Sep 30, 2007

Life List

"Climb every mountain," the song says. But what if you don't want to climb every one and the ones you do want to climb are more medium-sized?

“Life Lists” are all the rage these days. People are making master lists of all the things they must see, do, and experience in a lifetime. To be honest I’m a bit ambivalent about these life lists, at least for me. For one thing, I guess, I feel like I’m not missing too much in the life I’m living right now. Perhaps I’m setting my sights too low or something, but I feel like there’s not much I could imagine adding. Simultaneously, when you feel like your life is already a pretty amazing adventure, there’s something that seems a bit overwhelming about a life list—gosh, how much more am I supposed to do! And my life is already so full! How am I ever going to find the time?

Nonetheless, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yes, there are a few things that I’d put on a life list of my own. I decided that my life list would be limited to things I feel I can reasonably accomplish (I’m all for dreaming big, but I don’t want to put undue pressure on my life with dreams like playing onstage with U2 and other wild fantasies). And while I also want my list to be more than just an exercise in wishful thinking, I also want it to be less than a to-do list where I feel like my life will have been some how less than extraordinary if I don’t get to do them all. Like Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life I want my life to be full and meaningful even if I don’t get to “do and see it all.”

So, enough caveats; here’s the list:

Places to visit
New Zealand
Trinidad & Tobago
Great Britain
New York City
The American Southwest
The Grand Canyon

Places to go back to
San Francisco

Places I’d like to live (Just about everywhere I’ve visited, I could see myself living but here are four places that especially come to mind)
Teach English for two years in Korea
Somewhere in South America
Hawaii (If I had to live in the USA this would be my first choice)

Things to do
Do a road trip across America with my best friend J Carlos
Take a massage course
Learn to dance with my wife
Run a marathon
Complete a triathalon
Climb a mountain (a fairly normal one. Everest level stuff doesn’t interest me)
Write a book & have it made into a film
See U2 in concert (again)

Books to Read
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I’m sure I’ll add more items to the list. . .and who knows I might even take an item off if I realize I don’t care about it so much. Life is much more than a list, it is an adventure to be lived every single day.

Sep 28, 2007

September Snapshots

September has flown by. A few snapshots of the month:

Ube! At the beginning of September I went to the first of our dive meetings with our dive instructors, Dennis and Judy. They gave us some local sweet potatoes as parting gifts, and we baked them up that same night. Babs is pretty excited about them because, not only are they delicious, but they are her favorite color, purple! (As tasty as ube is, we do not care for many of the ways it is often prepared, including ube ice cream).

It's vollyeball season at the SDA School and our team is representing well. This photo, courtesy of Mai Rhea Odiyar, shows our team at their first game. We lost that game but since then things have changed. The team has new uniforms,they're gelling as a team, and their skill level is skyrocketing. I really do believe we have what it takes to win a championship this year. I'm so proud of them, not just because they are winning games but because they play with such a postive spirit and the joyousness that is their trademark. Missy's doing a great job coaching them too!

In the Company of Women: Our Annual Staff Retreat
The weekend of September 21 and 22 was our annual staff retreat up at the Maturana. Last year I had Grant to keep me company, but this year I was the only male in the group, and as a result the retreat definitely had a distinctly feminine flair to it. Fortunately, I've always been pretty comfortable around women. I'm enjoy a lot of the "girly" stuff . I liked the segments of the Oprah Winfrey show presented for our inspiration, embraced writing about my feelings and emotions (I do that already in my journal anyhow)and felt soothed by the candles and whatnot. I had no interest, however, in the foot baths & pedicures, so I guess you could say I "drew the line" there. Overall it was a fantastic retreat, the most restful and rejuvenating we've ever had. Bab's decision to extend the length of the retreat (allowing for, among other things, a luxurious nap Friday afternoon) and to not give us the schedule of activities (so that control freaks like me wouldn't be checking each activity off the list and noting with impatience whenever we got "behind schedule.") All the staff are hoping Babs will plan a second retreat later in the year.

