Aug 21, 2010

Back on Track: Resolutions for a New Year

With the completion on August 19 (the first day of school) of the Panerathon 5k to fight children's hunger, I'm literally off and running with a new year. Here I am with my new running buddy Erwin Capilitan at the finish line. My time was 25:42.

It's time once again for my annual new year's resolutions. At the beginning of every school year, I take some time to take stock of my life and set goals for the next year.

This years resolutions are weighted heavily towards matters of the heart and spirit. With the exception of one resolution all of my commitments for the year ahead have to do with the way I relate to others and the way I relate to myself. They are less about changes of habit and more about habits of mind. My resolutions are about appreciating others, appreciating life, and being true to myself. Pray for me as I strive, by God's grace, to live up to what I've resolved in the year to come.

Keep Running
This one should be fairly simple. It's as basic as putting one foot in front of the other. Still, since I completed the San Francisco marathon last summer, my running routine has been anything but. I went for months without running at all--the Ohio winter provided a perfectly valid excuse. But as the last snows began to melt this past spring, I got back out there and since the start of the summer I'm back to running regularly more or less. One thing that has really helped is having a running partner again. Erwin Capilitan, our friend from Saipan days and neighbor (until tomorrow anyway), has really helped me stay the course. There are many days I'd probably have rolled over and gotten some more shut eye, if it weren't my phone alerting my to a cheery text from Erwin asking if I was ready to run. Another thing that has helped is having a goal to work toward. On the first day of school no less, Erwin and I ran the Panerathon 5K. We're gearing up for a 10K next--I'm thinking, the Buckeye Classic in November. Eventually, it'd be nice to work all the way back up to a half-marathon.

Wish people happy birthday

My Best Present: "Happy Birthday Daddy"

I've never ben much of a birthday person. I usually have to be reminded that it's my own birthday and rarely make much of the day. Years of having it "skipped" altogehter as we crossed the International Dateline on our way back to Saipan have further dulled my already low interest in birthday hullabuloo. Because I don't seek out birthday recognition myself, I often find I don't pay much attention to other people's birthdays. I have to confess that until the past few years I wasn't even sure exactly when my own best friend's birthday was.

But this past birthday, I was touched by the many birthday wishes I received from friends old and new on Facebook. I'm sure there were some who saw my birthday listed on their page and fired off an HB message without much thought, but hey, it still made me feel really good. And I especially appreciated those that took the time to say a few kind words or make some specific birthday wishes. Knowing how good these birthday greetings made me--an avowed low-key birthday celebrant--I decided to make more of an effort to wish the people I know and love a genuine, heartfelt happy birthday this year. To my way of thinking, any little thing we can do to brighten someone else's day is worth doing. Now, if only I can remember to check that little list on Facebook!

Write to people I care about.

Speaking of birthdays, the idea I had for Barbara's 40th birthday celebration inspired this resolution. Barbara said getting all those cards on her birthday was one of the best presents she's ever gotten. There is something powerful about receiving something handwritten from another human being--especially when it comes in the mail. In the age of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging writing letters and cards might seem to be an anachronism, an outdated, time consuming means of communication. But letters are the road trips of communication. It's not just about getting the message across, just as the road trip isn't just about getting from Point A to B. There is something truly special about seeing someone's handwriting--their unique stamp of individuality; about knowing that the other person has physically touched the paper you hold, carefully folded it, placed it in the envelope. There's something meaningful about the time you know it took them--choosing words carefully because they can't just backspace or delete if they get it wrong, hunting for a stamp and an envelope. Even the much maligned Hallmark card is embued with care. At least for me when I go card hunting, it's a process of careful deliberation to find the "perfect card"--one that is neither too sentimental or too flip, one with right aesthetic vibe. Combine a well chosen card with a handwritten personal note inside and you have a precious gift.

Another great thing about letters and cards is that you can save them. Granted most e-mail has practically unlimited storage, but it's just not the same. This year, I want to take the time to write people. Seeing how much it touched Babs and knowing how much it means to me I want to pass that joy on to others by writing to them.

Do the Right Thing for the Right Reason
For years I have tried to be the Good Boy. I've always tried to do the right thing so that people will notice and approve. But what I've found is that often times the good you do goes unnoticed and unrewarded, but people always notice the times when you mess up. It's human nature, I suppose, but my struggle to gain the approval of others was often a fruitless and exhausting struggle. And when doing the right thing meant that I might be misunderstood or criticized I was truly flummoxed.

So I've resolved to stop worrying so much about being noticed for doing well, I've decided to abandon the cold and less-than-admirable calculations of how I can be assured that I always come out smelling like a rose. If it is right, then let me act for that reason alone. I want to do what I should because I should, not because someone else thinks I should. It will take prayer, wisdom and powr from God, and time to change this habit of mind. As I've begun to take stock of how I make my choices, I've been shocked by how often social calculus has come into play. In the coming year "To thine own self be true" will be my watchword.

