Yesterday I worked with the kids on their song, discussed materialism with my Sunday School class (they’re for it, by and large), assured the director that I would not be playing at the bell choir festival this Saturday (he was probably wondering how he could stop me without being unkind), fed my family, cleaned my bedroom, and finished the encyclopedia assignment.

It was sad to see me googling feverishly for one more interesting fact about this county. It was unseemly, my disappointment when all the good mining disasters turned out to have been in other counties. And it was downright pitiful when I found an article in the Chicago Tribune for 1871 claiming “Horrible Tragedy in Franklin County!” and then got there only to discover that it was pay-per-view. I thought about paying to see whether the Horrible Tragedy might conceivably be something historically significant, rather than the usual shooting or fire or something, but snapped out of it in time and pushed the button to send the article in and be finished.

Then I settled in to do my homework for my Tuesday class, and encountered this sentence: “How does acceptance of a person differ from approval of that person’s beliefs or practices?”

It brought to mind Kali Mama’s comment on the discussion we’ve been having: “Not all people can be respectful of other people’s beliefs, especially when they find themselves in that black and white territory… How much of morality has to do with the approval or disapproval of our culture and the people around us?”

And also Chanthaboune’s: “Suppose #2’s friend is from a staunch Baptist family and she, being raised in the family, has only that vocabulary with which to communicate… She was raised with that in mind and she may not own a way to communicate about her current behavior. Then it would turn into angry fighting, wouldn’t it?”

And also of Canadian National’s dilemma, way back at the beginning of the conversation: how can she insist on respectful behavior when her definition of respect differs from that of the person she wants to insist to. If you see what I mean.

Because it seems to me that one thing we have to be able to do when our notions of good and evil differ from those of others is to behave respectfully toward those people without having to feign agreement or approval.

Long-time readers with total recall may remember that I was in a study of the book of Genesis with a bunch of fundamentalist Christians one year. Not only was I the only person in the group who believed in evolution, I was the only one who even understood it, since the rest felt it would be sinful to learn the theory properly. So whereas, for me, what we had was a difference of opinion on an academic question, to them it was a moral difference. These ladies’ attitude toward me tended toward surface courtesy with a background of silent disapproval.

I guess if they had been good at it, I would not have known about the disapproval.

Because I think that what we need, if we want to say truthfully that we respect others’ beliefs without agreeing with or approving of them, would have to be acceptance of them and respect for them as people.

So how, to get back to Kali Mama’s and Chanthaboune’s comments, could we convey that? Chanthaboune was referring to #2 daughter’s dilemma. Is there any way to say, “I won’t go clubbing with you when you are planning to behave in ways I can’t approve of” without having her friend hear “You’re a slut!”? Particularly as the friend is probably telling herself that somewhere in the recesses of her mind. Is there any way to continue respecting a person if you cannot respect his behavior? Must we respect him in order to accept him?

4 While we mull this over,  I offer you a stir-fry tutorial. It is mostly for Pokey, but you might find it handy, too.

Stir-fry is cheap (unless of course you are stir-frying shrimp and asparagus tips, and even then it may go further that other preparations would), quick, and easy.

The first thing you need to do is start your rice. Then you cut up your vegetables. Cabbage, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, stuff like that. There should also be green onions and cilantro in the mix.

Cut up the meat as well, if you are using meat.

Heat a bit of oil or broth in a wok or big flat skillet.

Make a sauce. This should involve about half a cup of broth and a quarter cup of soy sauce. If you prefer, you can use juice instead of the broth. Stir in a tablespoon of corn starch and some red peppers and let it sit there harmlessly while you fry things. When I say “red peppers,” I mean hot pepper flakes, the seeds. My husband roasts them and otherwise prepares them, so we always have large jars around the house. I don’t know exactly what is entailed, because we make him do this outdoors and we stay well away. Most Lao people do it in the house, and their houses have a permanent hot pepper overlay, so that every American who comes inside begins coughing within a few minutes.

If you don’t keep hot peppers on hand, you may have a little packet the nice pizza delivery person gave you. This is about the right quantity for an American, so throw in the whole packet.

Throw the meat into the pan and season it. I like to press a couple of cloves of garlic in with it, and some ginger. The funny-looking thing in the picture is ginger root. You can buy it in the produce section. If you have a heavy-4 duty garlic press like mine (the other funny-looking thing in the picture) you can just cut a bit of the ginger root off and press it. If not, use a grater.

This is also the time to add Hoisin Sauce or fish sauce or any other seasonings you like.

You have a little time now. You can make a salad and some cookies, or mix up a cocktail and sit down and drink it.

Once the meat is brown, fling in the vegetables. Stir them about a bit, pour on the sauce (mix it up a bit to be sure the cornstarch is well combined), cover the pan, and turn down the heat.

By the time you get everything else on the table, your stir-fry will be perfect. You can see mine here with some brown rice. I also made salad and cinnamon elephant cookies. There was a mismatch between the cookie recipe and the cutter I chose. This, in combination with my stubbornness in refusing to switch cutters, meant that they look more like tapirs than elephants, but they still tasted good.

Off to the gym!