Some photos below courtesy of Jessica Lee (I forgot my camera that weekend).

Mai, Judith, Missy, and Rikki enjoying the footbaths. (I read from The Namesake for a good hour or so while the ladies did their footcare and then drifted off into a nice afternoon nap)

I don't know why, but this photo just exudes the langorous pace and restful atmosphere of the entire retreat.

Judith doing some artwork

Last Saturday night, September 22, the church had a baby shower for one of my former students, Myla, and her boyfriend, Derek (Derek's next to me and Myla's next to him in the photo). Their new baby is just about two months old!

On Sabbath, September 29, two students (one former, and one current) got baptized. It was wonderful to see these kids taking their stands for Jesus.

Pastor Eliki and his wife along with Barbara escort the newly baptized students from the water

A happy mother and daughter.

Sep 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Guess how old? I won't reveal of course, but I will say it's a landmark and we should all be so lucky to look this beautiful!

This is posted a little early, but I'll be away on our staff retreat this weekend:

Happy Birthday Mom! I love you!

Sep 15, 2007

The Barbershop: A Tale of Two Haircuts

The Barbershop by Jacob Lawrence

As a general rule guys don't indulge in much, especially in the area of personal grooming. But for most men--especially, I have found, black men--the barber is an exception. There is something truly luxurious about letting an expert pamper you in the barber's chair. It's probably how women feel about manicures and such.

At the end of April I had my first haircut in two years, a horrible ordeal that took more than two hours and required my longsuffering wife to use every tool short of a chainsaw to hack through the dreadlocks. From there on out, a regular haircut would once again be a necessesity. And so a month after that first haircut, I was ready for another one. We figured Babs would do it, like she had in recent years but it quickly became apparent that this was not going to work. The clippers had been pretty much ruined by the last haircut and would barely cut at all. My head was a patchwork mess, when Babs finally gave up and suggested I find a barber. She told me about a sign for a four dollar barber she'd seen not too far from our house and I set off in search of it. Even a four buck haircut had to be better than the weedeater-chic look I was sporting.

What I found was a small marvel.

The Violet Barbershop

The place, oddly named, Violet Barbershop, was literally no more than a room--Chinese language DVDs for sale in one corner, a single barber's chair in the other. When I entered, another customer, a trendy-looking South Asian,was already in the chair and so I sat down to wait and to watch, as it turned out, a master at work. The diminutive Chinese barber wearing a wife-beater and a tattoo was a true craftsman. He moved with lightning speed and laser-like precision, but with an artist's grace. He switched between the comb, the electric clippers, the barber's shears like a juggler, making multiple tiny clips that added up to a sharp looking haircut. I was literally mesmerized watching him. And just when you thought he was done, he sprayed the guys neck and sideburns with a few bursts from a plastic spray bottle and pulled out the straight-edge razor! He whetted the razor on an old-fashioned leather strop hanging from the chair and then began the final touches to the masterpiece that was this Bangledeshi man's head. To be honest, I couldn't wait for him to work his magic on me.

I was not disappointed. The confident handling of the clippers, the attention to details at the hairline, the sideburns, the nape of the neck, the puff of cool mist from the spray bottle, the scratch of the straight edge, the talcum powder, and for the finish, the gentle whisper of the soft-bristle brush sweeping any stray hairs. I knew, as I walked out of the little Chinese barbershop, that I would be back again. Could I get a new pair of clippers and go back to home haircuts? Sure, but for a few moments of masculine pampering, for ten minutes in the presence of genuine talent and skill,four dollars was an unbelievable bargain. There is truly something inspiring about someone who has developed their chosen skill to the highest degree, even when it's something as simple as cutting hair.

