Likability is Contagious

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November 7, 2019-

When I was a child, I was not “picked” for a team until last, most of the time, because of my relative lack of  coordination.  I was, however, not an unpopular person, mainly because everyone was welcome in my yard, and in my sandbox.  The disputes I had with some neighbourhood kids were never permanent.  I was taught that I was not the center of the Universe.

Jordan Peterson entitles his fifth rule for life “Don’t Let Your Kids Behave in A Way That Makes You Dislike Them”.  He notes that many parents vehemently deny that they could ever dislike their children.  I was not one of those.  When our son did something that was distasteful or reprehensible, I thought to myself that it would be remiss of me, as a father, to gloss over it.  So, I corrected him and established the lesson, that what his mother and I found unlikable, other people would also be inclined to take umbrage.

In seeing what he did that was unlikable, I also had to face myself, and look to see if I was also behaving the same way.  Penny was good at making me take account for my flaws, and vice versa.  We helped one another shed a fair amount of baggage, and after her passing, I had to shed a lot more-sometimes with the unwanted help of online critics but most often with my one-on-one self-critiques.

Today, he is largely a self-starter, and has weathered quite a few storms-many of which were not of his own making.  He has many friends and has found a wonderful woman, with whom to build a life.  None of this would have happened, had he been saddled with laissez-faire parents and absent extended family.  Penny’s parents were present, every step of the way, and my siblings took their avuncular duties seriously.

Dr. Peterson has thus encapsulated the need of the human being for constructive criticism, as well as praise, when it is warranted; that we innately have a need for boundaries to be set, as a way to know that we are in a safe environment.  There is no finer gift that a parent can bestow upon a child.

“Like Someone Who Matters”

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October 29, 2019-

I will be writing two posts today, and tomorrow, as these are the Twin Holy Days, the back-to-back commemorations of the Births of al-Bab (The Gate) and of Baha’u’llah, respectively.  So, my post this afternoon will focus on al-Bab, Who was born 200 years ago, today (reckoned by the Badi (Lunar) Calendar.

First, let’s look at the second rule for living outlined by Jordan Peterson:  “Treat yourself like you are someone who matters.”  Baha’u’llah teaches:  “Be fair to yourself and others.”  Many parents teach their children to put others first.  That’s a good enough way to discourage selfishness, as far as it goes.  One of the wisdoms of having 2-3 children, in a family which can support such numbers, is that it is most likely to train a human being in sharing and altruism.  Those families like that of my birth, who struggled with the stresses inherent in being a family of seven, nonetheless impart a sense of belonging and of being a key part of something far greater than self.  My son, being the only child, was encouraged to make a wide circle of friends, and to regard the closest of them as if they were his siblings.

Thus, a good many of us are taught well, with respect to others.  Where we tend to drop the ball is with how we treat ourselves.  It is therefore best to look at how one wants to be treated by others, and to look at this regularly, with a view towards treating ourselves as we want to be treated by those around us- a corollary, if you will, to the Golden Rule.

In a practical sense, then, partaking of those activities and other things which enhance one’s well-being is essential.  Neither asceticism nor overindulgence result in a healthy self.  Hypercriticism of self is, likewise, as bad as narcissism.  An honest self-accounting, each day, with the follow -up of self-improvement, shows a resolve to regard oneself as “Someone who matters”.

She Never Stopped Singing

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September 30, 2019-

Had Penny stayed on this Earthly plane, she would have turned 65, today. There was not a day that went by, until her voice gave out, that she didn’t sing of one thing or another.  Her voice was easily among the most pleasant sounds I could ever have heard. It was very often infused with praise for the Divine, making its tones that much more salubrious.

She never stopped seeking a means to improve health-her own and that of everyone she loved.  It is largely her legacy that has led me to use essential oils and hemp-based CBD, which were either little known or not marketed during her long years of suffering.  I can at least help maintain my own wellness and those in my widening circle who are ill.  That would comfort her.

