Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Feel...........

Given my consistently marshmallow-like figure (Hey, don’t hate me because I aspire to sweetness), sometimes I wonder if my feeling healthier lately isn’t just all in my head. I mean, 7 pounds of weight loss CAN make a difference, but how much really? (Especially considering I’m still probably 23 pounds above my ideal body weight) Still, it’s undeniable (to myself, anyway) that although I have a long way to go, I am definitely feeling better than I have in a long time. Little indicators keep popping up from time to time to remind me.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered almost by accident that I can throw front handsprings again… On the mats, and completely pain-free at that! (although I’m not claiming it’s a pretty sight) One of the students at the gym couldn’t seem to envision what she was trying to learn, so I demonstrated it onto a crash pad: Safely, carefully, and responsibly. My immediate reaction was that the crash pad was just getting in my way, so I just switched to the regular floor. The other upside was that it really helped the student to wrap her mind around the body mechanics of it.

Yesterday, I started the adult gym workout session by stretching like I always do. But this time, I spent perhaps an extra 5 minutes doing some really serious stretching like in years gone by. And wonder of wonders if it didn’t lead to a bunch of flexibility breakthroughs and some serious endorphin release. I threw a real dive roll on the ground for the first time in perhaps 15 years, and my knees didn’t explode!

Nor are they sore today, and I’m still feeling more relaxed and flexible a day later. In my office at work, I got the urge to try a handstand. Recent attempts have served to remind me that I’m old and out of shape. I can get up, but then I just spend a few seconds grunting, shuffling, and flailing around before I come back down. Well, on the very first attempt, I went up and held it like a rock for about 15 seconds! No grunting, no flailing, and no hand movement whatsoever… AND no discomfort! Go figure.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

When Life Blows

Ah, November in Central California; the time of year when a good wind storm blows a bunch of leaves off of the trees and you notice for the first time that some of them are finally changing colour. That’s how fall arrives around here, with several inches of leaves everywhere, and yet most of them are still green and on the trees.

With Fall, as you may well know (unless you live in the Middle East or some other desert region), comes a plethora of fauna strewn about the yard in a most haphazard and cluttered manner. You realize that it’s vital to do a little yard work before it buries you entirely, and so off you go. The depressing thing about it all, besides the endless raking, is that you know that this is going to be an ongoing process until it’s nearly Christmas.

And so it was that I found myself venturing forth alone to beat back the elements of Mother Nature. However, this year was different, because we now own our very own leaf blower! It might be an electric model, but according to Consumer Reports, this no longer necessarily means that it’s a wimpy mama’s boy who’s never cut the umbilicus. I wouldn’t know either way because I’d never used one. But my initial conclusion was reached after about 2 minutes of use.

Conclusion (Status: initial): A leaf blower gets the job done a LOT faster than raking does.

As I progressed with the task and my experience with the device increased, I was able to reach several other interesting (if not valuable) conclusions.

C1) It’s a lot faster and more orderly to create a cushion of air under a bed of leaves and move the whole bed that way than to blast away at them from the top of the pile. Less mess + more movement = quicker success with less grit in your teeth.

C2) It is possible, without any practice whatsoever, to lift a plant out of its pot and hurl it against a wall three feet away; dirt, roots, and all. But it’s not prudent to share this information with your wife.

C3) You can play fetch with a dog without even touching the ball. Just blast the magical orb with the air, and the dog will chase it happily.

C4) A smart dog isn’t necessarily bright: Drop your ‘fetch’ ball into a violent maelstrom of leaves 2.5 feet thick, and it’s really kinda... well, gone! The leaves with the ball scent will get blown all over the place, throwing you way off the path in your quest to recover it.

C5) A medium sized dog who likes to snap at streams of water directed toward his canine-hood will do the same with a stream of leaves and be quite thrilled about it. HOWEVER, C5b) attempting the same with a very SMALL dog (aka. Itsy Bitsy Mitzy) is akin to watching an umbrella turn inside out in a wind storm. Don’t worry, she’ll land and stop rolling eventually and come back for more.

C6) With a little honing, you can peg a canine with its own doo doo at upwards of 5 paces. The canine will not necessarily appreciate the irony, but you sure will!

After completing my task, I had a huge pile of leaves about 2 feet thick and 10x30 feet in area. The yard looked much more orderly than it had before, and I really feel good about that. However, my final conclusion needed to be modified a little.

Conclusion (status: final): Experimental leaf blowing will get the job done potentially quite a bit SLOWER than raking. But…. WHO CARES?!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

After Ten Years

I just returned home yesterday from taking my lovely wife to Hawaii for our 10 year Anniversary. She also got a laptop for her very own about a month ago. All told, it was very nice. Pictures to follow (maybe)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Accelerated Life

In case anyone doubts that my life has been a touch out of the ordinary thus far, let me recap. I was married nearly 10 years ago and am still married. Not very unique? Well then, consider WHO I got married to. I don’t know about you, but I think that makes me one DLD! (Downright Lucky Dude) Léonie has had the patience to put up with me for a whole 10 years, and that is SOMETHING!

I went into the professional field of Speech and Language Pathology. Most people have no idea what that even means, but that’s okay. What’s different about it is that it is highly dominated by humans of the female persuasion; Even more so than teaching, nursing, and the like. I have no problem with that, as many competency components draw from some of my personal strengths. I have seen good success with clients across the whole range of the lifespan, from really tiny to very old. Plus, I don’t really mind women, so my colleagues and I get along just fine.

I moved to Central California. It’s hot, brown/yellow, and populated such that I am a ’visible minority.’ Don’t get me wrong here, I always have been and continue to be comfortable in a highly multicultural environment. But the location and climate?! If there is one thing consistent about people who grew up in British Columbia, it’s that anywhere they relocate to is a decided downgrade in beauty, and thus livability. I am no exception to this rule. However, here I still am!

