Archive for the ‘Clubs and Small Groups’ Category

Schedules, Meetings and Growing Older

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Some days one would be better off1 staying in bed!  Today was a prime example2, but because the day is not yet done, we’d better be careful not to anger the powers that be3.


Things started ok.  Don got up at 6:00am, took Blitzen IV out, and began to fix breakfast with only minor interference4, but the dog just wasn’t interested in her usual breakfast; wouldn’t even eat a bite of Don’s toast with red plum jelly!  That usually is one of her favorites after she has eaten her usual kibbles and bits5 along with sliced beef and gravy6, but this morning she just didn’t want breakfast.


Maxine soon found her way from the bedroom to the family room, and our house guest7, Mark, joined us for oatmeal with sliced bananas, hickory nuts –except for Maxine who had previously said she preferred her oatmeal without nuts!  But today she wanted them, but only after she was finishing up her oatmeal and bananas.  We had our coffee – too strong today – but we drank it anyway, and hoped the caffeine8 would give us the little kick9 we needed.


Mark departed for the Central College campus after Maxine warned him, twice, that it was almost 8:00am, and he had a meeting scheduled for that hour. Then we watched the national news and local weather for a few minutes, checked email messages and found nothing of importance other than someone wanting Don to join his Facebook10, which neither of us wants to be involved with. Who needs another activity requiring more time at the computer.


Maxine had indicated earlier that she had a luncheon meeting at 11:30am at the Country Club11 with her Reading Circle12 group.  Don agreed to take her there, then to do some shopping and other errands13.  The few cars in the Country Club parking area should have been a clue14, but Maxine entered the building and found not a single other member of her group.  A helpful waitress told Maxine that she was probably in the wrong place, but fixed her a coke, and about a half an hour later asked her, “Are you a Baptist15?”, Maxine said, “I may look all wet, but no, I’m not a Baptist”, to which the waitress answered, “they’re supposed to meet here for a noon meeting,”  With no other members of the Reading Circle there, the waitress suggested to Maxine that she was perhaps supposed to be at the Monarch Restaurant16.  The kindly manager at the Country Club joined the conversation and offered to drive Maxine across town to the other restaurant.  Half-convinced of this, Max got into his car, and when he was about a block from the Monarch, his cell phone rang.  He was told that Maxine had been at the right place, but the meeting time was 12:30, not 11:30!  They returned to the Country Club, and the Reading Circle members were beginning to straggle17 in, and indeed they confirmed18 that the time was 12:30 as scheduled, and the meeting continued well into the mid-afternoon.


Maxine was not alone in memory glitches19.  Don took Blitzen IV along for the ride, and was supposed to pick up Maxine’s medicine at the drug store, then to shop for a few groceries at HyVee.  He remembered the groceries, and he and Blitz had a lunch from McDonald’s drive in, then went home.


Don had wanted to plow20 the garden soil in preparation for planting, but the tiller21 motor would not start, so he decided he’d try it later, and go to see either a baseball or softball game which he thought he remembered were scheduled for that afternoon.  Wrong again, the games were scheduled for Saturday, not Friday, so his walk down to the ball diamonds22 became only a bit of unwanted exercise. By late afternoon he wondered if he had forgotten how to start the garden tiller engine, but tried it again and after a half hour of failure, he gave up and had to push the heavy tiller back into the tool shed. Time was passing, he was tired, and thus he failed to get any of the yard work finished that he had planned for the day.


Maxine was given a ride home by another member of the Reading Circle group, and she found Don at the computer, tired, dusty, and a bit grumpy23, trying to get something done on the computer, but with little success there also.  We each told our tales of woe24, laughed a bit, and laughter does help, doesn’t it?


Both remembered that they also had a dinner invitation, scheduled for 5:30pm, and also, they thought it had been scheduled for the Country Club.  Within about a half hour, after cursing their luck25 and bemoaning26 the busy spring schedules, they received a phone call from their friend telling them that the dinner was at 6:00pm, not 5:30, and not at the Country Club, but at her home!


