Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Time to fly home

So many people come and go from the school for the deaf and yet Betsy has a brief send off in morning chapel for each group. This morning was our turn. I think Jim and I have been here enough times that we've been able to develop relationships with several of the students, especially James and Johanely. Johanely calls Jim "papa" in sign and me "grandpa" in sign. Jim communicates quite well with James and I think has become a surrogate father to him.

I think I speak for Jim as well when I say that this tiny little school for the deaf on this tiny little island of Puerto Rico has become more than just a place to come and do a little work and play in the ocean. It has truly become a soft spot in our heart of hearts. I thank God for the opportunity to come here and perhaps be a small example of His love for others.

I can't begin to say enough about the staff and the work they do here. They put in long hours making this school a place for the students to get an education and learn of the wonders of God. Each day I see the love that each staff member has for these children, scolding them one minute, and cradling many of them in their arms the next. They truly have a calling for the teaching of the deaf. God Bless each of you. You are doing an incredible job. I will continue to keep each of you and ESD in my prayers.

I can't thank Betsy enough for allowing me to come here and be a wee small part of their mission work and hope to continue to come and contribute in some small way.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Happy Birthday wishes go out to Uma Thurman who turned 38 today. (Tuesday) Uma Karuna Thurman, was born on April 29, 1970 in Boston, Mass. (The year I graduated from H.S.) Uma is an actress and model. She has stared in lots of movies including "Pulp Fiction", "Batman & Robin" as Poison Ivy, "Kill Bill" I & II, and "Get Shorty." Uma is currently single and living in Hyde Park, N.Y. with her two children, a son and daughter, from actor Ethan Hawke.

Uma was recently named a Knight of the Ordre des Arts Letteres of France for her outstanding achievements in the areas of art and Literature. So Happy Birthday Uma!!

Reverend Jeremiah Wright - Racist or Realist?

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, shown here in happier times with Barack Obama, has been used as a target to attack the presidential aspirations of Barack Obama by the mainstream media. And I read today on AOL that Barack Obama is further distancing himself from the good reverend to try to win votes.

I understand that Reverend Wright made an appearance on PBS Bill Moyers to defend himself and show people that he his neither a fanatic or an America hater. In an article on Smirking by Mike Whitney, he is described as "just an extremely well-read and principled man with an unshakable commitment to justice. Wright has also paid his dues; he's an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam when most of his critics were either hiding behind their student deferments or languishing in the "Champagne Unit" of the Texas National Guard. He's earned the right to say whatever he chooses"

So what has he said that is so fanatical? Here some excerpts of his sermons taken from the afore mentioned article by Mike Whitney. You be the judge.

"And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into position of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no. Not God bless America; God damn America!

"You know, you come into the average church on a Sunday morning and you think you've stepped from the real world into a fantasy world. And what do I mean by that" He said? Pick up the church bulletin. You leave a world, Vietnam, or today you leave a world, Iraq, over 4,000 dead, American boys and girls, 100,000 or 200,000 depending on which count, Iraqi dead. Afghanistan, Darfur, rapes in the Congo, Katrina, Lower Ninth Ward, that's the world you leave. And you come in; you pick up your church bulletin. It says, there is a ladies tea on second Sunday. He said, "How come the faith preached in our churches does not relate to the world in which our church members leave at the benediction?”

America has blood on its hands. America, as Martin Luther King said, "is the greatest perpetrator of violence in the world today."

So has the good reverend lied or misled the public with his remembering of the history of the U.S.? I think not. Does a lot of what was said not ring true in this country. I think so. The sad part now is that Barack Obama had a chance to stand up for something he apparently once believed in but traded his convictions for votes. That to me is the sad commentary of this whole episode. To criticize the U.S. Government and it's policies does not make one unpatriotic. If it weren't for critics we may be still paying taxes to Great Britain and the constitution would have just been a fleeting thought.
If you care to read the entire article by Mike Whitney go to

Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm going backwards now to try to catch up from the weekend adventures. So Saturday Jim, Betsy, Jenny, James, Julianna and I all went to Icacos Island. It is a small island a couple of miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. We paid $20 a head for a boat ride over to the island from Captain Miko. Capt. Miko let James drive the boat and based on his less than true course, I think we went about 5 miles to complete the 3 mile journey. Capt. Miko looked a lot like the author Hemingway.

