6 Years

Written by Sol

We miss you.

We love you.

You’d be so proud of Kai!

… :'(

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Hacked!

Written by Sol

Please disregard any emails you might have received from SolandMonica.com within the last day or so.  It seemed our web site might have been hacked.

Sorry for any inconvenience or concern.

 

Thanks!

Sol

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4 Years

Written by Sol

Monica Lepper RodriguezWell….I’ve spent most of the morning writing and re-writing this post; in and out of my head desperately searching for something relevant to say. Last year I simply avoided it altogether, but I ended up feeling selfish and guilty about that so here goes another try this year.

What can I say that doesn’t end up sounding either terribly depressing at one extreme or obviously a fake masked attempt at gratitude with a charade of celebration.  The fact of the matter is that it seems I try to ignore the truth of our situation most of the year, but on this particular day all the sadness of the world comes crashing down on me at the same time.  It’s strange how even allowing a hint of those emotions to poke through ends up releasing a torrent of melancholia ranging from: Why her? to Is Kai’s heart healthy? to Does God answer prayers? to How could I let my car get so dirty?  In order to hold back the weight of the emotional burden, I guess I just suppress it all.  At least I have learned how to do that.  I consider it a gift…

So….subject change anyone?

You might have seen a recent viral video going around about a high school student telling his teacher how to teach.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a viewing.  In some small way, it invokes a sense of hope for the future of our children, even if those of us in adulthood might be lazy and complacent allowing the world to crumble around us.  Here is a direct link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj5z3dhTpVw

As you know, Monica had a profound effect on the lives of many kids as a teacher, coach, missionary, and of course mother.  Over the years, some of these kids have looked her up online in an attempt to reach out to her and thank her.  Each time one of these young people recalls their experiences with Monica, they express how grateful they are  for her nurturing and guidance.  She was not like the teacher in that video causing so much frustration in her students.  She was a beacon of light, and in some cases, even an angel sent to save their lives.  She showed love to kids who questioned it’s very existence.  She provided encouragement where all hope was lost.  She truly was an exceptional human being among us.  These stories are her legacy, and although she is not with us today, it’s stories like these from people’s lives who were genuinely touched by her, that ensure her memory is not forgotten.

I have a couple of emails from past students of hers who have agreed to let me share their emails with you.  I hope they touch your heart as much as they did mine:

Mr. Rodriguez,

Its Ray Arroyo, I was in Ms.Rodriguez’s 7th grade science class, I think that was the first year she started teaching at McCabe. She was by far my favorite teacher, she even came to a few of our pop warner football games for the Mendota Cobras. I am not sure if you remember or not but I spent a lot of time in the computer lab after school playing that dodge ball game online….  She had a big impact on me, I told her I was going to do big things in the world of science and she actually believed I would, she didn’t look at me as some crazy 12 year old like most people did. Currently I am in the United States Navy, a midshipman candidate for the United States Naval Academy…  I want to be a pilot and after I am done with my commissioning, I hope to work for NASA doing something big in the world of science just like I said in 2001. I know you heard it time and time again, but I am sorry for your loss. I plan to a write a book when I am 60, an autobiography about my life which I think will make a real good story….a poor kid immigrating from Mexico and becoming a NASA astronaut,,,,pretty cool story. The book is to acknowledge the people who have helped me  along the way and Ms.Rodrgiuez is one of them. I will not forget how I said “Ms.Lepper, I’m gonna do this some day.” And she would pat me in the back and said, “Ray, you can do anything you want.” That moment has stuck out in my mind since then. Take care Mr.Rodriguez.
Respectfully
Raymundo Arroyo
Here is another:

Hi Mr. Rodriguez,

I am not sure if you remember me. My name is Verenice Andrade, a proud alumni of McCabe Junior High! Ms. Lepper was my 7th grade science teacher and I was her t.a. when she taught language arts the following year. Two weeks ago, I graduated from UC Berkeley and I spent this past week in Mendota…. I ran into an old friend of mine at the new grocery store. In our short conversation, she gave me the news that Ms. Lepper had passed away… (I apologize if I continuously use her maiden name but that was the name that stuck. I met her before she was married and changed her name). I am in utmost shock. My heart hurts. My friend also told me that you had created a website where you posted updates and had photos. I took the liberty of using google to find your site and I have been surfing through it for the past hour and a half or so, reading posts and looking at pictures. Again, my heart is crying.

