Nov 30, 2016


I do love to plan.  And I was all set to run through a laundry list of things I want to get done in the month of December.  But just now I realized I want to set some real goals for myself--some challenges, similar to the one I'm completing this evening with my final entry in the 30-Day Writing Challenge.  I want to do more than just check things off my list.  I want to accomplish  something.

So here they are three goals I have for the next 30 days.

Stay under budget:
The single biggest challenge to our budget is our grocery bill.  We consistently overspend on food, more than on anything else.  So my goal is to find myself under my food budget at the end of the next 30 days.  This will be difficult, particularly because I am starting out behind. My new budget for the month of December begins on Friday, and I've already spent some of it. On top of that, I'm cooking for the next 3 Sabbaths and those are always expensive because I like to make special dishes that often require more or more expensive ingredients. I'm sure I'll  also be contributing to the holiday cooking when we're at my mom's in Florida and that can add up too, especially since I'll be cooking for a crowd!  Babs and I split our food budget, so I won't force her into the challenge. This will only apply to my portion of the food budget, not too our household as whole.  But I promise not to "cheat" by asking Barbara to buy things for me on her budget.

Read a book.
I love to read, but it's hard to find the time. This last vacation I really didn't read as much as I would have liked. So over the next 30 days, I'd like to challenge myself to read a whole book.  If my time wasn't at such a premium this would be no challenge at all.  But I don't think I've read a whole book this entire year so far.  I'm hoping to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  Her novel The Secret History was the first "real" contemporary novel I ever read, so I think it would be appropriate and rewarding to read her Pulitzer prize-winning latest novel.  But if I can't get a hold of that book (I'd prefer not to buy it), then I'll find something else.

In an earlier entry I talked about how I feel like I could have a richer, more relaxing Sabbath experience if I stayed off my phone (or laptop) during those 24 hours.  So I've decided to challenge myself to take a break from all phone related activities (other than making or receiving calls or texts--imagine only doing that with a phone. Weird, right?) from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I'll do the same with my laptop (though I will preserve our traditional Sabbath afternoon Skype sessions with my family in Florida).  I'm not sure how I'll feel.  Will I be counting the minutes until sundown like I did as a kid so that I can get back online? Or will I relish the break from constant connectivity?  We shall see.

I'm kind of like this whole concept of challenges.  Let's see how it goes!

Nov 29, 2016

Keeping Counsel

Something people often misunderstand about you:

This is something, ironically, that only those who know me pretty well would misunderstand.  Those who only know me casually would be blithely unaware of it.  And those who are the absolute closest to me--my immediate family, my wife, my closest and oldest friends don't misunderstand me.  It's the middle group of people that know me pretty well (but not intimately) that I often feel misunderstand me.

I think people may believe I'm insincere sometimes.  I think this comes about for two reasons.  First, I don't like conflict and don't see any point in engaging in conflict unless I feel that the conflict will bring about some positive and effective change.  I think this is rare.  Most times if you air your grievances with someone, all it does is create more bad feelings (This is distinct, in my mind from working through differences with someone  with whom you have a close and trusting relationship).  I'm convinced that most people won't be "told" and don't benefit from being "set straight."  So I generally don't engage in "telling it like it is."  (I unpacked that in a  blog entry several years ago in an entry entitled "Straight Talk About Telling it Like It Is.")

Second, I tend to look for common ground.  So if I disagree with some aspect of a persons behavior or ideas, I will disregard that and look for areas where I can agree.  I try to see things from others'  point of view, and I usually find a perspective that I can understand and appreciate. So I choose to focus on that common ground.  One positive result of this approach is that I find I like most people.  I honestly can't think of anyone that I truly hate even though I know and interact with some very difficult people.  In most cases, it's possible to find something to like and appreciate in almost anyone.

People will sometimes ask me: if you disagree with X on topic A, why don't you tell them? Or if you don't like Y's behavior or attitude, why don't you let them know?  My answer is "What good would it do?" and "Well I don't disagree or dislike everything about Person X or Y, so since confronting them about what I don't like would serve no other purpose then to indulge my own sense of righteousness, why not focus on what I do agree with or like."  I think this often comes across as being "fake" or insincere. But I think if we're honest, I'm only different in style, not substance from most people in this regard.  Rare is the person that truly doesn't care about the outcome of their social interactions or regularly unloads whatever negative thoughts they might have to and about everyone they know.

And if you really don't care if your interactions are productive or not and are only too happy to let everyone know everything you think, I'm not particularly impressed.

Not that I'd tell you that, of course.

Nov 28, 2016


5 Things that Make You Laugh Out Loud:

Humor is a funny thing (pun intended). What one person finds hilarious, another doesn't see the humor in. I don't know how funny you'll find these things. I know they get me laughing every time..