My next haircut was not with the Chinese Master, but it too was a remarkable and memorable experience. I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Babs and her parents, visiting my sister-in-law Jenny and her husband Matt. My hair was beginning to look well-groomed by 1986 standards and it was time for another haircut. I'd seen a barbershop just a few blocks from Jenny's house, and so on a late Friday afternoon, on the spur of moment, I decided to stroll over and get myself a trim.

A scene from the movie I was "in" briefly, Barbershop, starring Ice Cube.

When I walked in the door to this shop, the experience couldn't have been more different from that at Violet Barber in Saipan. I felt like I'd walked into a movie, the movie Barbershop, to be exact. Have you ever seen it? Ice Cube is the protagonist, the owner of a barbershop in the 'hood. In this film, the barbershop is what the local watering hole is to white folks, "the place where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came." Well, this place was just like that movie. Four guys, each with their own chair, a couple customers waiting their turn, all of them African American (well, with the exception of this one vaguely Latino looking guy--just like the movie!). The conversation was loud, as it only can be when brothers get together and start debating. The topic was the Iraq war and the arguments flew back and forth, on the surface sounding heated, but underneath suffused with friendliness and warmth. Believe it or not, the atmosphere was so remarkable that I didn't say a word (and that's saying quite a lot for someone who is ordinarily opinionated as I am). Who was I, the stranger in town to barge in with my white accent and bold opinions. No, I would stay quiet, listen, and bask in a feeling I hadn't realized I'd missed--that of being at home among the brothers.

When my turn came to sit in the chair, I found that there was one thing my barber had in common with the Chinese Master. He too was artist, and the feeling of being tended to by an expert was very much the same as I'd experienced in Saipan. Though the price was four times as high, I found that this unique experience was also worth every penny.

When I came back to Saipan, I went back to the Chinese Master once more, and I would still be stopping by once a month if I could only find him. Last Friday when I went for my latest trim, his shop was locked up and a map was posted directing me to a new location. I tried to find it but couldn't. I did stumble upon a $3 place, and I got a very speedy and completely adequate haircut from a friendly Chinese Korean lady there. But it wasn't the same. Maybe it was that she didn't use the straight edge? Or that she asked me a lot of questions? I don't know. . .in any case, the magic just wasn't there.

I hope I can find the Chinese Master again. And the next time I'm in Minneapolis, I'll be sure to stop in at the local barbershop near Jenny's house, even if I don't really need the cut (maybe I'll even put my two cents into whatever the topic of debate is that day). After all, there is real value in being in the hands of someone who takes pride in what they do, value in the camraderie of the clippers.

This photo was taken a few days after my most recent haircut (which unfortunately, was NOT done by the Chinese Master. Still, it looks pretty good, huh!)

A brief history of my haircuts:

1973-1992: My mom cuts my hair in the way that only a mother can. With lots of love and only a casual nod to the current styles. My hair during this period could generally by typed as "shaggy", as was typical of most people's hair during the mid-to-late seventies and eighties (though in high school I did have the famous "ledge", a box-top cut with an awning that jutted out over my forehead like a sort natural sun visor).

1992-1998: My pal Elliot cuts my hair every three weeks (except for two brief interludes, once during my student missionary days in Chuuk when my best friend J gave me a basic buzz and again for 11 months in 96-97, when I let my hair grow out into a curly afro.) He's a professional with the clippers and I have sharp looking "fade" that looks deceptively easy to create.

1998-2001: My hair is cut by the pre-school directors at our school, first by Jana Gatchet, and then by Sheri Rodman.

2001-2005: Babs becomes the Official Barbar. . .er Barber.

2005-2007: The wild years. The clippers stop working. I'm too cheap to buy another pair, and instead grow my hair out, first to a 'fro and finally to shoulder-length dreds. My mother is not pleased. I suspect my mission supervisors in Guam aren't exactly thrilled either.


My Algebra II students and I pose with problem that stumped us.

