Jul 31, 2009

I Found My Heart in San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco, Sabbath, July 25, 2009

The primary purpose of our trip to San Francisco was for the marathon, but even without that epic event our time in the Bay area would have been one of the most fun and memorable of our lives.

Ever since my brief glimpse of San Francisco two years ago, I knew I'd want to come back and spend some more time. Now after an all too short long weekend there, I'm again certain we'll want to go back when we can spend even more time there.

So what made this trip so special? Well, there's the city itself--perhaps the most beautiful in America. There was the food--we ate like kings last weekend (and spent like kings too!). But most of all, it was the good friends we got to share our time with.

The City

The view from Bev & Greg's living room. They have a beautiful studio apartment in the Marina district.

Babs and I completely fell in love with the city of San Francisco. It's a city full of vibrant creativity--artistic would define it in a word. The distinct architectural styles, the multitude of galleries, coffee shops, the parks, the tree-lined streets, the very geography of the place with it's many hills has an certain aesthetic sensiblity. Even the laundromats have style in San Francisco. Bev and Greg do their laundry at a place called The Missing Sock that features earth tones, warmly lit washers and dryers, and art on the walls.

San Francisco is a city of great cultural diversity as well. Chinatown, North Beach, Japantown, Castro, Haight & Ashbury, the rough & ready Tenderloin, and upper crust Nob Hill--every neighborhood has it's distinctive qualities and unique contribution to the vibrant life of the city. Even the bohemian characters one encounters on the street seem to have an artsy bent--the homeless of San Francisco have a certain funky style that sets them apart from your average hard-luck panhandler. And for such a large city, we were impressed by the kindness of the strangers we encountered there--the woman who gave Barbara $5 on the bus when she didn't have change; the homeless guy hunched over on the street that overheard me say I was looking for a bathroom and pointed me in the right direction (and asked for nothing in return), the many San Franciscans that stood all along the race route on Sunday and cheered us on, even when the race had been going for more than six hours.

We were truly blessed by our time in San Francisco and, the earthquakes and chilly fog notwithstanding, we wouldn't mind becoming San Franciscans ourseleves someday.

The Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1916 World's Fair, located not far from Bev and Greg's place.

Time was limited. It was Thursday afternoon when we finally arrived in the city by train from San Jose (where we'd flown in from Florida). We met up with my former students Aya Sato and Holly Delacruz for a late lunch and then connected with our friends from Saipan, Bev Cabanatan and Greg Moretti. Friday we had brunch with the Piersons and spent most of the rest of the day getting to and exploring the Expo for the marathon. Sunday was the marathon and Monday I had to take the Praxis II exam for my Ohio state teacher certification. So Sabbath was the day we devoted to exploring the Bay area. One of the great things about San Francisco is that God's creation hasn't been obliterated by man's. San Francisco and the surrounding area is rich with natural beauty, and that which man has added complements rather than detracts from nature.

A view of the iconic Golden Gate bridge from the wooded hills of the Golden Gate Park.

Greg is a fourth-generation San Franciscan and on Sabbath he gave us a fascinating, informative, and thorough tour of his city. He began by taking us across the famed Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County.

The Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the great things about San Francisco is that you're literally only a few minutes drive or train ride from the Great Outdoors. There's some absolutely beautiful countryside nearby and with plentiful biking and hiking trails.

Elijah slept through most of our tour. Bev or Greg would stay in the car with him while we popped out to see the sights.

Bev and Greg in the fog. Every day we were in San Francisco began foggy and cold, and turned bright and beautiful by late morning or early afternoon. Bev and Greg were disappointed for us that our views of Golden Gate were so obscured by fog, but I jokingly pointed out that in a stroke of marketing genius, San Francisco has turned its fog from a liablity to an asset. The city is famous for its fog and tourists like us, far from being disappointed by the fog, are thrilled by it and find it beautiful.

Back on the city side, in Golden Gate Park

Greg recently started working for the National Park Service with the Park Police so he had lots of interesting stories about the Golden Gate National Park.

