Jul 30, 2015

Lyndale Park Rose Garden

7/30/2015 — cori
Our plans changed last minute yesterday giving Chloe, Bennett and I unexpected free time. I knew instantly that we needed to take advantage of the gorgeous weather.  We packed our water bottles and headed for the Lyndale Park Rose Gardens.  It's a beautiful 64 acre park planted with the most amazing variety (250 to be exact) of roses. The park is so peaceful and visually stunning.  Just being there makes me happy.

I asked the kids to each bring their cameras/phones to take pictures because I wanted to see the park through their eyes.  This is the viewpoint I was privledged to behold:

When Bennett looks through the camera lens, this is what he sees.

And this is the view Chloe give us:

Jul 26, 2015

Always Reading, Always Learning

7/26/2015 — cori

I love to read! I read to learn. If there is ever a day that goes by that I haven't read something, it's a sad day indeed. The longing in me to learn new things is so profound that I simply can not stop reading. The topics are as varied as what I learn. From a very young age I have been inspired by human interest stories - specifically survivor stories. These range in variety from Holocaust survivors, to North Korean escapees, to the Rwandan genocide, to those unfortunate souls in our own country who survived internment camps during WWII.  This is such a book.

I normally save all my book reviews for the "Books" section of my blog.  But I learned some amazing things from this book that I can't stay quiet about.  Life-changing things, in fact.  I've been aware of the internment camps for Japanese Americans for a few years now (pathetic that I never learned of this in high school or college).  However, I had no idea how many German and Italian Americans were also affected.  And as par per course, I also had no clue about how secretive our government was.  This book reveals more of our sad history in regards to how we treat immigrants to our country, how we quickly throw out all civil rights when war or the threat of war looms and how the government does whatever it wants, however it wants despite the cost of human lives.

I have no intention of summarizing the book here. But I do want to share the three most amazing things I learned while engrossed in this book for the past week.  

I was first inspired by the Japanese ideal of gaman.  This ideal is one of the only things that enabled so many of the Japanese Americans to live through such a humiliating event at the hand of their own government. Gaman means "learning to endure the unbearable with dignity and forbearance. It is a way to endure suffering without losing one's sense of identity, dignity, and purpose."  Wow.  Just
wow! This is the exact same as the Christian ideal of long-suffering as described in Galations 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". This is a virtue that we desperately need in society when intolerance, insensitivity, impatience and impulsive anger are so prevalent. Patient endurance (gaman) allows you to not be a victim of your circumstances. It helps you grow in character when the worst is thrown at you. To actually live what you believe, that is inspiring to me, no matter what your religion.

The second thing that jumped off the page to me was a quote in a letter written by Earl Harrison, head of the INS during the internment period.  He wrote a letter to all INS employees urging them to be patient. It reads: "It is often difficult to be patient and exercise an unruffled self-restraint in the face of scathing verbal criticism, or when threatened with physical violence, but it always enlists sympathetic support and pays dividends. To become impatient, sarcastic, hostile or personal in remarks is an admission of weakness and defeat and, needless to say, should never occur." First of all, I'm extremely thankful that someone with some compassion towards immigrants was in charge of the INS at this time frame (he later quit in protest of how the government handled the whole thing). But what hit me was the eloquent simplicity of what he said and how he said it. Couldn't each of us be reminded of this on a daily basis? It is basically the concept of returning evil with good - the exact opposite of what we feel entitled to do. But this also demonstrates the life of Jesus and if we are supposedly following him, we would do good to imitate his actions. Instead of standing up for our own rights, maybe holding our tongue and doing good to those who persecute us might make a bigger difference on a larger scale.

Lastly, the book begins with a quote from a German concentration camp survivor.  Her family was exchanged for an American family during the war as part of secret government dealings. What she says is so profound and deep that I'm just going to end with that and let the enormity of it sink it. After what she lived through at Bergen-Belsen, that she can honesty utter these words is a testament to her strength of character:

Enemies are people whose stories you haven't yet heard and whose faces you haven't yet seen.
-Irene Hasenberg Butter

Jul 20, 2015

Quantum Gravity

7/20/2015 — cori

That is the title of the chapter in the book that I got stuck on.  The title of the book is A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking.  The good news is, I made it all the way to chapter 9.  The bad news is, I have no clue what anything I'm reading means.

