Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PPFFhhhttttt . . . .

What's that sound, you ask? Wow, so many questions lately. I feel like we're really connecting here. Why, that is the sound of me petering out today on my running schedule. I know, I know, I just wrote a long and inspiring post about the need to persevere through pain, etc. etc. I'm sure all of you went out, bought new shoes, and hit the track. Maybe even with "I run like Gina" t-shirts on. Maybe not.

Anyway, while I still believe in the need to persevere, I also believe in the need to listen to my body. And this morning my body said, "Gina, you haven't had a full, restful night's sleep in 5 nights. Your legs and particularly ankles are still cursing you for the torture you inflicted on Sunday, when you not only ran for an hour and a half but proceeded to get lost and walk another mile and a half home. Running this morning would not be wise. We need rest."

Which is why instead I went for a 3 mile walk and am in the process of making caramel popcorn for my kids so that they can get jacked up on sugar while they watch a movie and I sleep.

I still plan to do my five mile run on Thursday, and a whopping 10 miles on Sunday. So wish me good rest and perseverance!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lessons Learned from Running

How's the running going Gina? Why, thank you so much for asking. That's really thoughtful of you. It's going quite well in fact. I have a nine mile run scheduled for tomorrow. I had two great five mile runs this week. My new shoes (Mizuno Wave Creation 8) are fantastic and make a world of difference. And I'm discovering that Relient K is a great band to listen to while I'm out.

But beyond learning which bands play fast enough for a running pace, this training has been teaching me deeper lessons. Much of my motivation has come from reading The Resilient Life by Gordon McDonald. Here are a few quotes from it:

"Resilient people seek the satisfaction of knowing that every part of their lives is under personal control, and they understand that there is a price to be paid for this."

"Discipline is intentional suffering. It is the act of insisting that the body, the mind, and the spirit engage in challenges that build up capacity and stamina."

"The (athletes) push their bodies to heightened levels of performance by demanding of themselves longer, faster, and stronger episodes of physical output. They do not stop simply because there is a feeling of fatigue or even pain. They understand that there are mental barriers that have to be overcome."

"When I push my body for an extended time, the other pieces of who I am seem to awaken to the fact that I really am the boss, and that my entire being is expected to submit to the convictions and intentions I have set in place for myself. "

I am coming to look forward to my runs, not because I enjoy them (although there are moments when I do feel great doing it) but because I enjoy the results, both physical and mental. I like knowing that I have made choices and pushed past barriers I have set up for myself in my mind. Each time I am running and am tempted to quit, but press on instead, I know it is a further step (literally) toward a higher level of competence.

I know now that when I used to say, "I can't run" what I was really saying was, "I don't want to run." I wonder in what other areas of my life I have set up the same mental barriers?

I'll finish with another good quote, this time from an even better book:
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Creative Writing

We try to discourage potty words in our house, as a general rule. So while I was highly amused by the following, it is with a small ounce of shame that I share it.

We got back from Thailand this afternoon. While Erik and I were unpacking, Megan went into the homeschool room and wrote two books. She shaped both of them to look like actual books with a binding, gave them titles on the side and front. She's definitely got the writer gene in her. We just need to work on content. Here's the full text:

Title: The Poop That Liked to Poop
Story: The poop liked to poop and the poop liked to poop on the playground, so he slid on his poop that he made.

In our defense, both the kids caught some gastrointestinal bug in Thailand that has made bowel movements a more prominent part of our discussions lately. And she's six. Poop is really funny when you're six.

The other book was essentially the same story. It is titled, "The Pee That Liked to Pee." You can guess the storyline.
So now when she's a famous author some day, you can say, "I knew her when . . . "

Monday, July 21, 2008

Uh . . . you forgot something

Laundry in a hotel is tricky. The service provided by the hotel is not cheap (unlike most things in Thailand) so we usually go out on the street in search of some local place that will do it. Sometimes they charge per item, some places just charge per load. You can drop your clothes off in the morning and pick them up later or the next day neatly pressed and smelling like an entire factory of soap. It's a good deal, and it's worked for us until now. That's right - until now. Because there's a first for everything.

We dropped our laundry off one morning last week and were told we could pick it up the next day at 8 a.m. Good thing because Megan and I were down to our last pairs of underwear. When Erik went to pick it up, the woman was overloaded and said it wouldn't be dry until 6 p.m. We were headed out for dinner and a movie that evening, so Erik picked up the laundry, threw it in our room, and we were off.

