Sunday, November 2, 2014

The book is out.

Hello my Friends,

  I appreciate all of you that have read the blog over the last few years.  I have finally finished the ebook version and want to share it with you.  In the ebook version, you don't just get my perspective, but the views of the rest of my family.  Claire, Taylor and Cecelia have entries as well.  I think you will find it refreshing and interesting.  The link to the book is below.  Thanks for continuing to read.


Rusty Oetinger

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Last Entry is The Hardest

One of my favorite places.  It was amazingly serene. 
My friends, I am sorry that I have not posted to the blog recently.  I have been very busy of course as I have mentioned in earlier blogs with school and golf, but that really isn't the reason that I am behind.  The biggest reason is I couldn't really bring myself to write my last post.  This has been such an amazing experience for me.  The year in China was almost indescribable, but sharing with my friends and family was a physical and mental pleasure that I will miss immensely.  I want to take a moment to thank all of you that kept up regularly.  I never really had any idea how many people would read my writing, so I have been pleasantly surprised to discover nearly 10,000 people from all over the world have read my blog.  So, thank you again for your patience with my growth as a writer.
  This final blog is going to focus on what we learned while we were in Southeast Asia.  I am going to describe in words a few topics and then I have created a video to go along with those topics.  I will warn you that trying to squeeze a retrospective of a year living in Southeast Asia into a video is a daunting task.  I got it down to less than 20 minutes, but I think it will be worth your time.  The link will be included at the end of the blog.  With that said, I am going to dive into this final blog head first!!!!

THE PEOPLE:  If I have said it once, I will say it as long as I live, "The Greatest Asset to Southeast Asia are The People".  Everywhere we went we were treated with great respect and courtesy.  The people went out of their way to make us feel welcome and were genuinely happy to get to know us.  By immersing ourselves in the culture of China, we experienced things that other expats have not.  By becoming friends and trying to learn as much of the language and culture, we were treated to meals in homes, personal guides to festivals, and friendships that will last a lifetime.  Spending Chinese New Year's Eve with my close friend Michael and his mother, brother and immediate family is something that we will not soon forget.  My friend David taught me about the corporate and local government world.  Finally, my friend Ken gave me a lesson in capitalism and getting to know the US Consulate Office.  These were experiences that I never would have dreamt of at all.  Who would have thought that I had to go to China to party with Obama's brother or have martini's with the Under Secretary of Commerce.  Wonders will never cease to exist.  The people of Thailand and the Philippines were not any different.  No offense to government officials, but I think that if everyday people without egos ran governments, the world would be a happier place.  I'm just saying!!!

THE COUNTRY:  The country is amazing.  There are so many wonders to see that it would take years to experience it all.  We did see quite a bit, but if I had the opportunity I would want to visit upper Mongolia and the Tibet Region.  What we did see awed and amazed us.  The history is so deep and varied that it is hard to imagine the people knowing all of it.  We only have to remember roughly 237 years of history, they have to know thousands of years.  Yet, with thousands of years of history, they haven't forgotten and actually appreciate the failures and successes.  They have a pride in their history that I  can only hope we continue to develop in our society.  I could have spent a few weeks walking through Xi'an.  They say that all of Chinese history began in Xi'an.  The middle of the city is dedicated to the history of the country of China.  There is so much to absorb there that it is mind boggling.

Many types of Sea Cucumbers
THE FOOD:  What can I say about the food, but incredible!!!!  The amazing thing we learned was that you really know fresh food when you have it regularly.  Every restaurant we ate at would buy the ingredients that morning from the open air market.  It really made a difference.  Along with Chinese food, we really learned to love Thai, Vietnamese and Indian food.  If you are wondering if we ate any exotic things while we were away, King Cobra and Bull's Penis are at the top of the list.  Our favorite dishes were spicy green beans and Japanese Eggplant stuffed with pork.  Ooh,   Yum!!!!  Finally, we learned that Chinese food varies widely with the province in which a person visits.  In our area, fish and vegetables were the norm, while in the north toward Beijing and Xi'an it was comfort food that was primary to the palates of many.  They ate a lot of soup and bread.  By the way, the Donkey at China Burger was very good as well.  On the other hand, I did write to Starbucks one day to thank them for their consistent products.  A Venti No Foam Latte is the same in Hong Kong, Xi'an, Thailand and all the large cities in China as it is in our little town of Oakhurst.  Now that is what I call comfort food.