Gavin recently read A Brief History of Time and loved it and encouraged me to read it so we could discuss it together.  First of all, that is very kind of him to think that I have the brain capacity to understand a book like that.  Second of all, I love that he enjoys sharing what he's learning with me. He even said that A Briefer History of Time would be even easier to understand since it's shorter and has more pictures. Unfortunately, even though I read and speak English fluently, I don't have a clue what any of the words I'm reading mean.  Seriously.  I'm reading and reading yet nothing is sticking to my brain.  I need the kindergarten version of these concepts.

Take today's reading for instance from page 90:
That means that for more precise measurements of position, when you will have to employ a more energetic quantum, the velocity of the particle will be disturbed by a larger amount.  So the more accurately you try to measure the position of the particle, the less accurately you can measure its speed, and vice versa.

That means nothing to me.  I don't know how to interpret that.  I went to Gavin with my tail between my legs and asked him, "Um, Honey, if I don't read the whole, entire book...would you be upset with me?  I already skipped ahead and read the Conclusion Chapter and the glossary but I'm having a really hard time with all this Quantum stuff.  See, let me read you the last thing that I read....".  I read the quoted portion from the above paragraph and he responds, "Oh ya, that's Heinsenberg's Uncertainty Principle."

And I'm like, "You understand this stuff?!"

And he's like, "Yes."

So I'm like, "Can you please explain it to me on a much lower level.  Like draw me pictures or something.  My mind just keeps blanking out when I read the word 'quantum' anything."

Then he asks, "Well, have you gotten to the part on String Theory?"

And I'm like, "Um. Nope. What's that?"

And he's all like, "Well...blah, blah, blah, blah...".  That's not what he said, but that's what I heard.  I confess, I am not at all scientific minded.  I try my hardest to have intelligent conversations with Gavin, but often times they fall ridiculously short.

To his credit, he's incredibly patient and an excellent teacher.  He really is able to take these impossibly hard concepts for me to understand and/or picture and put them into words and pictures I can relate to.  And he doesn't make me feel stupid for not understanding it on his level.

After Gavin read the Hawking book he shared with me some interesting thoughts.  He comments, "I find it interesting that for someone who is an atheist, he sure mentions God a lot in his book - and not in a negative way.  If I didn't believe in something, I wouldn't even mention it."  And today when we were discussing faith versus science he had a remarkable insight, he says, "If people who have faith in what is unseen have no problem believing in God who is unseen, then why do these same people have trouble believing in scientific evidence that has been mathematically proven?  You would think if you have that much faith it would be easier to believe things that are already true."  We went on to have a wonderful discussion about how so many people feel that faith and science are incompatible when we are both of the opinion that they fit together beautifully.  God is a genius. He's not threatened by scientific questions at all. Just because we're understanding more about our universe scientifically doesn't mean people are pushing God out of the equation, it means we're better able to marvel at his sheer genius, creativity and magnitude.

photo credit: http://www.loopquantumgravity.org/

Jul 11, 2015

Up North

7/11/2015 — cori
Around these parts any time people are going to the North Shore, Duluth, the Boundary Waters, a lake house or fishing they always say that they're "going up north", nowhere specific, just "up". Well, we went "up north" on Friday. 

We have been trying to go to Duluth since Spring Break.  We've had three failed attempts, all because of rain.  We bought tickets to go to the Alpine Coaster and Zip Line at Spirit Mountain this past Spring Break.  That didn't happen.  We wanted perfect weather, that's all.  Thankfully, our persistence and patience paid off and we finally found a day that was hot, sunny and perfect. After flying through the trees (sorry, no pix) we headed up to one of our favorite places, Gitchigami Park.  It is a shoreline littered with huge rocks that are perfect for jumping and hiking. 