1. Overheard (Chuuk Edition). When we were student missionaries in Chuuk, J and I started jotting done funny things that our students, colleagues, and even each other said. We called it "Overheard" and to this day, if J and I sit down and run through the pages of quotes we collected, we will be ROFL. A sampling:

Several of the funniest lines were when our students disapproved of our disciplinary actions:

"Don't you know how to love people?"--one of the students to my colleague Mikal Clark when he was taking down the volleyball net and they didn't want him to.

"Give! You will give to So Young!"-one of my fifth graders demanding I return a toy to her classmate that my colleague had confiscated.

"Where's the man? We will kill him."--another fifth grade girl joins they fray, speaking about the colleague who took the toy.

"I will not go and play.  I will stay in your house."--the original fifth grader now refusing to leave our house after I wouldn't return the toy.

"Mr. Maycock, can I wait until the flavor goes away?"--my high school senior Lisy on being told to get rid of her chewing gum.

"Mr. Carlos, are you tired of teaching?"-J's student Joylyn after seeing him get upset at some other students.

My failed attempt at building "self-esteem":

Me: "O.K. What good qualities do you have?"
Student: "Warning. . .Detention"

One student's take on salvation:

"I don't know if God choose you, but I think you're a good boy."--One of my fifth graders inviting a classmate to go to heaven with him, as written in his Bible notebook.

Willy "Big Will" Hawthorne was a fount of witty banter.  Will was a student missionary from Walla Walla and our high school science teacher.. A good chunk of our "Overheard" entries were one-liners from Willie:

"I trust in God for protection, but I also believe re-bar works well."--Willy commenting on a situation in which a student had physically assaulted one of our teachers. Gallows humor was not uncommon during that year.

"We're right behind you. You're out front and we're protected." -Willy to Mr. Lacayan, the acting principal while our principal was off-island.

"If I eat all my junk food now, I won't be tempted by it."--Willy

"Today went really well for being a bad day."--Willy

"Don't put yourself down, Sean.  Give us the opportunity!'--Willy

2. Humor about the Teacher Life:

I've always been one for gallows humor. I like being able to laugh at the stresses, failures and frustrations of my profession. Sometimes, laughing is how you get through the hard times.

Here are two of my favorites (Be forewarned, the first one has some strong language):

3. My Children

These boys of mine crack me up all the time. Unfortunately, I don't have a handy little collection of all the funny things they've said over the years. Maybe I should start compiling! But those two crazy kids are some of the most consistent sources of laughter in my daily life.

4. Synonyms, especially slang, especially for slightly inappropriate words like "drunk". I haven't really had a good belly laugh over synonyms in awhile but when I was a kid my brother and I would look up these synonyms and laugh until our sides hurt. Language nerds, I know. It's particularly funny when you read them one right after the other.
Herewith, synonyms for drunk:

Another example of this sort synonyms list is the song "Shake Your Euphemism" by the Blue Man Group. I laughed so hard when they performed this at their show in Chicago this past spring. I mean whoever heard of referring to your rear end as "your life's work"?   LMAO (Pun intended). Click here to read the lyrics, which are essentially one long list of euphemisms for. . .well, you know,

5. Things I Know I Cannot Laugh at.
As a teacher there are times when you know you cannot laugh. A students has done wrong and they must be dealt with. You are stern, stone-faced: This is absolutely unacceptable behavior. And all of a sudden you're overcome by giggles as you reflect on this so wrong thing the child has done. You start coughing a lot, looking in the other direction and staring hard at the wall, willing yourself not to so much as crack as smile. But the harder you try, the more your body trembles with barely contained hilarity. The last time this happened, I think I was successful in hiding my inappropriate mirth from the student who was being reprimanded. But when I shared the story with my colleagues at lunch, and with my wife that night I could barely get through it without collapsing in a fit of laughter. Even now, all it takes is remembering one word of the incident and I literally start to laugh out loud.  It was just plain wrong. (And funny, too. . .).

Nov 27, 2016


Something I am kicking butt at right now:

This was kind of a depressing entry.  I don't feel like I"m kicking butt at much of anything.  For the most part I feel like I'm holding my own.  Even areas of my life where I think I am doing well--such as in my teaching, where I feel like I'm doing some of the best teaching of my life--I feel like I could still do so much better that claiming I'm "kicking butt" seems to overstate things.  Likewise, I'd like to think I'm doing an amazing job as a father and husband.  In some areas, I think I really am amazing, and in others not some so much.  Overall: holding the line.  No butt kicking, no names being taken.

But then, I thought of one small area where I really have been doing awesome:  Flossing.

This is my preferred brand of floss

I have always hated, and still hate flossing.  But after my last cleaning on July 28 I just decided, "I'm going to floss everyday no matter what."  And I did. It's ironic because right around that time I across an article, in the New York Times no less, reporting that the value of flossing in terms of preventing cavities is unproven.  It's been assumed, but there really hasn't been proper research done to confirm this dentist-recommended practice.  It was the perfect "out" for me.  But  I had already made the commitment. I already had a couple weeks of perfect daily flossing and I didn't want to break my streak.  And besides, cavities aren't a real worry for me. I do feel like I can feel a real difference in my teeth when I floss, so even it turns out not to prevent cavities it still leaves my teeth feeling a lot cleaner.

