Jun 29, 2007

My Personal Influences: Family

I begin my series in the most obvious place: at home. Our families have a tremendous impact on us and play a large role in shaping who we become. I’m no exception, and for good or ill, I’m very much the product of my family. Particularly influential to me has been my mother’s extended family—the Thomson clan and most of the people on my list come from their ranks. I’ve never known my dad’s side of the family very well (though they all seem to know me), but the Thomsons—my mother’s parents, her siblings and their spouses and children have been a huge part of my life. Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Roland & Aunt Coleen, Uncle Slimen Saliba & Aunt Patsy, Uncle Robert, cousins Nicole, Landon, Nabih, William, Yvette, as well as my mom and siblings have all been near constant influences for as long as I can remember. I think it’s important to acknowledge the influence they’ve all had as I will focus on only some of them for my list—those for whom I was able to identify specific ways they impacted me. My inability to articulate how each member of the Thomson clan has impacted me in no way diminishes the extent to which they’ve made an actual difference my life nor does it diminish the love and appreciation I have for each one of them.

In this category, and in some of the others to come, I’ve paired some people together (though they are counted separately in almost all cases) when their influence, while individually unique, represents a cumulative, similar impact.

Herewith the eleven on the list, and then the profiles:

Rosalind Maycock-my mother
Duane Maycockmy father
Barbara Leen Maycockmy wife
William & Enid Thomsonmy grandparents
Roland & Robert Thomsonmy uncles
William Leenmy father-in-law
Dawn Maycockmy sister
Vincent Maycockmy brother
Yvette Salibamy cousin

Rosalind Maycock
For many of us our mother is the single person who has had greatest influence on our lives—after all it’s mom who provides for our most basic of needs from the point of conception and quite literally shapes who we turn out to be by the choices she makes while carrying us in her womb. For most of us it’s mom who teaches us how to navigate our world in our earliest years. And it’s often our mom that we turn to for answers about life and how to live it. But for me I think the influence of my mom has been stronger than most. For most of my life, she hasn’t had someone else to share the burden of raising me, teaching me, providing for me, disciplining me, guiding me. The influence of normally shared by two parents she carried alone. Oh, she definitely had the help of her close knit family. We lived with my grandparents for five years and my aunts and uncles were always nearby to lend a hand, but at the end of the day when Uncle Roland and family drove back Harbor Point and grandma and grandpa climbed the stairs to their room on the second floor, it was my mom alone who worked on into the night, lulling me to sleep with the patter of her typing in the next room. When she retired to bed, in those moments before she fell asleep, there was no one to share the worries and joys that I’m sure filled her heart. No one but her Lord. That decision to raise us alone, to leave the poisonous, fearful atmosphere of life with my father—may have had the single biggest influence on the course my life has taken.

From my mom, I learned about the character of God. I learned not just from her words, but from the way she lived. My mom loved me unconditionally. She was firm but fair, and commanded my respect. I knew that no matter what I did I could always come to her and she would accept me, love me, and forgive me. Because these things were true of my mom, I came to believe they were true of God as well. She taught me that “God will provide” and because of her faith and God’s subsequent provision throughout my childhood, today I rarely worry about “what I will eat or what I will wear.” From my mom, I learned that the most important thing was to ask Jesus into your heart everyday and to never stop talking to Him, even when you’d done wrong. She taught me to always put my relationship with God first. The faith that I have today is rooted in the God that my mother introduced me to.

In addition to her influence in the explicitly theological arena, my mom taught me the importance of thinking and speaking positively. She taught me the value of being considerate. She taught me how to treat women. She taught me to think for myself and to never blindly accept what others—even she--claimed to be true. She helped me learn to rise above but never accept prejudice and discrimination. She demonstrated by selfless example the importance of self-sacrifice, of service. I’m still learning to put that value into practice as well as she does.

Duane Maycock
Though I moved away from my dad at the age of 7 and saw him only twice in the next ten years, my father has had a surprisingly strong influence on my life. Because of my father, I wrestle daily with who God really is, what He is really like. While intellectually I believe in the God of my mother, emotionally the darker visage of the God of my father still looms ominous and frightening in the corners of my heart. While that sounds pretty bad, my spiritual struggle has softened my naturally strong sense of my own rightness and belief in my own opinions (another quality of his I inherited). I’m not the most humble of people, but what humility I do have is often due to my ongoing struggle with fear and doubt. Because of my father, I have a strong revulsion for misogyny and am ever sensitive to the mistreatment of women. Because of my father, I’m highly skeptical of fanaticism and resistant to extremes in my lifestyle and practice of my faith.

In his own way, my father is the yardstick by which I measure who I am as man.