Go with the flow

Family dinner. Since I went back to work this has been a daily tradition and the highlight of every day.

This year I really want to get in the habit of relishing and appreciating each moment. By nature I'm a very organized, hyper-scheduled person and as a result I also find myself frustrated by my plans not coming together and especially by the constant lack of sufficient time to do everything I feel I need to do to live my life well. Especially in my profession--a high stress vocation any way--I find myself discouraged when I can't keep up with the constant stream of demands on my time. All of the needs--quality lesson plans, a vibrant and engaging classroom environment, meeting the diverse needs of each and every student, spiritual nourishment for myself so that I have something meaningful to share, being a team player and helping out with schoolwide initatives, Shadow drama team and volleyball and 8th grade class fundraising--seem so important to do well, and yet keeping up with it all seems a fools errand, especially if I also want to spend quality time with my wife and son, keep running, go to bed early, have devotions, and hopefully carve out a little "me" time too. Oh yeah, and also do quality work for my courses in pursuit of my master's degree.

What I'm learning, and what I want to put into practice this year, is to go with the flow. To recognize that while everything is important, it's still okay if everything doesn't get done. Rather than despair because I can't do it all perfectly, I want to seek perfect peace in whatever circumstances come my way. While "getting everything done" or having "everything go perfectly" may be a rare occurence, I can always show care for my students, I can always do what I can with my whole heart, I can always stop to note the blue sky or rainshower, the warm days of late summer, or the bracing cold of early January and give thanks. I can always choose to spend time whether a few moments or an hour or so enjoying my son or being with my wife. I can put the million things on my plate aside and eat dinner with my family. The rest will sort itself out, but the moment I have now? This is my life.

Last Years Resolutions
A quick look at how last year's resolutions fared:

Live the Big Life

I think so. I'm still often at home on the weekends bound by a toddler's schedule. But we still managed to get out there and have some adventures. We took a few trips--the biggest one was back to Saipan, but we also went to West Virginia and Florida, and I went road tripping with my pals to Indiana. We explored the Short North, went to a few concerts. Two weekends ago Babs and I checked out the Latino Festival in downtown Columbus. I have to credit Babs with helping me keep this resolution. More often than not she's been the motivating force getting me out there to see and do.

Look For Beauty





I've found it in four seasons here in Ohio.

Decorate my classroom
I did pretty well last year. Certainly better than I ever have in years previous. The bulletin boards didn't change every month--maybe every other month, but that's progress.

My first bulletin board of the new year. Look closely and you'll see Pastor Eliki and Ken Pierson making cameo appearances.

Learn Some Music
Well, I know one song on the guitar. "Father, I Adore You." I haven't picked up the instrument in awhile, but I've begun. Now to keep going.

Going even further back, to 2008, I'm please to find that I am still an active dad, a good citizen (I'm registerd to vote and will be voting in this year's local, state, and national mid-term elections. I already voted in our local elections last fall), and a good dental patient (I've had regular cleanings since we moved to the States and I just had my wisdom teeth extracted a month ago). I still need to work on that family worship though.


Sooner or later our bodies will betray us. It is a sad but inescapable fact. That which we take for granted for much of our lives will one day declare its independence. Cells that have long replicated in an orderly fashion, will suddenly go hogwild, mulitplying in an orgy of growth that we call cancer. Hearts that have always pumped along steadily, will shudder and seize. Brains will grow sluggish, the neurons twisiting into to tangled masses, muddling memories and mangling thoughts. Bones, skin, and blood vessels are found vulnerable to impact at high speed. And the body we use and abuse with little thought will betray us. Perhaps we can woo it back for a time, if God wills it, but one day, the body will simply walk way, finished and leave us with. . .nothing.

Depressing? Perhaps, but it isn't a little silly to say that I'm being unnecessarily bleak? Isn't that a form of denial? "Why all the gloom and doom? It's not like we're all destined for death. . .geez."

The irony, though, is that recognizing rather than avoiding this reality can make for a more positive outlook on life. After all, when we recognize that health and life itself is not a given, we are compelled to truly appreciate each day that our bodies remain faithful. When you are faced, as I was about a week ago, with the possibility that the betrayal is upon us, you suddenly find that all the things you were so stressed about--the work you had to do, the disarray of the house, this little peevance and that little annoyance really don't matter that much. Why not live that way all the time--with an attitude of gratitude for health and strength and life itself--rather than waiting till it might be too late, until the body threatens to turn against us.