Heavenly Pagoda
THE CULTURE AND TRADITIONS:  There is a lot of faith and hope in China.  Learning and understanding about Buddhism was interesting.  The Christian Churches are thriving and helping those that are thirsty for the Word.  This was the biggest surprise to us.  We found a church that we loved and didn't have to hide in a basement to worship.
  Chinese New Year lived up to all that we had heard about.  It is an experience that none of us will forget.  My friends were excited to share with us about the traditions associated with this holiday.
  Finally, it was fun to learn about the other holidays that we had not heard about, like the October and Dragon Boat Festival.  We can honestly say that Moon Cake is probably the worst thing that all of us have eaten in our lives.

  ADVENTURES OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY:  Having traveled to Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and the Philippines while on our adventure,
Ko Samui
we met many different people and were greeted as warmly as living in China.  The adventures and education about each area was invaluable.  This was  a great surprise that we didn't expect when we chose to partake in this excursion.  In the end, despite all that we saw and learned, it was the people that made us appreciate our experience the most.

  FINAL THOUGHT:  It is difficult to put into words all that we learned.  I can only hope that as the year went along and I shared my thoughts with you that I was expressing newly learned knowledge.  Finally, Cecelia and I agree that we have also learned to say NO to some things and to take time to really be mindful and rest.  Who knew that it would take a trip to China for me to learn this lesson.
  It has been a great pleasure sharing with you and I hope that I have inspired you to share your adventures with others as I have.  Blessings to all of you.

BY THE WAY:  A publisher has asked that we turn the blog into a book and add the journal content from emails that Cecelia was sending weekly and entries from both Claire and Taylor.  Look for the O's Odyssey in a bookstore near you soon.

This is the link to my final video, enjoy!!!  It is a little long, but worth it.  It was difficult squeezing a year long adventure into a few moments.  What We Learned in Pictures

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Remembrance and Reflection

California Gold
  The blog this week is about remembering friends and reflecting about what we learned while teaching school in China.  This is one of the last blogs I will post.  If it takes me two blogs to complete my reflection about China, then I may add one extra.  Anyway, this is my reflection about school.

  SCHOOL:  Many people ask us the question about how was it teaching in China.  Basically it was outstanding.  Not for many of the reasons that you might think.
  First:  The schedules that we had were not anywhere near as taxing or demanding as what we do here in America.  While my schedule was extremely light, Cecelia's was a bit more difficult.  Despite the differences though, it gave us the opportunity to rest and recharge.

  Next:  While working with Southeast Asia students, we found them to be diligent and hard working, but yet they have a difficult time being creative and developing their own opinions.  They are very good about parroting back information given to them, but ask them to think outside of the box and they will struggle.

Finally:  Teachers and students gear themselves to learn the test.  I mean they study the actual exams that they will be taking to either move to the next grade or to get into a college prepatory school.  I experienced the worst form of teaching to the test for six weeks.

Typical Central Coast Morning in August.  The beauty is in the diversity of the area.