I will not make the same mistakes that you did
I will not let myself
Cause my heart so much misery
---Kelly Clarkson “Because of You”

Barbara Leen Maycock

There is no person on this earth that I’m closer to or love more than the woman who I often simply address as “Love”: My wife Barbara. It would seem obvious that this woman I share my life with would have a tremendous influence over me, but when I actually took the time to identify the ways in which she has influenced me I was amazed by the breadth and depth of her influence. Name an arena of my life and I can point out a way that she has influenced me: Career—It was Babs that encouraged me to enter the field of education. She is the primary influence in me becoming a teacher. Where I Live—Barbara’s appointment as principal and her decision to continue in that capacity is the reason why I still live in Saipan and still teach at the SDA School. Leisure Activities—Babs has helped me become less rigid, more flexible, and even spontaneous in how I plan my time. Habits—I lock doors and let the dog in the house because of Babs! There are so many ways big and small that Barbara has influenced me but one of the most significant arenas has been my spiritual life. Perhaps more than anyone else, Babs has taught me to place more trust in God and to have faith in his guidance. Her simple faith in God’s love for her, her spiritual fearlessness, her belief in the power of prayer, have inspired and enriched my walk with God. I’m very blessed to be able to say I’m a better person because of Barbara.

William & Enid Thomson
There’s a song I know by heart because my grandpa sang it every morning to start family worship. He’d be alone in the living room, and he’d start singing and we’d come running. By the time he got to the final stanza we were all singing along. As a measure of the influence he and my grandmother have had, as I type the words come almost unconsciously:

Lord in the morning
Thou shalt hear
My voice ascending high
To thee will I direct my prayers
To thee lift up mine eyes

My grandparents are my role models in so many ways. When my grandfather passed away in March of 2004 they were just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. I want a marriage that lasts like that. Both of my grandparents have spent their entire lives in service to others. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind. I remember talking with grandpa and grandma maybe 10 or 12 years ago, and I was amazed! They were the farthest thing from the stereotypical “stuck in the old ways” old folks—their faith was dynamic, alive, still changing and growing. I want to have a living faith like that. My childhood memories of grandma and grandpa include family worships every morning and Friday and Sabbath evening. I want to have traditions like that in my family someday. I remember when I was in college my grandma came into some information that led her to believe I was doing some immoral things (for the record I wasn’t but grandma didn’t know that). She wrote me the most beautiful letter of concern and dare I say it—remonstration—and when I went to talk to her about it, she was so kind. I remember her saying “I’m not going to say anything to anyone else about this. It will be our secret.” Even though the facts of the case were not true, I was deeply moved by how grandma dealt with what she believed was her erring grandson. I want to have that spirit of loving grace. My grandparents were both thrifty and generous. The influence in that area, especially in the area of thriftiness, is still taking hold (I’ve reached the point where I always clean my plate, but that’s about it so far), but I trust it will! My grandparents are my role models, my inspiration. If I live as long as they have, I hope my life will look a little bit like theirs.

Robert Thomson & Roland Thomson

They rode motorcyles. They both had these matching bikes that they would take on road trips. It was like having the guys from CHIPs Patrol in your own family. Except cooler. They both played the guitar. I remember the two of them trading licks on some super complicated jazzy/Caribbeanesque song. They were both scuba divers. They had the best stories about doing all kinds of cool things and having all kinds exciting adventures. As a little kid, my two lanky, dark-haired uncles were the epitome of cool. Everything they did, thought: “I want to do that.” Uncle Robert had a black four wheel drive Toyota 4-Runner. Uncle Roland drove an emerald green Honda Civic station wagon. I thought those were the best looking cars on the planet. I still dream of one day owning a 4-Runner. Uncle Robert & Uncle Robert liked jazz. I decided I liked jazz too (though as a kid I wasn’t even sure what jazz sounded like). So today, every time I put Diana Krall or Harry Connick Jr. in the CD player, every time I slip on a pair of flip-flop sandals and think ‘Yeah, they look good—loose, bohemian , cool’, every time I decide to try something new or go on a new adventure, I’ve got Uncle Roland and Uncle Robert to thank. I’m not near as cool as they are—after all, while I do scuba dive I can’t play the guitar and or ride a motorcycle--but I’m working on it.

William Leen
When I think of what it means to be like Jesus, the first name that comes to mind is always Bill Leen. I’ve only known my father-in-law for twelve years but in that time he’s definitely become one my greatest heros and role models. Of course when he reads this he’ll shake his head, and say something like this: “Well that’s real nice of you, Sean. But you didn’t have to say all that.” See what I mean! Humble, gentle, kind, gracious. I love talking to him because he’s so genuinely interested in what you have to say—no, more than that, he’s really interested in you as a person. A lot of us try to fake that kind of interest, but with him it’s real. You can tell by the questions he asks. He asks about you like he really cares, like he really wants to know. I’ve tried to take that same spirit in my interactions with others (though I still too often fall prey to talking too much). I love the way he treats my mother-in-law, Carol with such deference and consideration. He’s a gentleman of the old school. Dad Leen is pretty conservative. I often wonder what he must think of me with my wild-eyed liberalism (and up until recently my shoulder length dreads). But I don’t really worry. He’s the least judgemental person I’ve ever met and he never treats me with anything less than the highest respect. He’s never given me so much as a disapproving glare or condescending tone. When I met Babs, I was doubly blessed. Not only did I gain a wife, but I gained a dad as well.