…I can’t help but to feel sad. In November, a childhood friend of mine and long time neighbor passed away–he was my age, 21. I am still coping with death in general and so, hearing that Ms. Lepper is gone is very, very hard for me to believe. Though late, please accept my most sincere condolences.

These past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of reflecting and giving a lot of thanks to God for allowing me to end one phase of life–college. In that reflecting, I realized the happiest years of my life (childhood/early adolescence) were during junior high. At that time in my life, I was breaking out of my shyness and discovering that I was good at academics. I tell you this Mr Rodriguez, because during those years, the conversations I had with Ms. Lepper have stayed with me this whole time and have shaped me in one way or another. As a science teacher, she made sure we understood the material, regardless of how many times she would have to repeat herself and we even played “Who wants to be a Millionaire” using physical science as a theme (Sol’s Note: I remember sitting next to Monica as she created that game from scratch using PowerPoint as a tool to “develop” her own interactive game!). I remember during that game, when it was my turn to answer a question I took a while to think about it and used a life line. I had the answer at the tip of my tongue but second guessed myself and said the wrong answer. The whole time Ms. Lepper knew that I knew the answer because she looked at me with a very encouraging look. It was a very genuine look that very few people have ever shared with me. Even though I got the answer wrong, that day was one of the most fun days of 7th grade. It was a great day in my 12 year old mind.

Later, I grew to appreciate when teachers would use their personal experiences to help students understand the material. I remember when we were learning about temperature, she told us she had lived in Ukraine for a while and didn’t have to shave her legs because the winter there was really cold! Somehow, that helped me understand Celsius and Fahrenheit. Her Ukraine story was also in the back of my head all throughout college and so, I decided to go abroad myself. This August I will be taking off to Egypt for one year to continue my education there.

Before this turns into a 60 page email, I just want to tell you something I am sure you already know—Ms. Lepper was a great teacher! Had I not had such greatness around me during those years of my life I am sure I would not have been saludatorian when I graduated high school, much less have gotten accepted to Cal, and now graduated from this university. As I grew older, I also understood the hard work teachers are subjected to and I began to think of the teachers that had been influential to my academic development. Ms. Lepper was definitely on the list! I’ve gotten in contact with some of my old teacher and have expressed my gratitude towards them. Ms. Lepper, thank you!

Warm Regards,

Verenice Andrade

McCabe Junior High 2002 Mendota High School 2006 University of California, Berkeley 2010

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2 Years

Written by Sol

I thought a long time about what to say today.  I even considered not saying anything and just trying to ignore this day… as if it was just another day.  I couldn’t.  As it approached it haunted me.  I thought each consecutive year would get easier and that time would help to heal, but instead life is getting harder and more complicated being on my own; it seems this day is a reminder of how it all came to be.  I miss Monica desperately.  The world has not recovered from the loss of her light.  Those of you that knew her intimately know this.  The memorial video below is a good representation of how many lives she touched.

God help us.  “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

You can find the video at this link if it doesn’t show up in your email: http://vimeo.com/4722219

Category tags: Memorial---- Comments 1 Comment »

New Year’s Reflections

Written by Sol

It’s been quite some time since I last posted here.  Of course, the earth continues to revolve around the sun and the days still come and go.  …and I still struggle with posting because I don’t want to be the downer in anyone’s day.  Being a new year, however, it seems like a reasonable  time to reflect.


Kai is growing like crazy.  Though in many ways I wish he would stay a baby (as any mother might), it’s actually been a lot better for the both of us to have him grow.  It turns out that it is much easier to handle a 4 year old than a 3 year old.  He is very smart and is willing to reason much of the time.  He understands the difference between right and wrong.  His independent nature, which he gets from Mommy, helps him to be entertained on his own and also to not feel lonely.  The year had ups and downs, but we got to share many adventures.  His birthday party was a big hit.  Thanks to all who participated.  We also had the good fortune to go on our first camping trip and to jump around in the ocean.  We spent some time “on vacation” at Lake Havasu, played the new Kinect video games together, and even started some new traditions like Taco Tuesday.  There are so many wonderful memories over the last year that I will always treasure.  The one thing that stands out to me as the most noteable happened just a few weeks ago, though.  Kai caught me visibly upset (read sad) and asked me what was wrong.  I’m not sure that he had ever “caught” me like that before.  Anyways, I told him that I am still very sad and asked him if he still gets sad.  He said he “doesn’t get sad anymore”.  He said that he knows Mommy is in heaven and that she is an angel and that she is always with him.  It was one of the happiest and saddest moments of the year for me.  In one sense, it was a very sensitive moment and full of sorrow, but on the other hand, as a dad, it pleases me to hear that he is healing and learning to deal with his reality.  He still asks about Mommy regularly, but he doesn’t ask about where she is or whether she’s coming back.  He wants to know what she was like and what she would think about things. 