I can't remember the name of this particular beach. Perhaps Bev will comment on this blog and give us the names of some of these places (as well as correct any mistakes I've made).

By this time, the fog was beginning to lift. You can see the many sailboats underneath and beyond the bridge.

By early afternoon, we were getting pretty hungry, and Elijah had woken up and was decidedly cranky. We cut short our tour of Golden Gate Park--though not before we got a glimpse of the bison paddock and took a short walk in the park--and had lunch. We had lunch at Frjtz's, a french fry restaurant that features mouthwatering fries and dozens of tasty and unique sauces and dips, as well as a collection of delicious sandwhiches.

After that, it was on to the city proper:

Lots of colorful houses. These, I think were not too far from the psychedelic Haight Ashbury district.

The famed "Painted Ladies." This row of Victorian homes is one of the city's famous vistas. Many people remember it from the opening credits of the 80's sitcom Full House.

The trolley tracks. A view from our cable car ride Sabbath afternoon. Around midafteroon we met up with Aya and Holly again and took a trolley ride through the city. There are only two of San Francisco's famous trolley lines still in use. They are a prime tourist attraction but are also used by residents who actually have somewhere to go (as opposed to us tourists who are just there for the ride!). The public transporation in San Francisco is great--you've got the MUNI bus line, the trolleys and calbe cars, the BART trains, and CalTrain system for travel further afield. The city is bike friendly too with bike lanes on most of the roads and space on the public transport for bikes. It wouldn't be too difficult to live in the city without a car.

The emphasis on biking and public transportation with it's attendant walking (to and from the various stations, and up and down the many staircases and hills) shows in the city's collective waistline too. The residents San Francisco are visibily in better shape than much of the rest of the country.

Lombard Street. After getting off the trolley near Fisherman's Wharf, Greg picked us up and took us for a ride down the famously serpintine Lombard Street. Babs took this photo just after we finished the drive. Note all the tourists hanging out along the side of the street taking photos. The interesting thing is that people actually live in the houses along Lombard's curves. I hope they don't get tired of the constant foot and automobile traffic outside.

Entering the curves of Lombard Street. You can see Coit Tower in the distance on the right, yet another famous city landmark.

A typical city street. Unlike many other U.S cities whose cores have been abandoned for the suburbs, many people still live right in the heart of San Francisco.

On Lombard Street approaching Coit Tower. In the distance you can make out Lombard's famous curvy section.

Another landmark, the TransAmerica building. I took this photo through the sunroof of Greg's car.

By late afternoon, our tour drew to a close and we headed towards the city's financial district and our hotel, The Westin Market Street. We enjoyed Bev and Greg's generous hospitality for our first two nights in San Francisco, but we'd planned to switch to a hotel Saturday night so they wouldn't be burdened with having to drive me out to the starting line at the crack of dawn Sunday morning and then figure out how to get Babs and Elijah to the cheering station, all while getting Bev to her starting line for the second Half Marathon too. So we took a step down from our lovely digs at Casa de Cabanatan-Moretti and booked a room at the Westin.

View from the left window of our room at the Westin.

Looking down. Those are Ferraris.

Whoa! Look at that giant baby climbing up the side of that building! The view from the right window.

The Westin wasn't too shabby either. We had a really unique corner room. The room narrowed to a point and had floor to ceiling windows on both sides that offered spectucular views of the cityscape. The Westin's signature brand Heavenly bed, sheets, and pillows were very comfortable as well. The only downsides were the tiny bathroom (which may have been due to our room's location rather than standard throughout the hotel) and the concierge's inability to answer the phone. Despite numerous attempts throughout the weekend we were never able to reach the concierge by phone and as a result had to hike down to the lobby every time we needed concierge assistance.

But these were minor quibbles and overall we enjoyed our stay there immensely. When we moved over to the Radisson in San Jose the night before we left, the sharp contrast in amenities, aesthetics, service, and comfort reminded us of the luxury we'd enjoyed at the Westin.