Dawn Maycock
My sister Dawn is one of the strongest people I know. We were talking about this the other day, because she doesn’t feel very strong all the time. She’s got a sensitive heart beneath her hardy exterior and she hurts like all of us do. So when I say that she’s strong I don’t mean that she’s impervious. Her strength is found in her unyielding commitment to her convictions. When she believes in something, Dawn does not back down. Period. She doesn’t pretend. She doesn’t prevaricate. She doesn’t sugar-coat. What’s amazing is that standing up for what’s right isn’t always easy for her (is it ever for any of us?). She gets scared, lonely, sad, cries, like anyone would. But while many take the easy route out and compromise, Dawn refuses to do so. Once when she was traveling in Australia she saw a woman brutally verbally abusing a little child in a train station. Most people turned the other way, not wanting to get involved, making excuses. Not my sister. She stood up to this woman, told her enough was enough—and nearly got slashed as the woman turned her rage on Dawn. Fortunately my sister escaped unharmed, and as if freed by Dawn’s courage someone else called the police on the woman. Ever since I heard that story, my sister’s moral courage has become the gold standard for me to measure the strength of my own convictions. When the chips are down and I’m faced with standing up for what’s right, come what may, I hope to be like Dawn.

Vincent Maycock

It seems like Vince has been challenging me all my life. I don’t think he meant to. He was just so good at everything. A lot of things I did, I did either because Vince was doing them first or he was doing them better. When we were kids, he made these little Indians out of pipecleaners and bandaids—whole tribes of them. So I started making them too. Both of us were attempting to illustrate the Bible (we both foundered around Abraham), both of us were drawing history pictures, writing stories of dogs in the wilds of Alaska, both of us were writing Journals (The Journal for me and VAMJODH [Vincent Alex Maycock.s Journal of Daily Happenings] for him), both of us were playing Jeopardy against the players on TV. We both did a lot of things, only he always did them just a little better which challenged me to do what I did just a little better. Now that we are adults, Vince challenges me still. My brother is brilliant (this is a guy who reads physics textbooks for some light reading) and he challenges me to keep learning. His atheism challenges me to wrestle with my faith. Vince has faced obstacles in his adult life—with his health and in other ways—that I could never imagine overcoming, and yet he has soldiered on resolutely, challenging me to do the same in whatever life throws at me. He’s still pushing me to do better. A memory: Vince is maybe 9 or 10 years old wrestling with our cousin William who is two years his senior and twice as strong. William’s got Vince’s arm twisted into some excruciating position and is demanding his surrender. But Vince is dogged—I can tell he’s in pain but he’s stoic, unyielding. He endures.

Yvette Saliba

For a long time I used to think of Yvette primarily as “my sister’s cousin.” They were the same age and by the time Yvette along with Uncle Slimen, my mom’s sister Aunt Patsy, William, Nabih and Yvette moved to Central Florida I had moved away. But on my annual visits home over the past nine years I’d see her when she popped in to visit Dawn. We’d chat and it turned out she was an avid bookworm. Now, I used to read a lot as a kid. But somewhere along the way I lost that reading habit. Yvette helped bring it back. A couple of years back we started talking about good books—she recommended a few and I recommended a few. I started reading again, and our book talks spurred me to keep reading. Now I read every night before bed. And I’m always on the lookout for a good book to share with Yvette. But here’s the truly wonderful thing—a return to reading wasn’t the only thing I gained from Yvette. One night I’m e-mailing Yvette my thoughts on The Kite Runner (one of our recent shared reads), and I pause for a minute, imagine her cheerful smile, and I realize, with wonder, that somewhere along the way she went from being “my sisters cousin” to being my friend.

My Personal Influences: 65 People Who Made A Difference in My Life

Over the next few entries, I’ve decided to do a series on the people who have influenced me. I got the idea about a year ago from TIME magazine’s annual 100 Most Influential People in the World edition. Reading the profiles of the men and women who are shaping our world got me thinking about the people who have shaped my life. Who, I wondered, are the influential people in my life?

I drafted a list ranging from obvious choices like my parents to people who barely know me at all and probably have no idea of the impact they’ve had on my life. There’s even a handful of famous folks on my list! While compiling the list was a fairly easy, giving some thought to exactly how each person on the list has made a difference in my life was a challenging—and rewarding—process. It left me feeling grateful and blessed for the people that God has put in my life. I’ve grouped these sixty-five people into seven categories: Family, Formative Friends, Spiritual Guides, Teachers & Mentors, Catalysts (people who I may have known a short time or not very well, but prompted me to make a change in my life that has stayed with me to this day), Inspirations 2007 (people who have inspired me in the past year), and From a Distance (people who I do not know personally and who do not know me, but who nonetheless who have had a strong influence in shaping who I am). It goes without saying the many of the people on my list belong in multiple categories, so should one name appear under Catalyst but not under Friends, that in no way implies that they are not a dear friend! And some of my biggest Heroes & Inspirations are of course Family and Friends.

