Jan 26, 2007

10 Questions

More stealing from Bev's blog:

These 10 questions originally came from a French series, "Bouillon de Culture" hosted by Bernard Pivot. It is probably more familiar to many as the question James Lipton asks at the end of "Inside the Actor's Studio."It's amazing what the simple answers to these questions reveal about a person's thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

01. What is your favorite word? Joy

02. What is your least favorite word?

03. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?


04. What turns you off?

05. What is your favorite curse word?

06. What sound or noise do you love?
white noise (I find it hard to sleep in total silence. At home it's the air conditioner. Camping it's the wind and the waves.)

07. What sound or noise do you hate? anything scratching on metal

08. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

09. What profession would you not like to do?


10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I'm so glad you're here.

Jan 20, 2007

My Life Has Changed

Okay, I've been away awhile for a couple of reasons: a). I've been very busy. b) There hasn't been a whole lot that's really exciting and photographable to blog about. c). I tried to post last weekend but I couldn't get my video of our tsunami scare uploaded to youtube. I'm going to try again this weekend, but in any case, I decided to go ahead and post what I have for now, and try to add the video later if I can ever get it to upload.

There have been big changes going on in my life though I don't know that they are the type of changes you can really photograph. I've had a major paradigm shift in the way I view my life. A few weeks ago, for reasons I still can't quite put my finger on, I suddenly I realized that I have a great life! I live on a gorgeous tropical island. I have deeply rewarding work teaching at probably the best school in the world to teach at. I've got a faith that gives me hope and inspiration and gives meaning and purpose to my life. I've got a wonderful wife--a woman who I realized I couldn't imagine living without and with whom I always enjoy being around. I just feel really blessed. I mean I've known all this, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I started thinking about this consciously every day and it has revolutionized my life, literally. Normally, with the amount busy-ness and stress in my life for the past week I'd be a grumpy, irritable, dissatisfied crank just living for the weekend. But instead, my jampacked schedule has been endurable and I just feel lucky everyday. I mean obviously I'd prefer to be less busy and whenever I can I'm taking steps to relieve my schedule, but on par I've CHOSEN to be happy and it's really working, so far anyway.

I've also been really making an effort to go to bed early every night and to make sure I'm in bed before I go to sleep so that I can read for awhile and just unwind (tonight is the first night in awhile that I haven't done that because I knew I wouldn't be able to write this entry). I just finished The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. A beautifully written novel, but portrays a heaven I would never want to go to. I think I'd rather just be dead dead then live like that. I realize how important it is to me that God will be in heaven. He makes no appearance whatsoever in Bones and heaven isn't much without Him, in my opinion.

I've also been accepting when the day is just too full to do things I like to do to relax, rather than trying to force it and getting all stressed when I can't make it fit. (Another reason I haven't written in so long). There are a couple of other little tricks that seem to make my days feel so much more manageable. For example, I picked this one up from Grant, who got it from some book. I try to look at the horizon. Grant was telling me how most people live their entire lives within this fifteen foot radius of themselves, and how important it is to look out and beyond to the literal "bigger picture." I'm finding it really does make a big difference. Especially when you live in Saipan where "there's so much beauty around us but just two eyes to see, but I'm looking" (from "Here in America" by Rich Mullins).

I've also been trying to take time to do little things, like stop and actually put my shoes on when I leave my classroom to go to the officer or other parts of the school (my students and I have these little slippers that we wear inside so as preserve my carpet), rather than just shoving my feet into my shoes, crushing the shoe heels, and hobbling frantically about campus as I used to do.

I've also been trying to make sure I don't try to do too much, and I'm deliberately not trying to do things I know I don't have time to do. This has been good for my peace of mind. Perhaps not always so good for my schedule or sense of accomplishment. Some things I DIDN'T get done this past week: folding the laundry--it sat crumpled up in the laundry baskets in the kitchen all week long, reviewing the music and script for the upcoming Easter musical the church is going to put on, my dayplan (I've gone through several days this week with my plan for the day only half written and the rest in my mind. Very unusual for me). Grading. Lesson Plans (that caught up with me on Thursday when I came to Geography class and realized I'd run out of stalling assignments and I had no idea what to do next for class. So we had study hall).

I have been writing faithfully in my novel though and it is coming along. There have been some days when it's been a total chore and I only write because I want to post on Interference (I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't post on my favorite discussion forum, Interference.com, unless I'd first written at least 30 minutes in my novel that day) and other days (like the past few) where things are just popping and I'm excited about it. I'm just glad to be making progress and I can't wait to see where it will go. It's so cool to see it taking shape, going in directions I wouldn't have predicted.