Elijah in his crib near the "point" of our room at the Westin.

The Food

The spread at Bev & Greg's place, Thursday night, July 23, 2009.

One of my favorite things about our San Francisco was the FOOD! We ate so well the whole time we were in the city. It all began with the Thai food we enjoyed with Aya and Holly right after our arrival in the city. I wish I remembered the name of the place--it was very good. The gustatory delights continued that evening with the homemade gourmet pizza and salad at Bev and Greg's that. Greg loves to cook and he whipped a tasty supper for us that night, and also cooked up some delicious blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup Sabbath morning (his first attempt with the gluten-free, organic boxed pancake mix doesn't count. Greg's from-scratch batter was a million times better).

On Friday mornign we also had a fantastic brunch at Judy's Cafe located just down the street from Bev's place. The apple chicken sausage and the homefries were particularly good.

For supper on Friday, Greg and Bev took us to their favorite Himalayan restuarant called Shangri-La, I believe. Everything was rich with flavor, and the small portions are remarkably filling.

For lunch on Sabbath we stopped at the aforementioned Frjtz's and had supper at the more pedestrian California Pizza Kitchen across the street from our hotel, where Bev and I loaded up on in pasta preparation for the big run the next day.

Sunday it was perfect fish tacos at Mijitas after the race and the Ethiopian Cafe with the Piersons Sunday night. Here the various curry-like dishes, spicy beans, and collard and spinach greens were served on huge Ethiopian sourdough flatbread called ingera. You tear off a piece of the communal bread, fold some of the fillings into it and eat it with your hands. Delicious and fun! I wish I'd thought to take a picture.

We rounded things out with lunch on Monday at the Samovar Tea Lounge near the Yerba Buena Arts Center in downtown San Francisco. I actually didn't have any tea, but the grilled portobella mushroom sandwhich with gueyere cheese was excellent. The room service chicken parmesan and chinese salad we ordered at the Airport Radisson in San Jose was a brutal letdown after a weekend of delectable dining by the Bay.

Another great thing about San Francisco, you can feast your stomach as well as your eyes. (Though it will cost you--we spent a hefty chunk of change on food over the weekend, and this even though all of the places we visited were mid-range in price).

The Friends

Our hosts for the weekend, Greg Moretti and Beverly Cabanatan at Shangri La Himalayan restuarant, Friday, July 24, 2009.

The highlight of our trip was catching up with old and dear friends from Saipan. We really enjoyed spending time with Bev and Greg and getting to know them better. Of course we'd known Bev as a dear friend in Saipan. She should be familiar to any regular reader of this blog. Greg, we'd known casually as a pal of John Moreno and as Bev's boyfriend, so it was great to really great to get to know him. He and Bev opened their home and hearts to us and showed us a really great time. As a result of our time with them, we feel like our friendship with both Bev and Greg has deepened and that we'll continue to stay in touch in the years to come.

Thanks Bev and Greg for being great hosts and great friends! Come see us in Ohio and it'll be our turn to show you a good time!

Bev and the Little Feller at her apartment.

Bev, Crystal, Me, and Ken at the San Francisco Marathon Expo Friday afternoon, July 24, 2009. We went to the Expo to collect our race bib and timing chip (which we're flaunting in the photo) and also our sweats bags full of free goodies. The Expo also had lots of vendors hawking every imaginable running accessory. I picked up some Gu (a sports gel that gives you instant energy during the run) and an earwarmer.

It was great to see the Piersons too. Saying goodbye to them in Saipan was easier because we knew we'd see them in a few weeks in San Francisco. We enjoyed hanging out on Friday with them, were amazed by our chance encounter with them on the streets of San Francisco Sabbath afternoon (we were in the car talking about possibly meeting up with them and we look over and they just happen to be in the car pulled up next to us in the traffic. What are the odds!), were touched by their being at the finish line to cheer me on Sunday, and appreciated the dinner at the Ethiopian restuarant with them as well as Ken parents, Ken and Gloria, and Ken's brother Jeremy and his family.