Sixty-five is not an arbitrary number. I made a list and then counted how many people were on it. In coming years, I’d like to continue to add people to the list as those around me continue to influence and shape me.

I’ve purposely chosen not to use the word “Most” in my Influential List. I think it’s too difficult to quantify who has had the most influence on me. In fact, there are certainly ways in which I’ve been influenced that I am either unaware of or unable to quantify. As a result there will doubtless be people who should be on the list that aren’t. For anyone, who feels that their influence hasn’t been sufficiently acknowledged, my apologies :).

One final note. I’ve chosen to focus primarily on the positive influences, though the reality is that hurtful actions have also had a powerful impact on me as well. In general I’ve chosen not to draw attention to those people or actions. To every single person on the list I can sincerely say “Thank You.”

The names (with individual profiles in each category to come in future blog entries):


Rosalind Maycock
Robert & Roland Thomson
Barbara Leen Maycock
Duane Maycock
William & Enid Thomson
William Leen
Dawn Maycock
Vincent Maycock
Yvette Saliba

Spiritual Influences
Heidi Bauer Starling
Clarissa & Darchelle Worley
Richard Ludders
Carol Paez
The Missionaries of AFM

Teachers & Mentors

Dan Shor
Oystein Labianca
Edwin Hernandez
Paul Viar
Wanda Hopkins
Rex & Clarie Kosack

From a Distance

Rich Mullins
The People from Interference
Keith Robertson
Keith Green
Dwight Nelson
John Grisham

Formative Friends
J Carlos
Greg Wedel
Chandra Maloney
Carissa Berard Cotta
Kim Juhl
Chris Cotta
Judith Andersen
Paul Wood & Christi Snell
Elliot Jeremiah
William Hawthorne
Aaron & Joyce Knowlton
Grant Graves

Alex Prouty
Lori Cerna
Cliff Shoemake
Vince Asanuma
Crystal Pierson
Beverly Cabanatan
Carl Waldron

Inspiration for 2007
Britni Gleason
Aya Sato
Keisha Paez
Aya Kito
Eric Mahinay
Russ & Kanae Quinn
Mai Rhea Odiyar
Vernon Luthas
Ken Pierson
Virleshay Gayatin

Jun 28, 2007

Hey, What about Missy?

"Where's the tribute to Missy" you ask? "Seems I recall that she was among the rock stars bidding fond farewell in early entries on this blog?" Miss Missy that dynamo of postive energy, the adrenaline coursing through the Saipan SDA School. What about her?

Well, it's pretty simple. Plans have changed. The chapter entitled "Missy in Saipan" is still being written.

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
--Natasha Bedingfield

Next year is gonna rock! See you soon, Missy May.

Jun 27, 2007


Layla and Me on her last day in Saipan, Sunday, June 10, 2007

Layla. She of the amazing red hair. She has the most incredible hair I've seen on a human being. Waves and waves of curls in deep red. It's the first thing most people notice about her. But even after a few moments with Layla you quickly realize that her hair is like the gorgeous,hand-carved frame around a priceless artistic masterpiece. What's truly remarkable about Layla is the kind of person she is.

Unlike a lot of us, Layla keeps her own counsel most of the time and I admire that so much. She maintains an air of mystery that those of us who love the sound of our own voices can never attain. There was a gravity and wisdom about her that I found intriguing. I always found myself wondering what she was thinking. When Layla spoke, you shut your trap and listened well. Watching the enthusiasm and expertise with which she taught Science to the kids I knew she was highly intelligent, and whenever she did weigh on the subject at hand, it was always clear that she was a deep, philosphical thinker.

Though Layla chose to hold her cards close, there were certain things about Layla that were crystal clear. Her love for nature. Her love of knowledge and wisdom. Her kindness, gracious demeanor, and warmth. Her ready smile. But most of all her love her for her students. You couldn't miss that about Layla. It was evident in the extra hours she spent with them during lunch break, after school, on the weekends. Her mission was to be a teacher and friend to the kids, and she was. She loved them mightily and they loved her back.

And when the day came for her to leave, she left true to herself. Quick hugs. Hidden tears. A resolute walking away without looking back. The breaking of her heart, she would keep to herself.

And that was okay because all of us who came to treasure Layla over the past year already knew the most important thing about Layla. It's the thing I know her colleagues, students, and friends will always remember. That she loved with all her heart.

Layla, Bev, & Missy.

Layla never lost sight of why she was in Saipan. She was here for these kids. Here she is with a few of them.

The picture above right and below were taken on the day that one of my former students, Ayaka Yoshida (formerly known as "The Diva" in this blog) moved away from Saipan to attend college in Japan.

Layla takes The Long Walk

Jun 22, 2007

The Joy of Doing Nothing

So what have I been up to this summer so far? I think this picture pretty much sums it up:

Ah, the computer. Lucky for me, my mom has a laptop which she's lent to me for my stay in Florida, and we can pick up free wi-fi from Dawn's apartment. E-mail. Blogging. Interference. Journaling. Even Myspace! In this particular photo I am watching this Japanese drama called 1 Litre of Tears on Youtube that my former student Aya has been bugging me to watch all year long. Well, I never had the time until now. It's terribly sad, but addictively good. I've watched 7 episodes so far and have 4 more to go!