When we got back, I started unpacking our laundry and had a brief thought, "What if she didn't give us our underwear back. That would suck because we don't have any more." Unpack. Unpack . . . hey, wait a second. Is there another bag? Because I don't see much . . . underwear. One pair of mine. One pair of Ethan's. Two of Erik's. None of Megan's. This is not right.

Knowing there was nothing we could do, we went to bed and jokingly said, "Hey, remember that time in Thailand when we lost all our underwear? That was crazy," while trying to imagine staying calm and joyful if we found that the laundry woman gave our clothes to someone else.

The next day Erik went back to check with the woman. She responded with looks of confusion, but no underwear. So we put up a sign in the elevators asking people to keep a watch out for any clothes that weren't theirs. Since most of the people taking laundry to her were our friends, we figured they would show up eventually.

Sure enough, later that morning, my friend Sonya called and said, "Do you have Old Navy underwear?" I do! When she found a bunch of unfamiliar underwear in her laundry, she figured it was mine and told the woman, "I need to call my friend." The woman took this as an invitation to try out other lost items, holding them out and asking, "My friend?" to which Sonya would respond, "No my friend."

So all is well. Our underwear is back safe and sound. And I just wrote a whole post about lost underwear. Lots of firsts happening these days.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday dad!

Today is the birthday of a great man, my dad. I thought I'd take a minute to let the world know a little more about him, because he's not the kind of guy to go around tooting his own horn. Here are just a few of the reasons I love my dad:

1. He's got a servant's heart
When I was just out of college and raising support to go into full time ministry, I remember one morning I couldn't find my dad. My mom said he'd gone up to church for something but she didn't know what. So I drove out there and found him in the basement, vacuuming. Our church janitor was in the hospital that week, so my dad decided he'd help out by spending his day off doing something no one would ever know he'd done. No one asked him to do it - he just saw a need and met it. I've gotta say I wish more of this heart had passed down to me, but I hold it in mind as an example to follow.

2. He's a teacher
Despite spending more than 30 years as a pharmacist, it's in my dad's nature to teach (maybe that's why he was so good at training other people). When I was 13 and about to fly to England to visit a friend, my dad pulled out the globe and used a piece of string to show me how it was actually faster to fly over the top of the world than straight across. He's taught my son how to grow tomatoes, and given him a love for doing it at the same time. Whenever he has the opportunity, he responds to teaching moments.

3. He's generous
I have to admit, I'm a bit spoiled. My dad came from humble beginnings, and I think he wanted to make sure his family had what he didn't. But I'm not just talking about material things - I'm talking about time and experience too. My dad's just one to give himself away to others, and I've reaped the benefits. This is something I'm focusing on in my life right now, so that I can carry on this legacy (seems to run in my mom's side of the family too!)

4. He's wise
Despite being generous with us, my dad knew when to say no too. In a country full of debt, he's one man making wise choices about how he spends his money and time. I think it's partly because my dad does a lot more thinking than he does talking, so what comes out of his mouth and what he does in his actions don't come from passing whims. More times than not, I wish I'd taken my dad's advice. Like the time he told me not to come home for the weekend from college because there was a big storm coming. I went home anyway, and nearly got stranded in a ditch with four other fools. And yet, when we got home 2 hours later than it should have taken us, my parents had ordered pizza. No, "I told you so," just pizza. That's grace for you.

5. He's hard working
You just have to look at my dad's garden to know that this man has a strong work ethic. You don't get results like that without careful planning, days of bending over weeds, lots of trips to the nursery, and constant diligence. I suppose you can't grow up on a farm and not have a strong work ethic, but he's never lost it. This is one thing I have inherited from him I believe. Thanks dad!

6. He's humble
Several years ago, when my dad was working in drug compounding at the Mayo Clinic, there was a young girl who got a fungus in her lungs, and it was killing her. This doctor came to my dad and asked if he could figure out a way to get an antifungus drug into her. So my dad turned around and made one into something she could inhale, and it saved her life. (I may have some of the details of this story wrong, and I know that if I exaggerated any part my dad would be sure to correct it). Recently this doctor got credit for it. The rest of our family was up in arms, but he just shrugged. Now, I still think he should go back and say something, but that's my dad. He's accomplished amazing things, but he'll never be the one to tell people. That's why he has me, his overly talkative daughter.