So, Kai is beginning to move forward and is growing emotionally as well as physically.  I, lamentably, have not been so fortunate.

I guess for the last year and a half, I have been desparately running from the hurt and loneliness to distractions rather than healing.  I finally had to realize the hard way that it was an unsustainable way for me to live.  The sadness kept catching up to me even with my best efforts to distract myself.  Now I’m on a mission to heal.  I’m desparate for it.  Even though it means I will have to face the hurt and loneliness, I believe that it is necessary for me to even begin healing.  I can’t believe I still have to begin healing.  It seems that until I make some progress in this area, I won’t be able to really enjoy or appreciate life.  Things I used to love and need currently are lackluster or even painful.  Places I cherished, people I loved, and things like music, which I used to need like food, no longer provide joy.  Hope has been replaced by confusion.  God has been silent.  Goals and dreams have become like legends; not knowing if they ever really existed or not.  I want to be able to live and love again; healthy and stronger.  I believe I can do it.  I must try…

I guess it comes across so melodramatic and maybe even cheesy…  What can I say?  It’s the way I feel at this particular moment.  I may be reaching out to some of you this year.  I pray it’s in an attempt to heal and not hide.  Keep me accountable (but gently please).  I’m not sure how I’m going to do it.  I just know that I am at least conscious of the need, and have the emotional desperation leverage to truly seek it.

Here’s to a better 2011.

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I Chickened Out (and other notables)

Written by Sol

July is another “difficult” time of the year.  The 3rd is Monica’s birthday, and today is our anniversary.  It would have been 9 years today.

I thought it would be nice to start a tradition of spending the 4th of July with Monica’s family from now on and also celebrate her birthday, so last weekend I went up to Paradise, CA which is up north by Chico.  We’ll see how that develops (’cause traffic on the 4th of July weekend is worse than I expected and it’s already an incredibly long drive…).

I still think the idea was a good one, but the reality didn’t quite turn out how I thought it might.  I ended up feeling really conflicted about taking Kai to the cemetery, since in his mind, Mommy is in heaven.  Would it be too much for him to process?  I decided to just tell him that it was a special place for us to remember Mommy.

…the problem was that I chickened out.  :(  I just couldn’t do it.  Even now as I write this that huge lump in my throat grows to a point that it seems it might burst.  I hope over time I can gather the courage to go there.  In the mean time, I just felt like I had to confess…

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Some Positive Notes :)

Written by Sol

It’s been a while since I posted.  The simple reason is that life is hectic as a single dad.  Not only do I contend with the “tyranny of the urgent”, but if you know Kai, you know that he is one of the most energetic kids you’ll ever meet.  That being said, probably the greater truth is that I’ve struggled with the realization that most of the time I feel like posting, it has been about something kind of negative.  I don’t want to be the downer in someone’s day, so I usually just skip the posting.

The weeks leading up to the anniversary of Monica’s passing were the hardest yet.  It was almost unimaginable to think that after almost a full year of grieving I was still finding new lows.  There didn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  I decided to take the day off on May 11th and just spend some “me” time.  I turned my phone off and didn’t check any email or FaceBook messages (a quick thank you to everyone who did try to reach out to me and Kai on that day.  I apologize for not getting back to you all, but there really were an overwhelming number of people to get back to. I just skipped it all.) 

Something interesting happened… I spent the day playing and writing music, and by the end of the day I really felt a lot better.  It was the first encounter of “joy” I’d had in a long time.  It was such a contrast to the lows I had been feeling, that I felt like I was soaring or something.  It was really encouraging to realize that I could still experience joy like that.