One of a teacher's greatest fears is the fear of being stumped, of standing before your credulous students--they who trust that you know All, because you are the teacher--and having the spigot of knowledge suddenly dwindle to a thin stream before drying up all together. There's nothing worse than struggling in real time to understand a concept you're supposed to be teaching your students while they look on expectantly. Your heart pounds, you break into a cold sweat, you clear your throat and go "hmmmmmm" a lot. Eventually you start talking to yourself, turn your back on the students to face the board and start scrawling, desperate to figure out how the heck to do this, before finally in hasty shame suggesting that "we're running short on time so we'll get back to this one later"

I used to run into these nightmare moments more frequently when I first began teaching, but as the years have gone by and my confidence and knowledge of the subject matter has grown, they've become fewer and further between.

But this year, I've started teaching Algebra II, a subject I haven't taught in about seven years. I had the distinct sense that sooner or later I was going to be stumped. And this past Thursday, it finally happened.

We were taking questions before grading the previous days homework, when:

"Mister, how did they get the answer for number 15?"

The odd numbers have the answers in the back of the book. Smart students use those answers to be sure they are doing the work correctly. Not-so-smart students copy the answers down and move on without a second thought. These were smart students. So they already knew what the answer should be. They just couldn't figure out how to get that answer. The very fact that they cared about the "how" should have given me a clue that this was going to be no ordinary "stumped session."

I glanced at the problem--"Solve for S," it said--and then quickly solved it on the board. The answer was "S is equal to 2P over R."

Except it wasn't.

I studied the problem. How on earth did they get that? I puzzled, feeling my skin growing warm. Now I'm sure the math whizzess that are looking at this problem see the solution clear as day, but for some reason, I couldn't see it. I cleared my throat. I "hmmmmed." I turned my back to the students and scrawled away on the whiteboard, momentarily insensible to their presence in the room.

But this time, I didn't suggest we move on. And here, one of the worst experiences a teacher can have turned into one of the best moments any teacher can ask for.

The students rose out of their seats and gathered with me at the whiteboard. One, a young lady who I call "The Vice President" snatched the marker out of my hand and started writing. Her classmates "The Treasurer" and our newest student who I'll call "Violet" called out suggestions and started scrawling themselves. Their minds were whirring and they weren't just hazarding wild guesses--they were using their Algebra skills, applying the principles they'd learned. These kids were 100% engaged--something every teacher longs for in their students. I was so proud of them, I thought I'd burst. It was worth being stumped, just to see them jump into the deep end and really wrestle with this equation. That was the first great reward of being stumped that day--seeing my students joyfully engaged in challenging themselves and learning, using the skills they'd acquired. A teacher can't ask for more than that.

"Violet" was the first to find the solution, using a cross-multiplying method I'd always used for equal ratios but had never seen used to balance an equation like this. More amazing than the fact that she solved it, was the fact that I wasn't embarrassed that she solved it before I did. I was pleased and gratified to learn something new as well. But I wasn't satisfied, and neither were the other students. If it could be solved through cross multiplication, then it could be solved using the traditonal means of balancing an equation that I'd been teaching. We continued to tangle with the problem until at last we saw where our error had been, and how the problem could be solved. But there was still one more question--we'd gotten our answer, partially by clearing the decimal. But what if we left the decimal there? Why wasn't the answer turning out the same? I stared at the problem for a few moments and then the light came on. The answer was the same. I practically shouted this news to my students and began to enthusastically explain it. At first they didn't get it, but then they did, and we ended the class on a literal learning high. The second great reward of being stumped was learning something new, understanding a familiar principle in a whole new light. Ideally, a teacher never stops learning, and I was thrilled to see my own education continue that day.

Often we think that as teachers, as adults, the most important thing is to know everything. But sometimes it's when you're stumped that the real teaching--and the real learning--begin.

Here's a recreation of Thursday's problem. I didn't have the presence of mind to photograph the actual class, but on Friday I asked the Algebra II students to rewrite the problem and the solution we found, so that I could post it here. (Unfortunately, they neglected to show all the steps in solving the equation, but you get the idea).

