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October 28, 2016

My Mind Has A Heart Of Its Own


     At what age does your mind start separating itself from your body?  Near my age, aged 72?

     Shaving this morning, I teeter back and forth on my feet, like a kid’s first steps on roller skates.

    brain-transplants-merl.jpg No longer is my walk confident and firm.  Now with “drop foot” in the right leg, I never know when the brain will skip a beat to control my feet, and suddenly I drag my right foot while walking.

     My brain is very conscious of its dependence on the heart, lungs and other aging body parts – dependence for its own survival.  Like driving a used car that is approaching 100,000 miles – the brakes start going, the transmission leaks fluid, the ride gets rough, and each time you turn the ignition, you think “will it start today?” 

     “What’s going to go wrong next?”

     So my heart stopped six times on the hospital bed that day several years ago.  Shock paddles brought me back literally from death’s very door, to consciousness and my brain said to itself: “Jimmy, I don’t think you’re going to make it this time.”

     Of course, I did. 

     My brain wish it had a new body, with GPS, brake and backup warning lights and stop control.

     But it has to live within the flesh, bones, weaknesses and sickness of the body that carries it around, and makes possible enjoying this wonderful condition called “living.”

     Every day is a blessing.

     Yes, my mind has a heart of its own.


October 20, 2016

Ruth Puii: Survives Dangerous Road To


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                                                                      by jim richmond


Ruth Puii has waited nine years for this day, and traveled thousands of miles, walking barefoot, traveling by small boat over dangerous waters, as a Burmese ethnic and religious refugee. 

Today, Ruth was sworn in as a U.S. Citizen in official ceremonies in Grand Rapids.


With Ruth is her 20 year old daughter, Lydia, and both work as seasonal staff members at the Leila Arboretum‘s urban farm.


FullSizeRender (39).jpgYesterday, Leila staff and volunteers gathered, with cake, American flags, gifts and Ruth’s favorite American delights – orange diet pop and Doritos – to help recognize and celebrate her accomplishments.

After two months of study, Ruth passed her citizenship tests with a perfect score of 100. 


A quiet, unassuming person who like her daughter, are tremendous workers, Ruth, her husband Joseph, and four children are now in the United States.


They traveled as members of the Chin Christian tribe, minority refugees from largely Buddish Burma,  and without passports, on the long journey by walking, bus and small boat  through Thailand and Malaysia before getting to America.


Along the way, they were harassed by Malaysia police, put in a refugee camp, spent 27 days in a bare room, and often had little water and no food.


But all that is behind them.  Ruth said she is surprised at all the opportunities she has already had in America, and daughter Lydia is a nursing student at Kellogg Community College.


FullSizeRender (3).jpgLeila’s Executive Director Brett Myers: “We feel so honored to have Ruth and Lydia on our staff. 

They are part of the Leila family, as well as the national and diverse  “American family” all of us so love.