Although I am only 33, I have already retired! Not from my career, mind you. But this week, I officially stepped down from being the Director of the Pathfinder Club after leading it for five years. Talk about a rapid growing experience. It was that, and a whole lot more. However, the time has come to re-focus my life on what really matters.

Another unique thing is that I RETIRED from gymnastics and acro-sport fully 15 years ago. The knees and other parts of my body told me emphatically that it was high time that I do so, and (for a change) I wisely listened to it. And yet, this week I logged over 12 hours in the gym at Gymnastics Beat! I worked out some, taught, spotted, and conducted leveling assessments. Aside from the expected sore muscles, though, it was trouble free. And I really, really enjoyed it!

Now, very little of what I’ve stated thus far has anything to do with the title, right? Yeah, I kind of gathered that. I may be old and get easily side tracked, but I’m not senile. (I hope) Besides the early retirements and the late resurrections of long dead ‘careers’, here is where the “accelerated life” comes into play.

Forty months ago, my household consisted of my wife…. And myself! (We’ll overlook the fish for the moment.) Fast forward 4 months, though, and we now had a 150lb boy and a cute little puppy with a funky name. This made for some really interesting times, but I do have a few warm fuzzy memories in spite of this period of dynamic learning.

Only 8 months later (28 months ago), the other shoe dropped. That was when we went up by 6 more kids and one more dog! Not only did that make for SEVEN children, but four of them were also already Teenagers! (and nary a diaper changed had I!) One is autistic/low functioning and requires a lot of energy as he is not self-automated. This was the beginning of the period that I call ‘shock and awe’, because I was perpetually in shock. And any time anybody asked me a question, all I could say was, “Aaaaaaaaw. (pbbbt)”

By the time December of that year came around, or 20 months ago, we were fully rounded out to our current complement of three ‘parents,’ seven kids, and THREE dogs! It’s all ho hum and status quo from then on, right? Well, not really. At present, I am still close to the experience of watching my father pass away. Never mind that he was fit, healthy, and loving life at the ripe age of 64 years young, he went away so quickly! And here I am, now with SIX teenagers and THREE college students!! Nobody is even in Elementary school anymore.

Today marked yet another new phase in life; one of me playing the part of an empt(ier) nester. James went off and left home to go to college out-of-state this morning. He is one of the few subtractions in a period of rapid additions. And, like losing my Dad, I’m beginning to really dislike these ‘subtractions’ from my life. … True, my boy will still be around from time to time, but this marks the beginning of yet another trend of inevitable shift; one where life will be punctuated by subtractions rather than additions. The result: Something is missing, and it just doesn’t feel right.

But I’m going to have to get used to the idea, and quickly, too. It cannot be changed, only accepted. (if never embraced). Such is my lot in this ACCELERATED LIFE.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Not the Leader Anymore (But I got to Hire my new Boss!)

I fired myself and got a new boss last night, but at least I was able to choose and hire him! Being the Pathfinder Club Directors over the past five years was an amazing blessing, but it was time to hand it off to someone new because we ran ourselves all out of energy. The board meeting made it official. I didn’t even have to make a fancy and well-worded presentation on the spot. All I had to do was sit and listen as the board chairman read my letter of resignation. (Which, of course, was fancy and well worded! At least, being articulate is what I attempted)

The letter ended with me thanking the board for the opportunity to serve, and asked them to accept our resignation. This they did, ‘with regret.’ In fact, they made it a point to make the “with regret” part official in the minutes. Several people were visibly upset with this turn of events, but it couldn’t really be helped. It was time to close that door, at least for now. And I am finally okay with it.

But now, I’m yesterday’s news. Here’s a little about my new boss. The really rewarding thing is that I discovered him! Well, actually Keith discovered us, so I can’t take any credit. (sounded good, though) We marched by him one November 11 during the city’s Veteran’s Day Parade. It was the first time we’d invited all of the area clubs to take part with us, and I had coordinated an estimated 250 Pathfinders, Adventurers, and staff. They were assembled in multiple marching formations and pulled by two flat bed trucks. It was pretty awesome to see, and I always wonder if he would have noticed us if it had just been our own club by itself. Perhaps not, but God works in interesting ways sometimes, so we’re left to wonder.

Anyway, he tracked us down through an old acquaintance and showed up at the clubhouse soon after the parade because it seemed like just the thing he wanted to get his daughter into. An ex Eagle Scout Troop Master, he almost immediately found needs and started to fill them. He increasingly became a big help with the Adventurer program, which his daughter was in. He eventually followed her into the Pathfinder club, and in his quiet and unassuming way, became an integral part of the overall Club.

Today, he is a member of my church and a leader in the Junior division. His daughter attends the academy and has developed some great friendships there. And now, Keith is also the (so called) fearless leader of the Pathfinder and Adventurer Club! I know that huge challenges face him in the months ahead, and I can relate to how he must be feeling. But regardless of how smoothly or bumpily things go, I have to say that I’m very proud of him for stepping forward. Here’s to you, Keith!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Anniversary

Hooray, it’s my Anniversary! A year ago this evening, I was having the time of my life at the gymnastics gym with James, putting him through the paces while easing back into it myself. It felt good. No, it felt great. At session’s end, I demonstrated a round-off the way round-offs are supposed to be done; aggressively!

Now, when you think about it, you will probably wonder how one can reconcile putting words like ‘ease’ and ‘aggressive’ in the same breath. In point of fact, you cannot! And that’s exactly what my body told me when I did it. “YOU CANNOT!” My right Achilles tendon snapped to drive the message home, and a year later, I can assure you that I got the message. A week immobile followed by surgery and months of ‘very poor jogging’ has conspired to convince me that I am no longer 18 years old. This seems like such a waste because I kind of knew that already, but there you have it. At the same time, life’s experiences can sometimes be used to learn lessons that at first blush do not appear to be directly associated.