Thanks Ken & Crystal for dragging those suitcases, the framed photo, AND Barbara's painting all the way from Saipan for us! It'll be awhile before we see you two again but you'll always be in our hearts and prayers, and of course we'll be checking the blog for all the latest developments. Thanks to Jeremy Pierson and family for letting Elijah borrow the car seat and thanks Ken and Gloria for the anniversary dinner Sunday night.

Holly Delacruz and Aya Sato, former students at the Thai restuarant, Thursday, July 23, 2009.

Aya and Holly were students of mine for several years at the Saipan SDA School. Now they're all grown up and making their way in San Francisco. Aya just moved there a few weeks ago, having recently graduated from college with a degree in Social Work, and is currently hunting for a job. Holly has been living in San Francisco for the past two years. It was so great to spend some time with them. We saw them several times over the weekend--a fun afternoon on Thursday, the trolley ride on Sabbath, and then Aya joined us for lunch at the Samovar Tea Lounge, Monday before we left. It's so inspiring and exciting to see our students as adults embracing life. I'm so proud of them.

Thanks Aya and Holly for dropping everything to meet up with us over the weekend. We really had fun and hope we can do it again some time!

On the trolley, Sabbath, July 25, 2009

The Last Auntie: Gloria Pierson was a vital part of Elijah's earliest days even though the Little Feller only met her this past weekend. Her expertise as a lacatation consultant was crucial to Elijah's learning to breastfeed. This photo of him with his Last Auntie was long overdue. (See The Auntie Brigade --you'll have to scroll dwon to near the end of the entry--for the full story of Gloria Pierson's role in Elijah's young life).

Babs, Me, Elijah and Aya in downtown SF, Monday, July 27, 2009.

With Bev. Did I mention that Monday, July 27, 2009 was Barbara and I's 12 year wedding anniversary? We were so busy that weekend, there was no time for a romantic celebration, but the weekend itself was a special memory we shared. It wouldn't have been the same without my favorite travel companion, Babs, and our little boy.

Jul 20, 2009

The Third Annual Inspirations List: 2009

As I’ve looked over the list I compiled over the past year of the people who have inspired me, I’ve found a common theme among virtually all of them. Charisma can be inspiring. Grand, heroic gestures can inspire too. But all of my heroes this year inspired me by simply staying the course—being faithful, steady, strong, committed, honest, devoted when no one else is looking, when it’s boring, tiresome—when it’s hard. These inspiring men and women have simply persevered. And one little fella has inspired me by simply taking a breath every day.

Next Sunday, July 26, I’ll be running in my first marathon in San Francisco. I’m excited, but also nervous. I know the run is going to be long and it’s going to be hard. I’ve trained for months now, but in the end it’s still going to boil down to putting one foot in front of the other until the race is done. As an additional source of motivation, I’ve taken a page from former Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee (and this is probably the only page I’ll ever take from him!), and decided to dedicate each of the 26 miles of the marathon to someone who has inspired me. Naturally, every one of my inspirations is on that list, and it should come as no surprise that many of them will be remembered in the miles late in the race. This is when my muscles will be aching, my joints will be sore, when the race will have long ceased being fun. This is when all I’ll be able to think about is stopping, when I’ll be tempted to quit. In those late and lonely miles, I’ll think of these people, and by the grace of God, I will keep on running, just as they have.

Carol Paez
Rolly Verzon
Virleshay Gayatin & Amy Foote
Gene Brock
“Little Sister”
John Carlos
Barbara Leen Maycock
Elijah Maycock

Carol Paez
I’m inspired by her faithful friendship.