I've started working out regularly. I guess I'm doing "Body for Life" the popular 12 week regimen. Babs and I did it together about five years ago and she lost almost 30 pounds and I gained about 13 in 12 weeks! Sadly when I weighed myself last week I found I'd lost 10 of those pounds and am now down to 123. Me and a bunch of the other teachers at my school are working out together and it's really fun and rewarding. Though it's another thing that is taking up my time since we go to the gym to weight train three days a week, and I'm doing cardio three days a week in the morning with Babs.

Another thing that's been added to my busy schedule is that I'm tutoring for an hour after school five days a week. I charge a lot--$15 an hour--but I have to for it tobe worth the time it costs me. It really hurts to lose so much time every single day, but the kids (they're all Korean learning English as a second language) and their parents really want it and they are more than willing to pay. I've got three students so far, and I'll end up taking home $360 a month extra home every month (that's after the school takes it's cut and I pay tithe. (One of the students even paid me IN ADVANCE for the rest of the school year!! I'm opening a savings account so I don't blow it all at once). In general with my tutoring money I use it as just "fun money." If I just plunged it into extra on the credit card payments or something like that, I think I'd feel like I wasn't making any money at all, and that good feeling of having extra pocket money is REALLY valuable to balance the added demands on my precious free time. (To give perspective, normally, we budget just $30 for the entire month for me to have in discretionary "spending money." That's my (and Barbara's "allowance"--less than a lot of kids get). Well now it's $120 monthly and the difference is huge! I feel rich, man!

So I guess those are all the big changes in my life.

Here's a fairly typical day for me (This was actually my schedule for this past Thursday).

Up at 6 a.m. Personal devotions and prayer time.


prep peach cobbler ingredients for 8th grade class hot lunch tomorrow and maybe wash some dishes.

7:05 A.M. leave for school

7:10 A.M. Supervise early arriving students at the school.

7:30 A.M. Finish planning my teaching day.

7:55 A.M. Homeroom kids come in.

8:00 A.M. School day offically starts. I teach Algebra I, 7/8 Math, English I, and 7/8 Geography. Lunch is at 11:30 and YAY I don't have lunch supervision. I eat in my classroom and check into Interference to see the new posts.

12:10 P.M. Back to teaching. 5/6 Math, World History, and freshman Bible class. Schools out at 3:00 P.M. I have after school supervison duty until 3:30. I cancel my tutoring and leave to go work out.

5:00 P.M. I meet my actor friend Dan and we hastily plan our presentation on acting for the mock trial team and a private parochial high school. (I'm doing it as a favor to an attorney friend of mine who is coaching their team).

5:45 P.M. teach mock trial acting class.

7:45 P.M. Class ends, and I go home. I get here around 8:15 P.M. or so.

I make some phone calls, eat a late supper, work on my menu for next weeks meals a little bit, and get into bed a little after 9:30, going to sleep by a little after 10.

That's my life! And I'm okay with it.

And below some pictures!

The First Annual 5K Freedom Run

My 8th grade class's sole major fundraiser for the year was a 5K run which we held on Martin Luther King Day--January 15, 2007. We had about 60 people show up and we made over $800. It was fun, and easy to plan and implement. I just wish I'd been able to run myself, but I was too busy managing the run. Barbara and I should be taking 3 8th graders and 3 9th graders on a trip to Singapore in March.

The Beautiful People: Our teachers plus Bev just before the race began. From L to R: Layla, Missy, Bev, Mai, Britni, and Grant. Bev ended up finishing third in the women's category AND she won a door prize too!

The runners at the starting line!

REAL Christian Theater on The Road Again.

On Friday, January 19, we went on our second schools tour doing five shows at four schools that day. It was a very successful tour, our performances went great, and Grant did a fantastic job of em-ceeing the show, thus freeing me up to take pictures. We also used our new sound equipment purchased with funds raised by our wonderfully generous supporters at the Centerville SDA Church in Centerville, Ohio. It was so nice to have our own sound and the lapel mikes were marvelous. It was so nice for the kids to finally have their hands free while they performed.

Our first show of two at Hopwood Junior High School: "Harry", "the Gentleman", and "Bono Girl"perform a funny sketch entitled "Screamers" that satirizes scary movies and deals with the issue of being trustworthy and loyal to your friends.

Grant firing up the crowd. He is the consumate frontman: funny and with an incredible depth of amazing analogies and pithy truths always at the ready. I don't know how he does it!

Here's the team on our lunch break at "CK Girl's Restaurant" (actually it's called the Galaxy and is owned by her parents but we all call it "CK Girl's Restaurant." We did three shows in the morning, had lunch and then did two more in the afternoon. A full day!