It is here that we had our picnic lunch before racing off to the rocks.  There were plenty of picnic benches in the shade but we purposely picked this one right out in the sun because WE LOVE THE SUN!  Bring on the heat.  That seemed to be our motto and we made the most of this amazingly hot day for Duluth.

It appears that Chuck is bowing to Lake Superior.  He is actually submerging his head in the cold water in order to cool off a bit.  We got our 'hot' wish and were all sweating like pigs.  It felt good to get a little wet.  However, after reading a little article on Lampreys in Lake Superior, we opted to not submerge our bodies in this disgustingly, gross, infested water.  We value life too much.  Sweat has never hurt anyone and a little water on the head makes everything better.

As you can see, we did a lot of rock jumping.  A lot.  So much so that the kids began encouraging me by calling me Goat Mom.  They were all like, "You can do it mom, just pretend you're a goat." Which eventually morphed into plain ol' Goat Mom for short.  I had no problem jumping, but only from small rock out-cropping to small rock out-cropping. No large leaps for this goat mom. I admit, it was rather empowering to know your kids think you can do anything, even with a large camera dangling precariously off your shoulder.

Here is looks as though Chuck is walking or hovering on the water.  In actuality, he was jumping to that little rock in between the two large ones.

A little later in our adventures we came upon this rock that looked like a pyramid.  It was a little hard to jump to and once you did, it felt a little ominous.  It looks like Bennett is surfing the rock.

Of course once one person does something cool, everyone has to try it and up the ante.  So, Chuck gets out to the rock and decides to lift his foot.

Miss "Perfect Balance" has no problems.

Then there's me...let's just say I had a few problems. I didn't fall off, which I'm proud of.  But it took a good 5 minutes for me to get to this state.  It seems that my leg did not want to lift.  My brain kept telling it to lift, but my leg kept staying put and shaking.  But I'm Goat Mom so I can do anything.   I decided to pull my foot up which ended up looking like a cool yoga pose, which it was not.

This was Gavin's second time on the rock.  He wanted to mimic the cool yoga pose and not be outdone by Goat Mom.

After all the fun at Gitchigami, we decided to head over to Jay Cooke State Park that was close by since we didn't get to enjoy it very much the last time we were there.

It was as beautiful as ever.  The thing that amazes us about this river is the rock formations.  They look as if they were just heaved up and over.  Most of the rocks are all laying diagonally.  It was an amazingly fun climb.

You can see the bridge way in the distance.  The bridge was where we started.  That is how far we climbed the rocks straight down the river.  No trails for us - we like to off road it.

Another amazing view of the sideways rocks with the St. Louis River rushing by.

This picture is amazing because of one, the rocks on the far side look like a bulldozer pushed them back.  And two, the water was rushing and was very loud.  It doesn't look like it's that far between rocks, but it's farther than you think when you're trying to jump.

Another day, another hike.  Life just doesn't get much better!

Jul 4, 2015

Adventures in Germany

7/04/2015 — cori
Gavin has returned home from his Adventures in Germany in one piece, I am thrilled to say!  This was a life changing trip for him.  He said he felt he grew in independence, confidence and especially in his German language fluency.  He also acquired many great, new friends along the way.

Max and his family hosted Gavin while in Lahr. 
Max is the one directly next to Gavin.

This is at the farewell party the night before they left Lahr.  
Enjoying his time with a group of new American and German friends.

Gavin has so much to say about his time in Germany that he will be devoting pretty much the rest of the summer to regaling us with his tales of adventure.  Be sure to check out his blog.

I've been asked often how I handled it while he was gone.  Actually, I wasn't the least bit sad, worried or scared. I trusted him and his teacher immensely. I trusted God. There wasn't a whole lot any worry could have done to help.  I missed him, but not in a sad way. I was excited each time I got the chance to text with him and hear about his day. It was one more little step towards the ultimate goal of 'letting go'.

Most of all, I shared his sense of excitement and adventure.  I knew he'd come home a changed, more well-rounded young man with a new outlook on the world around him.  You can't teach what he learned by going abroad in a classroom.  Real life is the best teacher.  It also helps that he had an amazing host family, a teacher who has been doing this same trip with kids for 20 years and a great small group of friends.

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