Forever, it seemed, I could not stand on my own two feet. Undeniably, I needed to rely on the help of others, but I stubbornly did as much as I could on my own so as to not be a burden. This made life painfully slow at times, and no doubt in some cases just caused more grief. Looking back, I can see this more clearly. But at the time, I just didn’t see it that way.

That can also sum up much of my life. Looking around, it’s easy to see that this world isn’t a pretty place. It’s tough and full of huge challenges. On my own, I can’t exactly dance deftly across the stage of life. In fact, when I’m not relying completely on God’s power and mercy, I am immobile. You could say that I cannot stand on my own two feet. Undeniably, I need to rely on my Creator and follow His will for my life. However, I stubbornly do as much as I can on my own, presumably so as not to be a burden. This makes my Spiritual growth painfully slow, and ultimately has been the source of no end of grief. Reflecting on how God’s power and mercy has so strongly impacted my life, I can see this clearly. But when relying on my own eyesight and insight, I never can seem to see it that way.

The solution is pretty clear. I need to seek a better relationship with God aggressively and completely. And yet I tend to try to ease into it a little bit at a time. When you think about it, you probably wonder how you can reconcile putting words like ‘aggressive’ and ‘ease’ in the same breath. Well, in point of fact, you cannot.

That’s the message God gives to me in His word and through the experiences and challenges I’ve faced in my life. “You cannot.” I hope that I am able to hold onto the message.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Turning Points

8/24/07 - I've spent a good deal of time debating whether or not to post this particular entry, for reasons that are probably self evident. We're going to go for it & see what happens.
________________________________________

There come times in everyone’s lives when they step back from what they’ve been doing, or how they have been living, and ponder therein the purpose and merits of it all. I am currently going through just such an experience. To those of you who know me well, this is probably not news as it’s hardly a first for me. However, this does have substance to it.

My life took a 180 degree turn five years ago with the decision to stop focusing only on myself and begin to sacrifice my time and energy for the benefit of other people. Directing a Pathfinder club is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you. But it does afford a huge opportunity for one to learn about oneself, and the potential impact on the lives of countless kids and their families is almost limitless.

We’ve worked with a lot of kids, taught them interesting and unique new skills, and driven them thousands of miles to experience numerous things that some of them had never previously experienced. From spelunking, to bike camping, to the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, WI., we’ve invested thousands of personal hours and dollars on other peoples’ kids. So engaged were we in the process that we even took seven as our own when the need arose and no one else was able or willing to step up to the plate. (That was two years ago) So… suffice to say that it’s been immersive and all encompassing. I have a deep appreciation for how much these experiences have caused me to grow personally, and my memories are rich and numerous. To write about all of them would easily fill a book.

At the same time, Pathfinders and the resulting family, combined with other factors, have taken a collective toll on me that is difficult to measure. I’m drained, spent. My passion and energy has waned significantly, and the results have been clear in my effectiveness as a leader. Perhaps it was the realization that I’d just cancelled another Pathfinder event for the umpteenth time, but for quite some time, I have known that I’ve been doing everyone (including myself) a disservice by staying on. Blame can be pointed all over the place (an unresponsive/unsupportive church, no really close friendships, challenging/strained home life, not taking proper care of myself), but the responsibility ultimately lies with me and my all-too-human tendency of trying to go it alone instead of relying on God’s power and guidance. … It is what it is.

On Monday, I conducted my last Pathfinder Club meeting… And I didn’t even know it until I looked at the freshly modified Calendar that had been sent with me. No last meeting, no investiture service where I could share some last profound thought that might stay with even one of them; Just this last ‘party’, replete with pizza, ice cream, and a decided lack of structure. Not exactly the setting I would have envisioned or wanted for a farewell if I’d had a choice.

The hardest part, though, was that I was all alone. Even my wife didn’t accompany me. I did my best to mingle with the kids and staff, but except for when I carried little Isaiah around upside down and heard him squealing with excitement, I felt hollow. They laughed, ran around, and carried on as always, but I couldn’t. No one seemed to notice my lack of enthusiasm, or if they did, no one said anything. When the last of them had left and I made sure everything was locked up, I knew I was finished.

So, I went home. On the way, my girl asked a rather perceptive question. “Is there going to be Pathfinders next year?” The only question along those lines all night. I assured her that there would be a program. But I also know that she was asking because she doesn’t want to continue next year, and as such, the question hurt as much as the silence. … I tried to get lost in the regular bedtime routine with the kids, but couldn’t. I wanted to talk to someone, but couldn’t. Even hugging Tom and telling him goodnight didn’t make me feel any warmer.

It was a rather anti-climatic ending to one of the most involving aspects of my life for the past 5 years. There is a campout left to do, and I will try to make the most of it. But right now, it has me wondering. All of the time, energy, resources; the sacrifices, the growth, the caring. Did any of it matter? Are people just limitless sponges who soak up all that you can give them until you run dry, yet never spill a drop of it to others when it’s needed? Has my life been wasted?

Tuesday, I had the occasion to view several hundred pictures of the kids from the past few years. There have been a lot of them, and through the tapestry of the photo folders, I was able to watch them grow up all over again. There have been some very positive changes in some of them that appeared to have been because of their involvement with the club, and I felt glad. Some fell through our fingers because we did not have the individual or collective ability to reach out to them, and I still feel the loss of each and every one of them. Still others, be they involved now or formerly… it’s hard to say what will become of them because the future is still unclear. I have to trust that any seeds that we attempted or helped to plant, God will continue to work on germinating in their lives (That isn’t my job, after all). There have been countless good memories along the way. But in the end, I hope that I will be able to take with me more than just the memories.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Papa - His Life

This is the text of the life sketch/eulogy that my brother and I presented for our dad at his memorial on April 7. I did the writing, he did the pictoral life sketch that was shown before and after the service, and then we helped each other pull it off.
_____________________________________________________________________

R W G

February 10, 1943 to April 1, 2007

Ronald W G was born to William and Hilda on February 10, 1943, in Vancouver General Hospital. He was their third and final child, and his older sisters enjoyed helping to raise and take care of this new arrival. His first home was in Ladner, BC.

