Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Solution to Ruined Watermelons--Granita!


It's one of my favorite fruits, right up there with really ripe mangoes, lychees and longans.  Because it's the only non-tropical fruit in my top four, it's my fallback for life on the mainland.

But I'm still not sure how to pick them.  According to my cousins, their dad always picks perfect melons--the secret being thumping them to hear the right hollow sound.  Having never learned his watermelon-whispering ways, I thump away at the grocery store, but my results are definitely mixed.
My best chance of picking a great watermelon is looking for the reddest, ripest shrink-wrapped half in the fruit section.

Recently, I bought 2 watermelons in a row that were bad, from 2 different stores.  More unfortunately, they were supposed to be dessert for 2 separate parties (a Chinese-American hostess's worst nightmare).

As I've talked around, at least in Boston, there's a bonanza of bad watermelons going around!

I suspect these melons were frozen in transit because they tasted fine but the texture was awful.  All those tiny watermelon bubble cells looked like they had burst, creating a slimy mess.  The friend charged with cutting my melon suggested making granita with the ruined carcass.

I looked up a recipe on the internet and voila!  Without a huge amount of effort, granita!  Serve it in a martini glass like the picture on the left and it's the perfect elegant summer treat.

My first batch was a little too sweet, so make sure you adjust to your taste.  As I've served huge amounts of watermelon granita to myriad friends attempting to escape the heat at our pool, most prefer their granitas with a shot of rum--a watermelon daquiri.  The rum cuts the sweetness.

When you present your friends with this awesome dessert/drink, you don't have to tell them about the slimy disaster that came before--you can just look like a classy host/hostess, whether or not you're Chinese!

Watermelon Granita

8 cups watermelon
½ cup sugar
2 Tbs. lime juice

1.     Blend watermelon, sugar and lime juice together in a blender
2.     Freeze in a shallow pan or ice cube trays (but you'd need a ton of ice cube trays)
3.     Run hot water over outside of pan so watermelon ice releases.  Chop into small squares on a chopping board
4.     Blend watermelon ice cubes until  it looks like fluffy crystals
5.     Serve!  (Add a shot of rum if you want watermelon daquiris)

Note:  the granita crystals may harden into ice over time--just re-blend them.
2nd Note:  1 ruined watermelon made about 3-4 times the recipe--it's a lot of granita!  That's why you need a lot of friends to help finish it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

I've Learned some Lessons Well

Today I had the privilege of spending time with one of the women I admire most--my Sunday School teacher Nan.

Nan started teaching the junior high class when I was in 8th grade.  I was pretty jaded on church youth programs, having just endured a Big Island youth group trip where I felt like I had been thrown to barracudas, and had learned to swear in defense (a habit, unfortunately, I've never broken).

Nan announced that we would study the book of Revelation, humbly protesting that she was a boring teacher who only knew how to plod verse by verse.

And then she opened to Chapter 1.

And I was hooked.  

Although I can't remember many specifics from back then, her pedagogy taught me far more than any details about lamps or dragons or lukewarm churches.  Here are some of the most important lessons:

  1. The Bible is complex, there are many ways to look at each passage (Nan often gave 5 different ways scholars saw certain things), but if you dig hard and stay with the text, good news inevitably follows.
  2. Questions are at the heart of vibrant faith!  Nan welcomed questions, and when she didn't know the answer, went home to look up potential answers.  One time a kid asked about heaven and hell.  All us "churchy" kids snickered at his ignorance.  But Nan took him seriously and came back with everything the Bible said about heaven and hell.  Turns out there's not that much and it isn't so simple after all.
  3. God is good!  And you don't have to throw out your brains to believe in Him!
  4. Trust:  Nan trusted us and she trusted God.  She didn't pound dogma or "right" thinking into our noggins.  Instead, she provided options for how we could consider things and said, "Pray and see what God tells you."  Wow!  Encouraging 8th graders to make good decisions after prayer--now that's trust!
When I moved to China in 9th grade, Nan sent a care package from the Sunday School class for Christmas.  She included small ichthus/fish earrings that somehow didn't get stolen by the Chinese postal service.  I wear one of them in my left ear to this day.  But far more than gold earrings, being remembered and nurtured as I stumbled through culture-shock and geometry in Chinese meant the world to me.

