Archive for the 'News' Category

June 9th 2013


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

Sorry for any inconvenience or concern.




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May 11th 2013

4 Years

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:

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.
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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June 16th 2010

Some Positive Notes :)

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.  🙂


After serve weekend, our backyard looks amazing!

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February 16th 2010

Moved In!

It’s somewhat of a miracle, but we got completely moved this weekend! Thanks to everyone who helped:
my mom, the Jasper family, Kyle, the Hobsons, Ken and Sunshine, Megan, Keri and Claire, Shelly, Veronica, Vicky, Regina, Betty and the kids, Ryan, the Harts, Bill from Blue Collar Prophets, Dave and Alex Hofstetter, Chris and Robert form Top Gun, the Olbrantz’s… and probably a few more that I am forgetting due to all the hustle and bustle going on.

It really takes a load off to know that everything is moved, but the next challenge will be unpacking! Poor Kai: this morning he wanted yogurt, but I couldn’t find the spoons! Then he asked for peanut butter and sugar (since we use natural/unsweetened pb) but I couldn’t find the sugar! I spent 20 minutes looking for some hair gel and finally decided to get to work on time with a messy head. ;p

Other challenges include no toilet all weekend until last night, no showers/bath (hopefully they will be done tomorrow), and no hot water. The hot water is a mystery. The water heater is on and it feels warm, but the hot water never comes out of the faucets (even after waiting 15min). If anyone has plumbing skills, please let me know. The house is cold too. The thermostat was removed when we started painting and it hasn’t been put back yet, so I couldn’t turn the heater on last night. I bundled up Kai with a few layers and put a space heater in his room. Luckily it hasn’t been too cold.

Besides all that, the one thing that’s at the forefront for me right now is that I got sick this weekend. After going a long time without getting sick, this weekend finally took it’s toll on me. I’m sicker than I’ve been in a long time. I wanted to stay home and sleep today, but I knew the workers would be there working on the bathrooms. I probably wouldn’t have laid down anyways because there is so much work to do unpacking. Between the stress of moving, the cement dust from the bathroom crew, and the cold house, it looks like I’ll be fighting a cold while unpacking. I couldn’t wait to find the packed Puffs tissues and Nyquill, I went straight to the store to get a fresh box. Nothing beats Puffs with Lotion! 🙂

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February 10th 2010

Another Call for Help

I know this weekend isn’t a great weekend because it’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday, but if anyone is available early Saturday morning, even for just an hour, I can use all the help I can get. So far only one person has offered to help (thank you very much by the way 🙂 ). I will also be packing Thursday and Friday evenings if those nights are any better.

It’s always hard asking for help. It was before Monica got sick and even more so since she’s been gone, but I have to swallow my pride now and just ask…



February 8th 2010

House Update

Things are going really well with the house. I know what you’re thinking… “Where are the pictures?” Ooops… I forgot about that. 🙂 I’ll try to take some this week. Mostly we’ve been fixing it up. I wish I had taken some “before” pictures so I could show a before/after comparison, but I’ve never been good about taking pictures -Monica always had that covered.

I have to give a special thanks to the guys in my Top Gun Men’s Bible study who have helped a ton, and to our friends Ken and Sunshine who have really come through in a major way. Ken’s grandpa even came to help. He owns a paint gun and painted the entire interior by himself!!! I’ve also had visitors from out of town come to help. This weekend Monica’s sister, Karen, came from Washington DC to help out and a couple of weeks a go an old friend from high school came out.

I plan to start actually moving this week, and hope to be moved this weekend. There is still a lot of work to be done though (mostly packing), and I could use any help I can get. This week in the evenings I will be packing. If anyone is available to watch Kai or to come help us pack, please let me know. I will also need help this weekend moving the bigger stuff. If anyone has a truck and/or can come out Saturday morning to lend a hand, it would be GREATLY appreciated.

We’re getting pretty excited about moving. Kai loves playing in his new back yard already, and I’m really looking forward to having back yard get-togethers and barbecues.

Thanks in advance for everybody’s help!