When I woke up with the unbearable pain in my chest, and the hours that followed where I began to wonder incredulously, if I, a young, active man, might actually be facing the betrayal--much earlier than I ever expected, I found I wanted to live. Not just for myself, but mostly for my son who needs a father. After all, he gets broken up about me leaving for work--how can I break my promise that "Daddy will see you tonight?" I wanted to live for my wife--how could I leave her to parent alone, carrying a burden of grief and loss. Fortunately, after a normal EKG and chest x-ray came back and the diagnosis was a simple case of inflamed rib cartilige or perhaps a touch of pleurisy, it became apparent that betrayal was not yet at hand. But in the wake of that false alarm, I determined to remain committed to fully appreciating my life, trying to keep the ordinary complaints and frustrations in their proper perspective. I also found a renewed appreciation for the hope of eternal life--a promise that often loses its luster when we begin to buy into the delusion that our bodies are beyond betrayal, that life as we know it as endless.

To fully live in the now, to paradoxically "forget that I have a chest" (as my manically enthusiastic doctor described it) by remembering that I do is my goal from here on out. The betrayal is sure to come someday, but in the meantime, let me take joy in this moment, let me relish the love of my son and the embrace of my wife, let me take comfort in the presence of God, let me enjoy good food, good friends, a nice run. Let me celebrate the sunshine, rejoice in the rain, find peace in drifting snow. Let me take pleasure in my work and the daily round of chores. Let me sing, sleep, read, listen, laugh, and yes, eat, love and pray. Today is a gift. Let me accept it with joy.

Aug 14, 2010

Babs Celebrates the New 30

Babs poses with some of her "guests" at her birthday party, Friday, August 13, 2010.

Yesterday, August 13, Babs celebrated what we are calling her New 30th birthday. If you want to be all technical, she's 40, but you know what they say: "Forty is the new thirty." So the New 30 it is!

For such a milestone it was a pretty quiet day. She went to work in the morning as usual and in the afternoon we went to see Eat Pray Love together. ("Little Sister", our former student from Saipan and a close friend of the family had been visiting with us all week and she stayed home with the Little Feller). It was nice to spend some time together--a birthday gift that was a treat for me as much as it was for Babs.

Yesterday evening we headed downtown to Basil, a Thai restuarant in the eclectic, bohemian Short North neighborhood. There we met up with more than forty of Babs dearest friends from the first four decades of her life. Wow, you're thinking, you must have had to reserve the whole restuarant. Well, technically, there were only nine people there--J and Evelyn Carlos and their son, Erwin and Rachel Capilitan, "Little Sister", Babs, the Feller and me. But many others were there "in spirit"--everyone from her childhood friend Robyn to her high school gymnastics coach Rick Schwarz, to college friends Darchelle Worley, Heidi and Eric Starling, to a host of Saipan friends including the Piersons, Virle and Joeie, Bev and Greg, the Knowltons, the Staffords, the Quinns, the Lacorte family, Judith, Mai, Brit, and so many others.

In the last two weeks or so I had contacted more than forty of the people I knew meant a lot to Babs throughout her life and asked them to send a card, and in so doing, joining us in spirit to celebrates Babs' birthday. I knew all the people who practically could be there, would be there--but most of our dearest friends over the years were scattered across the globe.

I have to say I was amazed and Barbara was deeply moved by the fantastic response we received from our friends--some of whom we hadn't seen or spoken to in many years. Not only did these lovely people send the cards, but they wrote heartfelt words of love--reflecting on shared memories, expressing appreciation, admiration, and affection. It was so evident that each person had put real thought and care in to what they sent and the love could be felt across the miles and years. A big thank you to all who participated. Thanks for being there, once again. Babs says your efforts are the best birthday gift she's ever gotten. (And if you sent your card late, don't feel bad. We got another handful today and more are still to come in the next week, so the celebration is extended!)

This may have been Barbara's New 30th birthday, but it was made special by a lot of old friends!

The dinner party at Basil. Excellent Thai food by the way and a very cool setting. We will be back for sure. Clockwise from bottom left: "Little Sister", Me, J, Evelyn holding the Maycock and Carlos boys, Babs, Rachel, and Erwin.

Rachel Capilitan with her husband Erwin, flashing four in honor of their fourth wedding anniversary which was the same day. We were touched that they chose to celebrate with us. Rachel was an SM in Saipan during the 2004-2005 school year. She met Erwin (whose sister Myla was a student of mine) in Saipan and they married in 2006. Our friendship with Rachel has been marked by amazing coincidences. On more than one occasion we've run into her in the most unexpected times and places. Most recently, we discovered that she and Erwin happened to be living in the same apartment complex as us--just a few buildings over. It's been great having them as neighbors--Erwin has become a pretty regular running buddy. Sadly they'll be moving at the end of the month--but only 25 minutes away so I'm sure we'll still see them from time to time.

"Little Sister" mugging for the camera. It was a real treat to have her with us this past week. Our son had a blast hanging out with his favorite "auntie." That is mainly why she came--to secure her place as Number One honorary "auntie."

Hanging out after dinner.