When I returned from Beijing, to my joy, I learned that Nan would still teach my class and she continued with us through 11th grade.  (By my senior year the church decided to spread the wealth to other ages, despite my complaints)

Several times in those years, when I ran across a Bible passage that made no sense whatsoever, I called Nan.  Each time, she spent a couple hours away from her two sons and husband and on the phone with me.  For someone who said she was a humble teacher, she always knew the troublesome passage and how various scholars interpreted it.  

Over the years, my penchant for questioning got me in trouble and sometimes rejected by believers who didn't like being challenged.  But when I looked at those who judged me, versus folks like Nan who encouraged me, it was easy to decide whose opinion I cared about and who I wanted to emulate.  

If I've ever ministered in a way that's brought the same lessons to students and faculty, and I sure hope I have, it's because  Nan's teaching has altered my spiritual DNA.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Mother is an Elk

She became one about 3-4 years ago when she realized that joining the Elks meant she could get relatively free parking at the beach with a shady place to sit and sip iced coffee while grandchildren played in the pool and waves crashed against the sea wall.

"Do you have to wear funny hats with antlers?" asked my husband.


"Do you have to do secret ceremonies and give your allegiance to Satan?"

"No!  You have to believe in God to join."

"What is the mission of the Elks then?" I asked.  After all, what else could they be about if it isn't wearing antlers and worshiping the devil?

"I don't know!  I think it's being patriotic or something like that. They care a lot about veterans."

This feels ironic because my parents are almost the least patriotic people I know.  Mama often comments on how great American freedoms are, and is especially moved by how generous the American people can be, especially to other nations.

"Zi shao men qian xue," she's quoted throughout our lives, "The Chinese saying is 'You sweep the snow only in front of your own door,' but America's always pouring out money for disasters and to help people.  It's a wonderful thing about this country."

But let's face it, my parents both left China because of their parents--Baba because his father became a diplomat--Mama because her father was at the United Nations trying to get help for General Li's government.  When the Communists took over, they both lost their country.  They became Americans out of necessity and convenience.

Until Mama informed us she was joining the Elks, I'd never even heard of the Honolulu Elks Club.  Turns out it's right next to the Outrigger Canoe Club which is perceived to be one of the most exclusive clubs on the island.  I don't know if it's true, but the scuttlebutt growing up was that only Haoles (Whites) and Hawaiians were allowed to join the club.  The few times I visited with a friend from church, it sure looked like the rumor was true, but it was fun to watch Tom Selleck play 2 on 2 volleyball in the sand nevertheless.

In Hawaii, we experience an amazing mix of cultures with just about every kind of Asian or Pacific Islander represented plus Haoles (about 30%).  The multi-cultural mix is truly wondrous.

But we're not so great on class.  And attending Punahou School as a physics professor's daughter sure made me aware of how I didn't fit the rarefied strata of my elite prep school.  All our expendable income went into Punahou tuition, and by high school, we only made it because Punahou gave scholarships to all four of us.

I was lounging where that white shirted guy sits
all afternoon today--yes, life is difficult sometimes
My siblings and I felt dubious when Mama decided to become an Elk, but walking into the club today I could see why folks come early and drink all day long at the bar (something Mama disapproves of heartily).

It's beautiful!  With the ocean, trade winds, sunshine, and open restaurant, I'd like nothing more than to laze there all day long, drink in hand.  They even had singers strumming guitars and singing soothing Hawaiian music in the lounge.  Even with my 2 parents and 3 kids clamoring for me to swim it was great.