It's taken me awhile to post my first blog from my vacation in the States. I guess I was waiting for something newsworthy to report. I've been checking everybody else's blogs and it seemed everyone else was having these great adventures. Grant's rediscovering the vacation spot of his childhood, sailing, diving into freezing cold waters. Mai is going to weddings and working industriously. Britni's slicing up cadavers and studying like mad as she starts OT school. Ken & Crystal are serving the island of Saipan, offering free dental care. Bev's mobilizing the singles on Saipan. And what about me? What am I doing?

Well, to be honest. Not a whole heck of a lot. I finally realized that at the rate I'm going, if I wait to report exciting goings-on during my vacation I might never post at all.

My day typically consists of getting up around 11 in the morning. Most days I'll have some devotional time. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I go down to the gym on the ground floor of Dawn's condo and work out. I'm supposed to run around Lake Eola on the off days but by the time I wake up, it's too hot to jog so. . .I don't. So after devotions and/or working out, the structure to my day pretty much ends. I get on the internet. . .check my e-mail, browse the blogs, and log into Interference and debate for awhile. My sister isn't working right now so we spend a lot of time together, talking sometimes, other times just sharing the same space. Yesterday we spend a couple of hours where she played her video game (it's a game where you pick up shells on a beach. She loves shelling in real life and so she's quite excited she can no do it online) and I watched 1 Litre of Tears, on Youtube.

My high school friend Greg lives 12 floors down in our building so I've hung out with him a lot, watching foreign films, going out for lunch or dinner, or just talking.

These social activities round out the day, and often I get back to the computer late in the evening for a final check of the Interference discussions and e-mail (Barbara only arrived here yesterday, Thursday, June 21, so while she was gone I spent quite a bit of time writing to her and sometimes talking on the phone). I head for bed around 11:30 or 12:00 on a good night, but then often end up staying up another hour or two reading before finally going to sleep.

That's it. No excitement. No adventure.

But you know what? I'm okay with that. I need this. I've spent 10 months being extraordinarily occupied. My life in Saipan is one of constant activity. Work. Tutoring. Gym. REAL. Various church and school activities. Go to bed. Do it all over again. Even after school got out, I went to bed around 10 every night, and was up by 7 every morning, and was busy all day until bedtime right up to the day I got on the plane. And that's fine. My life in Saipan is rich, full, rewarding. But to now have hours and days stretching before me that I don't have to fill with constant activity is deeply restorative. I've realized I don't want to and shouldn't fill up my days of vacation with a lot of activities. I need to not be busy for a change. Idle hands might be the devil's workshop, but there is something to be said for taking a vacation from being busy. There is joy in doing nothing.

My best friend J and I hanging out in Dawn's condo before heading downstairs to Greg's to watch a movie. Greg is there too but he's taking the picture as he doesn't like to have his picture taken and refuses to allow his photo to be posted on the web.

Things have picked up a bit with the arrival of J and his wife Evelyn. He's staying with his sister here in Orlando, but Greg and I have seen him several times since he's gotten here. Yesterday morning (late morning of course), Greg and I went and picked up J and we cruised around for an hour or two, talking and listening to music just like we used to do back when we were in high school. It was the first time the three of us hung out like that in 13 years and it was good. I wish I'd thought to bring my camera. Greg took us out to see the high school where he works and then we had lunch at pizza place around the corner from the condo where he and Dawn live. After lunch we went back to Greg's place and watched a movie. Good times. Exciting? No. But good.

The guestroom in Dawn's condo where Babs and I are staying.

Not much point in taking pictures of Dawn's fantastic condo. I posted plenty of photos last summer and there's no reason to repeat that. (Just click on June 2006) if you want the full tour. But I never did include pictures of the room we stayed in, a very luxurious, 5-star hotel type room, so here they are.
The guest room viewed from the bed. I love the antique wardrobe and the picture over it which you can almost imagine is an actual window.

Today we had some excitement. There was some sort of emergency--maybe it was a small fire, I don't know--but they evacuated the building. Of course the elevators were out of order so we had to walk down (and up, when the "emergency" passed. Even when it was safe to go back upstairs, the elevators remained out of service for awhile.). 18 floors suddenly seemed a lot longer. Here's Dawn and Babs coming out of the stairwell after an exhausting climb up from the ground floor. Dawn's hamming it up as usual!

J & his wife Evelyn at Greg's condo, with Dawn in the background.
Tonight Greg hosted J & Evelyn, my mom, my brother Vince, Dawn and her boyfriend Jim, and Barbara and me for a delicious supper of baked ziti, garlic bread, salad, cokes in the classic glass bottles, and homemade ice cream for dessert. Greg has always been an impeccable host and an excellent cook. Below, a few more pictures from tonight's meal:

Mom and Me.