Since the end of July I've only missed a stretch of 3-4 days, maybe 2 or 3 times when we ran out of floss and I didn't have a chance to get to the store to buy more.  I'm really curious to see what my hygienist will say when I see her in January.  Will she be able to tell the difference this time around now that flossing has been a regular part of my oral care regimen? I believe she will.

The funny thing is four months in, it's still not what I'd call a habit.  I don't just do it without thinking about it. I still don't feel like flossing, I still have to make myself do it.

Nov 26, 2016


An area of my life that I'd like to improve:
I picked up this photo of fiery Sabbath sunset from my friend and former colleague Virle's Facebook page.  When the sun sets on Friday night, we plug in like a device that needs charging. 24 hours later, we should unplug fully charged.  That doesn't usually happen with me.

I tend to interpret the 4th commandment strongly through the lens of the "Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" and less through a stringent avoidance of "doing your own pleasure."  In my reading of scripture, the only clear Sabbath command is the command not to work (which I have no trouble following--I don't know how people survive without that mandated sanctuary from the crush of the work week.  And I see the reason for the command, rather than a recommendation, given how I often end up spending Sunday despite my plans that I am NOT bringing any work home on the weekend.)  Beyond that, I believe there's a lot of room for interpretation.  I have no interest in judging how others choose to keep the Sabbath. If people want to judge me, well they're welcome to it; it's  not going to matter to me.

That said, I think I could improve how well I keep the Sabbath.  I don't feel guilty, really, so that's  not the motivation.  I just sometimes feel that I don't get as much out of the Sabbath as I could.

I spend a lot of time on social media on the Sabbath, browsing through Facebook, reading e-mail digests from The Week, Esquire, Rolling Stone.  It's funny because I don't even flip through my actual mail subscriptions to Time or Rolling Stone or Esquire on the Sabbath.  But somehow the digital versions have slipped by.  I recently read an article that said Ivanka Trump, who became an observant Jew when she married her husband, Jared Kushner, keeps the Sabbath by staying off her phone.  And I thought to myself, Dang.  I don't do that.   I do these things because they feel relaxing and restful.  But I don't think they really are.  I think I could use the break from the onslaught of politics, current events, entertainment--that is, after all what the Sabbath is supposed to be: a break.

 Also, I tend to enter the Sabbath at sundown Friday evening running behind.  The house is still a disaster, and I haven't finished my grocery shopping.  We end up either attempting to enjoy the Sabbath amidst the carnage of the weekday or cleaning well into the Sabbath.  And never mind, cooking the Sabbath meal before sundown, as my mother did when I was I child.  I often wake up Sabbath morning with the pressure to get lunch fixed before we go to church (In our household, Sabbath lunch is my responsibility). And there are far more runs to the grocery store both Friday night and Sabbath morning than I would prefer.

I often feel stressed throughout the Sabbath, and end the hours somehow dissatisfied.  I think if were a little more careful, perhaps a little more intentional about how I observed the Sabbath, I would feel more peaceful during the Sabbath, and more rejuvenated at the end.

I remember Sabbath in Chuuk was such a retreat.  Our dingy little apartment was always as clean as could be Friday night.  We usually cooked up something special, sometimes sharing with the other student missionaries.  I remember sitting out on the steps on Friday nights looking up at the moon shining through the coconut palms and feeling perfect peace.

 Sabbath afternoon there might be hike up Six Step Mountain after a luxurious afternoon nap.  And most Sabbath afternoons ended watching the sunset on the beach at the Continental Hotel, listening to Rich Mullins on my walkman.  I'd walk back to the campus in the gathering darkness feeling fully charged, and ready for the new week.

I'd like to have that feeling again.  And there are some good things that are a regular part of Sabbath right now.  Most Friday nights the whole family spends time coloring together.

Last night's work.  Ezra did the picture on the left while I worked on the right.

My Sabbath afternoon walks have been a tradition with the boys for years now.  And skyping with my mom and sister every Sabbath afternoon is something I always look forward to.

But I think I'm missing out on a lot.  I'm getting a half charge, when I suspect, with a few adjustments, I could be getting a full one.

Keeping the Sabbath holy, may be a command, but the Sabbath itself is a gift, and figuring out how to keep it well enables me to both fully keep the command and fully receive the gift.

Nov 25, 2016


So the deal for this prompt was: Think of a word.  Then do a google image search of the word and choose the 11th image listed and write about that.  I was like, think of a word?  I thought of hundred words in the last 30 seconds, how do I pick?  So I googled a random word generator and picked the fist word that came up.  The word was "polar."  Then I did the image search.

This is what I got:

A couple of Polar logos for some company, a lot of cute pictures of polar bears, and then number 11.  Yay.