She was always her own person.  Years ago, I was screamed at, for having used the term, “my Penny”, in a random post.  The angry correspondent, who was not known to me beforehand, was crusading against “people thinking they own one another.”  Despite that over-the-top assessment, I never regarded Penny as being somehow under my thumb.  She stood her ground, right up until her last breath, and never hesitated to speak truth to power- doctors, hospital administrators, insurance executives, school principals, Senator Barry Goldwater, even her parents.  The woman was fierce.

Her ferocity was based on love.  No one who caught her wrath really believed her to be a noxious presence.  With a few narcissistic exceptions, friend and foe alike appreciated just how much Penny Kay Fellman Boivin was devoted to the well-being of humanity.  That love served to heal one of the most psychologically ill people she ever knew: myself.  So, here I am, still able to carry on her work, along with my own.

The spirit, the genderless essence, watches over me still, and lends strength to doing all that remains to be accomplished.

 

 

Thus Mom Still Says

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September 10, 2019-

Mom turned ninety-one, and doesn’t care who knows it.  She’s earned the right to think, do and eat whatever she wants.  That’s my opinion, anyway.  In our conversation, this morning, she gave me two thumbs up, for taking the joyful, positive view of life, which is mine, most of the time.  She expects me to keep on caring for myself, not depending on anyone else-for which I’m grateful.  My mother has lost none of her fire and spunk.

I woke this morning, to a report that a 13-year-old girl was sent home for wearing one comfortable outfit that was deemed “distracting for boys” ( I saw the outfit, and as a former school administrator, who held the line against bare midriffs and mid-thigh shorts, I think it was overkill, on the part of the school).  Her father brought a second outfit, which the Principal also found objectionable.  He took his daughter home, then launched a campaign to revisit the dress code.  Good for him; there are many men who still don’t take enough interest in the healthy self-concept of their children, especially of their daughters.

Body shaming has been with us for a long time-both against people of size and of slenderness.  Children are also sexualized, far too soon and far too often.  The father, in this case, pointed out that his child doesn’t flirt with her male classmates; she just wants to be a kid, and be comfortable, in 90-degree heat.  I heartily agree, as does my mother, who raised us boys to not dwell on a girl’s, or woman’s, physical attributes-one way or another.  My sister was always held in high regard, and was taught to think well of herself.  She has passed that on to her own daughters, and granddaughters.

I took a healthy lunch, this noon, at a local cafe (Ms. Natural’s) that thrives on its salubrious menu.  I was one of two men in the place, which was packed with mostly young women, all of whom take care of themselves and carry themselves with dignity and grace.  This is what I wish, for everyone, especially for those who have been kept in a dark emotional space, for far too long.

Mom wants that, also.  I hope she’s around, to reiterate the point, for several years to come.

Gathering My Moss

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August 28, 2019-

I have, at long last, begun writing a series of chapters that outline my life. So far, I have covered up to sixth grade, which has taken four chapters.  I find my long term memory is amazingly intact, a comforting discovery, as this exercise is as much for healing and inner peace, as it is for the sake of memoir.

The remaining six decades will take some time, being as they have been far more involved and take in a lot more territory-both geographic and psychological- than my first, somewhat sheltered, eleven years.

As it is a highly personal account, this volume will be first shared with family, then in a publish on demand arrangement with friends. For now, I am keeping it on Google Drive and will run things by my son, siblings and mother, once I get to a certain point, probably the sections on my high school graduation and transition into adulthood.

Again, the purpose of this is to process and clear up any remaining conflicts within myself, which is one of the insights I drew from a recent energy wave healing session.

Undying

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August 20, 2019-

This is not a post about vampires or zombies.  It is a post about how the love I feel towards many; in fact, just about all those who come to mind.  I say “just about all”, as the few who have consistently repaid kindness with viciousness are those who I need to keep at arm’s length, while still not wishing them ill.  There is always room for forgiveness and a new start.