It didn't take Mama much work or money to become an Elk.  She needed 3 recommendations and wrestled those up easily.  Walking into the club, I noticed Elks are much more ethnically diverse than Outrigger members.  And it turns out the Elk's Club actually owns the land on which the Outrigger Canoe Club sits.

Swimming in the ocean past the Outrigger Canoe Club with my kids today, I realized a truth about my identity.

Of course I never fit with the Outrigger crew--I've been the child of an Elk all along.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Termite Night in Hawaii

"Termite night!  Termite night!" Mama has just announced to the whole family.

"The kids don't know what that means," I told her.

When flying termites swarm on hot muggy nights like tonight, our family turns off all the lights and spends the rest of the evening in the dark.  That's because termites are attracted to light, and if they see our lights, they might bore their way into our wooden house and make it fall down in the night.
termite fumigation

Periodically, houses across Honolulu are covered by what looks like huge colorful balloons, blue, red, yellow, or striped like the picture to the right,  as they're fumigated for termites, so this is a real problem.

Nevertheless, when I told some Mainland friends about Termite night and sitting as a family in the dark throughout my childhood and youth, they were flabbergasted at the thought.

"You sit in the dark?  The entire family?"


"Isn't there another way to deal with termites?"

Well, honestly, if there is, we never even thought to figure it out.  It's just easier to turn off the lights and sit in the dark--often we watch TV, the low flickering lights being too weak to lure our wood-chewing enemies.

As Mama just informed Kai-Kai, "No sense luring those termites to come chomp on our house!"

When Mama turned off the lights, Baba was still eating dinner.  He's now wiping off the dining room table in the shadowy light the kitchen casts.  Despite her warnings, Mama's rinsing dishes with the light on.  The kids are attempting to give each other spa massages in the dark and asking for flashlights.  I'm sitting in the living room with only my laptop for light.

It may be crazy, but after all, it's termite night again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Seattle Whirlwind Adventure

As I write, I'm sitting on the floor of the Seattle airport at the only free outlet I can find, recharging my computer.  The kids and I are on our way to Hawaii!

We have a 6 hour layover here in Seattle, so I had the crazy idea of renting a car, driving to Seattle and having an adventure.

I think this idea came to me because I once took a personality test that asked what I would do if I had a 5 hour layover.  The options were something like:

a.  Find a seat and a good book and wait out the layover
b.  Take a bus into the city and see the views
c.  Find a bar in the airport and drink as many beverages as possible

I picked "b" because I liked thinking of myself as the adventurous sort of person who would dash out to see the sights, but back then, I probably was really an "a" person.  Now that I've got 3 kids, I think "c" has taken over.

So I booked a rental car even though they were all crazy expensive, got the advice of some friends who've been to Seattle, and decided to fulfill my own picture of myself--with 3 kids in tow.

Of course, this personality test came before the days of 9/11, extra security, and no liquids under 3.4 ounces.  By this morning, as we left the house at 6 a.m., I really wondered if I was crazy.

It wasn't so bad.  It took forever to get to the car rental office (I now know why it was the least expensive).   It took four tries of loading and unloading our carry-ons into car trunks to find a car that worked (1. too smoky, 2. trunk too visible in a hatchback, and 3. a back seatbelt didn't buckle).

Two days ago the weather report said Seattle would be cloudy--we got here and it's rainy.  But the girls, who've devoured the Twilight books, are well-aware of weather up here in Washington so weren't fazed.

"Can we go to Forks?" they asked.   For those who haven't entered the Twilight universe, Forks is the home of Bella Swan and her vampire friends--who all live in Forks because it's the cloudiest space in our country.  I have no idea where Forks lies in relation to Seattle so had to veto that option.

We visited the Space Needle and they took pictures while I sat in the car so I didn't have to park.  (On a cloudy day it made no sense to go up)  We went to Pike's Place and watched fish throwing, visited the original Starbucks, wandered among a zillion shops, ate Chinese char siu bao and French crepes, plus bought 3 of the most delicious white peaches I've ever tasted.