We snorkeled around a coral reef for a couple of hours. It's the first time I have snorkeled and actually seen fish. There were lots of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I had a bit of trouble with my mask sealing and believe it's because of my beard. The water was warm and fairly clear. The coral was quite interesting to see and there was one type of coral called brain coral that looked just like the brain.

I learned that coral isn't a friend of the human skin. I skinned my right knee against a bit of coral and got quite an abrasion. I also learned that I am quite the klutz. I slipped on a wet rock while on a walk with James and landed on my stomach and both hands. I ended up with quite a boo-boo on my right pinkie where it was jammed between the rock and my camera. I also scraped my right knee some more and bruised my left wrist. Duh!!! I really only did it to get some of the crowd's sympathy away from Jim. He's been telling everyone who will listen how sick he is!!! (Thankfully he is felling pretty much his old self)

I also introduced James (student James) to skinny dipping. I was out in the water up to my shoulders and slipped off my swimming suit. Of course when James realized what I had done, he had to try it as well. In the first photo you can see James and me holding up our swimming suits. James thought it was quite enjoyable. The second photo shows me diving into the water. We later told James that I was shooting the moon and because of his dark skin he was an eclipse of the moon.

Except for my minor injuries, it was a quite nice day at the beach. It was a little overcast, but the water was real warm. As we drove home we could see black clouds ahead of us towards the area of the school. It started to rain slightly while on the way home, and was raining quite hard when we got home.

So, what do they do at the school when it is raining??? They wash their hair in the rain water coming off of the roof. Jim told me the rain water wasn't that cold, and actually quite refreshing. I didn't indulge as I am quite follicly challenged and didn't think I would get much of a benefit from the ritual.

A good time was had by all!!

Not a bad idea!!!!

If we vote for Chelsea, what do we call Bill and Hillary???
Sunday night I was blogging from the second story patio of the school watching an incredible thunder and lightning storm. The rain became so heavy that I had to move off of the patio because my computer was getting rained on. The thunder and lightning moved off to the north east but it continued to rain buckets. At one point it looked like it was raining sideways. It finally stopped about 12:30 in the morning.

This morning Jim and I had to run into town on an errand and on the way could see where the neighborhood rivers had overflowed their banks during the storm yesterday. The father of one of the students shared with me that his store was flooded overnight and he spent most of the morning cleaning up the mess. We had a couple of short bursts of rain today, but nothing like yesterday.

After the bell choir performed on Sunday, we were invited to the home of one of the families in the congregation for a pool/ocean party. It turned out to be an $800,000 condo in a complex right on the Caribbean Sea. This is a gated community with lots of expensive houses and condos. Last time I was in PR, we came here to go horseback riding on the beach. We were provided Dominoes pizza and salad for lunch. (Doesn't get any better than that!!) We swam in their community pool and also walked the 50 yards to the ocean to swim. The first photo below is the pool area looking towards the ocean and the second is just beyond the pool looking at the ocean. I even managed to catch 40 winks in a lounge chair beside the pool. It was a very nice afternoon.

This is the second time I've been in the Caribbean Sea swimming. It seems that the water is not as salty as the water in the Atlantic Ocean, which is the ocean we swim in from LaQuillo, or the Pacific Ocean. It's differently warmer than than both of them.

After showers and dinner, Betsy and I had a scrabble game, one on one, with no scrabble dictionaries. I won.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

ESD Bell Choir performance

It's been a busy, crazy weekend. Before I get into it all though, I have to tell you that I am sitting on the porch outside the dorms watching a thunder and lightning storm. We got home from our day at the beach at about 5:00 PM and it's been raining all evening. It's now 9:30 PM and the storm is getting going again. Thunder and lightning are really rocking the area. If it rained like this in SoCal, there would be big headlines on the news, "storm watch 08" and most everything would be flooded. Not to mention the usual idiot would jump into the storm drain and cause a several thousand dollar rescue by the fire department's swift water rescue team to be made on his behalf. Man the rain is really coming down in buckets now and the thunder and lightning are right on top of each other. I could watch this for hours!!!