Well, I could go on, but MY daughter is asking for the computer. Dad, happy birthday! Wish I could be there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Ph sound in Thai

I don't speak much Thai. In fact, I can only say "Sawadeeka" (hello) "Kapkumka" (thank you) and "baht" (which is what they call their money). Yep, that's it. But I am getting a little better at understanding how to pronounce what I can read. Thai has a different alphabet, but many things are written in Romanized characters. Still, it isn't always pronounced how it looks. The most striking example is the "ph" sound. We would say it like an F. If this were the case, "Phuket island" would be a bit awkward to say. Thankfully, it's just a "P" sound, so Phuket is pronounced "Poo-KET." On the other hand, Phi Phi island, is "Pee Pee island." And up on the mountain on Sunday Erik saw a building called the "PhuPhing Palace." Use your new knowledge of Thai pronunciation and figure that one out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ethan's Observations

Erik came back from a morning motorbike ride with Megan to discover me half asleep and Ethan playing "Timez Attack" on my computer. Erik greeted me with a "Hey, sweet baby cakes!"
Ethan said, "I don't think she's feeling very sweet right now."
I commented that I was pretty exhausted from my long run.
Erik said some of our friends were down in the courtyard playing, minus our friend Jenny, who has recently become the mother of a fifth child.
I asked where she was and Erik said, "Probably doing what you're doing," to which Ethan added, "She's got five kids. Of course she's exhausted!"

Interesting Things I've Seen on Morning Runs in Thailand

1. Barefoot monks in bright orange robes, out hunting breakfast
2. Amusingly named bars like "Fine Thanks!" and "How Come!!!" (yes, there were three exclamation points)
3. A man walking a horse along the "highway." I use highway as a loose term, as it was the road I was running on. More like a wide road with few stoplights.
4. Lots of idol buildings. One was quite large and all gold.
5. People selling food on the street.
6. Chiang Mai University. I was going to run on the track, but it was dirt, and there were three dogs already using it. I don't think they were training though - they seemed pretty casual.
7. A couple of really nice houses I wouldn't mind owning, or at least living in for awhile.
8. A family who seems to own a lot of chickens which they feed outside early in the morning.
9. Two dogs who wanted to join me on my run. Go away!! Go!! It took them awhile to understand, I guess because they speak Thai, not English. But angry women shouting translates into most languages.
10. A lavender excavator. I think it was an excavator. Which one is Scoop from Bob the Builder? Anyway, it was a construction truck. It shouldn't be lavender.
11. Lots and lots and lots of motorbikes.
12. Old Thai men running very slowly. I like to pass people like this and pretend I am like the WIND. So fast.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cancel the pity party

When you read something in your devotional time in the morning, then two hours later have a speaker focus on the same topic, I think it's a safe assumption to say that God is trying to tell you something.

The topic du jour is humility. The kicker for me was this quote by John Piper we read during our morning conference session:

"The nature and depth of human pride are illuminated by comparing boasting to self-pity. Both are manifestations of pride. Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, "I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much." Self-pity says, "I deserve admiration because I have suffered so much" . . . The reason self-pity doesn't look like pride is that appears to be so needy. But the wound arises from a wounded ego. It doesn't come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride."

Read that a few times, then consider this: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. That means God doesn't accept invitations to my pity parties. I confess I have always seen pride from the viewpoint of boasting, but not that of self-pity. And I will confess further that I have spent more time at Gina-hosted pity parties than I care to admit. Self-pity and humility are in opposition with one another. I want to keep this in mind the next time I think life hasn't been as kind to me as I "deserve." I hope instead that I'll go to God for the grace I need. I'm pretty sure He'll give it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tiger Kingdom

When a friend suggests that you should take your family to a place where you can pet tigers, you shouldn't think aboaut the potential danger. You should just go, because when are you going to have the chance to pet one again? It's not like you're going to happen upon on in the wild.

We drove about 1/2 hour with eight kids aged 2-8 piled in the back of a rented car, and two dads trailing behind on motor bikes. We took a bit of a detour but finally found the Tiger Kingdom. We happened to have with us the three men in our company arguably most likely to be able to talk their way into a bargain, so they negotiated a better price while the kids talked about how they were going to pet all the tigers. We also looked at pictures they were displaying on a screen of people cuddling tiger cubs and laying casually on reclining tigers. It all looked promising.