I grew up a vegetarian. Today, I'm what you'd call a part-time vegetarian.  I generally don't eat meat at home, and I never cook it.  When I'm eating out though, or if meat is being served where I'm eating I do eat meat, and I enjoy it.  There a couple of ideas that inform my approach to eating meat.

1. Meat should be eaten in moderation and on occasion. I admit that it's self serving but I think that the way I approach eating meat is a good way to go. There's no doubt in my mind that Americans (and increasingly the rest of the world) eat way too much meat.  It's bad for our health and bad for the environment. Historically, humans have not had the ability to consume meat regularly in quite the way that we do today.  And in cultures where meat consumption is low, the population tends to be healthier and live longer.

2. It's important to make peace with what it costs for that steak to be on your plate.  An animal was slaughtered. Again, historically most people had to be intimately acquainted with the process of going from living, soft-coated, doe-eyed creature to slab of succulent supper hot off the grill. Those few among us who still hunt and store up venison in a freezer understand these realities, but I'm not sure that many other people really think much about it. I've always said, half-jokingly, that I take my cue from the Native Americans who would thank the animal for giving it's life so that I can eat.  I realize that the cruel and inhumane methods used by the modern meat industry are of particular concern.  But it's important to understand that even under the best of circumstances an animal is still being slaughtered, and depending on your sensitivities that can be considered bad, which is better than horrific, but still not good.

3. I still follow the Adventist rules about clean and unclean meat, even though I don't believe there's much Biblical support for a moral imperative to make that distinction.  I don't think it's wrong to eat bacon or shrimp.  Yet in most cases I avoid unclean meats.  I don't have a really good reason.  I just chalk it up to a habit of culture.

4.  If it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

5. None of it is that big of a deal. I know people who can get quite worked up about how "meat is actually healthier than those highly-processed 'veggie-meats' and estrogen-laced soy products."  I know others that are full-on evangelists of the vegan diet and look with stern judgement on those who insist on consuming animal products.  I think all that is unnecessary.   To the pro-meat crowd I say, just enjoy your meat and let the vegetarians be.  It's not necessary to judge and dismiss someone else's diet in order to justify your own.  And I say the same to the plant-based, Forks Over Knives crowd.  Eat what you like, like what you eat, and be happy.  I'm sure it's true that all kinds of dangers lurk in the ground beef, the cheese, the tofu, what-have-you but that's life.  Make healthy choices (with the occasional indulgence), make sure it tastes good, and don't worry about it.  If I had to choose between eating meat every day and becoming a full-time, rigid vegetarian I would probably choose the latter.  But I don't have to make that choice.  So, I'll have that burger medium-rare.

"A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but what comes out of it."
                                                              --Matthew 15:11

Nov 24, 2016


A lesson I learned the hard way:

It's a children's story and school chapel stalwart. I can always pull that one out and be guaranteed a thoroughly entertained audience.  Everyone has a good laugh at  my expense, and hopefully everyone takes home a nice little lesson about how pride does indeed go before a fall.

You probably know the story--maybe you were even there--of when I went head to head with the pig in Chuuk and lost. But in case you haven't heard the story, here it is in brief.

A very large pig wandered on to the campus of Chuuk SDA School one beautiful morning.  Every one sheltered in place while the pig wandered the school grounds with impunity.  I was all prepared to take my friend J's advice to leave well enough alone, until I happened to stop by the classroom of our 8th grade teacher, one Susie Kim.  Susie was appalled that this pig had caused all outdoor activities at the school to grind to a halt.  Someone should do something, she declared.  And because I wanted to impress her, I decided that someone would be me.

I went out into the school yard to deal with the pig.  How hard could it really be, I thought to myself. It's a domesticated animal after all.  I approached the animal carefully from behind (I know, I know. . .or at least I do now), intending to kind of shoo it out the gates of the school.  Quicker than I could blink, the pig whipped around, slammed it's massive head against my leg and then just as quickly went back to grazing.  My painful holler echoed across campus, and I hobbled away to the school office, my leg throbbing. Once safely inside the office I noticed the hole in my pants, and pulled up pant leg to reveal a gaping stab wound where the pig had gored me with it's tusk.

I still have the scar

While I was hustled off to Chuuk State Hospital, with visions of rabies in my head (I would later learn there are no cases of rabies in that part of the world),  a young lady by the name of Taichina, a high school sophomore at our school came out and quickly escorted the pig home.  It belonged to her family.  Clearly, she knew what she was doing.

The pig escaped from it's enclosure at least one more time, and this time I stayed safely in my classroom and watched as the pig charged a full grown man, plowed into him between his legs and tossed him aside like a rag doll.