And in other news. . .another amazing class! Here's "T" and a classmate acting as "news anchors" for RNN (Revolution News Network). On Friday, the class filmed a news report segment on the Battles of Trenton and Princeton for their 7th/8th American History class. The set has a sort of hyper-patriotic, Fox News type vibe, doesn't it. But hey, this is the American Revolution after all!

Sep 14, 2007

The Last Long Walk: Larene Leaves

Larene & Me at the airport, Wednesday, September 5, 2007

When I think of Larene, I will always think of her smile.

I didn't know Larene as well as I knew many the other teachers. Last year she was the Pre-School Director so she was always at this campus, and even though she lived with Virle and Joiey on our compound, we never hung out very much. I probably spent more time with Larene in the first three weeks of this school year than I did in all of last year. But Larene never made me feel like a stranger. She always greeted me with a warm smile and an open heart. She could have just given me a polite nod and a simple wave, but she gave us all, whether close friend or more distant work colleague, the gift of her brilliant smile and a cheerful greeting.

I was impressed by Larene's dedication to her job teaching Grades 5/6 while we waited for Judith to arrive. She could have just marked time and showed videos, but she didn't. She seemed to put her whole heart into her class and her work with them. And when the time to leave her new set of kids came, I was moved by her tears and by her obvious love for the kids in her care. I'll miss having the opportunity to know get know her better.

Larene, I wish you every happiness and every success. Go with God and He'll keep you smiling!

Larene Delos Reyes left us for her next big adventure about a week and a half ago on Wednesday, September 5. She left with a pack on her back, tears in her eyes, and, of course, a smile on her face.

Larene receives a Certificiate of Appreciation from Barbara on her last day of work at our weekly Joint Worship.

Larene with a lot of people who love her and will miss her (Wednesday, September 5, 2007)

Larene's Long Walk

Sep 7, 2007

A New Drama Season: REAL Gets in Touch with it's Feminine Side

The Girls of REAL: This season's REAL Christian Theater acting troupe (minus our one male actor, Peterson. He had another commitment at the time this photo was taken).

Last weekend, from Friday, August 31 through Sabbath, September 1, we had our annual REAL Christian Theater retreat.

This is the start of the team's 8th season and in many ways it felt like a very different team. Our team is almost entirely new this season. Virtually all of the old veterans who'd been with the team for years are gone now. In fact, with the exception of co-director "CK Girl" and myself, no one in this year's troupe has been with the team longer than two years. Our team is also one of the smallest we've had in recent years. There are only eight actors right now (we've actually got almost as many staff as we do performers--four directors, a light and sounds person--who is a kid though, a set & props person, and a team manager). But perhaps what makes this team particularly unique is that this year REAL is made up almost entirely of girls.

There are exactly three males on the team--Peterson, a recent high school grad who was a member of our team three years ago, "T", an 8th grader, who is our sound and lights tech, and me. Everyone else--actors, directors, staff--are women and girls. While it would be nice to have a more "balanced" group, I'm really excited about all the people on our team this season, and I also think that our all-girl makeup will present some unique opportunities to address issues and topics that the girls in our audiences can relate to and that the boys in our audience can learn from. I've got some very sharp and capable women in my co-directors Mai, Veronyka, and "CK Girl" and I'm excited to see what ideas they'll come up with.

The retreat was a success. Our theme was "Ready our Hearts to Carry Your Love" and our theme song was the Caedmon's Call tune "Carry Your Love." We had a great 24 hours of teambuilding and team bonding led by Mai and spiritual orientation led by Veronyka. "CK Girl" took some beautiful publicity photos and team manager Carol Paez and Babs cooked us some delicious meals. Sabbath afternoon the girls performed, many of them for the first time, presenting some short skits that they had created. I have to say I was very impressed by the talent of these actors, especially those that were so new to the stage. The performances were funny, believable, compelling and if they were any indication, we've got an amazing season ahead.