This morning the ESD bell choir played at Jenny's church, the Palmas Community Church. ( I had never seen the bell choir do a performance and they put on quite a show. The first song the bell choir did was directed by their oldest student, James. He is 16 and has been at the school since he was 6.

Along with playing several songs on the bells, the students sign the words to the songs being sung by Teresa and Julissa, with Betsy on an electrical organ. Also along to lend a hand were Megan and Juliaanne, who played the bells, and of course Jenny who played the bells, led the students when they signed the songs, and assisted in directing the bell choir.

Jenny's church supplies lunch for the students at ESD as part of a missionary project. They provided us with lunch last Friday and it was delicious. While the mothers were cleaning up the kitchen, Betsy had four of the young girls who came with their moms come into the chapel and learn a brief song on the bells. The group played that song, with the help of the four daughters, while the offering was being taken. Their parents were quite surprised to find their children up there playing bells. Those four girls are shown in the photo above being directed by Jenny.

And then there is Betsy. Betsy, shown above directing, played some bells during the song that James directed, directed the group for a couple of songs, played the organ for a few songs, and even provided a message for the children of the congregation. Betsy is truly amazing. We'll learn more about here in another posting.

As for Jim and I, we got to be roadies. You know, the unsung heroes who set up and tear down stages and equipment for rock groups. We assisted in unloading our stuff, which included tables, bells, music stands, and music books. We worked up quite a sweat in that humid PR weather.

Another fellow was unloading sound equipment for the church so I offered to give him a hand. This "fellow" turned out to be the pastor. It's a small congregation and he sets up the sound equipment, chairs, fans etc. before church. I didn't realize who he was until he got up to lead the worship service.

In my humble opinion, the performance was a huge success. I'm glad I finally got to hear them perform. I had heard them practice many times, but this was the first time I got to see it all put together. "Great Job" goes out to not only the students, but the staff who worked so hard to put it all together.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A typical day at ESD

A typical day at the Evangelical School for the Deaf starts at 8:00 AM with the raising of the United States and Puerto Rican flags. The pledge of allegiance is done in sign language. As you can see white shirts or blouses and navy blue pants or skirts are the order of the day. You may also notice that the ages of the students range from 4 years old up to 16 years old, and are pretty evenly boys and girls.

The group then moves to the chapel for a brief worship service. This service usually consists of 2-3 praise songs, prayer time, and messages. Some Fridays a local pastor, Mr. Mota, comes and gives a sermon in sign language. The students take turns assisting in leading the songs and prayer time, and leading the service rotates amoung the staff members. I learned early on in my first visit that all staff and visitors/workers are strongly encouraged to attend morning chapel and participate in signing the songs with the students.

Students divide up and go to their classrooms according to ages. The students learn the same subjects as the public schools, including reading, writing, and arithmatic. The teacher to student ratio is 3 or 4 students to one teacher.

The students and staff eat together in the dinning room area. Meals are prepared by staff, and in some cases, meals are prepared by members of local churches as a missionary project for the church. I've found that these deaf children, like so many hearing children, don't like to eat their vegatables.

After lunch there is a time for the students to stretch their legs and run off some energy. This photo is of my good friend Jillisa who is involved in a wheel chair race with one of the students.

In the afternoon the students practice for the bell choir. It's believed that this is the only deaf bell choir in the world. It's quite amazing to hear the music that these students make and they can't hear it themselves.

The day ends at 3:30 PM when the students are collected by their parents.

This is Teresa, another new friend here at the school for the deaf. Teresa is from the great state of Michigan. Teresa has a degree in education for the deaf and has been here in Puerto Rico for a couple of months. She hasn't made a decision as to whether she will return for the next school year in August or not as she's on a leave of absence from another position. She tells me she doesn't know where the Lord will lead her, but she is faithful to follow his direction.

She is also trained to be an interpreter for the deaf, which as I understand it, is no small feat. Teresa seems to interact well with the students. She is a real sweety and is the kind of girl you would hope your son would bring home to meet the parents. God bless you Teresa and thanks for your service.

Tonight is "girls night out" and so Jim and I took James to dinner while all the teachers went to dinner in San Juan with a group of lady missionaries from the San Juan area. James is one of the students who stays here in the dorms over the weekends from time to time.