Requisite Kimo Pictures

Kimo in the lap of luxury, reclining on the bed in the guest bedroom. We love how she used the pillow, something we'd never seen her do.

Only in Saipan: Public School Playground with Bonus Beach
This shot was taken at Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, our last stop on our theater tour on Jan. 19. It's the smallest public school in Saipan and has a wonderful atmosphere of tranquility and quiet. Imagine if you'd gone to school where this was the view you had when you went outside for recess!

Jan 6, 2007

The Busiest Christmas Ever

The Official 2006 Christmas Day Portrait. At the Pierson's House for Christmas Lunch.

The Maycock Cookie Factory a.k.a our kitchen.

Here's a short video clip of the end of our church Christmas party on December 25, 2006.

For years I'd heard people talk about how busy and often stressful the holidays can be. But until this year, I'd never been able to relate. Christmas time was always relaxing for me--listening to nostalgic tunes, eating delicious holiday foods, buying and receiving gifts, spending time with good friends, plenty of movies to watch and books and magazines to read. What's to be stressed about? Well, Christmas 2006 had all of the above and a lot more. This past Christmas turned out to be one of the busiest we've ever had. Still amidst all the rushing around we managed to have a lot of fun and make some wonderful memories.

Here's our living room all gussied up for the Christmas season.

Bab's relaxing after a day of cookie making.
The first major task of the holidays was the making of multiple dozens of cookies. Babs has been making her signature sugar cookies--which are edible works of art--for years, and for the first time last year, I made cookies as well, to give as gifts. I enjoyed it so much and the response from the recipients was so postive that I decided to do it again this year. Like last year, I made four batches of cookies, one batch each of chocolate chip, oatmeal raisen, cappucino crinkles, and peanut butter cookies. The cookies are actually easy to make and each tray only has to bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Still, four batches, with each tray baked one at a time can add up to a lot of time. It took me about four hours, I believe on Thursday, December 21 to make my cookies. This year I also added a batch of danish pastries as well. I hadn't made these in about five years. It is a very delicate and time consuming process but the end result is well worth it--mouthwatering, flaky pastries. It takes several hours to make the dough, involving repeatedly rolling out and then chilling a butter and dough mix. But once that's done it takes only 15 minutes or so to roll out the dough a final time, cut out the pastries, and bake them. I made the dough on Wednesday, December 20, and then did the actual cutting out, baking, and filling of the pastries over the next week after that. I wish I'd thought to take some pictures of the danishes and the process of making them. Maybe next time. I don't think I'll wait five years to make them again.

Barbara moved into the kitchen on Christmas Eve to make her cookies, which is when these pictures were taken. To the left and below are some of her sugar cookies set out for the frosting to dry.

Aren't they pretty!
I like to think this photo below of my cookies would fit right in to Martha Stewart Living!

The 24 hours from Christmas Eve to Christmas night were VERY busy, but fun. On Christmas Eve we went to Carol Paez's house. It's been five years since our first Christmas Eve with the Paez tribe and it has become a holiday tradition for us. This year we were about two hours late to the party, because of our massive cookie making operation which we unwisely scheduled for the same day. But everyone was pretty relaxed about our tardiness. We spent the evening eating, socializing, and playing a competitive round of charades.

Our friend John Moreno and Tali Paez at the Paez Christmas party on Christmas Eve.

Ken Pierson lost one of the games we played that night and was forced to sing some Christmas song will standing on one foot and sticking out his tongue. Here's the moment captured for posterity!

Crystal and Ken Pierson and other friends enjoying themselves at the Paez Christmas Eve Party

We got home from the Paez's at around midnight and after some last minute gift wrapping, went straight to bed.
Christmas morning dawned bright and clear. Babs and I rose early and lounged about the house in our pajamas munching on beefstick, cheese, and crackers (another Christmas tradition: We always eat beefstick on Christmas morning, one of the very few times we actually purchase and eat meat at home. For those of you that don't know, beefstick, is a ready-to-eat summer sausage and it is unbelievably bad for you in every way possible. It has huge amounts of fat and salt, little protein, and even less carbohydrates. Plus, you know, it's a dead animal! Still, once a year can't hurt right?). The tree lights were growing, warm and quiet Christmas music was playing softly, the stockings were set on the love seat with care, the presents under the tree--all was as it should be on a Christmas morning. And then:
There was a heavy clunk, and a sigh. . .
No, it wasn't reindeer on the roof. It was the power going out. A little gift from Commonwealth Utilities Corporation on Christmas morning. We couldn't believe it. Here on Saipan we call the power company CUC--this Christmas morning we decided those letters stood for "Creating Ugly Christmases" Suddenly all was silent, except. . .
for the neighbors who apparently had a battery-operated stereo and who had chosen to share some holiday cheer with the entire neighborhood by playing some of the most obnoxious and grating Christmas music on the planet at top volume. So we sat in our gloomy, darkened house listening to the shrill and tinny sounds of our neighbor's stereo and wondering how we were going to cook our food for the Christmas lunch at the Pierson's house. It still turned out to be a nice Christmas morning though. We opened our stockings and gifts, and lay about reading until the power came back on around 11:45 A.M.

