Monday, July 25, 2016


     Pene has been in the habit for years now of mumbling or addressing her comments at the dinner table to only one party so no one else can hear clearly what she says. I find these side conversations annoying so I ask her to speak up so everyone can hear. Even upon repeating, she'll sometimes speak at a voice barely audible, much less decipherable, so I'll say, “I still can't hear you,” at which point she shouts in irritation.
     In short, we're trying to teach her to be assertive and cheerful. The second part's easy for her as it's in her nature, but not combined with the first—it's one of her few glaring weaknesses in social skills and maturity.

     We've felt called to visit other churches this past month and at one of them, a girl but a year Pene's senior greeted us prior to Sunday service at the snack lanai and boy was she ever impressive! She spoke with clear, friendly, assertive confidence, calm and articulate. Her posture, eye contact, and body language were composed, age-appropriate, and sensible. There aren't too many peers to Pene that I'd like her to imitate, but she was one of them when it comes to speaking, at least.  When speaking with her, I spoke more smoothly and with far less stumbles and awkwardness than usual. (I tend to imitate those around me.)
     I later asked Pene if she was impressed by her and she smiled and said, Yes! So she can recognize what we're after.
     Pene's voice is naturally muted, but that can be overcome as whenever she's excited with her brothers, she speaks with ample authority. I think it's more a matter of wanting to appear coy, sophisticated, or unobtrusive, and not boorish, uncouth, or attention-seeking. Though she doesn't say any of this, her hesitant body language sometimes suggests it.

     I recently read a humorous nonfiction book in which the writer says that guys love bitches—strong, assertive, and self-contained types, with strong personalities—and flee from clingy, needy, pliant, wilty girls, indecisive and fearful, whose world revolves around the guy, and who are wholly dependent on him for all their self-image needs. The writer had been the latter—unsuccessful in love—until something clicked and she became the former—with guys flocking to her for attention.
     Well, obviously it's not either/or—there's a long, unclearly defined spectrum. I, too, was more so the latter type until I came to know and trust and surrender my all to God, at which point I became more so the former type—though you don't have to be a bitch or an ass to be confident, secure, and strong, or be totally spineless or codependent to lack adequate self-confidence or strength.
     Pene's got lots of time and it's understandable that an adolescent will often lack self-composure (I was a shaky leaf at her age with certain peers, though mumbling was never an issue for me). At home at least, she can do better. I suppose her strength, like mine, is in one-on-one interactions, not large, free-for-all groups.  And we love her just as well for that.