We were given 15 minutes in a cage with two young tiger cubs, 3 months old. They were both the size of a small lap dog. Two cages, four sleeping cubs, and eight children. They were hesitant at first, but soon most of the kids were enjoying touching the cubs. We tried to get them to sit in on laps, but that woke them all up and they preferred wandering around their cages and playing with empty water bottles to sitting on laps.

After the kids' time, Erik and Travis got some time in the big boy's cage. Those tigers were obviously adults, but still quite small compared to some breeds I've seen (like the white tigers at the Singapore Zoo). If they ever got fiesty, the handlers were there with small sticks to bop them on the nose.

So now we can say we've petted tigers - who can say that? See our flickr account for pics.

Take Me Back to Thailand

And so, for the umpteenth time in our Asian life, we headed out the door to Thailand on Friday. Our taxi driver gave us a taste of what was to come as he flew down the highway to Singapore Changi Airport, the "Speeding Kills" sign a blur as we passed. Thai taxis are a lesson in trust and faith - trust that your driver doesn't want to die any more than you do, and faith, that you will get to your destination without injury and in record time.

We had to stop through Bangkok on our way to Chiang Mai (oh non-stop flight, where have you gone?). In the immigration line, we were approached by a thin older gentleman with sparse black hair and wire rimmed glasses. He introduced himself as a Catholic priest and offered us prayer cards for our children. He said he is part of "Opus Dei, have you heard of it?" Erik said no, and all I could think of was, "That's the crazy cult from Da Vinci Code!" But I kept smiling. He seemed nice, and not at all muderous.

On the second flight, Ethan came back from the bathroom and said to Erik, "You might think this is amazing, but that was the first time I've ever pooped on an airplane! And it's also the first time I've ever washed my hands on an airplane!" (I swear that's not true - I washed his hands when I took him, but I can't vouch for solo trips.I assumed we'd trained him well enough. Never assume). Erik said, "Why don't you always wash your hands on an airplane?"
"Well, I didn't know how to work it before. But this time I thought, 'my hands are disgusting because I pooped. I should figure out how to wash my hands!' So I did."

It took some time before we could locate the driver sent to fetch us. On the way to the hotel, Ethan observed a gas station. "Mom, if you lived next to a gas station, it would be good, but also bad."
"Alright, tell me why."
"Well, it would be good because if you needed gas, you could just go right next door. But it would be bad for two reasons. First of all, if the gas station blew up, you would die. Second, you would always smell like gas."

That Ethan, always thinking.

We are on the 10th floor of our hotel, where we have a nice view of the foothills lining one side of Chiang Mai. Our two rooms have wood floors that have already provided plenty of fun sliding for the kids, and moments of fear for the parents as we see them careen out of control toward objects in the room.

More Thai adventures to come.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My First Bible

Ok, Ethan's had Bibles before, but this is the first one he requested. I guess during VBS they had the kids look up verses in the pew Bibles (or maybe he was bored with whatever they were doing up front and spent some time browsing - equally possible) so he really wanted one JUST like it. That's right, a pew Bible. He's been asking for one for three weeks. We were at the Christian book store today and I took him to the kid's Bibles, giving him all the possibilities of cool covers and interesting devotions inside. He was undeterred.

So he's now got his first full adult Bible and he's a happy camper. And I probably saved money from buying one with more frills.

Only Me

My body likes to react to life in a variety of odd ways. This week's crazy illness is hives. I had them once before, when I lived in Minneapolis. That was much worse - I was miserable for three days. This is not as bad, presumably because I am already hyped up on tons of antihistamines for my allergies.

Why do I have hives, you might ask? Excellent question. After some thorough (and by thorough I mean "2 minutes on wrongdiagnosis.com") research, it seems I have these hives because I overheated on my long run Sunday night. That seems strange because I didn't get any hotter than usual, but I did run farther than I ever have. I can't think of anything new I was exposed to or that I ate recently, I am not experiencing any emotional stress that I am aware of, so I'm going with "overheating." I'm inclined toward this diagnosis also because it appeared in all the places where I was wearing clothes but not beyond. It's now spread and is at the moment delighting in torturing my elbows.

I shouldn't be surprised really. My doctor said I'm more likely to have allergic reactions to other things because my dust mite allergy is so strong. I guess I'll just wait for it to go away. In the meantime, I look a little freaky. We're going to the Discovery Centre right now - I think I'll wear a sweatshirt and jeans (thank God it's cool today!) so people don't eye me suspiciously, or run away screaming, "The Pox!!"