My brother Vince & Me

Hanging out at Dawn's with the family after dinner at Gregs. That's Dawn on the phone, Jim's hand reaching out in the lower left hand corner, Mom lying next to Dawn, Babs and Bambu (Dawn's cute daschund), and lying on the airbed in the upper right corner, my brother Vince (He's spending the weekend). As you can see we're not doing much.
There is one really important thing I'm doing here in Florida, and in a way it's vital that I not be too busy doing other things lest they interfere with this. I'm spending time with my family. My mother, brother and sister who I will only see for these three weeks out of the entire year. Just being together is perhaps the most valuable way I can spend the precious time I have here in Florida.

My family. From left to Right: Vince, Me, Dawn, & Mom. I love you and I'm so happy to be here with you!
I haven't updated the Maycock Media Mix blog since LAST summer. But there's finally a new post. Click on the Maycock Media Mix Link to read my reviews of the first two books of the summer, Nickel & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.

Jun 19, 2007

Summer in Saipan

It is summer in Saipan! Unfortunately (but also fortunately--it's a six of one, half dozen of the other), I only spend maybe a week and a half of my summer in Saipan, so I haven't experienced the pleasures of summer vacation in Saipan since 1999. Still, despite a schedule so busy that I never really had a chance to watch TV or movies or even go on the internet, I was still able to find some time for some summer fun.
On the Friday afternoon before I came to the States, Babs and I took Kimo swimming at the beach near our house. Now the beach near Pacific Islands Club, about two minutes from our house is not the nicest beach on Saipan--I consider it the equivalent of the uncharismatic Gallows Bay in St. Croix--but it is close and convenient.
Anyway we'd taken Kimo swimming once before maybe a year ago and she did NOT like at all. She would pull on the leash, try to get out of the water, and whenever she would come toward us she'd do anything to avoid having to swim, including trying to walk on her hind legs and splashing frantically with her front legs to try to keep from having to swim, and then she'd leap into Barbara's lap, trembling and scared and usually scraching Babs in the process.
Well this time she did a lot better. First of all, we coaxed her into the water slowly; let her walk around in the shallows till she felt more comfortable. There was some pulling on the leash and "hint dropping" that we should go towards land, but much of the time she was willing to risk coming out towards Barbara especially if she could keep walkng on all fours. As she got acclimatized she started getting more comfortable and even seemed to enjoy the water. Eventually, she even got pretty comfortable swimming, if she had a goal to swim towards (like Babs). We're very proud of her and Babs is eager for more swimming lessons (She took Kimo out again the day before I left and she says Kimo did even better!)
Below some pictures from early in Kimo's swimming lesson (when she got better at it, I was out in the water and couldn't go get the camera lest we disrupt her progress).

"Fabs n' Babs"

A shot looking back from the beach. That's our silver CRV parked near the coconut palm.
Babs and Kimo in the water.
On Sunday, June 10, 2 days before we left we had dinner with Carol and the Paez tribe to celebrate Keisha's graduation from high school. We ate at the Magic Lamp, a Mediterranean restaurant owned by Linda Stephanian, the mother of one our former students. She is an Armenian born and raised in Iraq and is the most amazing cook. We always said she should open a restuarant and so she did! The Magic Lamp has amazing Middle Eastern food and the most diverse vegetarian menu on the island.

That's Carol and Keisha in the center. Note the beautiful Middle Eastern decor and the low tables.

Jun 11, 2007

Thoughts from an internet kiosk in Japan

I posted a version of this in my online journal at Interference and thought, I'd post it here too:

I'm on my way back to the U.S. mainland. I've got a six hour layover here in Japan and I decided to spend my money on the internet rather than going out and exploring. I was just in Narita in March and saw a bit of the local sites and whatnot, and I don't have enough time to go much further afield. I guess I must be pretty jaded traveler to waste an opportunity in a foreign country on the internet.Plus I need to really be careful with my money. The budget is tight this summer.

This is a long trip. . .about 36 hours from the time I arrived at the airport in Saipan until I will touch down in Orlando. So far I'm doing well though. I flew from Saipan to Guam which was about 40 minutes and then slept pretty much all the way from Guam to Japan. So I'm actually feeling pretty good. The long haul is still ahead--12 hours across the Pacific and western U.S. to Minneapolis, then another five hours of layover then on to Detroit and finally to Orlando.

Believe it or not, I was a little sad to leave Saipan. . .I always am. Babs and I had dinner at a little beachside bar and grill called Oleai's that we like. Right at sunset too. It was so beautiful, it left me feeling a bit sad about going on vacation and leaving such beauty. I'm gonna miss Kimo too. I guess I've really found a home there.

I know some people see air travel as a great opportunity for "witnessing." Not me. Beyond the fact that I would never want to sit next to someone for half a day who felt that way, traveling always makes me strangely, vaguely misanthropic. It's not that I'm in a bad mood or hate traveling--I generally enjoy it. But I just don't feel like talking to people. . .at all. Sitting next to a person for 12 hours and never saying a word? I have no problem with that. Maybe it's just that I'm tired. . .long haul travel like this is quite exhausting.