Ling's job was to read my iphone and navigate me around Seattle--this didn't work very well, so we did a lot of U-turning.  Other than almost crashing into a blue car as I tried to pull over, we survived the trip and made it back in plenty of time.

It might be crazy to do Seattle in 4 hours or less, especially if it's only to fulfill my own dream of myself, but I have to say, it was pretty fun!

They're calling for us to board--next time I blog, I'll be in paradise!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Affair not to Remember

Last week, I finally used a gift certificate for a massage that expired the next day.  Scott had come home from work so I snuck out and refused to tell the kids where I was going—I just didn’t want anything to interfere with my enjoyment, especially their accusations that I was self-indulgent. 

When I got back, a daughter immediately began sniffing me all over, my neck, my arms, my back—it was like having a tall thin and beautiful beagle greet me. 

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m checking to see if you were off having an affair.”  This same child has noticed at times that I smell like Daddy’s cologne, so I guess she was sniffing for strange male scents. (Sorry if that’s TMI, but I did just give a sex talk yesterday!)

“What makes you think I was having an affair?”

“Daddy wouldn’t tell us where you were, and you wouldn’t tell us where you were going.”

“If I were having an affair, do you think I’d do it when Daddy was home and that he’d cover up for me?”

“Oh, right.”

The next day, the same daughter said, “I think you’re having an affair with your work.”

Here she was on the mark.  I was desperately trying to wrap up my work before leaving for Cana and then Hawaii.  Everything face-to-face that needed to happen had to happen last week.

I sighed.  “You’re right.  I AM having an affair with my work this week.  And next week I’m going to be having an affair with Cana.  But when we go to Hawaii I won’t be having an affair with either of those, and when we go on our special trip just the two of us, I will have an affair with just you.”

In our Sex talk yesterday, we talked about keeping boundaries strong in marriage—including shutting off all the possibilities in the chart to the left.  We also have covenanted to confess if we’re feeling attracted to someone else. Nothing like humiliating oneself before one's spouse to burst the bubble of infatuation.

But frankly, I’m often more drawn to work responsibilities, or personal opportunities, or just time for myself than I am to other men, hence the sense that my affections are engaged elsewhere.

Maybe I just need more tall beautiful beagles sniffing around my life each day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sex! Now that I've got your attention. . .

(Those were the signs advertising game booths and malasadas and Korean plate lunch plastered all over telephone poles and tents at Punahou Carnival, the largest carnival in the state of Hawaii that my school put on every year)

This morning Scott and I will be giving the “Sex Talk” at the Cana Marriage Retreat.  We gave it 2 years ago, and surprise surprise, no matter how I recruited others to give it this year, everyone politely declined. 

Since Friday, our family’s been serving at Cana—the 2 girls are serving the kids program, Kai with 1-2 year olds and Ling with 5+.  Ren’s had the privilege of being a real “kid” but because his sisters aren’t, he doesn’t see it that way. 

As always, serving has been exhausting, challenging but also incredibly rewarding—we get to see God orchestrate events, open up communication within couples, heal old hurts and resentments.  In the years I served with kids, although I loved creating a fun camp for them, the real satisfaction came in knowing I was facilitating their parents’ marriage transformations.  After all, no matter how great a camp I ran, nothing will benefit kids more than their parents having a reconciled and loving relationship. 

Curious about what we’re going to say?  You’ll just have to come to Cana yourself.

But I’ll give you the highlights:

1.     God loves it when married couples have sex
2.     Regularly
3.     Like a discipline
4.     Even if they don’t want to

In our talk, we’ll give a lot more interesting and gory details.  Want to hear them?  Come on down the next time we run Cana!  

Because the way it’s going we might be giving this talk for many more years to come.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Two days ago I competed in the first ever Boston Grad/Faculty Ministries Guac-off at our annual summer team meeting/pool/jerk chicken BBQ party.