However, the family moved to the (relatively) big city of Langley just prior to Ronnie’s fifth birthday. It was here that he achieved such accomplishments as enrolling in Langley Junior Academy and underwent the mildly corrupting experience of spending time with lifelong friends such as Gerald Berden.

Ron’s family moved once again when they made like islanders and moved to Sidney in 1952. There, his mother was employed at the hospital at Rest Haven. One of his memories during this time which started when he was nine years old was of rowing around the bay in a dilapidated old rowboat that had a disconcerting habit of taking on water. But when you’re a kid, those sort of details matter only somewhat very little (and mostly not at all).

Ron found himself at Canadian Union College for high school, which was quite a long way from home. The winters were colder and longer here, but his parents felt it was important for him to receive the opportunities that education brought; opportunities neither of them had.

From the time he was small, Ron’s Father told him, “Son, when you grow up, choose a career where you can be your own boss. It is hard to not have a trade and have to work for other people your whole life. He took this to heart, and in part because he liked to work with his hands, he decided on a career in Dentistry fairly early on.

So, after graduating from high school at CUC in 1961, he completed one year of college there before moving on for a three-year stint at Walla Walla College in Washington of the Excited States. It was here that he met a rather intriguing maiden from Oregon by the name of Janet W.

Interestingly, Ron and Jan met in a Marriage and Family class! Both signed up for this particular class for ‘extra credit’. The crusty old professor had the enrollees arranged in seats by alphabetical order, and W must have been the letter furthest along the line. But Ron had enrolled for the class a day LATE, so the second lecture was already in session when he arrived. Thus it was that shy Mr. “G” was placed next to shy Miss “W”. Since he did not wish to be unsuccessful, he asked Janet if he had missed anything important the first day. In truth, he had missed out on some terminology that Janet was a bit embarrassed to share with this strikingly handsome lad. Hoping the professor would cover it again later in class, she said, “Naaa, nothing important.” So it was that they came to be stuck next to each other. Weeks later during the final examination, Ron leaned over toward Jan and said, “So, I DID miss some things the first day, eh?” But the ice had already been broken and the damage done.

Ron married Janet in Gaston, Oregon on June 13, 1965, at which time they moved to Loma Linda, CA for four years. There, Ron earned a DDS (Doctor of Dental Science) as a member of the class of ‘69, while Janet taught First graders in nearby Colton and earned a PHT (Putting Hubby Through). On weekends, they would escape the high quality air for the high desert, where Ron continued to work on his hobby of photography.

When the smoke finally cleared (as much as it ever does in Loma Linda), Dr. G. resettled in his Home and native Land. The decision to come home was not made lightly; it was Ron and Janet’s hope to raise a family, and they wished to be near to an Adventist School so that they could offer any upcoming children a Christian Education without having to go off to a boarding school while still young. They settled down, and he got to the business of establishing his Dental practice in Langley.

But… no children! They were ready to become parents, but the stork had been stubborn about arriving. Finally, in January of 1970, they were blessed with the adoption of their first child, a girl they named Larissa R. She brought a lot of joy, but there was still much room for more in the home. Brenden S. arrived in August of 1972, a little codger not yet one year old. The family was rounded out and completed in November of 1973 with the arrival of the caboose, when Shelby D. was born to Ron and Janet. From day one, it was no secret to Larissa and Brenden that they were adopted. Rather, they grew up with a profound sense that they were very much loved and had been “chosen” by their parents.

Ron enjoyed adventures of travel and the great outdoors. He rode motorcycles off-road, canoed many lakes and rivers, and explored hard to reach areas for hidden gems like natural hot springs or beautiful views. He loved the ocean and water sports, and many family vacations were spent waterskiing and wind surfing. Snow skiing was a favorite winter activity. Ron was of the opinion that these things were far too enjoyable to be kept exclusive, so often other relatives or friends were brought along to share in the fun. Time and again, he proved to be an expert and patient teacher as he taught his children, as well as many of their friends, the “ropes”.

It was not all fun and games, however. Ron was very disciplined in life’s endeavors. He took good care of himself by keeping a high level of physical fitness and maintained a dedicated and close walk with Jesus. When we kids were growing up, we could count on our Dad being the first to get up. If we were adventuresome, we could creep to the other side of the house to see the light coming from under the door to the study. And when we would peek in, he was always either studying intently or down on his knees… no doubt praying earnestly for guidance in raising the little hellions God ‘blessed’ him with. Then, he would go jogging!

Service to church and family was an integral part of Ron’s life. His family was one that helped to found and build the Aldergrove Seventh-day Adventist Church. He served the church in the capacities of Deacon, Elder, sound technician, and spent many years as the Aldergrove church clerk. He also opened his house numerous times for Friday evening Youth vespers programs. Additionally, when there was a void, he stepped into what he considered a very out of character role as Pathfinder Director. Yet in the six years he served with Janet in this role, the club grew from less than a dozen kids to the largest and one of the most active in the conference, with nearly 40 members. In making sure HIS children received this opportunity, he also mentored many others in the process.

For thirty-four years, Ron ‘practiced’ Dentistry. He took pride in his work and did quite well. One person within the profession even claimed that his acrylic restorations were the best she’d ever seen. But, the work was not an all-consuming passion for him. This, he saved for his family. It was a means to an end, a way of providing for his loved ones. Fortunately, for much of his career he was surrounded by staff members, some of whom spent a very long time with him, who did an excellent job of easing the stress of the routine and keeping him sane. This, he appreciated greatly

But eventually, he decided it was time to start a new career to practice at, called RETIREMENT! In his eagerness to start on this new adventure, Ron made the move a bit earlier than originally planned. And he loved every minute of it! Friends, family, and former colleagues can attest to this based upon the permanent grin that was affixed to his face. He traveled, he relaxed, he visited the grandkids! (but he did not relax while visiting the grandkids). More times than one could count, he was heard saying, “Life is good!”