We set out to get pinchos from Peggy and Jerry's but they were closed. I'm so disappointed!! We ended up at this seaside restaurant, which is the same one I ate octopus at last trip. We didn't have Betsy to help us order so we kinda winged it. We ended up with an assortment of seafood, including I am told, conch, octopus, and shrimp. It was quite yummy. On the way home, we stopped at 31 Flavors and had a small bite of ice cream.

Scrabble update

In the true spirit of good sportsmanship, and fair and impartial reporting, I'm forced to admit that I got my butt kicked in scrabble last night. Truth be told, I came in third. I lost to the teams of Jenn/Betsy and Jim/Jillisa. Megan came in fourth. It was close for awhile, I say in my own defense, but Jenn/Betsy used all their tiles first and then got points for each of the tiles we had left over. I'm sure this won't be the last of the scrabble games and I'll be sure to keep you posted on the on-going saga.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Can't wait for the new Indiana Jones movie to come out!!!

Latest campaign slogans

Who should brew the coffee??

I received this, among many man/woman jokes, from my little sister Kathy. Thanks Kathy!!

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.

The wife said, 'You should do it because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee.

The husband said, 'You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.'

Wife replies, 'No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.'

Husband replies, 'I can't believe that, show me.'

So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says 'HEBREWS'

This is one of my new friends here at the deaf school. This is Megan. I met Megan for the first time last summer when she was here at the deaf school with a work party from Kentucky. That work group, including Megan, painted everything in sight the aqua blue and white you see in the background.

Megan has come back to the school to assist in the classroom and "other assorted duties" as needed. I believe she is considering coming back for a whole year starting in the new school year in August. Megan has a great heart and is a real hard worker. She is truly a joy to be around.

I'm sorry I haven't had much of an opportunity to post on my blog. Jim has been working me to death. Speaking of Jim, he is doing much better. He went to see an urologist Wednesday morning and he was given several medications to assist him in passing his kidney stone. He was also told to drink lots of fluids to help it pass. There is no time table as to when the blessed event will occur.

As you can see from the photo, Jim's kidney stone hasn't kept him from the beach. This photo was taken Wednesday when we went. On the right is Megan and Jenny, and on the left is Jillisa, Teresa, and Betsy.

Thursday morning we had to take another school participant to the doctor. This time it was Lilly, who sustained a large gash in her left forearm. We believe she was probably fighting with one of the local iguanas and got hit by it's tail. Oh by the way, Lilly is one of their dogs. We took it to the vet who prescribed some kind of antibiotic spray to spray on the wound four times a day.

Last night I defended my scrabble championship in a rousing game after dinner. Speaking of dinner, Juliaanne spent the afternoon making spaghetti sauce from scratch and we had a wonderful spaghetti dinner last night. Anyway, I played scrabble against teams of Jim/Megan and Jenn and Betsy. I wupt 'em all.

We just got back from the beach and I need to jump into the shower before we go to church at the local Baptist Maranatha Church. I'll write more later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Back in Puerto Rico

Yes siree, folks. I'm back in Puerto Rico. Only for a week this time. I arrived this evening (Tuesday) and was met by my good buddy Jim and a new teacher named Megan. It's just like I left it with the temperature in the 80's and not too humid. I'm back in my same old room in the boy's dorm with Jim one door down.

My trip was uneventful for the most part. I had to travel through Dallas/Ft. Worth airport which is always a trial for me it seems. Today was no different. I arrived in Dallas at gate A20 something and learned that my connector flight was leaving from gate D-17. You have to take a small tram from one area to the next so I climbed on the tram and made my way over to section D. When it was about time to board, I learned that the flight was moved to gate A-23!! So I traveled back across the airport on the tram to catch my flight. We left about 30 minutes late, but still managed to get here pretty close to the predicted arrival time. It would have been a complete disaster if I hadn't gotten a frosty drink from Starbucks on the way to section D. :-)

I arrived her in PR to find that my friend Jim had taken ill. He spent last night in the local ER only to find out he had a kidney stone on the move. He has to return to see another Dr. tomorrow to have a better look at the situation. I'm convinced that Jim is not sick but using this elaborate scheme to get out of work while I'm here this week. I know what you're thinking, not the Jim we know and love. Well, he tried a similar scheme on our last trip trying to make me think he lost his credit card so I would have to pay the expenses coming home from Washington. He even had his family in on the last one. Well, this one is even worse. He has fake prescription bottles and is telling me how sick he is. I mean, Pleeeeease!!!!!!!