So vacation at last. . .I've been so busy since school got out on the first of June. I've been going to bed early like it's a school night, getting up by 7 (at least when I wasn't getting up at ungodly hours to see people off at the airport) and literally busy all day. I never really had a chance to be "on vacation" in Saipan. Never got to veg and watch some movies. Never even got on Interference, my favorite online haunt. So I guess the vacation will begin when I get to Florida.

Sacred Space

Late on Saturday night, June 2, after the Paamaalam but before Britni's "wake", Barbara and I along with our friend Carol, were at the church cleaning up after the party. As I vaccummed the floor of the main auditorium, I thought to myself. . .this is sacred space.

What makes it sacred? After all it's just a room--at the moment, empty, quiet, the chairs all stacked along the walls. It's not even a "dedicated" sanctuary (though there have been recent efforts to up the "holiness" factor of the room--no more potlucks in the main auditorium, ties on the platform etc). So what makes this place sacred?

It's where people meet with God--that's what makes this place special. Not just for church services, or other traditionally "church" functions, but whenever we meet together in that room, it's in the context that God is there with us.

That night we'd celebrated the service of six missionaries who'd given a year of their lives to share their love for God with kids in Saipan. An integral part of that emotional evening was recognizing the presence of God--in guiding these people to Saipan, in empowering their ministries, in touching the lives of those around them. We held this event in the church, and I think there was extra significance to it because of that--we held it in the place where we meet with God.

A lot of times we act as if reverence in church means the sense of: "Careful, you might make Him mad. You're in His territory now. So don't touch anything. You might break something." I'm not sure that this kind of "hands-off" museum approach to church is what reverence is supposed to be about. A church should inspire awe and reverence because of what happens there. It should be the one place where we are real, where we laugh and celebrate, cry and mourn, worship and sing and pray and work and play and even eat, all in the presence of God. The places that we treat with reverence and respect are places where things of great magnitude have happened--unfortunately in this world, most of those things are great horrors--battlefields, the empty chambers of death camps and prisons. But they can also be places where great love and great sacrifice where shown, where great decisions were made. And what could be greater than a place where struggling humanity collapses into the arms of God?

Ceremonial reverence has it's place--the high ceilings, the stained glass, the dedicated sanctuary with it's holy platform and somber pews, but we must be careful that we don't allow a ceremonial worship space and a ceremonial reverence to make God into a ceremonial experience, something divorced from the reality and regularity of our ordinary lives. Sometimes, when reverence becomes strictly about grandness and ceremony, it's easy to feel that God is restricted to the church building and when we leave it behind we leave God behind as well--a duty that can be accomplished every Sabbath morning (and maybe Weds. night) and then forgotten until next week.

What makes a place sacred is when humanity meets God--it is His presence that sanctifies. By sole virtue of His presence, God took a patch of ordinary desert brush and turned it into holy ground. I like to think He does the same with our little auditorioum in Saipan. Our reverence is shown not so much in which activities we do or don't do in that space, but in the extent to which we remember that He is there.

Jun 9, 2007

So what's the view like from your airport?

I've been to the airport seven times in the past week. Number eight is coming up tomorrow when we see Layla and Missy off. And visit number 9 will be when I leave for the States this coming Tuesday.

Against the Current: In the Midst of Departures, an Arrival!

Welcome Rosana! Britni, Rosana, and Barbara at Rosana's arrival early Saturday morning.

Almost lost in the shuffle of emotional farewells and the eulogizing of the departing All-Stars is the quiet arrival of a new teacher at the Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School. One of Britni's best friends, Rosana Beharry, arrived in Saipan in the early morning hours of Sabbath, June 2. She's here just for the summer to teach summer school ESL.

I don't know her real well and I'm not sure how much of a chance I'll get to know her, as she'll be leaving soon after I return from my own vacation, but I am impressed by her gracious demeanor and positive attitude. I think she'll do a great job and we're glad to have her on the team, if only for a little while.

The One Who Stayed Behind

I think sometimes its easier to be the one leaving. You're headed off to new adventures after all. But it's hard to stay behind.

It's nice to be honored for your accomplishments, lauded for all you've done, recognized for all of you contributed. As our school board chairman, Ernie Lacorte is fond of saying, people always say nice things about you when you're leaving and when you're dead. But people don't usually have much to say about those who stay behind.

Being left behind is generally not a good thing. Some Christians worry about being "Left Behind." Our government wants to make sure "No Child is Left Behind." Soldiers promise to "leave no man behind." When all your friends are leaving, it's no fun to be the one who stays behind.

But sometimes someone has to stay on. They have to stay when it's not fun to do so, when it's hard to stay, when it hurts that everyone else is leaving. Someone has to say "No, you guys go on ahead. I'll stay behind," and then watch, buffeted by the bladewash as the rest of the team piles into the helicopter and flies away, leaving you alone. In the movies, the one who stays behind is the hero. But the movies don't show how hard, how scary it can be to be the One Who Stays Behind.

Mai Rhea Odiyar is my hero because she chose to stay behind. Her friends had to go of course, but she could have gone too. It would have been the easier thing. But instead she chose to stay the course, to stay on where she knew she was needed most. God called them to go. He asked her to stay.