Both Don and Maxine agreed that it was difficult to keep schedules straight, schedules were changed too often, and we didn’t get the changes made on our calendar as we should have.  But, basically, the problem was that there was simply too much happening to suit a pair of retirees27 whose memories admittedly were not at their zenith28, and who didn’t really like attending schedule meetings very much anyway.


The evening meal, excellent in fact, was in honor of our 56th wedding anniversary29, we think, though maybe not.  Who knows?  At least the day ended better than it started, and it seems days, weeks and months pass in much the same fashion as they always have.



1. better off (doing something): (idiom meaning it would be) better, happier or improved (更好).

2. prime example: very typical example (非常典型的例子).

3. powers that be: (idiom meaning) whatever forces or  controls that exist (权威,决定因素).

4. interference: things which prevent or keep things from happening (干扰).

5. kibbles and bits: small pieces of dried dog food (小块的狗食).

6. gravy: a sauce made from the juice that comes from meat mixed with flour (肉汁).

7. house guests: friends or relatives who are staying in your house for a short time (在家暂住的客人).

8. caffeine: a compound in coffee or tea which stimulates one, or wakes one up (咖啡因).

9. kick: (informal) a feeling of excitement or pleasure (快感,乐趣,刺激).

10. Facebook: a social utility or computer program that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. (是一个联系朋友、工作伙伴、同学或其它社交圈之间的社交工具。).

11. Country Club: a private meeting place, often associated with a golf course or swimming pool, etc. often with a restaurant and meeting rooms where members may arrange to eat, hold meetings or have recreation (乡村俱乐部,聚会的地方,附有高尔夫球场,游泳池,餐馆,会议室等,人们在那里可以进餐,开会或娱乐).

12. Reading Circle: a group of people who meet periodically to discuss books of interest (读书小组,其成员定期活动讨论感兴趣的书籍).

13. errands: short trips, taken to complete tasks or business, often for another person or group (差事).

14. clue: a hint or prompt which may lead to further discovery or explanation (暗示,提示).

15. Baptist: a person who is a member of a religious denomination (派别) of Christians who advocate immersion of members in water as part of the requirements for membership (施洗礼者, 浸礼会教友). The practice is derived from biblical times in which followers of Christ were often immersed in streams or rivers to cleanse them as followers of Christ’s teachings.

16. Monarch Restaurant: the name of a restaurant located in the Amsterdam Hotel in Pella, Iowa (帝王酒店,设在爱荷华州派拉镇的阿姆斯特丹宾馆内).

17. straggle: enter a place one by one, often at the last moment, to attend a meeting (在最后一刻才一个个进来).

18. confirmed: established as a fact (肯定,确定).

19. memory glitches: errors or mistakes in remembering something (记忆失误).

20. plow: turn the soil over and reduce it to smaller pieces prior to planting in it (犁地).

21. tiller: a type of small plow used by gardeners (一种小型的园丁用犁).

22. ball diamonds: diamond shaped playing fields for the game of softball or baseball (钻石形球场,打垒球或棒球的球场).

23. grumpy: unhappy, or somewhat disagreeable (不高兴,生气).

24. tales of woe: explanations of troubles or difficulties (不愉快、麻烦的事情).

25. cursing their luck: expressing their dissatisfaction verbally for how things had turned out (表示对已发生的事情的不满).

26. bemoaning: complaining about something or someone (抱怨).

27. retirees: people who have retired from their professional work or labor (退休者).

28. zenith: the highest point of a career, life, or effort (顶峰,全盛).

29. wedding anniversary: the annual celebration of marriage, or the wedding ceremony (结婚周年纪念日).




The First Step for Choosing a US President -2008

Friday, March 20th, 2009

                                                by Don Huffman

       Maxine and I were both interested in the outcome1 of the “First In The Nation Iowa Caucus”2 which took place in our state of Iowa on January 3, 2008.  A caucus is a meeting of likeminded people3 to determine policy or elect candidates4 for office, and we have attended some5 in previous years. Don couldn’t attend unless he was willing to register as either a Democrat or a Republican6, and that would cancel7 his registration as an Independent8. Maxine and Kim planned to attend but the weather was bad and the roads and parking lots9 were icy. They could not do the caucus10 this year.  Still, we think it a good idea11, and we will continue to follow the results.