Then, the troubles began. This past December, Ron came down with flu-like symptoms with significant bone pain. This seemed to be backing off, so he moved forward. But on his trip to Thailand, which he spent over a year planning for, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. It took two weeks to stabilize his blood counts and arrange for him to be transported home, but he and Janet were blessed by many incredibly kind and generous strangers, as well as by a couple of friends.

Ron appeared to respond well to treatment initially. He was greatly encouraged by the support he received from friends and family. But the leukemia returned, and on March 21st, he was informed of the medically irreversible results of the disease process. He was anointed, and thousands of prayers were offered on his behalf literally from all over the world. However, God, who knows the beginning from the end, saw fit to not intervene. Ron did not once complain. At home, with his whole family present, he passed quietly to his rest on Sunday morning, April 1st.

Ronald W. G. is survived by his wife, Janet; his two sisters, Dolores and Rita; as well as his three children, Larissa, Brenden, and Shelby. Additionally, he leaves behind 10 grandchildren: Kendra, Byron, Zachary. And Michael, James, John, Tom, Mai Ying, Maivnkauj, and Na… all of whom were chosen much like their Grandpa chose his kids. Oh, and by a big family, a big church family, and many good friends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

¿Qué Pasa?

The schools I work at are rather diverse because the neighborhoods they serve contain a large mix of ethnicities ranging from Hispanic, to African American, to Asian. There are even a few of us pale types of European ancestry kicking around, and the number of primary languages spoken in the school district numbered 101 at last count. To be honest, though, I rarely give this sort of thing much thought, and I don’t think most people around here do, either. We’re all, quite simply, just part of the landscape that makes this area what it is. However, my view of how I am perceived here received something of a jolt today. Literally!

I was walking down the hallway after hours. As is often the case, a commotion was emanating from the cafeteria as the after school program was in full swing. I was passing by the opened doors when my peripheral vision detected, too late, a small blur of movement heading in my general direction. One of the runners rammed straight into me and bounced backward from the impact. Her friend narrowly dodged the falling body but tripped over her, and I had the presence of mind to catch her before she wiped out as well. While the rammer appeared momentarily bewildered, her rescued compatriot looked instantly ‘busted’ for having been caught running on campus by a grownup.

I looked down and saw, clearly, two little Hmong girls (very cute), perhaps second or third graders. From their perspective, they were peering back up at a blondish, marshmallow-shaped white guy (impeccably dressed, of course). One stepped back as the other rose warily to her feet and dusted herself off before gazing back up and me with wide eyes. The whole thing lasted less than 5 seconds, and before I could utter a word, they broke the silence in unison. “HOLA!”

What the… I don’t look the least bit Hispanic, and they thought I spoke Spanish!? I was stunned. Then they were off at the same breakneck pace as before, no doubt trying to put good distance between us so I wouldn’t have a chance to scold them about running at school. I recovered from the shock. “Nyob zoo!” I called after them just as they were rounding the corner.

Nothing but a single head popped back around the corner… horizontally! The girl wore an expression of open mouthed shock as she looked me over once again. Re-assessment result: A blondish, marshmallow-shaped white guy (impeccably dressed)… who speaks Hmong!!?? She shared with me a huge grin that lit up her whole face. Then her head once again disappeared from sight. Poof! I guess it’s true: We never are what we appear at first glance (or first collision).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blame...

If you are not a close family member, you may mark this day as the one on which my wife was to blame for your being able to read this blog! Until now, I was very careful to ensure privacy and count on the safety of family loving me 'anyway' to be able to stand what I've written...

Well, upon spending considerable time reading blogs from old acquaintances over the weekend, she informed me that I had nothing to fear. Her words were something to the effect of, "Honey, why are you being so secretive and hiding your blog from the public? Now that I've read what's out there, you have NOTHING to worry about. Your stuff is so boring, nobody's gonna read it anyway." So, there you have it. Enjoy! :)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Golden on a Diamond

No one has ever accused me of being conventional when it comes to attempting to engage children, students, clients, or patients. And for at least one more day of my life, it appears as though this shall hold true. Today I managed to be a father AND an expert all at the same time, and the results were truly dynamic.

Tommy’s annual IEP meeting is to be held next week. Because of some of the goings on in the past year, we are taking active steps to ascertain what he can do so that we can steer his services in the best possible direction to meet his needs at the meeting. Thus, following in the footsteps of my esteemed wife, I dropped by his class to witness him in action and attempt to win buy-in from the staff through my excellent skills and intimate knowledge of all things Tommy.

Opportunity knocked during P.E. time during a particularly unique game of Tee-ball. One intrepid Hmong warrior with Down’s Syndrome clearly grasped the concept of competition, as everything he did was with 110% effort and, for him, with supreme focus. Very quickly, I discovered that with Tommy this was not so much the case. He appeared quite disinterested in the whole concept of team sports, preferring instead to alternate randomly between gazing heavenward in wonderment, introspectively inspecting his fingernails, and clapping simply because he likes the percussive sound of it. Great, so much for interaction. Then the brilliant P.E. teacher asked if I would like to take a turn at the tee to see if Tommy could be enticed into taking part a little more conventionally. Would I! Ha!!!

I strode confidently up to the plate, and a relative hush fell over the field. Yep, it looked like most of the other students were in awe of me (Hey, how often does a parent come to spend time with them at school?). “Hey, TOM!” I yelled out to the 2nd base man, who hadn’t noticed the change of atmosphere and was presently inspecting each of his fingernails with the concentration of a monk. “Yo, look over here!”

His hand slowly dropped and his eyes rose to the familiar voice. “Shelby?” There we go. “Yeah, look over here. I’m going to hit the ball now. GET IT! Okay?….. OKAY?” …. After a long pause, he responded in his sing song way. “Okaaaay.”