At any rate, I am thinking specifically of a few young ladies, with whom my contact is mostly, if not entirely, on social media, who are like daughters to me.  One resurfaced today, on my feed, and I could only feel relief that she is in a safe place.  Others are pretty constant here, and that always brings a smile to my heart.

There is a family wedding coming soon-in my heart family, that is.  I find this is as important to me as any of my birth family’s nuptials.  The bride defines self-made woman and I can feel this marriage will be a particular success.  She, and her mother (also  a self-made woman), have long been very close to my heart.

A good woman, whom I had the pleasure of meeting several times, recently passed to the Presence of her Lord.  One of the points in her obituary was her kindness to even the most derelict of people.  She would get after those who were slovenly, but always in a gentle way.  No one was beyond redemption, in her view.

I hope to keep on, with this state of heart, getting up each day with a vow to show love and respect to those who cross my path-and to be consistent about it.  That doesn’t mean being a doormat-as that would not be loving to myself.  It does mean walking in Light.

May this be an undying state of heart.

Mindfulness, Murals and A Milestone

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July 22-27, 2019, Carson City-

In my life since 2011, there have been a few constants:  My community in Prescott, wherever my son is,  Birth Family on the East Coast, friends all over the country and my northern Nevada family, here and in Reno.

I have made at least one stop here, each year since 2012, when  I joined Michele and Tom on a road trip to the Bay Area, for a Baha’i commemorative.  He passed on, a year later, making a visit with Michele, like a sister to me, that much more urgent.  The kids are always a good part of the mix, to say the least.  So, when V was given a part in a community theater’s rendition of “The Little Mermaid”, I set aside this week for my annual jaunt.

After a veritable pit stop in Prescott, I drove up to Kingman, on Sunday evening.  That cut three hours off Monday’s drive which, other than slow traffic stemming from an accident, just shy of the state line.  I noted that Rosie’s Den, a place in White Hills, where I had stopped a few times, to and from Nevada, had closed.  Iron Horse Cafe, in Henderson, was my first stop.  Being still the morning commute rush, as I passed through Las Vegas, no stops were made there.

That meant lunch was in Beatty, about 3/8 of the way north.  This old mining town has its funky side- the huge Death Valley Nut and Candy Store and, until last year, a motel in an old trailer park.  Then, there is Sourdough Saloon, where one enters-finds an empty bar (before noon, anyway) and goes in the back, where a lone waitress is glad to see anyone.

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The fare at Sourdough is simple, but on par with road food I’ve found anywhere. For some reason, Pastrami Cheeseburgers are a fairly big thing in western Nevada.  Sourdough’s is tender and moist.

I hadn’t noticed on earlier passes through town, but looking at the ridge north of Beatty, it seems a Teddy bear is keeping watch.

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Another constant on my drives north is a stop at Beans and Brews, a small coffee house inside Three Deserts 76 gas station, in Tonopah.  The shop is run by high school and college students, who never drop the ball when it comes to congenial service and generous portions of iced coffee, espresso and lattes.  (Photo, courtesy of  http://www.beans andbrews.com)

 

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The rest of the drive was made easier by the stop at B & B.  I noted that Walker Lake is higher, this year, than in the past seven.  The word is that the flow from Walker River has been increased.

Much of Michele’s focus, and mine, is on the little family of four:  V, her parents and infant brother.  Father is a multifaceted artist, whose work includes murals.

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The week included many long conversations about mindfulness and holistic health (always a concern with us Boomers), the efficacy of  fairy tales (specifically the message presented by some Disney versions) to child development, and how best to approach the welter of social movements in our time.  Chess with V was actually more challenging than one would think it would be, with a 7-year-old opponent.  She has a fine analytical mind. We each won a match.