A couple of weeks later Kai and I received another gift.  Our church, Whittier Area Community, was doing its annual serve weekend and our back yard was one of the projects.  We ended up having so many people come to help and show their love, that not only did the backyard get a total makeover, but many of the projects I couldn’t get to inside the house got done too.  It was an incredibly humbling experience that we will be eternally grateful for.  If you were one of the many people that helped out at our house for serve weekend, please know that you really made a difference to us.  During a time of faith struggles, sadness, and a blurry outlook on hope, you guys represented the love of Christ and the church with elegance and grace.

I’m so pleased to be able to finally post something positive.  :)

Backyard

After serve weekend, our backyard looks amazing!

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We Love You, Mommy

Written by Sol

CowboyHat

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Kai Hates “The Sky”

Written by Sol

Kai’s teacher pulled me aside this morning because she’s concerned that Kai has been very sad at school.  I’ve noticed it somewhat too, but it seems that the topic comes up more often at school; I guess because the other kids talk about their moms and their moms come to pick them during earlier parts of the day.

He still asks for mommy almost every day after a whole year.  You’d think he would have given up by now, but he’s got his mom’s determination.  Lately he’s been trying to think of ways that Mommy can come back to Earth.  The other night he was up late in bed talking for a while, so I finally went into his room and asked him who he was talking to.  He said he was talking to Mommy and to God.  He asked God to make a cloud with a slide on it so Mommy could slide down to Earth to see him.  He said that Mommy then told him that she was already an angel and that she couldn’t slide down the slide, but that she might be able to use her angel wings to fly down to Earth to visit him in the summer!  Either he’s got an amazing imagination for an “almost 4 year old”, or she really did tell him that…

Apparently Kai’s teacher is feeling acutely aware of the fact that Mother’s Day is coming because their curriculum will center around Mother’s Day.  She said she was hurt the other day because he mentioned he “hated the sky”.  She asked him why, and he said he hates Heaven too because his Mommy was stuck up there.

It crushes me to know that he is hurting, but I don’t know what more I can do for him.  I’m not in any better place myself to help…

P.S.  Sorry for another downer post…

Category tags: Kai, Reflection---- Comments 4 Comments »

Mommy’s “List”

Written by Sol

After Monica passed, I looked for something she may have written during her struggle.  Maybe a note for Kai to give to him when he got older; maybe a note for me…  

One day I frantically searched for hours and even went through her purse to find this letter or note that didn’t exist.  I was crushed to not find anything, but I rationalized that it was due to her decisive outlook that she was going to keep fighting until she won the battle that she might have felt she didn’t need to “leave any thoughts or words” for us.

Last night I was organizing my closet in the new house and I came upon Monica’s purse.  It is mostly intact the way she left it, but I had gone through it already to get a few things like the check book.  For some reason, I decided to open a small side pocket and in it was nothing but a receipt.  Quintessential Monica; she always saved her receipts for a while “just in case”.  Normally I would have just tossed it, but for some reason I decided to open it to see what she bought.  Suddenly I realized there was writing on the back.  I didn’t recognize the writing as hers at first because it was a bit messy and hurried, but it was definitely hers.  She must have been in a hurry or standing up writing it or something…

The date on the receipt is 04/21/2009.  That is exactly 20 days before she passed.  I don’t know if she was starting to realize she was getting weaker or if she just had a moment of sadness, but what she wrote on the back of that receipt in a hurried (or upset) state was a list of events that she might miss in the future for Kai.  Here is the list in the order that she wrote it:

  • Potty training
  • Tying shoes
  • Kindergarten first day
  • Kinder graduation
  • Best friend
  • First crush
  • First time in trouble @ school
  • First girlfriend
  • Serious girlfriend
  • Wedding
  • Engagement
  • First kid
  • High school graduation
  • First big fight with Dadoo
  • License
  • First 100% on important test
  • First big win in sports/hobby
  • First defeat
  • First job interview
  • First apartment
  • College
  • Jesus in heart

Last night was the first really big emotional break down I’ve had in a while of trying to be strong.  This morning has been equally difficult.  It’s too bad the “note” she left behind is such a sad one…

Category tags: Journal, Kai---- Comments 5 Comments »

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