The competition was stiff.  Jeff, who hails from Southern California, hence has the most authentic experience with guacamole, brought the best avocados—large, creamy and in perfect condition (although his wife apparently told him he shouldn’t even compete—such is the strength of my culinary reputation!). 

As always, not my guac--but mine looks like this!
Only I don't own that great stone bowl
Marianne brought a guacamole flecked with cilantro, but was hampered a bit by making it the night before.  And I brought the guacamole I invented some years back when I learned that in Mexico limons are actually limes, not lemons.

I was nervous.  With all the craziness going on, I forgot to buy avocados in time, so mine were a little hard and not as creamy or flavorful as they would have been a day later.  I also never measure ingredients, so any slip of the hand could have sullied the batch.  Finally, I don’t claim to make the world’s best guacamole.  There are many other delicious guacamoles I’ve guzzled—the best probably being my friend’s brother-in-law’s.  He makes homemade jalapeno jam that he adds to the mix. 

I’m not about to make homemade jalapeno jam just so I can make fantabulous guacamole, so I settle for a very good guacamole.

We served our guacamole in matching plastic Chinese bowls because I’ve found it lasts longer in plastic than metal.  Tim later complained that I created unfair advantage because my bowl’s Chinese pattern was less worn than the other two, but I hadn’t noticed when divvying up the bowls—honest!

The 4 teammates who weren’t competing judged.  Everyone voted for their favorite. . . and Jeff got eliminated, with me and Marianne neck to neck with 2 votes each.   

Jeff was a gracious loser, shaking his head and reiterating how his wife told him not to compete but that this was the guac recipe he grew up eating. 

At this point, we needed some fair way to break the tie.  3 Spanish-speaking landscapers just happened to be ripping apart my yard during the guac-off.  We didn’t know what country they hailed from, but figured they would be the best judges of all.

It took some cajoling to get them to wash their hands and judge the competition—Jeff rejoicing in the chance to use his Spanish.  They shook their heads at the strange ways of these gringos (are Chinese-Americans gringos too?).  But finally, shaking their heads, they made their way over, grabbed a chip and dipped.

The result? 

I won by a landslide.  All 3 pointed to my bowl.

Tim claimed that they were unduly influenced because they wanted to get paid.  I maintained that there was no way they knew which was my guacamole, even if it sat in a darker bowl.

All in all, 7 of us and 3 landscapers ate 13 avocados worth of guacamole and chips—plus everything else.  I’m still trying to justify how eating a cup of guacamole is part of the i-diet. 

Despite writing about the challenges of being an InterVarsity staff 2 days ago, there are definitely perks—13 avocados worth!

Kathy’s Very Good Guacamole
(I don’t measure ingredients, so these are very approximate guesses—taste along the way to make sure you like how it’s shaping up)

4 avocados (preferably Hass, much creamier and fattier), ripened so the bottom gently gives way when pressed (if you buy them green, generally ready after about 3 days of sitting on a not too hot counter)
juice of ½ -2 limes (depending on how juicy)
¼- ½ tsp ground cumin or more
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
¼ - ½ tsp salt (if you’re serving with very salty chips, use less)
cayenne pepper (optional)
minced cilantro (optional)
¼ cup diced red onion or more
¼ cup diced ripe tomato, seeds removed first, or more

1.                             1.     Mash avocados with a fork (I like my guac chunky). 
2.     Mix in lime juice, garlic, cumin and salt. 
3.     Taste. 
4.     Add more lime, garlic, cumin and salt
5.     Taste again
6.     Continue tweaking with spices until it tastes delicious. 
7.     Add onion and tomato
8.     Taste final time before serving with tortilla chips (I like Tostitos lime flavored ones). . .hopefully there will be guacamole left for your guests!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Little Way

For someone with a significance/achievement addiction, it’s hard to work in campus ministry.  The vast majority of my peers have high powered, respected jobs that pay quite well.  While I, to put it bluntly, don’t. 