I thought a lot about what I'd write about for this entry.  I thought about poor financial decisions and failing to properly prepare for situations that ended up catching me flat-footed, but the problem with those situations is that I'm not sure I've actually made the changes in my life that would ensure the lesson has actually been learned.  I needed a situation where I could prove that I'd actually learned the lesson.  And this is just such a situation:

Fast forward 20 years.  I'm supervising latchkey at the church gym one beautiful spring morning when our 4th grade teacher, Wayna Gray pulls up at the door.  She is shaken, and reports that she has been attacked by a goose at the front door of the school.  I look across the parking lot to the school campus and see two Canada geese standing placidly on the school lawn some distance from the front door.  She tells a horrible story of the goose's relentless attack, how it knocked her down, and kept coming at her with it's stabbing beak and beating at her with its broad wings, how she'd been lucky to get away from it at all.  She suggests we not allow any students or parents to approach the school until something can be done.  Something can be done.  There are those words again.

And then she asks if I would be willing to try to retrieve her purse, which she had dropped in the struggle near the front door of the school.   Sure, I say without giving it much thought, and I start to stride off across the parking lot.

"Mr. Maycock, why don't you drive my car up to the front door.  Those geese are fast, and you need to get in and out quickly."

Drive the car?  Really?  Because of birds?  Come on. . .

"No, it's okay, I'll be fine," I reply confidently.  How hard can it be, anyway. . . 

And then it hits me.  Lesson learned.

"On second thought, I think I will take the car," I say as I walk back to the gym.

And it's a good thing I did.  I pulled her car as close to the front entrance of the school as I could. It felt like a crime scene. I could see where the front door was a spider web of shattered glass.  Wayna had been kicking the door that hard in her vain hope that someone--anyone--would come to her rescue.  I saw the purse lying on the ground a few feet from the door.  And I saw the goose, who was now watching me intently as well, standing on the grass at the far end of the building.  I leaped out of the car and ran the few steps to her fallen purse.  In a flash, the goose was coming at me, wings spread wide, hissing with rage. I dashed back to the car, barely making it inside before the goose was at the car door trying to get me.  That goose was unbelievably fast.  If I had come on foot, I never would have made it.  I gunned the engine, reversed hard, and raced back across the parking lot.  The goose ran after the car for a little before deciding I was sufficiently defeated.

We spent the next few hours directing traffic to the church, and away from the school.  The students and staff waited there until the goose man came  (Yes, there really is such an occupation, a goose whisperer if you will).   The goose man was able to capture the male goose, who was the aggressor and take him away.  In a little presentation he made to my students later that morning, he explained that when the geese are nesting, the male will attack but the female won't.  And sure enough, we could see the  mother goose wandering the grounds forlornly looking for her mate who had suddenly been whisked away.

As for me, I now had confirmation that I had indeed  learned the hard lesson the pig taught me in Chuuk.  Don't tangle with animals unless you really know what you are doing.

Look carefully, and you'll see Papa and Mama Goose roaming the school parking lot like they own the place.  Far be it from me to argue with them.

Nov 23, 2016


Dear Dad,

Well, I'm sitting here in your old chair, the last place you sat, and I've been thinking a lot about you today, so I thought I'd drop you a line.  I just finished hand-washing some clothes.  It's one of my least favorite tasks.  It's laborious work that in the end is rather unsatisfying because you don't really know for sure that the clothes are really clean.  They look about the same as they did when they went in. But it feels good to have that task accomplished and be able to sit for a bit.  Barbara is out shopping; I just talked to her and she said she's checking out now.  When she gets home, we're going to eat supper and have a little birthday celebration for Ezra, who just turned four on Sunday.

It's been two years today since you left. Two years from Saturday, the 26th if you want to be technical.  But it was also two years ago, on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  Just like today we planned to come down and celebrate Ezra's second birthday with you and Mom, and Matt and Jenny.  Just like today, it was cold and overcast--classic Thanksgiving weather.  And just like today, we came to a home where you no longer lived.  Only now, we're two years into learning to live with that reality, and then we were still in shock.  I suppose it would make you a little sad for me to talk about how devastating it was to lose you, so I won't dwell on that right now.

I wanted to let you know a little bit about what's been happening since you left.  We're still in Columbus--Barbara is back to teaching full-time.  We still get down to see Mom about as often as we did when you were still here: often, but not often enough. I'm sure you'd like to hear a lot about how both your daughters are doing, but those are their stories to tell, not mine, so you'll have to settle for news from your son-in-law.  The boys are growing up so fast!  Elijah is 8 now, in the second grade and doing very well in school.  You'd be so impressed with how well he reads!  Ezra is no longer the toddler you last saw.  People say he looks a lot like you.  I've included a picture, so you can judge for yourself.

 Both boys are really developing as artists.  Elijah loves to draw and paint, and his artwork just keeps getting better and better.  Ezra's specialty is coloring.  He colors really well for someone his age, always right in the lines. You would be very proud and very impressed, I think.  They've inherited your genes!

The past two years or so.   Photo on the bottom right was tonight.

It's been a very warm fall, a warm year really.  Last Friday, just a week before Thanksgiving, it was 75 degrees!  It's cold now though, like normal.  But I prefer the warm weather and I'll be grateful for whatever warmth we can get. I'm hoping for a mild winter, and early spring.