  ADVENTURES:  Enough about education.  I could have reflected more but there are more important things to focus on instead of school.
  This last weekend we spent some time relaxing a bit.  The first week of school and golf practice found us pushing pretty hard to get back in the swing of things.  So, we took some time and went to surprise our friend Julie Amodei in Cambria.  She was having a remembrance for her late husband and our good friend John Amodei.  John passed away at too young of an age from Melanoma.  Julie had planned the event a few weeks ago, but with getting back in the house and getting ready for school, we were not sure that we would be able to make it.  In the end, we felt like we needed to take some down time and this would be the perfect opportunity to do so.  We were supposed to RSVP, but we figured it wouldn't be a big deal if we crashed the party.
An area near Harmony
  On Saturday morning, we took some time to get things ready at the house for the upcoming week and then headed out around 11:30.  It was a pleasant drive and we made it to Paso Robles around 2.  We had not eaten lunch, but as we were making the last part of our trek I spied a gourmet roach coach parked in front of the Peachy Canyon Winery.  I had recently read an article that talked about some of the great food being served by the roach coaches.  We were not to be disappointed.  I had Thai Pulled Pork Tacos.  Cecelia had a BBQ's brisket sandwich and finally Taylor and Claire had Tri Tip.  All the lunches had an amazing garden salad that went with them as well.  When we received our lunches,  we took our lunches to the picnic area of the winery.  We found a nice shady spot on the grass and dove into our culinary delights.  To top off our amazing lunch experience, the winery had live music that was outstanding.  I made the mistake of laying down in the grass to enjoy the shade and the music.  Let's just say that it is a good thing that we didn't have the winery open either of the bottles of wine that we bought.  I may have never made it out of that place.  It reminded me of a line from Hotel California.  "You may check in anytime you want, but you may never leave".
  Fortunately we did leave and made our way to the party to see our friends in Harmony.  It was a great time and we really did surprise Julie.  She was so grateful and appreciative that we came.  We were remaniscing about the last time that we were there at her place.  It was almost exactly a year to the weekend that we came and visited with her, just before we got on a plane to China.
Lacy is so Zen!!!
  We then had dinner with some of Julie's friends and family, as well as with Heather Archer and Greg Uzell.  All of our kids were there as well.  It was quite the rowdy group at the Mexican Restaurant in which we ate in Cambria.
  After dinner, we headed out to try and find a hotel for the night.  All of the rooms were booked in the beach towns and Paso Robles, so we ended up staying at a Comfort Inn that I knew about in Atascadero.
Warming the feet by the fire after a swim!!
  The next morning woke up to a glorious morning.  The sky was clear and the air had the smell of the beach in it.  We headed toward the beach and were soon to discover that our glorious morning just turned into a typical fog choked summer day at the beach.  We drove up the coast and fortunately the farther we went, the clearer it got.  By the time we arrived in Cambria to buy breakfast burritos for the beach, the sun had almost peaked out.  We were meeting our friend Heather at the beach and bringing the coffee and breakfast.  The girls wanted to spend some time climbing on the dunes, running on the sand, and swimming in the frigid water.  We had a wonderful time with Heather and her daughter Lacy at the beach, but after the polar bear plunge the girls were ready for a warm bath.  They had their bath and then it was time for us to head for home.  We said our goodbyes and made our way to the car for our return road trip.  It was a great family time and we made a couple of stops at roadside stands to break up the trip back.  One of the things that I think Cecelia and I really learned while we were in China, is to take the time to be mindful and enjoy peace when we are presented with it.  It was definitely a peaceful and mindful weekend.
  Next week will be the beginning of the end.  So sad, but it has been totally worth it.  Enjoy the last few weeks.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back To The Grind Stone

A nice warm rock for the end of summer
  My Friends, this last week found us looking to one last fling before returning back to school.  We didn't have a fling, but we did have some fun with family and friends.  So, enjoy the last of our summer.