Christmas morning without power. Note the darkened Christmas tree and the stockings on the couch in the foreground.

Things got a bit boring with no power on Christmas morning so I took the opportunity to experiment with some avant garde photography. This artsy photo was taken by aiming the camera lense through the tube of a roll of wrapping paper. Pretty cool, huh!

By the time the power came back on, we'd already called the Pierson's and asked if we could prepare our food at their house, and we were hastily getting ready to go, because we had a stop to make on the way. We had a cookie delivery for our dear friends Rex and Clarie Kosack. We hadn't talked to them in about five months, and yet somehow we foolishly thought we'd be able to just drop off our cookies and run. What were we thinking?!? We had lots of catching up to do and ended up chatting with them for awhile. We wish we could have stayed longer but as it was we were about 45 minutes late--AGAIN--for lunch at the Pierson's! Fortunately, the Kosacks were very gracious about us rushing off, and the Pierson's very gracious about our lateness.
Barbara and I with Clarie and Rex Kosack on the porch of their lovely home up on Wireless Ridge. Barbara's holding a gift of some cookies from Clarie.

Christmas lunch at the Pierson's was wonderful. Crystal Pierson, in that seemingly effortless way that only Crystal can, had put together a sumptious holiday feast--a fake turkey (pastry rapped around a vegemeat turkey roll with stuffing inside), mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, and all the rest. Barbara contributed some steamed greens and also our traditional Christmas salad--Mandarin Orange Salad. Joining us were Mai Rhea Odiyar, our 3/4 teacher and her boyfriend Jere, and also our good freind Bev. We ended up spending the afternoon at the Pierson's chatting and watching their DVD of their recent trip to Palau.
Crystal's handiwork: The holiday spread!

I know it's a bit blurry but I really like this picture. . .I'm not sure why. Maybe it's Bev flashing the gangsta signs! By coincidence Jere, Bev, and I all wore the same outfit--white shirts and blue jeans so of couse we had to have a picture. Jere is holding the (veggie) wine.
The Guests at the Piersons

Mai and Jere

Bev. We couldn't keep her away from the Martinellis!

Our hosts, Ken and Crystal Pierson

Barbara and I

Before we ate, Ken read us the Christmas story from a condensed version of the Desire of Ages.
We stayed at the Piersons until about five and then raced home to get ready for the next big event: The church Christmas party, which was scheduled to start at six. We stopped off at the store to hurriedly buy presents for the gift exchange at the church party, then ran home, threw together some food for the party, and rushed back down to the church. Even so, for the third time in a row were a late--about an hour this time.
The church party was fun. We were still full from gorging ourselves on Crystal's feast so we didn't eat much, but we had fun socializing with the church family.

Here's Barbara, Carol, and our school office manager and accountant Virle at the church Christmas party.

The highlight of the evening though was the Gift Exchange Game. The way it works is everyone brings an inexpensive, wrapped gift, and places it on a table in the center of the room. Each person is randomly assigned a number. Then, in order, each person gets to choose a gift. Person #1 must choose from the table but after that you have two choices--you can either choose another gift from the table, or you can "steal" (perhaps it would be better to say you appropriate in the most kind and Christian manner, with an apologetic smile on your face) a gift from someone else who has already gotten a gift and opened it. In true Christian fashion--this is a church party after all--the last shall be first. The higher number you have the more options you have of gifts you can take. And the best person to be is the last one, because you can take any gift you want including gifts that are "dead." (A gift is "dead" after three steals. No one else can steal after that, except for the last person). Ironically this game is most fun if you're not too materialistic, take an easy come, easy go attitude, and focus on the fun rather than the presents. We've always had a lot of fun with this game and this year was no exception. Below the anatomy of a steal:

One of the members opened up their gift and found a very nice kitchen knife. When my turn came around, I went for the steal. Here I am returning to my seat with the knife. Once I sat down, I realized my greed had blinded me. This was really a cleaver, not a knife, ideal for hewing great slabs of meat. Since I don't cook meat, I wasn't going to be able to use it very much. I started hoping someone would steal it from me. Fortunately, I was in luck!
Frank Diesta, our church clerk, a member of the school board, and an employee of the SDA Dental Clinic (whoa, triple threat!) decided he wanted the cleaver and stole it from me. Here he is rejoicing in his aquisition. Way to go Frankie D!