       We were surprised that the young, black Democrat, Barack Obama12, scored a victory over the popular politicians Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in a predominately13 white state with many conservative Republicans14. We were surprised that a conservative, obscure15, former Baptist preacher16 from Arkansas17 defeated other Republicans who spent much more time and money in Iowa before the caucus. 

        One might ask, “What significance does this have if any?”  For us the answer is, “The Iowa Caucus is the first step in the selection of a new candidate for determining18 the president of the U.S. Iowans19 have once more shown themselves to be among the best informed of any voters in the U.S.”  Some other states and areas in the country might not agree with this, but Iowa is the first state to express their favorites in each party, and this creates lots of excitement.

        Iowa held primary presidential elections20 until 1972, to determine candidates for both the Republican and Democratic21 parties. The final election takes place once every four years on the first Tuesday in November, and the President-elect22 is ultimately determined by a vote of the Electoral College23, a group of people from each of the 50 states, their numbers based on state population.  Presidential elections are not determined by popular vote24 in the U.S.

        In 1972 Iowa’s political leaders came up with a process which they felt would better inform both the voters and the presidential hopefuls25 about the important issues26 and policies involved in the presidential elections.  They devised27 a “First-In-The-Nation Caucus,” and scheduled it before any other state primary election or caucus.  State leaders in Iowa noticed that there had been a decline of interest in primary presidential elections28, and they hoped to encourage a closer, personal knowledge of each candidate29 before the nominating conventions of both major parties30. We feel it has worked well, because the interest is certainly greater than before. 

        35 years later, some other states and regions have challenged31 the wisdom of the Iowa Caucus, claiming32 the Iowa state population is too small, it lacks diversity in minority populations33, and therefore some people have suggested that the “First-In-The-Nation” status be passed around from state to state34, or rotated on a regional plan35. So far this has not happened. In a state of fewer than 1.5 million voters36, more than 350 thousand Iowans participated in the caucuses. Party candidates met voters in literally all of Iowa’s 99 counties in schoolrooms, churches, community centers37, small country stores, and in private homes as well as on the streets.  They met, presented their views, and learned about what was important to the citizens of Iowa.  The turnout38 of voters this year was about 20% higher than for the last presidential election. One of the few complaints39 heard was that “There wasn’t enough room for the participants who attended.” Iowans insist40 that this shows the value of their caucus plans. People like it!

        It remains to be seen41 what the final results of the 2008 presidential election will be, but nearly all local and national politicians and political analysts42 agree that the Iowa Caucus results indicate a widespread desire for radical changes43 in political leadership in the U.S.  Recent polls indicate that these views are nationwide, and we think this is good news!




1. outcome: results of something (结果)

2. First In The Nation Iowa Caucus: a meeting of Iowa citizens who wish to discuss and make decisions about their choices for major party candidates in presidential elections (全国第一州爱荷华州政党候选人初选).

3. likeminded people: people or groups who have similar tastes, interests, and opinions (志趣相投的人,想法相同的人).

4. candidates: those persons who wish to be selected to represent their political party (候选人).

5. have attended some: have been present at or have gone to some meetings of the kind (曾经参加过一些这样的会议).

6. register as either a Democrat or a Republican: officially declare allegiance to a given political party (登记为民主党员或共和党员).

7. cancel: delete, omit or remove something (取消).

8. Independent: a person who is not affiliated with either major party (无党派人士).

9. parking lots: the spaces provided for cars to park while attending an event (停车场).

10. do the caucus: take part in or participate in the caucus (参加该会议).

11. Still we think it a good idea: 我们依然认为参加会议是个好主意。此处it是指前面的”do the caucus”。

12. Barack Obama: 巴拉克•奥巴马

13. predominately: mostly, for the most part (大部分地,绝大多数地).

14. Republicans: 共和党党员

15. obscure: not known about or not well known (不知晓的,无名的).

16. Baptist preacher: 基督教新教、浸礼会教派牧师

17. Arkansas: 阿肯萨斯州

18. determining: deciding or making a choice (决定,选择).

19. Iowans: 爱荷华州人

20. primary presidential election: the first formal voting in the selection of a presidential candidate (首次总统选举正式投票).