SCHOOL:  This week Cecelia and I spent time off and on trying to prepare for our classes.  On Monday, Cecelia went to her classroom to begin the process of unpacking, and I met with my friend Bob Collins to discuss my new E.A.S.T. ( Environmental And Spacial Technology) class.  Wednesday, Cecelia had to officially report for meetings at her school.  I was then submitted to the same agony on Thursday.  I know, I can tease about having to be back at school, but we were both greeted warmly and spent a bit of time presenting to our respective staffs about what we learned while teaching in China.  The thing that we both emphasized was that we believe that we work with some of the best teachers in the world and wanted to encourage them to keep doing what they do, because they make a big difference in kids' lives everyday.
  The rest of the weekend was spent getting bulletin boards and other items up in our new classrooms so that we could feel at home.  We were both looking to the beginning of the new school year.
The last of summer Freedom!!!!!!!!
ADVENTURES:  As well as getting prepared for school, we did have some fun.  My brother Mark and his daughter Morgan were in town for a visit.    On Sunday, we had a leisurely morning and then
One last plunge!!
took them to Willow Creek and the Toilet Bowl.  This is one of our favorite places to go on a hot day.  We had a great time rock hopping and then swimming in the Toilet Bowl to cool off.  I have included a couple of pictures to show you the Toilet Bowl.  It is better seen than described.  One thing that I would like to note is that the water level is so low, you cannot see the swirling action that it normally has in it.  Usually there is a small waterfall that flows into the bowl and creates a swirling motion just like a toilet.  I have always wanted to ask someone that might know, "If the Toilet Bowl were in the Southern Hemisphere, would it swirl the opposite direction?"  Hmmm.  We then finished off the evening with dinner at our new favorite restaurant, The South Gate Brewing Company.   Monday after the meeting I mentioned earlier,  I returned home and picked Mark and the girls up and we headed out to the golf course.  Mark, Claire and I played almost  9 holes.
On top of Fresno Dome with our new friends Travis and Johnny from China
Taylor joined us for a couple of holes and Morgan hit some chip shots.  All in all, we had an enjoyable time with the kids out on the golf course.  I had to leave a little early to meet a few of the girls from my golf team.  While I met with them, Cecelia arrived and took Morgan and Taylor to the pool.  Claire and Mark continued a very competitive round together then joined the girls.  When I finished my meeting, I went and got Mark out of the pool and he and I went to finish our round of golf.  It turned out to be a beautiful evening and we enjoyed the time spent together.
Uncle Mark and the girls
There are beautiful places in the world, but sometimes in the late evening when the sun is setting at our golf course and the fairways and greens are dappled with the golden glow of the sunset, I am not sure there is a more peaceful place.
  Tuesday morning, we got up and met some new Chinese friends.  Their names are Travis and Johnny.  Travis is from the upper Mongolian region of China and Johnny lives in Shanghai.  They are a couple of boys that are staying here and attending our high school this year.  I had volunteered to introduce them to our surrounding mountain area and took them on a hike to the top of Fresno Dome.  So after packing a lunch for Mark, the girls and I, we headed up to the mountain.
Is there a giant statue at the top????
 It took us about 45 minutes to get there.  When we arrived, we were pleased to discover that we were the only people hiking at that time.  It was a pleasant hike for everyone and not overly taxing for the boys.  They kept commenting that they had never been in mountains so high.  When we arrived at the top of Fresno Dome, they were amazed by the view.  Johnny exclaimed that it was "Spectacular!!!"  We stayed on top for about half an hour and then made our way down.  When we returned to town, we bought them yogurt.  Both boys were tired, but very appreciative for the experience.
  Later that evening when Cecelia arrived home, it was time for me to say goodbye to Mark and Morgan.  I had to leave for a special treat that my good friend Fred Clevenger had arranged for me to share the next day in San Francisco.  So I departed with a kiss from my wife and girls and headed to Sacramento to spend the evening with my brother Paul and his wife Shannon.  I made it to their home in time to have some awesome white bean Chili, Bree Bread, and Beer.  It was an outstanding way to end an incredible day.
  So Wednesday I woke up very early and headed for San Francisco to meet my friend Fred.  I was picking him up near Fisherman's Wharf and then heading to The Olympic Club to play golf.  Fred had been invited to play the club while I was away in China and was told that he could bring a friend.  I of course was that friend.  I can't tell you how grateful and excited I was to be playing the golf course that held the U.S. Open a few years ago.  I just wanted to have a great experience and play well.  I achieved both.  The company was outstanding and I only shot two over par.  I couldn't have asked for a better day.  After our golf experience, I dropped Fred off in the city and then I headed for home.  I couldn't stay the night, because I had to be ready to be at school first thing in the morning for meetings.
  The rest of the week I described in the SCHOOL section, but I did want to tell you a proud father story.
Great form kid!!!
Lining it up for Birdie
On the weekend, Claire played in her first two day, 18 hole tournament.  It was held at our golf course and there were kids from all over Central California competing.  Claire played in the first flight which is designated for kids that have higher handicaps.  She had said she wanted to play and we talked with her about not having any expectations.  While in China, she did not get very many opportunities to play and so we wanted her to do her best, but focus on having fun.  She did just that and surpassed her own expectations.  She also gave us a glimpse of how talented she could be as a golfer.  On the front nine of her first round she started playing very relaxed and began hitting shots that we had not ever seen her hit. When the front nine was done, she had shot a score of 41.  This was an incredible score considering  she was playing with two high school players, one of which is arguably the best player in the Central Valley at this age.  She was only behind that girl by two strokes and she was actually ahead of the other player.  Unfortunately, she got tired in the heat and finished with a 50 on the back to complete a round of 91.  This is outstanding, since she had never broke the score of 100.

Tay preparing for next time.
The next day she didn't play quite as well, but was very tired from walking the 18 holes in the heat the previous day.  Even though she was tired, she broke 100 again and shot 98.  By the way, she shot the 98 while playing with two high school sophomores and actually finished the tournament ahead of one of them.  We were so proud of her and she was genuinely excited and pleased with herself.
  I must tell you, it truly is a miracle and gift from God to have the opportunity to watch your kids grow and mature in front of your eyes.  I feel blessed to have these experiences and to be given the awareness to appreciate the moments as well.  I know many of you that are parents have experienced these feelings, but it is truly an amazing feeling that cannot be replaced by anything.
  Next week will be the beginning of the end of The O's Odyssey to China.  The first week will focus on comparing the first week of school and education to that in China.  The final week will be a compilation of things that we saw and pictures that I did not have a chance to share in other blogs.  See you next week.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finally It Feels Like Home!!!!