It was my intention to get the ball near to him so that he would be forced to engage in the activity. In this case, ‘near’ turned out to mean pegging him squarely in the chest from 50 paces! It’s a GOOD thing that wasn’t a regular baseball, let me tell you!

You could have heard a pin drop in the grass; everybody (including myself) was shocked. Mind you, for different reasons. Staff were thinking, “Oh no! Is he hurt?! Is this parent gonna sue us for letting him bat?? But it’s his own kid…” I, on the other hand, was thinking more along the lines of, “Wow! Not bad for my first at-bat in 15 years. I never knew I could do THAT!!” (Tom was clearly not hurt; that ball was so light I’m surprised it even made out that far)

Now I REALLY had Tom’s attention. His eyes jolted wide open, and he stared at the white orb in front of him in puzzled wonderment as if to say, “How the heck did that get there?” Improbable circumstances had conspired for the perfect opportunity. “Hey TOM! Pick up the ball and get me OUT!” I yelled as I made a mock effort of sprinting to First base at the pace of a land tortoise with a Benadryl overdose.

Tom’s head raised at my familiar voice, then slowly lowered back to the ball as his voice trailed off, “Out?….” … It wasn’t working. Suddenly he came to as the whole field erupted with cheering, yelling, and kids jumping up and down. His eyes brightened. “OUT!!” he yelled. Then he snatched up the ball, barreled over to me in the midst of my tortoise impression worthy (I’m convinced) of an Oscar, and did just that. He was clearly proud of it, too.

It was the first time he’d ever done anything besides hit the ball and go around the bases randomly. Conventional? Nope, but name me anything else have worked that well?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Jacks Discoveries

Much knowledge in the world can be acquired with relative ease by those who have little else than a keen perception of the obvious. SG, 2007

Very true this is! For example, I’d wager you find the following things to be self-evident even though you may never have read about them before or even had thoughts of them flicker across the screen of your celebrated mind:

- A waist is a terrible thing to mind

- 99% of all Eskimos could care less about Ben&Jerry’s newest ice cream flavours.

- Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt

- Very few complain about the sound made by one hand clapping (even in church!)

- Tahitians don’t play ice hockey very often (something about grass skirts and unseasonable winter temperatures)

- Death is, generally speaking, almost always terminal.

See? This is a very short list of examples, yet clearly you get the picture. However, I do not wish to spend further time talking about these types of situations. For in contrast to these, there are times in which it takes a very shrewd mind combined with the execution of extreme measures to unlock factoids far more obscure and mysterious!

Take my wife Leonie and a recent experience she had, for example. Those who take the time to get to know her can (and do) unanimously attest to her sharp intellect, her creative talent, and her exceedingly prodigious ability to figure almost anything out. Well on this fine day, it possessed her to fill up the BUV (Big Ugly Van) with 9 teenage and young adult Hmongsters and transport them to and from San Francisco, some 350 plus miles all told. The City by the Bay boasts the largest Chinatown in the Western Hemisphere, and they are currently celebrating Chinese New Year. Yes, the Year of the Pig is upon us, and off they all went to soak up the sights and sounds of 3rd world America as well as relieve the shops & boutiques of various and sundry doodads and trinkets.

Now, the concept of a Caucasian woman taking a group of Southeast Asian young men to a distant Chinese celebration so that they can make purchases of such authentic items as Japanese Swords no doubt bears some intriguing study. But that is neither here nor there as it is not my focus at this time. (Another day, perhaps.) The REAL truth of discovery was made before they even reached the above hallowed site of celebratory revelry. The setting in question was in actuality along a lonely stretch of Interstate 5. There they were, careening down the broad and level path toward Sodom by the Sea, no doubt enthusiastically exchanging boastful lies about accomplishments unlikely attempted and experiences with maidens never met, when IT happened….

The tread on one of the tires came off. To Dodge’s credit, the 15 passenger van was not known as a “Ford Explorer.” If it were, it would likely have instantly turned sideways and rolled over 20 plus times. (and if movies are to be believed, would have blown up with such force that it would have left a crater two thirds the size of Delaware). No, the truth is that something just didn’t feel quite right, so they pulled off after a mile or so to see what it was all about. Also to Dodge’s credit, they issue a full sized spare tire in case of emergency rather than the typical bicycle or go-kart tire that most companies gleefully mount. So fortunately, it was just a matter of super Leonie getting out the tire and using her superlative supervisory skills in employing some of that young muscle to mount the spare one. It is here that the discovery was made: DODGE DON’T KNOW JACK!!!!! (or more accurately, DODGE DON’T KNOW VAN JACK! aka. DDKVJ)

Seriously! The jack Dodge provided, when fully extended, was still one foot too short to even reach the hard point let alone raise the van so the wheel could be removed. This was the next worst thing to DODGE DON’T (HAVE) NO JACK!!, but only barely (and mostly not at all). That the quest for a foot of solid material was ultimately successful and they were able to continue on their way does not diminish this oversight. I mean, what the heck would the Saudi Arabians have done?! (being surrounded by nothing but sand and all...)

A subsequent search of Dodge’s manual archives by an anonymous researcher revealed their rationale for the provided hardware:

RE: The jack being 1 foot too short to be useful:

This really is not a problem as we have provided you with the bonus of a full sized spare tire for your shiny new BUV! Just lay the spare down on the ground, place the jack on top of it, and crank it up…

Further searches were unable to reveal the implications of the spare now being held down by the weight of the van when you wished to replace a flat with it. Nor was there reference anywhere as to WHY one would wish to jack up their BUV if not to replace a tire with the spare.