This coming Monday we'll have our first regular rehearsal and REAL Christian Theater's 8th season will officially be under way!

The Token Males in REAL: Peterson & "T"

One of our activties during the retreat: One team member closes her eyes, another team member strikes a pose, and the first team member must then "sculpt" a third member into the same pose based soley on "feel."

We had a particular vivid sunset on Friday night. I managed to catch the last bit of the blaze of glory in this photo.

Video of the team gathering for our first activity of the retreat, as our theme song plays in the background. It's gonna be a great season!

Sep 2, 2007

The Journey to Judith

And Abraham said, "God will provide. . ."
Genesis 22:8a

Now it came about that in the spring of 2007 that God tested the Saipan SDA School and said to the principal "Barbara!"

And she said "Here I am."

And He said, "Grant has some bad news for you. . ."

And so began the journey. I don't think I ever truly understood the famed story of Abraham and Isaac recorded in Genesis 22--indeed, I'd come to be actively uncomfortable with it in recent years. That is until I trailed along after Barbara on this, her journey up her own little Moriah.

Grant's decision not to return to Saipan for a second year was a shock. It just didn't seem right. How could this possibly be God's will? He was an excellent teacher, a vibrant leader, beloved by the kids. The second year was supposed to be even better than the first. And yet, there it was. Grant was leaving. God was calling him somewhere else, it seemed. And Barbara knew. A premonition, a whisper from God, call it what you will, but a few days before Grant delivered his resignation letter, Barbara sensed it was coming. It would it be the first of several such whispers Babs would hear in the long months ahead.

I'm sure along the way, Abraham was on the lookout for the lamb that he'd assured his son would be provided. I'm sure he heard a rustle in the bushes here, glimpsed a flash of wooly white amidst tall grasses there. I imagine he gazed longingly at the flocks grazing along roadside pastures waiting, hoping, and praying for the signal from the Lord to take one of them to be the sacrifice instead of his son. And so it was with Barbara. She interviewed prospective teacher after prospective teacher. Several sounded really good. A few were even excellent. She would make them an offer. And in a few cases they even said yes. The talk turned to airline tickets and arrival times, but always, always the bottom would drop out. Obstacles would arise, they would regretfully decline, and we would lose them. And often, Babs would hear the whisper in advance--ironically, often when everything seemed to be coming together--"No, this is not the one. They're not going to come." And the next day, sure enough, the door would close.

I'm sure that along the way, Abraham was tempted to force the issue. To just take what God had not chosen and make it work instead. Maybe a dog would do. Or how about a small bird? Anything, but his son. Maybe that was the test. To step out and take less than the best, less than what it seemed God required. So Barbara was tempted. It wasn't always that no one wanted to come. Sometimes it was Barbara who closed the door. She knew that some of the talented and eager applicants she encountered were wonderful, but not right for our school. She knew what she was looking for and in faith, she refused to settle.

Through the summer months, Barbara worked the phones, fired off e-mails, went through interview after interview, and there was nothing, and all the while Moriah's windswept peak drew closer.

And at last we were there. The mountaintop. The place of sacrifice, it appeared. We returned to Saipan. School began. And still there was no one. Our former pre-school director, Larene Delos Reyes, gamely and ably stepped into the gap to teach the the 5-7 homeroom while we waited for. . .what? For God to provide? Either He would come through in the clutch or Barbara would make the sacrifice--teaching full-time, the school hobbling along as best it could--and any work on fundraising or school expansion certainly put on hold.

And then, a phone call. It was Walla Walla College. "We heard you needed another teacher. Well, we have this girl who is interested in Saipan but she put down Majuro as her first choice, so she's going there." Not much hope there. But they gave Barbara her number and on a whim, Babs gave her a call. No one answered. So Barbara gave up.