They put in a traffic light over on Bunnell Hill. The intersection doesn't seem that much safer to be honest.  When you're turning left on the green light, on to 73, it's hard to see cars coming up over the hill, who also have the green, so making the turn is always a bit of a dicey proposition.

You will never guess who our new president is!  You would not believe what kind of campaign it's been.  It really feels like our country is in uncharted territory.  I've often wondered what you'd think of it all.  I won't be so presumptuous as to speak for you.  But I think it's safe to say you would have seen it all as signs of the times, that you wouldn't have been rattled by all the political drama because your faith has always been in God and not man.   I can't imagine you would have approved of the nastiness of the campaign, but it would not have shaken the peace in your heart.

We sure do miss you.  I know that might make you sad, to think of us being sad.  But that just means we really love you.  Mom gave me a bunch of your clothes, and I wear them all the time. It makes me feel a kind of still connected to you, and I know Barbara loves seeing your shirts and jackets around.  It's nice to have reminders of you.  Plus, you had great timeless taste, and I often get compliments on  my outfits when I'm wearing what you wore!

It's nice to write you. It'd be even nicer to get a letter from you. Mom and your daughters have spent a lot of time these past two years poring over the letters you wrote to them when you were still with us.  It's a way of still hearing your voice I guess.  One thing I really wish we'd had the chance to do: Right after my grandma died (just three weeks before you did), I bought this book, where we could ask you questions about your life and write them down.  I was planning for us to start working on that book with you that Thanksgiving.  I thought it was important to do it while we still had time.  I had no way of knowing that our time was already up.  So now the pages are all blank, the questions are unanswered.  I talked with Uncle Gene about us all getting together and trying to piece together some answers from what we all knew.  We haven't followed through on that yet, but even if we do, it won't be the same.

I know we'll see you again.  The way things are going these days, some say it won't be long.  All I know is it can't come soon enough.  In the mean time, we'll keep plugging along.  There's still a lot of joy in life; I only wish we could share it with you.

I guess they're about ready to eat, so I better go. We'll be up to Woodland this Sabbath.

Rest well, Dad.


Your son-in-law, Sean

"I've seen for myself, there's no end to grief. And that's how I know. . .there is no end to love." 

Nov 22, 2016


Favorite part of your body

I don't know that I have a favorite part of my body, but I do have an aspect of my physical appearance that I've not only come to peace with, but have I reached a point that I wouldn't trade it if I could.  That aspect is my build.

Skinny is an understatement. I have been severely underweight my entire life.  Even now, as I've begun to slowly put on pounds as I get older, now closing in on 140 lbs I'm still well underweight.  I'm about 15 lbs below my ideal weight according to a quick survey of several websites indicating the ideal weight for a 5'11" male.  This is not the result of a health condition.  I'm just really, really skinny. As a 43 year old man, in many ways I still feel physically kind of like a kid, and it's because of my size.  And I'm okay with that--in fact, I'm happy with it.

I didn't always feel this way.

Growing up I was keenly aware of being unusually thin, and I wanted to change that.  I went through several attempts at bulking up, starting when I was in middle school, when my brother and I would deadlift two cinderblocks hanging from a segment of rebar every day after school.

 In high school, we had a small weight set in the laundry room where I would pump small amounts of iron regularly in a unsuccessful attempt to add some mass.

 I never was desperate to be big--I never resorted to steroids or even protein powders--but I certainly wasn't satisfied.  My last serious attempt at building the body beautiful was in my late 20's in Saipan when I started doing the Body for Life program. It involves working out daily and eating like six meals a day.  That was the closest I came to success--gaining 13 lbs, going from 120 to 133.  But still, if you were to ask anyone they would probably still have said--he's really skinny.

Nowadays, especially as I suspect that the dad bod is soon to be upon me as my metabolism slows with age, I've come to feel quite happy with my build.  I realize that for most people the battle of the waistline is a serious reality--and it's one of I've been blithely ignorant of.   I know I'm lucky in that regard.  Indeed, one of the reasons I run regularly and try to keep exercise a  part of my life is to keep at bay for as long as possible the day when I will have to think about the pounds I'm adding.

This is my best friend from elementary school days.  He put in a phenomenal amount of work to look like this, and my hat is off to him for that.  I don't think it is possible for me to ever look like this with my build no matter how hard I work.

I still sometimes wonder what it must be like to be one of those big, hulking guys, with barrel chests and biceps like Virginia hams.  What is it like to be that tall?  To be that strong? To be that big?  But now, even though I know I'll never do well in a fight, I wonder just out of curiosity, and not out of envy.

I'm skinny, and I hope to stay that way.

Small arms at the gun show

Nov 21, 2016


3 Life Lessons I want my children to learn from me

I am very aware of the solemn responsibility I have as a parent.  It's not just what I say, but what I do, and most importantly, how I treat them, that will have an outsize impact on the kind of men my boys grow up to be.   You don't want to mess up your kids, and that worry keeps me praying.