21. Democratic party:民主党

22. President-elect: the person who has most recently been elected as president (当选总统).

23. Electoral College: the group of people representing each state in the U.S. who are given the authority to make the final selection of the president and the vice president of the U.S. (美国总统选举人团,由各个州的代表组成,他们有权最后选举美国的总统和副总统).

24. popular vote: the actual count of the votes cast by individuals within the nation ( 美国个人选民的实际投票数).  In the U.S. this is not the final determination of the president and vice president.

25. presidential hopefuls: people who want to win or seem likely to win the presidential election (有望当选总统的人).

26. issues: the major considerations of items thought to be the most important (议题,社会问题).

27. devised: developed or came up with a plan (设计,策划).

28. decline of interest in primary presidential elections: 对总统候选人初选的兴趣下降

29. encourage a closer, personal knowledge of each candidate: 促进对每个候选人个人情况的更加了解。

30. nominating conventions: formal meetings of political parties and their representatives to select their choice for president and vice president (政党及其代表选择总统和副总统人选的提名大会).

31. have challenged: have refused to accept that something is right, fair, or legal (质疑,怀疑).

32. claiming: stating or believing something to be so (声称).

33. minority populations: 少数民族人群

34. passed around from state to state: moved or changed from one state to another (一个州一个州地传过去).

35. rotated on a regional plan: 按地区轮流

36. voters: those people who cast a ballot in an election, or who are permitted to do so (投票者,有投票权的人).

37. community centers: 社区中心

38. turnout: the number of people who vote in an election (参加投票的人数).

39. complaints: criticisms, or negative remarks about something or someone (意见,批评).

40. insist: absolutely demand, or require that something be considered a fact (坚持认为).

41. It remains to be seen: 依然要等着瞧

42. political analysts: those people whose profession is to study and interpret political actions or results (政治分析家).

43. radical changes: striking or important departure in direction or courses of action (根本变化). 



Dutch Day Camp in Pella, Iowa

Friday, March 20th, 2009

                                                                                  by Kathy Li

Today’s blog was written by a much younger, and quite special, person, whom Don and I enjoy very much.  She would like to share a special experience with other people. 


My name is Kathy Li. I was born in Hangzhou, China, but I’ve lived in the U.S. for six years.  I am 11 years old and I will be a 6th grade student in the fall.  I usually spend my summers with my honorary grandparents1 in Pella, Iowa.  (Don and Maxine Huffman)


 Last year and this year I attended Dutch Day Camp2 in the Pella Historical Village3.  Last summer I learned about the Dutch in the Netherlands4.  I also learned to speak a little bit of Dutch and we played lots of Dutch games.  This year we learned about how the Dutch came to Iowa and settled5 in Pella.  Mrs. Zylstra teaches the day camp and she is also a 5th grade teacher.  Her ancestors6 helped settle Pella.  She planned a lot of fun activities7 for us and we learned a lot.  We toured8 the Dutch windmill9 that I have visited several times before but I have learned something new every time.  Mrs. Zylstra wanted us to do some research on Pella to see if it was more Dutch or more American.  My grandpa and I did a survey10 about Dutch names and non-Dutch names.  We found that Pella is still heavily populated with people of Dutch ancesrtry11. 


This will be the last time I attend Dutch Day camp because next year I will be too old for it.  Besides I will be visiting my Grandma Sheng12 in Hangzhou next summer.  I have forgotten how to speak Chinese.  I am hoping that Grandma Sheng will help me learn it again.  But I will always have good memories13 of Pella and Dutch Day Camp. 



1. honorary grandparents: a title for extended family individuals of about the age of ones own biological family who one elects and honors by calling them Grandfather and/or Grandmother (干爷爷/外公,干奶奶/外婆).

2. Dutch Day Camp: a vacation period educational activity held in Pella, Iowa, which teaches children about the customs and culture of Dutch people who have immigrated from the Netherlands and established homes in Pella.

3. Pella Historical Village: a large museum consisting of many buildings which exhibit the architectural, historical, and cultural background of Pella (派拉历史博物馆).

