivided time and attention.  There are many other occasions like this throughout the span of growing-up years when we there were just the two of us -like a trip we both took to the Philippines, but this is will be the only one that happened when she's 14 years old.

Time is flying by so fast for my baby girl.