Perhaps the greatest gift a friend can give is her simple presence. I know it’s a cliché but it’s no less true—a friend is there for you when you need her. And at the most meaningful and important moments of our lives this past year, Carol was there. When Barbara first suspected she was pregnant, it was Carol who gave us the pregnancy test—and she was the first of our friends to hear the good news. In the delivery room, when I watched my brave, beautiful wife wracked with labor pains—when I felt so ineffective with my cup of ice chips and banal encouragements, Carol was there counting through the contractions in her trademark matter-of-fact, coolheaded away, helping Babs through. When my hands trembled with joy at my son’s arrival into the world, it was her steady hands that took the camera and captured the memories forever. Carol was there in that first emotionally and physically exhausting week of Elijah’s life. She took our frantic, new-parent phone calls. Each time we panicked and thought “something is wrong” she came rushing over, even though I’m sure she knew there was nothing to worry about. Rather than just tell us that over the phone and attend to her own busy schedule, she’d come right over and reassure us that he was fine. In the weeks and months that followed she continued to be there, to listen to offer, and advice and most importantly to care.

Here’s the thing about being there for a friend: Physical presence is not necessary—“Let’s call Carol,” has been a common phrase in our home this past year. And every time we called, she was always there. And so now that we are on opposites sides of the continent, I believe Carol will continue to be there for us. I hope that, in the same way, we have been, and will be, there for her too.

Mile 12 is dedicated to Carol.

I’m inspired by her steady character

When you think of someone you might describe as a “rock”, you generally don’t think of a fifteen year old girl with a friendly smile and a penchant for the Twilight novels. But I do. When I think of someone who epitomizes a steady hand, someone solid, dependable, someone you can always count on, come what may—a rock, I always think of “J”. Over the years, as I’ve watched her grow from a cute little kindergartner to a bright, young woman, I’ve marveled at “J’s” steady character. She has always been one of the most reliable people I’ve ever known. You can count on her to lend a helping hand—whether it’s playing guitar for church or joint worship, or caring for your infant son. You can count on her put her best into every assignment, study hard for every test, and to bring home the stellar results of that effort. Everything she does, she does top-notch—never second rate. And as I watch her interact with her peers, I know they all recognize that she is a trustworthy friend. In about a week, I’ll be taking an important exam for my Ohio state teacher certification. As I’ve prepared for the test, I’ve kept “J” in mind as my model. I want to put the same kind of thorough effort and steady focus into my studying that she’s put into her studies as my student.

One of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church once said: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men --men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” Sometimes it’s a fifteen year old girl that best fits that bill.

Mile 22 is dedicated to "J"

Rolly Verzon
I’m inspired by his hard work

To Be of Use
(Every time I think of Rolly Verzon this poem by Marge Piercy comes to mind. I think it expresses more eloquently than I ever could, the kind of man Rolly is and how he's inspired me as he's worked tirelessly for the clinic, the church and the school--for all of us)

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
--Marge Piercy

Mile 11 is dedicated to Rolly.

Virleshay Gayatin & Amy Foote
I'm inspired by their commitment

It’s one thing to stay aboard a luxury yacht. It’s another thing entirely to stay aboard a small vessel battered by wave after wave, beaten by howling winds, and lashed by the storm. For the former, staying aboard is a no-brainer—who would want to leave? For the latter, staying aboard becomes an exercise in courage and commitment—after all who would want to stay? But it’s a simple fact that someone has to stay—if the boat is to make it to safe harbor. Someone has to weather the storm. And even though it seems to them, I’m sure, that everyone else is jumping ship at the Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School, Amy and Virle have decided to stick it out. Oh, don’t get me wrong—they’re not the only ones who are coming back for another year at SDA. Girlie and Megan among others have signed on for another year too, and Kathleen and Shirley have been stalwarts at the preschool for years. I applaud them as well. But I know that because of their unique and vital positions at the school, and the enormous responsibilities that now rest on their shoulders, Amy and Virle’s decision to stay on was especially crucial, and especially daunting. For all the years that Babs and I stayed in Saipan, staying was always the easy decision. For Virle and Amy, staying has surely been the hard decision. But it’s one they made without flinching. Perhaps it’s because they know that they are not the ones ultimately responsible for bringing the ship safely home. That responsibility rests with One who has been known to soothe the waves, soften the wind, and calm the storm. They know that they—and the school—are safe with Him.