The newest addition to the family
  Hello to all.  This week helped us to feel like we are finally getting back to normal, that is if you can ever call our normal lives normal.

SCHOOL:  Cecelia and I began the process of going back to school and preparing for the upcoming year.  Usually as a high school teacher I don't make my way back to campus until the week before, but this year is different.  I have a couple of new subjects and instead of one classroom to get ready, I have two.  The reason I have two is because I am teaching math, which is typical for me, and I am teaching a class called E.A.S.T..  Before your imagination runs wild with the E.A.S.T. acronym, it is not an on campus covert spy operation.  The acronym means Environmental and Spacial Technology.  The class is basically an open technology class in which students use their talents to do projects for non profits and community activities.  I am really excited about teaching this class.  It is the kind of class that allows my creative and entrepreneureal juices to flow together.
The girls and their new dog
  Cecelia is not sure what she will be teaching.  She is either going to be teaching a 4/5 combo class or just a class of fifth graders.  She is hoping for the latter.  So far she had made it as far as cleaning out her classroom.  This next week will focus on decorating and curriculum.
  Enough about school.

ADVENTURES:  The week started off with us having a surprise guest.  As I was sitting down to have a cup of coffee and peruse my email and various social media sites, I heard a big commotion in the horse corral.  So, I ran down to investigate.  Sometimes we have coyotes that come and cause trouble with the horses so I expected to just chase them off as usual.  When I arrived at the corral the horses were there and then to my surprise there was a baby fawn as well.  Apparently the coyotes were trying to get the fawn and the horses protected it.  As I approached the corral the horses came up to me and to my amazement so did the fawn.  I petted the horses and then reach down to see if I could pet the fawn.  Not only could I pet it, but it came up and began sucking on my fingers.  At this point I began looking around to see if the mom was anywhere.  I could not find her so I picked the fawn up and took it up to the house.  I was concerned that the coyotes were lurking nearby and I didn't want to give them an easy meal.

Now this is the way to Party!!!!!
The rest of the week we spent getting ready for our party on Saturday.
   At our home we have created an atmosphere that is open and spacious.  So after spending the last three weeks cleaning and fixing, the way we like to celebrate is with an Open House Party.  The party this week was for all of our friends that wanted to come and hang out to either learn about China or to just have some Thai food.  It wasn't all Thai food, Taylor made home bouza's and a number of friends brought a variety of different foods.  We had a wonderful time and it was great just hanging out with some of our friends that we had not seen since our return.
  A really big bonus to the week and to the party was the family that came and stayed in the Caboose.  They were the Baily family from Riverside.  When they arrived, we introduced ourselves and immediately the kids hit it off and we shared stories like we were old friends.  Now the real ironic thing about this family is that not only do they have two blonde daughters, (Julia and Elizabeth) but the parents were also school teachers.  Now that might seem like a big deal to most people, but the eerie thing is that the husbands name is Rusty and he was a high school teacher and coach.  His wife Judy (You thought I was going to say Cecelia didn't you?) was an elementary and jr. high teacher as well.  They are no longer teachers because Rusty has moved onto other interesting areas, namely being the new Mayor of Riverside.  His wife stays at home to take care of the girls and be the support staff for the mayor.  It was great getting to know them and we promised to either visit them in Riverside or have them come back to stay.  For Mayor Rusty, we told him that he could consider this his camp Rusty.  (You know, like camp David is for the President.)
  Finally, late that evening my brother Mark arrived with his daughter Morgan.  They had come for a visit for a few days.
  So, what might seem like a crazy weekend actually helped us to feel like home was getting back to normal.  We built our house with sweat, tears, blood and love.  It doesn't truly feel like home unless we are sharing food, drink and laughter with family and friends.  There is nothing better!!!!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jumping Back in with Both Feet!!!

The Guest House
  Well this week was all about getting things back together and transitioning into our lives in Oakhurst.