Monday, July 18, 2016


     About the only time I heard the term “klepper” was in the 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” when mother Edith—the most admirable character in the show—thought she might be an incorrigible thief because she left a store without paying for merchandise (until she much later recalled why it had happened accidentally).
     Not so Jaren. Thrice he's stolen and consumed more than his fair share of allotted treats. We keep a strict household when it comes to these—no 24 hours all-you-can-eat goodies buffet. We, as parents, dole out the goodies as we see fit.
     First time we found out about his thefts came when we discovered candy wrappers under the sofa some time after Halloween. Judging by the number of wrappers, it must have been going on for some time as it's not like him to binge. He lied about it (“I don't know where they came from”), then confessed and got a week's time out for it. (The older kids, we're certain, wouldn't lie about such a thing—and would certainly do a better job at disposing the evidence if they did lie.)
     Next time Deanne noticed the contents of a liter bottle of soda mysteriously disappearing, its level dropping lower and lower every so often. He lied about it then confessed (sooner than the last time) and got a few days time out for it.
     Then came the discovery of cherry pits beneath the sofa—too many to have been eaten all at one go or even just a few gos. He lied about it (“I forgot”), then confessed and got a week of time out for it.
     He's honest about money, so there's no theft-creep as far as we can tell. The other weekend at the market he wanted to play a grab-a-toy crane game for fifty cents. He didn't have money so I said I'd pay but he needed to reimburse me half. He said okay. Of course he didn't get the toy (a small cushion) and of course I forgot all about it. That afternoon, he approached me and gave me the quarter “For the game, remember?” So for him, it's mainly food impulse control when we're not present. It's, “I want I want I want...I take!” And lying about it when confronted. Or at potlucks if we're not watching, he'll take far too many sweets.
     All our kids' weights are at fifty percentile while their heights are fifty to seventy-five percentile so their builds are fine. We just feel it's important to establish healthy eating habits now—portion controls, limited snacks, etc.—that will hopefully continue throughout their lives. Braden and Pene are doing fine now after struggling in fits and starts. It's Jaren's turn to learn, too. In general, he's fine, seldom grousing when we tell him “No more” or “That's enough.” But sneaking around snitching food in his secret corner behind the couch and lying about it? No way! Which reminds me: I also prohibited him from sitting there as a hopefully preventive measure. (Good thing he hasn't started flushing evidence down the toilet or dumping them down the storm drain outside. He's been sneaky, but thankfully not wily. Perhaps a part of him wants to get caught to test if we care enough to act? If so, no problem, we'll act alright—no Homer or Marge Simpson laissez-faire when it comes to discipline for us. When they get caught acting out, they get strict, real consequences that make them suffer, not the rest of us. Once he realizes that he gets plenty (way more than me, say, a seldom snacker who only takes micro bite-size portions at that) and that cheatin' ain't worth it, he'll stop. Or suffer the unending consequences while still at home.)
     I realize that once they leave home, they could boomerang the other way and binge on junk food unending. So be it. It'll be their choice. But not on my watch, I tell Deanne. While we're responsible, we have to do our parts.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Waikiki Overnighter

     For the first time ever, Deanne and I left the kids alone at home overnight—this to celebrate our wedding anniversary alone in a room in Waikiki. Since Braden is age sixteen and quite responsible with the younger ones, we felt it would work out fine. And it did, praise God!
     As an adventure (and reenactment of prior family stays), we parked near our old apartment by Kapahulu, caught a bus, and checked into our hotel. It was an older walk-up along a quiet side street off Kuhio Avenue. The rustic room was nothing fancy, but the king size bed was comfortable with lots of pillows and cushions, everything was neat and clean, and we appreciated the fully stocked kitchenette that came with the free upgrade that the front desk clerk didn't even mention to us. We feel more comfortable anyway in humble and affordable accommodations, so it matched our needs and desires perfectly.
     After we unwinded a bit, we held hands and headed on foot to scope out a possible place for dinner. After that (it looked good), because it was early, we headed for the Moana Surf Rider Hotel for some music beneath the banyan tree. A talented guy sang and played guitar—a welcome relief from the traffic noise and incessant crowds. We took an unassuming perch upon a low wall like other locals 'cause we didn't want to order anything. The nearby beach was packed, so we passed hanging out there for the sunset. Instead, we headed back to the Aqua Hotel eatery we had earlier investigated and had yummy pizza and a shared beer pool-side in a very peaceful nook. Our table was sheltered beneath a large canvass umbrella which was a good thing 'cause toward the end of dinner it started to pour. It was kind-of fun, like an additional adventure, to lean forward to avoid the heavy streams of water cascading off the umbrella. Sans our own umbrella, we hung out in the hotel lobby and watched DVD previews on the kiosk dispenser. The movie “Boyhood” looked promising, so upon our return to our own hotel, we borrowed it from an identical kiosk.
     While Deanne busied herself in the restroom, I tried to set up the movie on the Play Station, but it wouldn't work. So I notified the front desk, who sent an ancient maintenance guy up, who finally got it going after fifteen minutes of fiddling. But he was very courteous and professional, so no problem.
     Next morning while Deanne slept, I went for a stroll and got some fresh made udon to go at a very popular cafeteria-style Japanese eatery. I didn't know what to order (due to unfamiliar Japanese terms), so I imitated a Japanese tourist who said, “Number seven” to the Caucasian guy in charge. It turned out to be very tasty and sensational for a very reasonable price, which we ate with cut fruits brought from home.
     We later went for a walk to check out the food trucks on Beach Walk Avenue (one has a #3 Yelp-rated ramen in the U.S.) just to see 'cause they opened much later and we weren't staying for lunch. Then we went back to our room, watched the remainder of the video (which took awhile for me to start up again—it was a good movie), checked out, caught the bus back to our car, and drove home.
     True, it was a simple outing, but sooo relaxing and downright strange to be away from the kids in town overnight, trying not to wonder too much how they were doing, but nice to be free from the figurative shackles and on a “real” (extended) date alone again. And share quiet, easy talk of whatever, no pressure, no need for extravagance or show 'cause that's not our taste, style, or preference anyway.