Mile 20 is dedicated to Virle & Amy.

Gene Brock
I’m inspired by his devotion to his wife.

Gene is in the blue shirt, second from right. His wife Betty is seated on the couch.
If you thought The Notebook is just a movie, you would be mistaken. Perhaps the cynic in you dismissed the film—and the novel it’s based on--as a sentimental fantasy--a tearjerker tale of ultimate love and devotion that couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Again you would be mistaken. My wife’s Uncle Gene lives a real-life Notebook story every single day as he cares for his wife, Betty, who has been debilitated by Alzheimer’s for a decade or so now. I don’t know Uncle Gene well, but the few times I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him I’ve been struck by his cheerful spirit. From what I understand, that positive attitude hasn’t flagged in the years since his dear wife began her decline, her slow and painful departure from him. For years he tenderly cared for her in their home, until he was physically unable to continue to meet her needs and found it necessary to place her in nursing facility. Now, he visits her every day to feed her and just be near her. He does all this without complaint, without resentment, without showing any signs of faltering in his devotion and care. It seems he considers it his privilege and his joy to care for the woman he’s promised to love in “sickness and in health.” All that’s missing from the story of Gene and Betty Brock is the notebook itself. But who needs that, who needs the Hollywood treatment, and the swelling music, when the love he lives every day tells the story so eloquently.

Mile 14 is dedicated to Uncle Gene & Aunt Betty.

“Little Sister”
I’m inspired by her honesty.

In order to keep it honest, she was willing to take a beating. And I mean that literally. Tackling probably the most physically demanding role we’ve ever had in REAL Christian Theater as a seventh-grader, it would have been easier—and safer—to protect herself. She could have held back a little, kept back from the flailing arms of her fellow actors, dropped more gently to her knees for the climactic scene. She could have kept the tears in her eyes at bay to avoid the possibility that some classmate in the audience might make fun of her impassioned performance later. But had she done that, the performance wouldn’t have been real—it wouldn’t have been honest. And “Little Sister” is gut-wrenchingly honest. She lays it on the line, and tells it like it is—not just when it’s easy, but instead, especially when it’s hard. And so in this past season’s powerful allegorical redemption skit “Everything”, she hurled herself into the lead role, and endured the sore muscles, the bruised knees, the occasional painful blows, the searing emotion as the price of being honest. And the result was a performance that never failed to move our audiences powerfully—because, thanks to “Little Sister,” the story we told was real.

“Little Sister’s” honesty extends off the stage and into her real life as well. I know I can always count on her not to mince words or pull punches. As she does on stage, so she does in life—she puts herself out there. And for those who know her, the result of her courageous honesty is the same too—they are moved, challenged, and inspired.

Mile 21 is dedicated to "Little Sister"

John Carlos
I’m inspired by his active life.

I assumed we would be talking about the past. When I pulled Dr. John Carlos aside a few weeks ago to get some marathon advice, I figured he’d be settling into his easy chair, thinking back to his bad old days of youth, and plucking out a few pearls of wisdom to share with the young fellow coming up. I mean I knew he was still in great shape and all, but what I didn’t realize is that he’s far from finished with running. A veteran of a dozen marathons, countless triathalons, and other events, Dr. Carlos, at the age 71 is, setting new goals; he’s still got things he wants to accomplish. John is my model for how I want to live the active life I began a few years ago, and like him, I want to do it for my children. John explained to me that just before his oldest son, J (who happens to be my best friend), was born he made a commitment to staying active so that he would have the energy and stamina to play basketball with his kids. And sure enough, he was able to able to stay in the game with all three of his children (even if they were eventually able to beat him). To maintain an active lifestyle over decades requires the same things you need for a distance run—a good steady pace, running smart to avoid injury, eating and sleeping well, and consistent training. For John Carlos, it’s always been about keeping that pace and going the distance. And this next Sunday as I run I’ll remind myself that if he can keep running after 71 years, I think I can run another mile.