I've just seen my first mosquito so I'm sure the alarm has been sent out that there is fresh meat in the area. I guess I had better get to bed. I have to get up early tomorrow morning to take Jim to some other fake Dr. with the fake Xrays he has, for a second opinion. Fake Xrays!!! Does the man have no shame!!!!!

All kidding aside, Jim did have a kidney stone attack last night and has to see an urologist in the morning for further consultation. So for those of you who pray, please keep my friend Jim in your prayers. Hopefully he can keep this thing under control until he gets back to the States so it doesn't decide to take another trip while we are flying home. Plus after listening to his description of his visit to the local ER, we don't want to have to depend on them for something major. I'm told you bring your own pillow and blankets to the hospital!!! We often don't realize how blessed we are in the good ol' US of A.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A few of my Favorite Things

Song to the tune by the same name from the Sound of Music

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knittin',
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittin's,
Bundles of magazines tied up with string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs, cataracts, hearing aids, glasses,
Polident, Fixodent, false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
Then I remember my favorite things
and then I don't feel so bad

Hot tea and crumpets,
and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food
and no food with onions,
Bathrobes and heat pads
and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pains,
confused brains,
and no fear of sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures
and hair that is thinnin'.
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache,
When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Passover Seder

On Saturday evening Karen and I were honored by being invited to my son Scott and his partner Bruce's home for a Seder meal. A Seder meal is a Jewish ritual feast celebrated on usually the first or second night of the Jewish holiday Passover. The Seder meal is celebrated in remembrance of the freeing of the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.

The meal involves reading the story of the exodus from Egypt from a book called the Haggadah. During the ceremony there are prayers, songs song in both English and Hebrew, lots of wine, and specific foods (see photo) are eaten to symbolize certain events. It was all very interesting to participate in. All this was followed by an incredible meal the included matzo ball soup and brisket. A great time was had by all.

New license plate cover

Happy Birthday Ashley Judd

Happy Birthday wishes go out to Ashley Judd who turned 4o years old yesterday (Sat). She was born Ashley Tyler Ciminella in Granada Hills, California. Her mother is famous country western singer Naomi Judd and her sister is also a famous country western singer Wyonna Judd.

Her parents divorced when she was very young and she did most of her growing up in Kentucky. Ashley is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Kentucky with a major in French and women's studies. Ashley is married to Indy car driver, Dario Franchitti.

She has been in many movies, most memorable for me was "Double Jeopardy." She also worked as a model and is currently designing her own line of clothing. Happy Birthday Ashley!!

Weekend home improvement project

Hello everyone. I've been busy most of the weekend working on a home improvement project - repairing my wood fence on the front of my house. Thank Goddess Corey came to my rescue and helped me out.

You can see the before photo on a previous post and here are the during and after photos. We didn't even spill any blood. It did take three trips to the hardware store as one bag of cement wasn't enough to fill the post hole and one box of screws wasn't enough to fasten all the fence slats to the frame.

The real test for the fence will come when the next Santa Ana winds blow, which hopefully won't be until next fall.

I also wasn't able to get on the computer on Saturday because Verizon was here re-wiring the house for their new fiber optic system.

The fence actually looks pretty good in this photo. Fortunately you can't see the frame on the back, which isn't exactly square. The fence had to be sloped at one end because of the slope in our yard for rain runoff.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fence Repairs!!!

I know, I know, it's quite disturbing to think of me doing home repairs. Even more so to think that I had a hammer in my hand. Don't tell my parole officer!!

I am repairing my fence at the front of my house. One the posts was suffering from water damage and the fence was pretty unstable. So I'm replacing the post and putting up new fence slats. I still need to pour a little cement into the post hole. Those of you who pray may want to keep me in your prayers tomorrow as I will have an electric saw and drill out. Oh my!!