A bunch of years ago, several of us on the Harvard ministry team found ourselves struggling with this conundrum.  It’s hard to earn a prestigious degree or two and then raise your own salary for a job that no one seems to understand. 

As we prayed and processed (and cried), I remembered something from John Dawson’s Taking Our Cities for God.  Dawson wrote that cities have “spirits” (usually bad) and that the way you fight that “spirit” is to embody the opposite.  So in a city full of pride, it took men and women humbling themselves (literally prostrating their bodies on the sidewalk) to “break” the power of that “spirit.”

When we asked ourselves what the “spirit” of Harvard was, we realized Harvard worships BIG lives—big achievements, big names, big prestige, big fame, big impact.  And everything in me wants that too. 

But if we were to really bring good news to Harvard, perhaps we needed to embody the opposite of Harvard.  Perhaps we needed to embrace small faithful lives.  Which made some of us (namely me) cry even harder.

St. Therese of Lisieux
On Sunday, my pastor, Dave Schmelzer, preached about St. Therese of Lisieux, the Catholic nun known as “the Little Flower” who died of TB at age 24.  She originated the “Little Way,” which emphasized performing little acts with great love.  She was the inspiration for Mother Teresa, who in desiring to follow St. Therese’s Little Way, went to the very “littlest” in society—the dying outcasts of Calcutta. 

He emphasized how little faithful acts can lead to big changes in the world--e.g. Mother Teresa.

Here are some cool quotes I found online by St. Therese:

This week, as I run around like a crazed woman—trying to wrap up my work before I leave Boston for over a month, tying up loose ends for the Cana marriage session next week, attempting to not panic over all the things that aren’t getting accomplished, it was good to reflect on St. Therese’s life and remember that if I’m going to live in Boston and work with very elite universities, I too may be called to my own little way—the small life. 

I hope tomorrow I can take a deep breath and just do the little task before me with a lot less grumpiness and a lot more love.

I'll end with a prayer that I found inspiring:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Asian Aging. . . Again

(3 days after posting the greatest cartoon on Asian aging, I unfortunately must report on the next step in my saga)

Yesterday Ling and I attended the 1st birthday party for the son of 2 former students, Jas and Jon.  They were married 8 years ago and Ling, Kai and Ren were their flower girls and ring bearer.  It was fun to have Ling tower over this mostly Asian-American, mostly parents-of-young-children crew of partiers and remind them that she was waist high at the wedding.

I introduced myself to a young father.  Shaking his hand, I said, “Hi!  I’m Kathy.”

He said, “Hi!  Are you Jas’s mother?”

Whew. . .

Now I don’t know Jas’s exact age but she got her Ph.D. from Harvard in 2004 so I’d guess early-mid 30s. 

Her mother???  Really???  I haven't hit menopause yet but I've skipped over to the grandmother look?

His comment ranks down there with the 2 times male Harvard Ph.D. students patted the tummy that had just held Kai 6 months earlier and said, “Expecting again?” 

Because of their comments, I NEVER ask any woman if she’s pregnant—even very thin acquaintances who turn out to be 8.5 months pregnant.  Until someone confesses her joyful news, I don’t ask—I just ignore that protruding abdomen and look elsewhere.

Jas’s mother was at the picnic, as was Jon’s.  Both were nice looking Chinese women who (IMHO) looked at least 15-20 years older than me.

Ling said,  “This is all because you don’t dye your hair.”  (See blog on the subject)

Which may be true because both Jas and Jon’s mothers do, so I have far more grays than them.  Maybe that’s why they weren’t recognized as the grandmothers but I was.   

The guy came up to me later, his baby in arms, apologized, and said, “It’s all because of sleep deprivation.”

Sleep deprivation?  Yeah right.  

Chimpanzee face, here I come.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Asian Aging

Folks keep asking me why I'm on the i-diet.