Mile 15 is dedicated to Dr. Carlos

Barbara Maycock
I’m inspired by her strength.

I like to think I’m pretty tough. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to grit my teeth and do what has to be done. But I’ve got nothing on my wife. Don’t let those pretty green eyes and small hands fool you. Don’t be distracted by her penchant for afternoon naps and a nice massage. This woman is strong. I always knew this, though I’ve often forgotten it. But this past year I was reminded anew of Barbara’s remarkable strength. I saw it on the day she gave birth. I stood in literal awe, floored by the unimaginable pain in her eyes, as she worked to bring our son into the world. I saw it as Elijah depended on her for his very existence in the first weeks and months of his life. I saw it as she willed herself into the impossibly demanding role of mother—a mother who also had the responsibility of running a school. I saw her strength in her work as principal of the school—how hard she worked to keep the school moving forward. And I finally I saw it in her willingness to lay down the work that had been her passion, her very life for so many years, because she believed a little word called “commitment” was more important than that passion—commitment to her son, to her family. Babs may not be strong enough to stay awake during a movie, but for the things that matter most, she is more than strong enough. As for what makes her so strong? The answer is found below.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look abut you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10 (One of Barbara’s favorite texts).

Mile 26 is dedicated to Babs.

Elijah Maycock
I’m inspired by his life

Whatever he costs me, he’s worth it. This, I’ve found, is how it feels to love as a father loves. This little boy inspires me just by virtue of being alive. The late nights, the exhaustion? Worth it. The diapers, the baby food, the countless expenditures that all add up—all worth it. Leaving Saipan, our beautiful home for eleven years so his grandparents can know him, and Barbara can spend more time with him? For him it was worth it. His cheerful toothy grin that makes me smile, his anguished cries that break my heart, the warm feel of him cradled in my arms. I’m inspired because as I look at him, and realize he’s worth it, I’m reminded that my Father looks at me and feels the same.

Mile 25 is dedicated to the Little Feller.

Jul 13, 2009

Leaving. . .

The Longest Walk

Sunday, July 5, 2009. Our Saipan Family.

Family portrait with our home (and even our car). We miss Kimo so much. We plan to bring her over in a few months. This photo was taken just before we left the airport, Sunday morning.

I've seen a lot of Long Walks in my time, and many more will happen in the years to come. But The Longest Walk is one you only witness once, because it is your own. Many before us have taken that teary-eyed trek through the doors of the departure area at Francisco C. Ada International Airport on the colorful little island of Saipan. But at last, after 11 beautiful years, it was our turn. On Sunday, July 5, 2009 Babs, Elijah and I bid farewell and walked through those doors for the last time.

Oh, we'll be back to visit I'm sure, and who knows, perhaps God will bring us back to Saipan to live someday. It's not unheard of after all, for people like us, people who find Saipan's island life agrees with them, to find their way back sooner or later. The Hartshorn family, Mai Rhea Odiyar, and Carol Paez are just a few that come to mind. But the truth is, we can't know what the future holds and so we say our goodbyes as if they may be our last.

Saying goodbye is painfully hard, but it is an unrelenting reality of life in this world. For so many years in Saipan it was easy to convince myself that time wasn't really passing; the cyclical nature of the school year, it's familiar rhythms could trick one into believing that time really was starting over every August. But the truth is,time is linear, ever moving forward, whether we know it or not. In one sense it's a comfort because I realize that had we stayed in Saipan, things would not have stayed the same. If it hadn't been us leaving behind the ones we love, it would have been the ones we love leaving us behind, eventually. As much as I hate to admitt it, the school, the church, Saipan, our lives were--and are--changing irrevocably every day. Things will never be the same again and that's true whether we stay or go. And so, we say goodbye, because it's better than just letting the moments pass without saying the things that matter most:

"I love you. I will miss you. I will see you again."

Our Longest Walk

. . .and we walk on. . .