  SCHOOL:  It's back.  For those of you that have been following along, this section has been missing for a few weeks.  But alas, it must return.  Even though it has returned, it isn't all that exciting.  The only thing to report is the coaches' meeting that I had to attend on Thursday evening.  Even though it feels a little soon to be jumping back into the fray, I have felt the internal excitement that I get this time of year to see my girls golf team and begin the process of steering the girls toward being good golfers and fine young women in our community.  Despite being gone for the year, we have a promising outlook to repeat as league champions once again.  This would be our tenth in a row.

My Old Project
  ADVENTURES:  This week's adventures are centered around getting involved in some of the things that we did before we took our Odyssey to China.  So it started with Claire going to soccer practice to try out with the travel soccer team.  She also decided that she was enjoying golf and wanted to enter an upcoming tournament.  With her entering the tournament, it means practice everyday until then.  She then spent the night with some friends and has been inundated with invitations to get together.
  Cecelia continued her quest to get our house back into shape.  With new carpet and light bulbs replaced, she went on a quest to wash or paint every square inch on the inside of the house.  By the end of the weekend, she only had two rooms to finish.

  Taylor spent the week doing technology things, like setting up two computers in her room on her own.  She did ask me for help at one point, but I was busy and then the next thing I know she didn't need my help after all.  She had them connected and hooked without me.
  I on the other hand did what I do best.  I played golf four days in a row and made a deal to start our newest project.  I am not going to tell you what it is, but I will include a picture and you can guess.
Guess What this is going to be!!!!!
  This is a very short blog, but I will be saving up as we head into school in a couple of weeks.
  I am a little saddened by the approaching end to my blog.  I have never really enjoyed writing, but it has given me a pleasure that I never thought I would experience.  The last blog will be a recap of our experience and some thoughts on what we have learned from our adventure.
  I have a couple of requests before I end the blog.  The first is to ask you to share the blog with your friends.  I have a selfish reason behind this request and it doesn't have anything to do with anything, other than my own pleasure.  When I started the blog, I didn't really think that anyone would read it other than my friends back home.  But over time, I have made many new friends world wide and I have received some great comments from people I had never met.  Their comments helped to inspire me to keep writing.  So with that being said I would like to end the blog with 10,000 reads worldwide.  It is not a big number at all in the big scheme of things, but it would give me a real sense of satisfaction.  Other blogs get hundreds of thousands of readers and followers in comparison so I am asking for help with this one little thing.
  The other request I will be describing to you in the next couple of weeks is going to be about helping with a project in the Philippines.
  So until next week, I leave you with the puzzle of what my next project at home will be.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Home Cooking and Horse Racing!!!!

Time to go surfing!!!
  This week I come to you from home again.  After a wonderful week spent in Solana Beach with Cecelia's parents, we have returned to continue the process of getting our home back in shape and settle back into a regular routine.  We had a wonderful time down south with friends, home cooking and the horse races.

  After sharing with you last week in which we went to the beach and visited with cousins, we had an outstanding time with Mom and Dad the rest of the week.
  Claire and I took Dad to the local executive golf course.  Dad had not played golf in a year and a half.  It was great to see him walking up and down the hills feeling confident in his balance.  He hit some good shots and really spent the time easing back into the game.  Being on the golf course with him is always a time that I cherish.  I guess you could say that it has been our regular man time together.  Having Claire with us didn't take away from our time together, it actually enhanced it.  Claire and I had a match against each other and she was playing well, so grandpa had a great time watching her and giving her encouragement when the match came down to the finish.  Claire beat me soundly and I had to pay up by taking her to Jamba Juice.
I'll Race Coach
  Over the weekend, we went to Church with Mom and Dad at St. James Church.  It was nice to return to the site of so many lovely Sundays and the home of our wedding.  The service was excellent as usual and we met some friends that we had not seen in a long time.  One of those friends was Joan Bear.
  Joan Bear has been a family friend for many years.  She and her husband, Ted were very significant people in our lives when we met and dated.  Ted was the Deacon that did my annulment so that we could get married at St. James.  He and I had many heart to heart discussions about faith, love and family.  He was an outstanding man and I am the better man for our meeting.  Joan and Ted always treated Cecelia and me like we were family.  We have loved every opportunity to spend time with them.
  Anyway, after seeing Joan at the Church she invited the girls and us to come and see her new race horse the next day.
 The rest of the day was spent watching the Open Championship in Scotland.  It was great watching Phil Mickelson win his first Open Championship.  He is a great family man.  I really appreciate the way he opens up and shares how he feels about family and winning.  It is nice to know that there are people out there that still value winning and appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into being successful.
After that, we finished with a nice meal at a local fish house that Mom and Dad love to go to for fish tacos.
Aw, that's a good boy
  On Monday, Claire, Taylor, Mom and I spent the day at one of my favorite beaches.  It was the best weather of the week and we had a wonderful time swimming, surfing and boogie boarding together at a place called Pipes.  Pipes has always been one of the places that gives me the feeling of being home.  When I was a high school student going to school at San Dieguito High School, I used to walk the two miles to Swami's and then run down the beach and back to this spot where I would sit and watch the waves.  It was always a great place of peace for me.  It isn't as popular as Swami's, but has the same incredible view.
  Cecelia had appointments with her brother and sister to take care of orthodontics and osteopathy.  She did have time to come and have lunch with us.  It was a great time and went a long way to helping us transition back to reality.
  The next morning, we awoke and went to the barn with Joan.  Even though her new horse did not arrive, we had a chance to spend some time in the stables with the race horses.  Matt Chew, the trainer from Chew racing spent quite a bit of time with us.  He was outstanding and answered all of our rookie questions.  He even put Claire and Taylor up on the back of an old race horse called "Freckles".  They posed as if they were Jockeys.  We even had a chance to meet one of the Jockeys that races for his team.  Her name was Cecily Evans.  She had just come to Del Mar after winning her first race at Hollywood Park.
  We then departed the barns and headed for home.  We had a quiet afternoon and were going to have dinner with Joan, but she got really bad allergies from being in the barn and had to pass.
Can you understand why I like to visit my hometown!!!!