A few days later, Walla Walla called again to question whether this girl was to come to Saipan, because the General Conference was voting the next day to send her to Majuro. Barbara told them, "No, go ahead and send her to Majuro." A few hours passed and Barbara was in the midst of a ho-hum webcam interview with yet another prospective teacher. The connection was going in and out, and while she drummed her fingers on the desk, waiting to be reconnected, the phone rang again. On the other end of the line was the girl--Judith Edwards. She was calling to say she wanted to come to Saipan.

Everything happened so fast after that. Barbara set up an interview and this time when the whisper came again, it said "This is the one."

Judith decided to make the sacrifice. She put her educational and career plans on hold, left behind friends and loved ones, abandoned her comfort zone, to come a tiny little rock in the Pacific to teach God's precious children. I'm sure it was scary, I'm sure it hurt some too, but she was willing and eager to make the sacrifice. And we're so glad she did.

Judith landed in Saipan early last Wednesday morning--just a week before Larene was scheduled to leave--to begin her adventure on Saipan. This Tuesday she'll step into the classroom that's been waiting for her all this time. I'd be surprised if she wasn't a little nervous--we all were on our first day, and add to that the pressure of being the Answer, the Provision. Talk about high expectations! But I'm confident that Judith will do a great job. After all, God called her, and He will enable her to thrive and shine.

So say a prayer for Judith. Because while our journey to find her has finally come to an end, her journey is just getting started.

Welcome to the team, Judith!

The late-night welcome for Judith on her arrival early on the morning of August 29, 2007.

"And Abraham called the name of that place "The Lord Will Provide", as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.'"

--Genesis 22:14

To be honest, I think lots of believers have gotten the story of Abraham and Isaac dead wrong. Check out my blog Faith Journeys for my latest post entitled "Getting Abraham and Isaac Right" which goes into further detail about what I learned about faith and sacrifice from our "Journey to Judith." Just click on the link on this page or go to

Learning to Fly: Farewell to Keisha

Keisha (aka "Bono Girl") and Me

One of the privileges of living here in Saipan as long as we have is that we literally get to see our students grow up. The first kids I taught here in Saipan are adults now, finished with college, entering the working world, some even serving our country in the armed forces. A little more than a week ago, I saw the latest of my "kids", Keisha Paez, spread her wings and fly.

I've known Keisha (formerly known as "Bono Girl" in these blog pages) since she was in third grade. I taught her in one capacity or another for four years and she was a member of REAL Christian Theater from fifth grade until she graduated from high school. We've experienced a lot of ups and downs. After all, Keisha is a bit like fire--she can burn you badly and she can warm your heart. I've experienced both with Keisha--the former being unavoidable what with me being a teacher and her being a teenager--but luckily I've experienced far more of the latter over the years. And I know, that like a fire, she'll light up the world wherever she goes.

On Friday, August 24, she boarded a plane bound for her new life, as college freshman at La Sierra University in Riverside, California. I know she'll do great in college and I can't wait to hear her stories of her adventures when she comes home at Christmas!

The oldest and youngest Paez share a moment of brotherly bonding.
A few days before Keisha left for the States we got together with her family at P.I.C. to celebrate a birthday and spend some time together.

The Paez tribe. Note Keisha is NOT wearing her shades. This is as rare as seeing a photo of. . .well, Bono, without his shades.

Babs and I at the airport with Keisha on the day of her departure.

As a take-along treat, I made Keisha a batch of her favorite dessert--my famous peach cobbler. You can see here she's pretty excited about making her fellow passengers jealous when she digs into her cobbler while they are contemplating their little square of institutional chocolate cake.

It's not just teachers that take The Long Walk. Here's Keisha's.

. . . .And with Keisha gone, the dwindling Paez tribe walk on, to the next chapter in their lives.

Well the good old days
may not return
And the rocks might melt
and the sea may burn

I'm learning to fly
but I ain't got wings
coming down
is the hardest thing

I'm learning to fly
around the clouds
--Tom Petty

Go with God, Keisha. And fly high.