Here's Frank back at his seat with the purloined cleaver. Fellow board member and clinic employee Malou Bautista is on the left, Crystal Pierson sits on the right.
When it comes to the Gift Exchange Game there are the amateurs, the casual players--most of us--and then their are The Professionals. They don't come any more professional than the Lopez family. Famous for their brilliant smiles and jovial laughter, they are also legendary for their skill at the Gift Exchange Game. The entire family works together like a well oiled-machine savvily working the steals to obtain whatever is on their Christmas wish list this year. Like any highly skilled competitior they are fascinating to watch. My favorite move of the night was when Joel stole a set of cups from his son Matthew. For a moment, we were all puzzled--why take a gift from one of your own family? You've already got possession. And then we saw the genius of it, as Matthew was put into play to steal another item and the drinking glasses Joel had taken from him were now one step closer to being safe from further stealing. Brilliant! High-five to Joel! The Lopezes had struck again!

Joel Lopez and his wife Lovely study the field, plotting their next move.

When this picture was taken, Matthew had just been headed off on an ill-advised steal. His parents called him over just in time and , now here they've sent him after a different item instead. Another victory for the Lopez family!

At the end of the Gift Exchange Game, this is what Barbara and I took home: a glass casserole dish for Barabara (which she brought herself! Can you believe she took her own present! She took it straight from the table, and no one ever stole it from her) and a wok for me. The wok will be great once we get our gas stove. Not a bad catch for an evening's work!

Farewell to Wylie

The Paez Tribe is dwindling. On Wednesday, December 27, 2006, the tribe lost one more member as Wylie Paez left the island to pursue his education. He'll be attending Eastern Oregon University. Babs and I were glad we were able to join his family in seeing him off. The oldest Paez sibling, Tito, is still on Saipan but moved out on his own several months ago. Keisha will be the next to leave, as she graduates from high school this spring and will be going to college in the U.S. in the fall.

At the airport with Wylie. From L to R: Babs, Fredo Paez, Noah Paez, Wylie, Natalia "Tali" Paez, and Carol Paez. (Not pictured: Keisha Paez. She was at work. She actually took Wylie's old job at the Marianas Resort Eco-Camp).
So what happened to New Years you might ask? Well, unfortunately we didn't take any pictures but we did do some fun things.
On Friday, January 29, 2006 we spent the day at P.I.C., resort and water park near our hourse, with Jere and Mai. We forgot our camera but Mai brought hers and as soon as she sends me some pix I'll add them to this entry.
Sabbath, January 30, 2006 Mai and Jere and the Paez tribe came over for Sabbath lunch and stayed the afternoon with us. Again we forgot to take pictures. That night we watched Planes, Trains, & Automobiles and It's A Wonderful Life. Both movies were gifts from Jenny Leen and Barbara's parents. Thanks Leens!
For New Years Eve we went to Carol's house again and had a quiet dinner with Carol and John Moreno. Keisha and Fredo ate with us but then left for more exciting parties. We watched the fireworks from Carol's front yard and shot off some fireworks that John had brought. It might not sound very exciting but actually it was a very fun night!
New Years Day passed quietly, as we were getting ready to go back to school the next day.

The Requisite Kimo Pictures
For those of you who can't get enough of our dog Kimo. (Okay maybe we're the only ones who can't get enough of our dog Kimo. But indulge us.):

Here's Kimo begging, which she does by staring intensely at you while you're eating. Note Babs studiously ignoring her.

"Abstract Kimo" Kimo through the tube

One of Kimo's many fascinating sleep postures--this one with eyes open and tongue sticking out.

Only in Saipan: Zorries as Standard Footwear
Flip-flops, sandals, slippers, or thongs. Here in Saipan they are known as "zorries." They go by many names and in the States they are limited to poolside and dormitory showers. In Saipan, they are standard footwear for almost all occasions. You can find zorrie-clad feet everywhere from the basketball court to the restaurant to the church (though I myself don't usually wear them to church). They're cheap, comfortable, and easy to slide on and off. I feel so lucky that I live in a place where such a low-fashion item is considered socially acceptable. Everytime, I slip into a pair, I'm reminded that I live on a tropical island where the pace is slower, and the fashion statements simple. I've got about five pairs myself, with two exclusively for indoor use. Pictured below are my latest pair of zorries, a Christmas present from Babs.