The play, Friday night, featured V as one of the Starfish.  They appeared in one scene, dancing to the song, “Under the Sea”.  It was heartening to see the turnout- a packed house for opening night.  As with any child, I leave it to V’s parents to determine whether to share photos from the occasion.

Here, though, is a video clip of the song.

 

It’s been another good week, which I hope augurs well for Fall up here.  I know that my own autumn will be a full one.

 

 

 

Bastion of Honour

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July 9, 2019, West Point, NY-

My father, before his passing, expressed a desire to visit the United States Military Academy, at this wide spot on the west bank of the Hudson, 57 miles north of New York City.  I don’t know if he ever made it there, but in case he hadn’t, I was determined to visit on both his behalf and as part of marking my own 50th anniversary of having joined the U.S. Army.

Unlike either of the still extant posts at which I served,West Point does allow visitors.  The security check involves both a written document and a personal interview, lasting 3-5 minutes.  Once those are accomplished, a visitor is given clearance to go to the Cemetery, to Trophy Point and,  parking space available, to the fortress-like dormitories.

I set aside 3 hours, this afternoon, after being cleared by security, to look over the areas mentioned above.  West Point, despite a handful of peccadilloes, over the years, remains largely a bastion of honour.

The Museum is the first place one sees, upon entering the Visitor Center parking lot. I save that great edifice for another time, preferring to get out and take in the out of doors sections of the Academy.

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From the edge of the parking lot, one may take in a serene view of the Hudson.

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On to the Visitor’s Center, with its display which depicts the quarters of a cadet, and of the cadet’s four years.

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The quarters are spartan.

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Once cleared by the dour and seemingly exhausted security officer, I drove to the Cemetery parking lot and took in a variety of mausoleums and tombs, reflecting our nation’s military heritage.  Soldiers from George Armstrong Custer to William Westmoreland are laid to rest in these grounds.

Here is a montage of the statuary and resting places of West Point National Cemetery.

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The Old Cadet Chapel, seen below, was brought here to the Cemetery Gate, from its prior location near the dormitories.

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From here, I walked to Gees Point, from which one may take in more serene views of the majestic Hudson River.

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This Helipad is primarily for the use of dignitaries, coming and going.

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This small house invokes the gentler side of the Academy.  It serves as an officer’s residence.

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This is one of two paths, from the Main Road to Eisenhower Hall, that are “Use at own risk”. I took the risk.

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Below is a view of  the Catholic Chapel.

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The Gothic dormitories could only be photographed from a distance, this evening, due to a dearth of parking.

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The legendary football/soccer stadium stands next to the dorms.

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Finally, the statue of Tadeusz Kosciusko stands watch, gazing towards the Hudson.

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So ended my first visit to my former superiors’ alma mater.

 

 

On Differing With Ella Winter

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July 3-7, 2019, Saugus, MA-

The fine North Carolina author, Thomas Wolfe, famously used, “You can’t go home again.”as the title of a novel, which he never lived to publish.  His associates took care of that, sometime after his death in 1938, and we have the title as one of the more memorable things with which he is associated.  The quote, though, originated with an Australian writer, Ella Winter, who gave Wolfe permission to use it in his writing.

I’ve been going back to Saugus, continuously, since I left here at age 18.  Service in the Army, college, a quixotic two years getting my bearings in Maine, and then Arizona, South Korea and back to Arizona, all have had a common denominator:  Hometown has never gone away.

There have been changes:  The population has grown, from 25,000 to about 38,000; traffic has increased accordingly; the once lily-white community has opened its doors to people of colour; Hilltop Steak House has given way to Restaurant 110; most of the neighbours have  died or moved away.

There are, though, things which endure:  My mother is still living, quite well; two boyhood friends still live in the neighbourhood-one  in his childhood home; Adams Avenue, the street of my youth, is still within walking distance of both Saugus Center and Cliftondale Square-as well as the West Side’s large shopping mall, Square One; traffic on U.S. Route One can still be daunting at times, though after dealing for so long with traffic in much larger cities, I know not to cringe.