So you see? Not all knowledge is obvious. If Leonie has solved this conundrum (that of why Dodge doesn’t know jack), she certainly hasn’t told me about it yet… I’ll probably have to ask. Until such time, I will have to conclude that...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

A walk in the Park, and Ignimony on a Country Lane

Spring had clearly arrived. The sun was warm and inviting, and the old homestead park beckoned alluringly with it’s many ancient stands of trees and wide open spaces. The natives were restless at home, with the youngest three alleging that they were near death from boredom, and Tommy itching to “Go Ride? Bike! BIIIIIKE!!!” On a Sabbath afternoon such as this, who WOULDN’T want to go out for a playful jaunt with the family? So it was that we found ourselves rubbing shoulders with God’s glorious nature on a day that was destined to be memorable.

Transportation came in the form of our BUV (Big Ugly Van) because of the numerous participants and the fact that we wanted to bring Tommy’s (almost) adult sized tricycle so that he could ride around on the numerous roads and paths in the park. Some concern about the fact that we had not fueled up earlier because BUV was riding the “Big E” was soon averted when I managed to find about 4 cups of petrol at home. “That ought to do it just fine.” I reassured my wife, with as much confident a paranoia as I could muster. (I didn’t want to put up with Tommy’s protestations about going without that ‘bike’)

The park was very nice indeed. Na and I played with a basketball as we walked. The dogs enthusiastically and quite vocally enjoyed the new sights and smells. Leonie and the rest of us got plenty of exertion when Tommy discovered that he WAS actually able to haul ‘gluteus maximus’ on his tricycle! This discovered as he moved from one new bathroom block to another in a relentless quest to find one that was not padlocked this fine off season. (Normally, Mr. Snail just keeps us at a brisk walk as he starts and stops randomly to look at something or other… or nothing).

Later, Mai Ying and I were separated from the rest of the group as she decided it would be fun to gather a collection of photos of herself posing in front of and FROM numerous strangely shaped trees. She’s quite a fan of pictures now that she has her own digital camera. I have to say this was probably the most meaningful and enjoyable personal time we’ve spent together that I can remember. For a while, she forgot she was auditioning for the title of “Most withdrawn, idiosyncratic, and egocentric teenage rookie of the year.” Miraculously, so did I… For my part, for a time I forgot that I was the “Somber guardian appointed by law to instantaneously undo a lifetime of underprivilege and replace it with a well adjusted & productive society member.” And miraculously, so did Mai Ying. I might be reading too much into it, but perhaps it was even a turning point.

So all told, a great time at the park was had by all. On the way home, however, Na, in his trademark fashion, asked, “So, are we just gonna go STRAIGHT HOME now?” The implication being, of course, that that’s where death from boredom lurks unchecked. (Gah! We can’t win for losing.) I flippantly responded that yes, this was the plan. “Unless, of course, something else dramatic or unexpected happens.” He didn’t get it.

Prophetically, not one mile down the road from the utterance of the above comment… we ran OUT OF GAS and drifted to the shoulder under some shady trees. Only the sun was setting, so there wasn’t exactly need for shade. I enjoyed a good inner laugh at the irony of our predicament whilst also kicking myself in disgust. It was going to be a long walk home.

Then Leonie, in what appeared to be an entirely honest attempt to be helpful (at first blush, anyway) piped up with one of the most ludicrously ridiculous suggestions I’ve ever heard. “YOU could ride Tommy’s trike home and bring more gas, honey.” I was incredulous. “Would that actually be better than jogging?!” “Oh YES, absolutely!” she reassured me. … Uh huh. Like I would fall for that!

The rest is somewhat of a blur. I DO recall breaking world land speed records for a Tricycle… for that particular 1.7 mile stretch of Belmont Avenue. It was the discovery of an amazing new way to meet people, as cars full of curious and encouraging onlookers pointed, waved, honked, and laughed as they passed by. I swear I saw some of the same cars go by more than once, each time seemingly with more people in them than the last. Oh, the celebrity of it all! For my part, I made sure they didn’t come to the conclusion that I was a low watt bulb by smiling and waving back to them! And after the first couple of times of taking one hand off of the handlebars to wave, I didn’t even run clear off the road.

Just to give you an idea of how much fun I was having: About half way along this homeward journey, I passed a house of acquaintances. They were even outside and stopped what they were doing to gawk in my general direction as I blazed past. I could have stopped and asked for a ride for the remaining 1 mile home, but at the time I was busy keeping my head down and being fascinated by whatever happened to be on the other side of the road from their house! *

To make a long story short, I reached my destination and was able to return with gas before Na succumbed to a sudden ravenous and unquenchable thirst. And while my fondest memory of the day was of spending some real and meaningful quality time with my precious youngest girl, Leonie’s is of another: That of Hubby in hasty retreat from the setting sun, pumping furiously and courageously down the country road on a tricycle too small for him. With head a-bobbing, wheels a-weaving, piggy legs a-churning, and knees a-smacking his armpits so hard that they left bruises! Go figure… I KNEW men and women were different from each other.


(*You can stop
snickering now, dear reader. Bloggers have feelings too, y’know?*)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Quotable Quote #2

"Confirm Reality: Act like you matter." SG, 2007
This came to me like most thoughts do. (In the shower)
While it doesn't seem to have the same significance in print now that I'm looking at it, it still has a lot of meaning to me...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hospitals

I’ve been spending considerable time at the Hospital with my dad for the last several days. He gets fatigued easily, and recently he’s started to have nausea from the chemo therapy. It appears that his pain level is finally coming under control, though. He has finally gotten over the fear of getting addicted to the morphine pump they’ve given him and now uses it strategically if he’s going to need to get up for something. I can’t do very much for him, but I can tell that my being here with him has really boosted his courage. What else is there to say?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Support: Family is Bigger than you Think

It’s my Dad’s 64th Birthday! Understandably, we’re not going to have a big old party. But at least Auntie Laurie and Uncle Jim were able to go in and see him for the first time since he arrived. And he was also able to eat some of the ‘special’ Chinese food I brought him. I tell you, he’s almost as rabid about Chinese as his dad was.