I hope that I am setting a good example for Elijah and Ezra, that they see in me how they should conduct themselves in this world.  Here are three particular life lessons that I try to teach by example.

1. Work hard.  I am a firm believer that the key to success is a belief that it can be achieved through effort.  It is not a result of talent. It is not something that is just given to you because you want it. Success, mastery, excellence is earned by putting in the work.  The latest research is reinforcing this idea that kids who believe they succeed because of the effort they put in tend to do better than those who believe they succeed because they are "smart" or "talented."  I hope that my boys see in me someone who works hard for what he wants, and who sets a high standard for himself and then strives to meet it.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might"
                                               --Ecclesiastes 9:10a

2.  Do your duty.  It's kind of an old-fashioned concept in today's entitled culture, but I really hope my boys will learn the honor of doing one's duty.  There are responsibilities we have, commitments we have made.  And it's important to fulfill those responsibilities and keep those commitments.  Even when it's unpleasant, uninteresting, or difficult, I hope my boys will be the type of men that see it through.  I hope that's what they see in me--a man who keeps his promises. (Though this is tricky, as my older one often accuses me of breaking promises--the problem being that they are promises he created in his own head, not ones I made. "Daddy, you promised you would buy me that toy."  "What?!? I said no such thing!"  **sigh**).

"He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
                                               --Micah 6:8

3. Trust God.  This is probably the most important life lesson I want my children to learn from me. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, I want them to have a deep bedrock of trust in God.  I want their trust to be deeper than mine, if that's possible.  I hope they'll be free of the spiritual struggling that has dogged me my whole life.  I want theirs to be a deep and abiding faith, free of arrogance or judgement, full of peace and joy.  I hope they'll live for Jesus without getting caught up in church dogma. I hope they'll love Him more deeply than I have because they trust Him more.  In order for  me to teach them, all I can do is ask God to deepen my trust in Him, and strengthen my walk with Him, so that my boys can follow in my footsteps.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."
                                              --Proverbs 3:5

Nov 20, 2016


My love language.

I've long said that my love language is acts of service.  This is mainly because this is what I tend to default to, when I'm wanting to show love.  Throughout our marriage, I've made a habit of trying to anticipate what Barbara might want or need done, and do it for her.  When I'm  home before her and the house is messy, I try to imagine what she'll see when she walks in the door and then try to create a soothing, orderly picture for her.  I've always felt the best way to show someone love is to do for them what you would want done for yourself.

That said, when it comes to receiving love. . .it's not so clear cut really.  Words of love mean a great deal to me, and make me feel all warm inside. Physical connection is vital to me.  I appreciate receiving gifts.  And of course spending time together is wonderful also.  The key for me in identifying the love language I best receive love in would be to consider whether the absence of one language invalidate the others.  For me that happens with three of the languages:  time, acts of service, and physical touch.  I would feel incomplete with a marriage in which I hear words of love, we spend time together, she does things for me, and gives me gifts, yet we never touch each other.  If I hear loving words, we spend time together, we are affectionate, and she buys me gifts, and yet she never lifts a finger to help  me, I don't think I'd feel loved.  And finally, I don't know that it's even possible to not spend time together and have all of the other four love languages.  Words of love--at least meaningful ones--and physical touch can't happen in a meaningful way without time together.

So I guess that leaves words and gifts as the odd ones out. I feel like the other four would make the loving words implicit.  And, while I always appreciate gifts,  I don't know that I'd feel unloved if I rarely or never received gifts but experienced the other four consistently.

This is all moot for me though, because I'm lucky enough to share my life with a woman who regularly showers me with all five love languages.  With Babs, I have always felt loved.  I am a lucky man!

"And I feel loved 
Do you feel loved?"

That Way

 She didn't like me "That Way."   Not that it mattered to me.  From 7th grade through the first half of my freshman year, I carried the torch for this girl.  And the truth is, that while I could have counted the many ways I loved her, there were important things about her that I think I kind of missed.  She was--and is--very funny.  She has this kind of quirky, weird sense of humor--like a Far Side cartoon come to life.  She is one of the kindest people I know.  Despite being quick to tell you how tough she was, she was a gentle soul.  She was a very good friend to me.  I don't know that I really appreciated that at the time; I was so consumed with wishin' and hopin' and prayin' that somehow, miraculously she would discover she loved me, in "That Way", too.  It's hard to really appreciate someone that you idolize.  I think I could have been a better friend to her if I hadn't been in love with her.  Certainly now that I no longer love her in "That Way",  I am far more appreciative of the place she had in my life.

But I was a middle school boy.  I don't think I had the ability at the time to feel anything other than what I did.  To my eyes she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.  And that caused me to miss a lot.

 And now? She's out there in the world, happy, if Facebook is any indication. And I am too.  She's found someone to share her life with, as I have.  And in the end, I think that's the most  important love anyway.  Not the first love, but the last.