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January 19th 2010

Big News

So it’s been at least 2 years that we’ve been looking, twenty or thirty offers, and easily over a hundreds homes we’ve seen, and this week it finally happens: we are getting a new house!

I hadn’t mentioned anything until now because several other offers/escrows fell through, so I was being cautious. This time it’s a done deal. Escrow closes on Thursday. There are so many mixed emotions. Monica would have loved it. It has everything she was looking for. It even has a bay window with a window bench. She always dreamed of that. Kai is pretty excited about the back yard too. He says he wants to build a playground back there! 🙂

The house is still in Whittier, so everything else remains consistent. I’ve already got some friends coming out this weekend (if the weather permits) to help me clean the place up a bit. I imagine I’ll be working on it every weekend, and most week days too. It’s a fixer, but it’s a good house. I’m going to take the whole month to move in slowly and fix it up before everything is actually moved.

Pray for sanity logistically and emotionally. These days, getting up out of bed is hard enough; moving our lives to a new house seems practically unachievable…


December 10th 2009

Nana’s Funeral

This has been one tough year. My grandmother passed away a few days ago. I am getting ready to head out to Arizona for her funeral this weekend and I’m a bit nervous. I’ve been able to contain quite a bit, but I’m hoping this isn’t “the straw that broke the camel’s back”…..


November 12th 2009

Travel Adventures and the Secret to Twitter and Facebook

It’s been a while since I updated.  There’s been a lot to do since I’ve been home, and I still feel like I’m catching up with things that were neglected; having been gone for almost a month.  It was worth it though.  In the meantime, I think I happened to discover the secret to the appeal of Twitter and Facebook: you only have to write a few lines and you’re done!  For some reason, writing a blog post seems to require writing something of real value and fore thought… and time. 😉

Anyways, traveling was great!  My friend Jason and I went to New York City, Washington DC, Portland, OR, and Chicago.  Each city really had a lot to offer, but I have to say that I really fell in love with New York.  Under different circumstances, I would move there tomorrow.  I don’t know that I would stay there forever, but to experience it for a while would be a thrill.   IMG_1844

DC and Chicago were also fantastic.  These cities have some of the most amazing sights, people, and food in the world.  I was also really impressed by their pride of ownership; the people seem to want to make their city great.

Of course we had many adventures along the way, but to go into detail here would take way too much time typing.  If you want to go out for coffee and some stimulating conversation, I’d be happy to tell you all about it sometime.

After asking about the trips, most people have been asking about Kai.  He’s almost 3 1/2 now!  He’s really developed a sense of humor.  It’s as if he understands comic nuances like timing and irony.  He’s actually really funny; not just for a three year old.  I think he’s discovered he can get more attention that way, and he might even be becoming somewhat of a class clown.  His pre-school friends get so excited when he shows up (usually late) to school. 

Guitar ShirtsHe’s having as much fun as any three year old might be having, but he’s also starting to become more aware of the fact that all his friends have mommies and he doesn’t.  He still asks for “Mommy” almost every day even though he knows she’s gone.  I don’t know where he comes up with some of the stuff he says, but he tries so hard to express his feelings.  For example, the other day he said, “Dadoo, my heart is gone.  It’s looking for my Mommy,” or “my heart hurts because it can’t find my Mommy.”  Sometimes he pretends that his stuffed animals are sad because their mommy died too.  It never ceases to break my heart over and over again.  The one positive aspect (so I’ve been told) is that at least he is able to talk about it…

As for me, I’m keeping busy.

P.S. Yesterday was 6 months…


September 12th 2009

Latest News: Going Gray and Going on Vacation

This weekend is the first weekend for my month long, jet-setting, cross country mini vacations using the Jetblue “all-you-can-jet” pass.  In fact, I’m in New York as I write this.  I’ll be sure to provide updates about each trip, but in the meantime I’m still digesting the culture shock of being in New york.  😉

On another note, over the last week and a half I’ve sprouted a whole new crop of gray hair!  I don’t know if there’s any siginificance to that except that I’m getting older, but that may have been more of a shock than the culture shock of New York!  🙂


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