4. Netherlands: the country often called Holland which is located in northwest Europe (荷兰).

5. settled: established homes and a community (定居).

6. ancestors: 祖先

7. fun activities: enjoyable pastimes such as games, music, dancing, art, etc.

8. toured: traveled as a group, or go through a specific area of interest (参观).

9. Dutch Windmill: 荷兰风磨坊

10. survey: a collection of data for the analysis of some aspect of a group or area (调查).

11. ancestry: the members of ones family who lived a long time ago (祖先).

12. Grandma Sheng: Kathys biological grandmother who lives in China (Kathy住在中国的亲外婆).

13. Hangzhou: a city in Zhejiang Province, People’s Republic of China, where Sheng lives.

14. memories n. things from the past which one remembers (记住的事物).



Reading Circle

Friday, March 20th, 2009

I belong to a number of different groups, but the oldest one1 is the Ladies Social and Literary Society, more commonly referred to as the “Reading Circle”2.  This organization was started in 1876, just 26 years after Pella was settled3.  It was founded4 by a group of ladies who were already intelligent readers5, despite the hardships6 of living in a developing7 rural area, and who wanted to promote intellectual endeavors8, particularly reading. 


At first the group was very informally organized9, but in 1884 the members wrote and approved10 a constitution11.  This document12 has been and still remains the guide13 for the organization for more than a century.  According to this constitution, the goals of the Reading Circle are (1) to pursue a systematic course of reading14, (2) to discuss domestic and foreign subjects15, and (3) to promote sociability16 and friendship.  I believe those to be very worthwhile goals17, so when I was invited to join the group about fifteen years ago, I was happy to accept the invitation and become a part of the organization18.


Each year our reading is organized around a theme19.  This past year it was “Treasuring20 our Natural Heritage21: Understanding our Environment22.  We take turns23 being responsible24 for the discussion of the book chosen for that month.  In March I was responsible for the discussion of the book AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH25 by Al Gore.  I think that it is an excellent book since it discusses the reality26 of global warming27.  Since Don is interested in the discussion of global warming and had also read the book (in fact, we read it out loud together), I invited him to be a co-presenter28.  We found the ladies quite interested in discussing the subject, and we all believe it is a serious problem for planet Earth.


Other years we have had such themes as “The U.S. Constitution” and “Literature of the Western U.S.”  I am on the committee to decide what next year’s theme will be, but as yet we haven’t met to decide, so I don’t know what it will be.  I’m sure we’ll find something interesting though.


We meet in the homes of the individual members.  Our meeting time is the third Friday afternoon of the month, at 2:00.  We have our program first and then simple refreshments with tea or coffee afterwards.  It is always a pleasant and worthwhile29 occasion, and I am proud to belong to such an organization that has promoted30 reading for over 150 years. 



1. the oldest one: the organization that has been in existence the longest.

2. reading circle: a group of friends getting together to read (读书圈子).

3. Pella was settled: Pella became a new colony or residence (成为新的居住地).

4. founded: formed or set up for a given purpose (建立).

5. intelligent readers: individuals who enjoy reading good books (擅长读书者).

6. hardships: difficulties encountered while doing something (艰辛).

7. developing: in the process of growing or maturing; becoming organized (发展中的).

8. endeavors:努力

9. At first the group was very informally organized: 原先这是一个非正规的团体。

10 approved: agreed upon (同意、赞成).

11. constitution: 章程、规章制度

12. document:文件

13. guide:指导思想

14. systematic course of reading: a specific plan of reading (系统的阅读计划).

15. domestic and foreign subjects: 国内外的话题

16. sociability: ability to get along well with other people (社交能力).

17. goals: the end towards which aims or intentions are directed (目标).

18. organization: a group formed for a specific purpose (组织).

19. theme: subject or topic for discussion or focus (主题).

20. Treasuring: considering as valuable or important (珍惜、珍贵).

21. National Heritage: 民族遗产.

22. Environment:环境

23. take turns: 轮流

24. being responsible: 负责

25. An Inconvenient Truth: a book about global warming by Al Gore.

26. reality:现实

27. global warming: world-wide tendency for the temperature to rise (全球变暖).