Nov 18, 2016


30 Facts about Me.

To  make this a little more challenging I chose to stick to just demonstrable facts. There are no favorites, no likes or dislikes on this list, at least in the initial statement.  The commentary afterwards may contain some opinions.

1. My middle name is Raulins.

2. I weigh 139.6 lbs.  This is the most I've ever weighed in my life.
3. I have one brother and two sisters.  My younger sister, Julie, died as an infant.  She would be 36 years old if she were alive today.
4. I lived on a farm for a number of years as a child.  We did not have any livestock. My dad raised hay in his spare time while working full-time as a chemist.
5. I was born in Portland, Oregon.
6. I have gotten to know some of my cousins through Facebook
7. I have never been drunk. I don't feel like I'm missing anything.
8. I have an 8 week breakfast rotation that determines what I make for breakfast: Oatmeal with boiled eggs and grapefruit, waffles with fruit topping and omelets, croissant sandwiches, fried eggs with fake bacon and toast, cream of wheat & sausage links (fake also), breakfast burritos, cereal and sausage patties (fake again), and scrambled eggs with grits and hash browns.  Orange juice is served with sandwiches, burritos, and scrambled eggs. I will sometimes substitute pancakes for cereal on a weekend, but for the most part these are the only things I ever make for breakfast.
9. I cannot touch my nose with my tongue.

10. I have a four week color rotation with the shirts that I wear to work: There is a red week, a blue week, a green week, and a miscellaneous week (for brown, gray, black, or purplish hues).  This week was blue week. Sabbath is the most stressful day of the week when it comes to getting dressed because I never know what to wear unlike the weekdays when I don't have to think about it.
11. During Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend, 1994, I was stuck in my grandparents house alone for three days during a huge snowstorm with extremely low temperatures. My car wouldn't start and the garage door was frozen shut.  They didn't have any reception on their TV and their were  no videos to watch.  This was in the days before widespread  internet use so all I had for entertainment was talking on the phone and reading old Readers Digests and whatever other material I could find. I often describe this is as the last time I was truly bored. And I was very bored.
12. When I was a child in Oregon we got our Christmas presents in a pillowcase placed at the foot of our bed during the night.  Much more efficient than having to wait for your parents to be ready to unwrap them from under the tree, if you ask me.
13. I once jumped out of a moving car. Thankfully, I was not hurt.  This is one of the more foolish things I've ever done.
14. I had a vegetable garden once, in 1998. I wouldn't mind having one again.
15. I flew to Japan once for the express purpose of going to a concert.  Granted, I was flying from Saipan, which is only 3.5 hours flight away.  But still. I spent all the money I had while there and if the train station hadn't taken my debit card (most places in Japan didn't) I would not have been able to get back to Narita and would have missed my flight home. I would have then been stranded in Japan.

16.  I was part of ensemble cast for a TV show that was piloted (but never went further). I portrayed a mysterious man of faith.
17. The last time I came to the point of tears was when we were considering expelling one of my students from school.
18. There are things sitting on my living room floor that have been there for almost two months (and I'm not talking about furniture).
19.  I have gone skinny dipping.  Once.
20.  I played flag football for I think one game when I was a freshman in high school.  I did not perform well and the captain, a senior named Jimmy yelled at  me a lot.  I have never been very athletic.
21.  My first car was an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that used to belong to my grandparents. I think it was an '84 but I'm not sure.  It had great speakers which I'm sure my grandparents never put through their paces.  But I  sure did.  I remember pumping "New Sensation" by INXS in the parking lot of Lake Brantley High School during summer school chemistry and feeling like a pretty cool guy.
22. As a child,  I attempted to illustrate the entire Bible. My brother joined me in this endeavor. I don't know how far he got but I got all the way to Hagar and Ishmael. Unfortunately, I somehow lost all of the pictures I painstakingly drew and colored.
23. I once fell asleep while teaching.
24.While in the Netherlands,  I rode off on the back of the bicycle of a Dutch woman I'd met a few days before. Our evening ended in the early morning hours at a bar, when I decided to go back to the place where I was staying while she continued on to a nightclub with some friends.  I had no idea where I was, but I somehow made it back anyway.
25. I once drove over a thousand miles to see a girl. It did not end well.
26. I taught myself to swim.  I swim very inefficiently. I never put my face in the water unless I'm wearing a mask and snorkel. I used to swim for exercise several times a week in college.
27. I coached a middle school basketball team to a league championship. There were only five players on the team.  The moment when we won the championship was one of the best feelings I've ever had.
28. I have only had a room of my own for five years out of my entire life.  The two years before my brother was born and three years in college.
29.  I ran the San Francisco Marathon in 5 hours 45 minutes.  I had hoped to finish in 4 hours.  It's one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I'd like to try it again, with more consistent training because I believe I can achieve a much better time.
30.  I stole a pineapple from the Dole Pineapple Plantation in Hawaii. I'm not sure but I think that may be the only thing I've stolen.