    On Wednesday, we had a nice quiet morning before going to the races with Joan.  The kids went over to the cousins and Cecelia and I visited with our long time friend Cindy Reiner.  Cindy and her family have kept in contact with us ever since we moved to Oakhurst in 1996.  I used to teach her children when I was teaching in Del Mar and she was a big part of helping me to propose to Cecelia before we got married.  She also helped with the rehearsal dinner.  We have always considered her and her husband to be role models and family.
"And Their Off!!!!"
  We met Joan at 1:00 pm to go to the Horse Races.  Joan has a box at the Del Mar Races and really spent the time to show us the ropes.  After showing us her box, we then went to the preparation paddock and watched the first horses come in to prepare for the first race.  These animals are truly athletes.  They are sleek and beautiful.  One of the comments that the girls made from the day before was that when they patted the horse, no dust came up into the air.  Unlike the horses that they are used to riding up here, these horses are bathed once a day and brushed three times as well.
Dad and Claire studying their racing forum.
  After viewing the horses, we headed back to Joan's box and placed our bets for the first race.  The Jockey that we met the day before, Cecily was racing in the first race so we bet on her.  We made a couple of other bets as well.  The excitement built as the trumpeter sounded out the beginning of the first race.  The next thing we new the announcer was calling out the tell tale "And Their Off" call.  It was an exciting race and Cecily did very well but unfortunately finished one spot outside of placing.  The rest of the races were equally exciting and the girls had a wonderful time running down to the paddock and picking out a horse that they wanted us to bet on for them.  At the end of the day, Claire was the big winner.  She picked a winner and then was part of the Exacta we all picked during the last race.  With here winnings and then paying back mom and dad for her investment, she netted about three dollars.  We all ended up about even, which isn't bad for a bunch of rookies at the track.  But, it wasn't really about the betting that made it exciting, it was the time spent with Joan and the family.  It was a great family time.
Let's Get Ready to Race!!!!
  The next day I met with a couple of friends for early morning coffee and Cecelia got fitted for her new retainer.  She got a new retainer, because she has been struggling with headaches at night for the last year or so while she sleeps.  We thought it might have been stress from teaching, but it turns out she clenches her teeth at night.  Anyway, we hope this is the fix for her problem.
  After our various appointments, we jumped in the car, said our goodbyes, and headed for home.  The drive was nice, but we still had to deal with traffic on the way home.  Some things just never change.
  The best thing about our trip was that we spent a lot of quality time with Mom and Dad.  It also allowed us to get into a good sleeping pattern and finally get over the jet lag from our return home. Cecelia and I could also relax without thinking about things that we need to do at home.  We were refreshed and ready to tackle home.
  Finally, the girls had an opportunity to have Grandma's great homemade refried beans.  The one thing that you can't get in China is good Mexican food.
  Next week I will give you an update on how we are progressing toward getting ready for school here at home.