We had the usual family gathering, this time at a niece’s large, beautiful new home, about 1 1/2 hours west of here and dropped in on a nephew and his family, in a town twenty minutes south of Saugus.   These visits are fleeting, but far better than not seeing these gracious, beloved people at all. There was a visit to the aforementioned 110, where I got my fix of fried clams, a boyhood staple.  There were the customary Hallmark movies and binge watching of old episodes of “Blue Bloods”, one of Mom’s favourites.  There was a surprise, when Mom decided to check out a couple of Marvel films, on SyFy.  She had enough, after “Iron Man”, but “Spider Man” was a hit.

I come from large families, on both sides.  There are many cousins, some I haven’t seen in years, and a few aunts and uncles still living.  The group will hopefully get together in late August.  Though I won’t be there, people have to start with what they have available.  I have been able to connect with a cousin in the Midwest, as you know,  and will hopefully make more connections, in future visits.  Gradually, the in-gathering progresses-with social media at least keeping the ties from fraying.

So, not to judge Ella Winter, for the circumstances of her life, but I CAN, and do, go home again. If nothing else, home remains in the heart.  We four, and our extended family, want Mom to keep on, so long as life offers her a measure of blessing.  May she keep the flame, until it’s time to pass the torch on.

NEXT:  Amherst and Its Halls of Learning

 

 

Staying Independent

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July 4, 2019, Saugus-

I will continue (go back to) my photo blogs, in the next few posts.  Jumping ahead to the Fourth of July just seems best, though.

I had a conversation with someone very close to me, during the family gathering at a niece’s home, this afternoon.  One thing rings very loud and clear, from this discourse and from other conversations I’ve had, these past few months:  Many people are feeling put upon by aggressive individuals and groups, who take a point of view opposite that which they happen to hold.  Many individuals and groups ARE resorting to the use of force, when confronted with those taking such opposite viewpoints.

I was raised to hear other people out.  My parents, social conservatives, made a great effort to understand even the most seemingly ludicrous viewpoints.  I have maintained an open mind, as a result, throughout fifty-six years of adolescence and adulthood.  Civil Rights have long been a matter of supreme importance in my life, and that cuts both ways.  The Right cannot bully people of colour, of Faiths other than that of the majority in a community, or those living a lifestyle different from that which is conventional. The Left, likewise, cannot deprive people of more traditional bearing, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Violent behaviour, on either side, is the stuff of fascism (even when the bully calls self “Antifa”)

I am, as it happens, an obstinate soul, when people without authority try to force me to do their bidding.  Additionally, I question those who DO exercise authority, as to the ethical basis for their actions.  That is what I get from both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.    That is what I get from my Faith.

So, to my family-my elders, siblings and cousins:  You all matter, greatly.  Your point of view has at least some validity and is worth hearing, and pondering.  Our family is large, so there are all points covered, on the political spectrum. I will not plug my ears to any of it, so long as you do not ascribe to a coda of violence or or a policy of defamation against your opposite numbers.

To my children, nieces/nephews, and “grands”- You are, one and all, a great hope; you are people of immense promise and, especially if you are feeling vulnerable,  are worthy of all the support and love that we, your elders, can muster.  We cannot spare you from life’s ups and downs, but we can point towards the light. This is the very least we can do, in building and safeguarding your own sense of well-being and independence.

Most of the problems we face, when it comes to intolerance and reactive violence, seem to stem from the violent ones acting out of insecurity.  In truth, though, i have to ask, “How does a person expressing an alternative point of view, in and of itself, constitute a threat to my well-being?”  It may be annoying, but it is not a threat-unless accompanied by force-which then makes it an entirely different matter.

Staying independent means, to me, that one takes the time to carefully examine issues and evaluating a variety of points of view.  It also means extending that right to independence to every one else.  These are my thoughts as the Sun goes down on another July 4.