28. co-presenter: person who assists in making a presentation.

29. worthwhile: valuable (值得的).

30. promoted: 推动、促进

Golden Girls

Friday, March 20th, 2009

                                                                             by Kim Huffman

The following blog was written by Kim, Maxine & Don’s daughter who has sometimes been mentioned in the other blogs.


This past Saturday I had lunch with the “girls1.”  For the past 25 years, the “girls” have gotten together for lunch.  I have known them since I was a little girl2, and have always liked them.  Once a weekly lunch, this group of nine now gets together once a month.  Included in this group are:

Maxine:  my mother, a retired college English professor3;

Mina:  a retired college home economics professor4, who is the daughter of a Dutch Dominie5 (minister);

Lilo: a retired college German professor6, who is originally from Germany and makes wonderful coffee as dark and rich as the night sky7;

Charlotte: a retired high school and college Spanish teacher8, who also spent many years as a pilot9 and flying instructor10.  (She was one of the first women pilots in Iowa);

Janice: who has taught almost every level11 of English and mathematics from high school to graduate school;

Mary:  who is still a college level English professor, and whose mother Nora (born in Scotland12 and then a World War II war bride13) was a part of the group as well. 

The years have taken three friends from this group14:  Miss Madeline, a college librarian15, Nora, and Evelyn, a gifted musician16.  Also, Donna moved away17 18 years ago.


I joined the group recently18 when I moved back to Pella, and love being with these active, interesting ladies19, even though they are much older than I.  We talk about everything, from the weather, flower planting20, our travels21 (it is a group that has traveled a lot over the years), and grandchildren (for those who have them).  Every once in a while22 some one will mention23 something about herself that no one else ever knew.  This is why we’re such good friends.


The saying goes, “Make new friends; keep the old.  One is Silver, the other Gold24.”  No doubt, these are the Golden Girls. 



1. “girls”: women of all ages in the U.S., usually good friends may call one another this when they are going to get together.

2. little girl: a female child (小女孩).

3. a retired college English professor: 退休的大学英语教授。

4. home economics professor: a person who has taught classes related to homemaking, such as cooking, sewing, child care, etc. (家政学教授).

5. Dutch dominie: a person in the tradition of the Netherlands who is a professional preacher in a church (荷兰教堂专职牧师).

6. German professor n. a person who has taught courses related to German language and literature in a college or university (德语教授).

7. as dark and rich as the night sky (simile): a simile that describes the color and taste of excellent coffee (一种明喻,用来描述高级咖啡的颜色和味道).

8. Spanish teacher n. a person who has taught Spanish language and literature (西班牙语教师).

9. pilot: a person who is capable of flying an airplane skillfully (飞机驾驶员).

10. flying instructor: a person who teaches other people how to fly an airplane (飞行教员).

11. level: a specific stage or grade of learning, i.e., of math, of Spanish language, etc. (年级、层次).

12. Scotland: the name of a country; part of the British Isles (苏格兰).

13. war bride: a person who has married a serviceman from another country, and who then immigrates to the husbands country (战争新娘,指与一位来自于另一国家的在役军人结婚并移居其丈夫国家的新娘).

14. The years have taken three friends from this group: 已经有三位朋友在这些年里去世。

15. librarian: a person who is trained to work in a library; at any level of school, or in a private or community library (图书管理员).

16. gifted musician: a person with excellent music skills (有天赋的音乐家).

17. moved away: left a particular place (搬走了).

18. recently: a period of time not long before the present ( 最近).

19. ladies: a formal way of referring to cultured women (女士).

20. flower planting: The activity associated with planting flowers, either with seeds or bulbs; also called flower gardening (种花).

21. travels: extended journeys made by an individual or a group of persons (旅游).

22. every once and a while: occasionally, now and then (偶尔).

23. mentioned: spoken of casually about somebody or something (提到).  For example, one day when we were having lunch Lilo mentioned that after World War II when people were suffering from hunger, she worked on a farm to keep from starving.

24. Make new friends, keep the old. One is silver, the other gold. (结识新朋友,保持住老朋友。新的是银,老的是金。): a metaphoric saying stressing the great value of having both new and old friends.