     That's what's nice about being in a loving, real relationship: we're free to be who we are. No need to impress. Just enjoy each other, which comes quite natural as long as we try to be considerate, concerned, attentive, and all that good-lovin' stuff.
     It's a pretty nice way to live and a pretty nice marriage—still fresh after eighteen years.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

To Visit or Not to Visit

     A recent essay of mine (click here to view), published in Metro HNL described my eighty-six year old Aunt Julie who is suffering ill health and the recent loss of doting husband and family man Uncle Tani. She specified, “No visitors or phone calls”, because she needed quiet time to recover while she convalesced in a care home. In the essay I described some of my love and appreciation for her, what she'd done and shown me through the years, and my concern that she may have lost her will to live, and that I wished to say “Thank you” and Goodbye”—just in case.
     More recently, I felt called to visit her. I thought she might appreciate it and I didn't want to later regret not having gone and tried despite discomfort I'll feel for having disobeyed her instructions. I felt maybe she didn't want people to see her sick so I envisioned waving a white flag before her open doorway and calling to her and perhaps speaking to her solely hidden from view. And I felt our closeness—never a harsh word exchanged—would encourage a quick reconciliation if offense was taken.
     When I called the care home and asked regarding whether Auntie Julie specified visitor restrictions, the nurse said, “None at all.” The nurse at the sign-in visitor's station was happy to see Jaren and me there an hour or two later.
     A TV blared within. I waved in slow figure eights a white sheet of paper mounted to the end of a croquet mallet shaft in front of the door and called, “Auntie Julie? Auntie Julie?”
     There was no answer so I took a peak in and saw a privacy curtain that shielded her bed from view. I tried again from within with only the flag visible beyond the curtain's end.
     “Who's there?” she asked.
     I stepped forward and didn't recognize the frail elderly woman lying flat on her back in bed. “Auntie Julie?” I asked.
     “Yes,” she said. “Who are you?”
     “Tim. Do you mind a visit?” I then recognized something about her expressive eyes and raspy nasal voice that calmed me.
     It was a brief visit as she said she told my mom she didn't want visitors because she needed rest for her heart. She allowed us to leave small gifts—two scones made by Deanne and a wooden alphabet block wrapped by Jaren in his artwork scribbles that she didn't bother to open—even as she smiled and joked about us being Santa Claus and commented on Jaren being cute and having grown so much.
     She was appreciative—no scoldings—but firm and gentle when she said “bye” twice to prompt our departures.
     “Can I at least hug and kiss you?” I asked.
     In her biggest smile yet, she said, “You can shake my hand,” which Jaren and I did.
     It'd been far better than I'd feared, but far less than I'd hoped. I'd had fanciful notions of talking story for over an hour, sharing about our family, hearing about hers, and making visits with her a regular thing—perhaps twice a month or more. Then again I'd dreaded the shock and hurt of a sharp rebuke. I'd pictured me crying tears of joy for a heartfelt welcome. Regardless, I'm glad that we went and obeyed that simple God's prompting.