I went to the Aldergrove Church with the intention of giving Pastor Dave an update so that he could share it with the congregation. But of course, I slept in and didn’t get around to leaving until I was late for the second service. The praise service was already under way when I arrived. Bill Gerber met me when I came in, and the good man was kind enough to sneak up front to tell the pastor that I was there and had a bit to share with him, if possible. But the pastor just nodded and didn’t move. Bill came back around to where I was, and the only warning I got was when he said, “Uh oh. He didn’t even follow me. Be ready to go up front, ‘cause he does that sort of thing.”

Sure enough, the Pastor announced my Dad’s condition, then called me out onto the carpet to provide details. It was done very nicely, and I could see that many of the members were visibly concerned about him. A special prayer was held, and then I got the opportunity to do what my Dad had asked me to do. “Give everybody a hug from me who wants one,” he said. When I announced that this is what he’d asked me to do and that I’d be in the foyer after the service to ‘deliver’ to all takers, the congregation brought the house down with instantaneous and thunderous applause.

I don’t know how many hugs I handed out, or even most of the names of those who lined up for their ‘turn’. I do know that I stopped counting at about 28 and that there were numerous people after that. Throughout, I had a strong sense of support from everyone collectively and individually that really touched me and lifted my spirits. I so much wish that my dad could have been there to receive it all first-hand, because he was still in a lot of pain, scared about the unknown, and not comfortable with the idea of visitors seeing him in his current condition. Instead, he had to settle for my verbal account of the whole experience, which I tried in vain to do justice. It was a rare ‘major’ day surrounded and cramped in by a host of ‘minors.’

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Journeys

Tuesday, February 6: Not the sort of day that one forgets on account of it being so ‘routine’ that it’s indistinguishable from most others. The day before, the decision was reached to not wait until the weekend to travel to Canada to be with my parents. I’d managed to notify all (or most) work related people… and then procrastinated from finalizing the packing process, so any hopes of getting an early start went far from being realized.

The AM hours were spent applying for Passports for the youngest 4 kids for future travel, and taking Txee to yet another CT scan to see what was going on with the cancer throughout her body. With all of the appointments and procedures I’d accompanied her to over the previous 2 years, you’d think that this would be a pretty standard event. But on this day, I felt rather uneasy. She had been experiencing worsening health, with increasing complaints of headaches and hip pain as well as a return of ulceration at the cancer’s site of origin. This caused significant worry with some of her kids, so the “normal” levels of volatility at home were enhanced, to say the least.

When the CT was completed and some random clothing items had been assembled together, it was with considerable relief that I faced the prospect of an open road and 17 hours of travel time ahead of me. I was too cheap to fly, but this gave me some time to put the stressors of home life behind me (or at least store them for later retrieval) so that I could steel myself for the new challenges of being a support for my mom and dad. It was also a time of a huge inner struggle that I don’t think I’ll ever have the ability to even attempt to explain.

The most re-played thoughts in my head on that trip were ones of irony: How is it that I, of all people, had the misfortune of having to leave one stressful living environment with a gravely ill person to go to ANOTHER stressful environment with another gravely ill person?! How does one justify robbing Peter to pay Paul, since I was needed in both places? And how do people cope with this sort of stuff, anyway?

I’ve long concluded that the ‘experts’ out there have no real solutions to offer, and there were no lightening bolt answers from above, either. But the solitude allowed me to prepare and conclude how I would attempt approach this and other similar challenging situations. It was a long drive, and even if no one else who knows me ever notices the difference, the person who arrived in Vancouver the next day is not the one who left Fresno.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Get Well, Mr. Williams

"Mr. Williams" album

The medical system in Thailand is excellent. Services are professional, tests take place both in higher numbers and with a quicker turn-around time than in Canada, and nursing care is… well, both of my parents have nothing but glowing reports about the care given by the nurses in Chiang Mai. The people have been courteous, warm, and encouraging. Pretty much the biggest drawback, in fact, lies not with the Thai medical establishment or the people at all. Rather, the “problem” is my dad. You can see from the pictures that he is Caucasian, white… a “farang” is how they put it in Thailand. Well, this particular farang with the blood disorder happens to have a blood type of A-, which just happens to be a blood type no Asian on the planet has. This means the donor base in this Asian country is, well, NOT! (A serious problem, without a doubt)

And so it was that, early in the week, the Canadian Consulate in Chiang Mai put out an official urgent ‘all call’ to internationals of European descent of the need for blood donors with A- blood to help out an ill Canadian traveler. This communiqué, while effective, nonetheless created a bit of confusion over my dad’s name. Though I did not see it, his name was likely given in the format of Last name first, then First and middle names. I believe this because he received a special delivery of hand-made ‘Get Well’ cards from a second grade class of a Christian school in the area (Grace Christian School??), and every last one of them was addressed to “Mr. Williams.” (William is his middle name) I have since looked through these cards, and nearly all of them say, “Get Well Mr. Williams.” Hence, the title of this entry.

The call for blood donors reached the United States Embassy as well as other European embassies. It reached the headquarters’ of several NGO’s (Non-government Organizations who provide international aid), and it reached numerous Christian Missionary organizations that work with the various hill tribes in the region. In response, from all walks of life and despite it being time consuming and inconvenient, they came! In very large numbers, in fact. Most volunteers turned out not to have a matching blood type, and some were turned away for various other reasons (one was told she was too old to donate blood). More often than not, however, they made it a point to come up to the unit to meet and encourage the stranger they had come to help. In this, they’ve done an excellent job. My parents have both shared with me how profoundly moved they were by strangers who showered them with such overwhelming love and encouragement. My dad’s condition was serious, his pain was excruciating, and my parents’ fear of the many unknowns was considerable. But their courage was buoyed through the support they received from these people. In the end, only two blood type matches were found and accepted, and this was fortunate. But I think that far more good was brought from this than simply the blood that was collected.

So, even though I can do nothing for my dad from this side of the ocean but pray for his safe return and healing, I’m encouraged that, where he is, there are countless people who have him in their thoughts and prayers. "Get Well, Mr. Williams!"