Look at the picture below and you'll see the answer:

I've always said that Asian women look young, look young, look young, and then all of a sudden look like chimpanzees as their faces collapse into wrinkles.

As a peri-menopausal woman, I feel the tug towards that chubby cheeked round pot of a woman and I'm trying to avoid it the best I can, hence the i-diet.

Meanwhile, true confessions. . .  I cheated.

Not on the diet, I've been doing that daily.  But I swore I couldn't buy any new clothes until I'd lost 5 lbs and maintained that loss for a week.  Well I lost 5 pounds and maintained it for 2 days--and then the Talbots Outlet sent me an email for 10% off my entire purchase.

I couldn't stand it.  Like an addict, I craved my junk.  The lure of savings and cheap clothes drew me inexorably towards Woburn and the Talbots Outlet.  When I got there, certain jeans were on sale for $7.99.  I couldn't resist, I bought 2 pairs, plus a white tank top for $9.99.

I presented my coupon and saved a grand total of $2.59.

The power of advertising, a coupon and incredibly cheap jeans lured me to cheat on my vow.   I'm confessing this to the world in atonement.

Meanwhile, I've got to re-engage with the diet.  4th of July excess means I'm no longer 5 lbs lighter.

Sigh.  I'm sliding back towards being the chubby cheeked round bodied chimpanzee.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Sad Day

Today I’m taking Ren out of camp, skipping my conference call and driving up to Vermont to attend my brother-in-law’s Dad’s funeral.  Pete’s dad passed away Sunday morning after a quick cancerous decline.  Three weeks ago, Pete and my sister rushed up to Vermont to say goodbye, not knowing whether they’d make it in time, but his Dad rallied and hung on.

My parents flew into Boston yesterday from Hawaii so they could attend the funeral.  I was surprised they would go to all this effort, but that’s what I love about them—they want to be there for whoever they consider "family" whenever the opportunity arises--money, energy, discomfort all be damned.

Pete’s dad is the first of the grandparents in my immediate family to go, which strikes a certain sense of foreboding.  And my kids feel that—on our drive home from Maine on 4th of July one prayed "thank you" for still having all 4 grandparents.  I’m certainly grateful that all 3 of my kids will have vibrant memories of their Puo-Puo, Gong-Gong, Gram and Pop.

As a child there was nothing I was more afraid of than death, my own and my parents’.  When they left me with a babysitter, after crying my 3-year-old eyes out, if I woke in the night, I’d creep into their bedroom just to make sure they hadn’t died in a car accident.  Seeing their inert forms, I’d wait until I saw their chests rise and fall before going back to bed.

For years, I thought I could never bear the death of those I deeply love, and it’s still an iffy question—but as I age and death becomes increasingly inevitable for the generation above me, I’ve become more resigned.  Or maybe just more shut down.

A reason I decided I had to go home to Hawaii this summer even though we really shouldn’t have spent the money is I’m aware each time I see my parents that it might be the last time.  My father turns 80 next May, the age his father died.  He only has one artery going to his brain that isn’t clogged or kinked.  My mom eats too much and doesn’t exercise.

So I’m going to mourn with Pete for his dad.  I’m going to weep for a man I only met several times because I've loved and known his son for 23 years.  I’m going to rage at death and even if it's part of life, it still feels like a travesty of God’s intention.   

But through it all, I’m going to enjoy my parents’ presence for this upcoming week.  I'm going to work on enjoying them (rather than getting annoyed with them) for the month we’ll spend together in Hawaii.

Like my kids, I want to remember to be grateful that they're still with me. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

4th of July: Mortification take 2

“I don’t understand why you sent the girls down with water-skis if you weren’t planning on being here to drive the boat,” I said in my most snarky voice to my iphone (I think that’s where the kids get it—see snarkiness blog). 

“Um.  I’m not your husband.”

“Oh. . .  Really?  You sound like him.”

“I guess that’s not surprising,” said my brother-in-law Andy.  “Should I get him?”