Don't worry though, Mai. You won't be staying behind alone. God will be with you. And so will we.

Mai says good bye to the rest of the All Stars. Mai's not actually here in Saipan right now. This is a photo taken at her departure at the airport on Monday, June 4. She went back to Canada for the summer but will be back in Saipan at the end of July.


"While it's true that sometimes you don't know what you have until its gone, it's also true that sometimes you don't know what you've been missing until it arrives."

I saw that quote posted in the tax & revenue office where I was belatedly filing my taxes this past Wednesday and I immediately thought of Grant.

I could say many things great things about G-Rant--I could tell you what an incredible teacher he is, I could tell you what an gifted writer he is (one only need read his blog to see that), I could tell you about his love for Jesus and for his service to the church, I could tell you about his adventuresome spirit and zest for life. Those things are all true, but they've either been said before or are abundantly evident on the pages of this blog and his own. So instead I'm sticking to one great thing about Grant that has meant the most to me personally:

He was--and is--my friend.

I've been living in Saipan for nine years but it wasn't until this year that I realized I'd been missing the experience of getting lost in the boonies of Saipan. I didn't know I was missing having someone call me up to see what I was up to for the day and was I up for watching a video. I didn't know I missed having a work-out partner at the gym. I didn't know I was missing debating the political and religious issues of the day with someone who wasn't online. I didn't know how much I missed having someone say, "Hey, can I pray for you?" In short, I didn't know I missed having a friend.

Oh, it's not that I had no friends at all. I have aquaintances, colleagues, good friends from Marriage Encounter and other community organizations that I see every now and then. And of course back in the States I have friends who I've known for years--solid, heart & soul friendships that have stood the test of time. But I didn't really have anyone like that in Saipan, and frankly, I was fine with that. At least until Grant came along.

Here's how you know someone is a true friend--You can't wait to share something with them. You hear something, you read something, experience something and your first thought is--"Oh, I can't wait to tell ______ " or "_______ would totally love this." Only a few people fit that bill for me among them Babs, my mom, my sister, my best friend J, . . .and now Grant.

Well, now Grant's gone, on to his next big adventure, and while I know our friendship will remain, I'm finding the first part of that quote to be true well. "Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone."

On the morning of of Tuesday, June 5, Grant says goodbye to (somewhat) trusty Rusty the truck. Rusty has refused to start since the day Grant left. I guess that little old truck is taking his owners departure pretty hard.

Mai and Grant

Group hug: Grant with students, teachers, friends just before his departure

Grant's ready to go. In that bag is some home made apple pie for the road, in honor of our afternoon of "men making pies".

Grant takes "The Long Walk"

Heather and Jari

Lennon & McCartney. Laverne & Shirley. Bono & The Edge. Bonnie & Clyde.

Heather & Jari.

Some people are just meant to be friends. There's a certain synergy and energy that happens when they're together. Heather and Jari were one such pair. They orbited a bit further from me. They had their own shoebox of an apartment off the main "Compound." Heather was at the pre-school a lot of the time or toiling away at the Herculean task of putting together four years worth of yearbook. Jari taught over in the 1st/2nd classroom and our paths didn't cross except for when I needed the keys to the supply closet. But even from my distant place in the solar system of the SDA School we could tell they had a special friendship. And like the gravity of the distant sun, I felt the effects of their work at the SDA School too.

I saw the tears in the eyes of Jari's students, not just on the last day of school but a couple of days before school got out and I knew that they loved her and she had loved them. I heard stories of Jari's involvement, along with Layla, in Pathfinders, meeting with the kids every Sunday afternoon. I can hold in my hands the evidence of Heather's commitment--a beautifully hefty school annual that cobbled together in one volume the unfinished work of three years of yearbook attempts in addition to this year's edition. I watched her working with love and patience with her pre-school students at their graduation.

I wasn't as close to Heather and Jari as I was to some of the other teachers, but I know this--every time I talked to Heather we always laughed, and every time I came across Jari, she always made me feel like we were in the trenches together-up way too early in the morning, but hanging in and doing our best. I'm not sure they'll ever even know this blog was posted about them, but if they ever do happen to stumble across this entry I want them both to know that they were loved, appreciated, that they made a difference. The All Stars wouldn't be the same without the constellation they call Heather & Jari.

Below a few pictures taken at various airport farewells including their own.



At Heather & Jari's departure. We met at the airport at 2:00 A.M. on Tuesday, July 5. Actually we went to the airport the night before to see Jari off. She was to fly to Guam, wait in the airport overnight and then take the same 6:00 A.M. flight from Guam to Houston that Heather was scheduled to be on. Not wanting to spend all night in Guam, Jari tried to get switched to Heather's flight and was successful. So, we all went back home and went to bed and got up again a few hours later to see them both leave together.

Heather with her co-teacher at Pre-School, Shirley Digma

Heather and Me. I can guarantee she probably just said something that made me smile. She's cool like that.

Heather & Jari take "The Long Walk"