“Well, you could get him, or you could just blast him for me the way I just blasted you.”

Sheesh.  That’s the problem with forgetting that I called my in-laws number because Scott didn’t pick up on his cell phone.  And the problem with being congenitally unable to waterski despite about 13 annual attempts  (I got up one summer before I got pregnant with Ling--never again--so waterskiing makes me grumpy).

Before marriage, both Scott and I thought we would be better a husband and wife than we’ve actually turned out to be.  Scott even said to a guy, “I will never treat my wife the way you treat yours.” 

And then we got married.  And then one of our single friends said, “I will never have conflict in my marriage the way you have conflict in yours.”

He’s probably right—knowing his sweet wife, I’m sure they’ve never battled tooth and nail the way Scott and I have fought, sadly, too often in public.  I wouldn’t even be surprised if she never uses a snarky tone with him.

But despite a very bumpy first 10 years, we’re a week and two days away from venturing to lead the Cana Marriage Session for the second time.  When we went through Cana 8 years ago, as a celebration of our 10th anniversary and with the hope that it would help us want to renew our vows 2 weeks later, God met us and transformed our marriage in surprising ways.  We went from having a 30% reconciled marriage to about an 83% reconciled marriage.  Let me tell you, those 53 percentage points make a big difference in the quality of our lives, and even more, the quality of our kids’ lives.

I think my TMJ’s acting up because of stress over Cana—not the stress that the 10 couples who go through the Session won’t be changed—that’s God’s business and God’s work.  We just create the structure through which the Holy Spirit can move if the couples are willing to work and receive. 

My stress is over whether my fellow servants will have a good experience.  For the first time in 8 years, most servants were my friends before coming to Cana—I don’t want their experience of serving to either ruin our friendships or strain their marriages!

So out of stress, I bark at my brother-in-law thinking he’s my husband.

Luckily for Scott, I was so embarrassed about chewing out Andy that by the time he came on the phone almost all the snarkiness had evaporated out of my voice.  Humiliation just took the energy out of me.

Thank God for embarrassing mishaps/small miracles that keep our marriages going.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sheer Mortification

Last week, I ran into Vivian, a former student, at Grace Chapel’s VBS.  She was helping with snacks. 

We chatted, catching up on our lives, when a thin woman approached.  They talked a little and then the woman said, “Kathy, I want to introduce myself—I’m Liz, your neighbor.”

I about sunk through the floor because Scott has introduced us about 4 times in the past 7 years.  But it’s almost always as we pass one another running or walking on the street.

In my defense, Liz’s house is behind mine and a 5 foot vinyl fence separates our homes so I can’t see over to them. The only way I even know they’re there is if I hear talking or their kids playing.  But because I can’t establish eye contact, I haven’t made contact.  Scott can, so he’s had friendly talks with both Liz and her husband.  And more importantly, remembers what they look like.

Of course, after feeling complete humiliation over not recognizing my next door neighbor, a new sense of mortification came.

“I’m so sorry,” I said as I shook her hand, “And I’m so sorry for all the shrieking that comes out of my house.”

She waved her hand.  “Not a problem,” she said with a smile.

Which means she hears all the shrieking.

At that moment I decided to move then and there to a new house far away.
Helen, who lives across the street, and I exchange nervous, “Could you hear the shrieking this morning?” questions regularly—but we never hear each other.  And Frank to the left is stone deaf—have to yell at him for him to hear us.  Jasper on the right is also a little hard of hearing.

But I’ve always known Liz’s family must hear our shrieking.  After all, I can hear almost everything that happens in their home, their kids playing or whining, or birthday party revelry. 

Yet they have an excuse--their kids are little.  And I don’t hear the parents yelling or calling their kids a lazy bum.

At this point Vivian said, “Kathy and Scott were my InterVarsity staff when I was in graduate school at Columbia.”

Liz smiled.  But I knew what was behind that smile.

Sheer disbelief.