Family

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December 25, 2019-

There is no group of people in all the world,

who matter more, than those called family.

As far back as I can remember,

there were four of us,

my sister always being in my memory bank.

One grandfather existed only in my subconscious,

as a spirit guide, who never left me,

even though I was willful,

and selective about hearing

what he was telling me.

My paternal grandfather was

all too fleeting a presence,

but his lesson was

to enjoy life to the fullest,

even as he had to leave

too soon.

Nana and Gramma though,

were solid presences,

both farm women,

who had to settle

for a more citified life,

in their later years.

My birth family

peaked at seven.

David’s first steps

on his own,

greeted me one day,

when I came home from school.

I’ve been proud of him

ever since.

Glenn has led a masterful,

ever forward-looking life.

He will always be

the sailor, the golfer,

the Man of the Year.

Cheryl has survived

so much of life’s challenges,

raised the strongest of families,

and is the most beloved of Nanas.

Brian taught us, me most of all,

to have patience and to see

the world through eternally

innocent eyes.

He left us, too soon,

but much the better

for having lived in his midst.

Dad also left, way too soon.

I like to think,

that in the end,

I have made him proud.

Through all life’s struggles,

I have always followed

his admonition:

“Land on your feet!

That’s why the Good Lord

gave them to you.”

Mom is still here,

the beloved matriarch,

having proven.

time and again,

that there is nothing

a man can do,

that a determined woman

cannot equal.

Time  passed,

and each of us raised

families of our own.

Penny was by my side,

teaching me that there were,

and will ever be,

people who love me

for myself.

She also passed beyond

a lifetime of suffering,

and is foremost in the firmament

of those who urge me forward.

Now, it’s my turn,

to be something of  a mentor,

as my son and his beloved

begin their life,

in the private sector.

I would enjoy being

a grandfather, but

that’s not my decision to make.

I love those whom God has

brought into my life,

always on their own merits.

I can hear the voice of my youngest brother,

telling me: “Leave them alone,

and it’ll be alright.”

Finally, there is the family of choice:

My indomitable sisters-in-law,

whose parents gave from the very core of their being;

The many friends and extended family,

many of whom are still in this world,

and whose sometimes daily messages

and acts of kindness,

remind me that God never has,

and never will, leave Man alone.

On this 2019th commemoration

of the Birth of Christ,

no more powerful message can be shared.

“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”.

Charades and Illusions

6

September 18, 2016, Prescott- Fall is coming.  Phoenix anticipates the last of its triple-digit days, for the year, will be this coming Wednesday.  That may, or may not, prove to be true.  We in Prescott have already had night temperatures below 40.

Fall was the season of my birth.  It is, thus, the main time of year that I take stock of who I am, as a human being, and what remains to be addressed, as I move further along, in the earthly classroom of living.

My parents were very much the voice of reason, and prepared each of us well, for the challenges they knew were going to throw themselves our way.  I was the one who had just a smidgen of faith in Deus ex maxina, supernatural rescuers and unicorns that one could ride to glory.  None of these ever got me anywhere. The rolled up sleeves, and willingness to watch, learn and work at least have enabled me to survive, to have had a loving marriage and to have raised a solid young man.

I did two things today, to give myself a push forward, in the reality department.  First, I moderated a faith meeting, helping to set short-term goals for our community.  Second, I called my satellite television provider, of 20 years, cancelled the service and boxed up the receiver and its accouterments. This last is an acknowledgement that a new television, right now, would be an extravagance, at a time when there are other priorities- such as exercise, service activities and my son’s preparation for a change of duty station.

Last night, I finished reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude”,  Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s tale of a family which wallowed in self-imposed isolation, incestuous relationships and delusions of grandeur.  It is  one of the most intense novels of the 20th Century, presenting a northeast Colombian town (fictional, of course), from the time of the country’s independence to the early twentieth century, in all its political acrimony and struggles to reconcile spiritual mythology and paranormal occurrences with the encroachment of international economics and trade.  No member of La Familia Buendia was ever really happy.

I thought of the illusions into which I bought, in my own life, and how much sweeter the ups and downs of reality have been for me, all through my married life and (for the most part) in the years since, than any of the flights of fancy that characterized my earlier years, or the brief periods, in 2011 and 2013, when I dealt with relapses into personal chaos.

So, on I will go, honouring my family, being present for those around me and building new friendships, both in real time and online.  Happy Autumn, one and all.

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Nearly a year ago, north of Watson Lake, Prescott

 

 

 

My Life Thus Far: The Eighties

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February 20, 2016, Prescott- Today was spent in spiritual study, and an hour or so will be so used, tomorrow afternoon.  All of this was initiated by my beloved, and because of her, the decade of my thirties brought a whole new outlook on life.  The 1980’s were one of the two best decades of this life, up to now.

1980-High Point:  Meeting Penny (December 6)

Low Point:  Scrambling to find housing in Flagstaff (September)

People in the heart:  Penny Fellman, my future wife; my Flagstaff housemates, Mohammed Saeedi, Chris Lugenbuhl and Carol Vireday; the anonymous guys who gave me rides, to/from Oregon; my Mesa friends, the Lunts.

Places in the heart: Flagstaff;  Durango; Zuni; San Diego; Laguna Beach; Redwood National Park; Hebo, OR; Portland; Eugene; Crater Lake; San  Luis Obispo; Santa Barbara.

1981- High Point:  My entry into the Baha’i Faith.

Low Point:  Our temporary break-up.

People in the heart:  Penny; the Cordova family; the Beausoleils; the Travises; Mishabae Mahoney; Hilde Mc Cormick; John Carrillo (my office mate and sounding board); my first nephew and niece, Chris and Marcy.

Places in the heart:  Flagstaff; Tuba City; Dinnebito, AZ; Capitol Reef National Park; Natural Bridges National Monument; San Diego; Julian.

1982- High Points:  Our wedding (June 6); our Baha’i Pilgrimage (June 16- 30).

Low Point: Getting organized into a household.

People in the heart:  My wife; both Moms and Dads; the San Diego Baha’i Community; the Tong family; the staff of the Baha’i World Centre; the Baha’is of London; my mentor at Northland Pioneer College.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; San Diego; Julian; Dinnebito; Bedminster, NJ; Jerusalem; Haifa; Akko; Bethlehem; London; Canterbury;  Saugus; Bedminster; Standoff, AB; Yellowstone National Park; Bozeman, MT.

1983- High Points:  The Wildfire Conference, at De Pauw University; Baha’i teaching in southern New Mexico and Metro El Paso; my brother, Glenn’s wedding.

Low Point:  My Nana died.

People in the heart:  Penny ( and this goes without saying, until the day she passed); the Baha’is of Tuba City, Dinnebito, Jemez, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso and Chicago; the Biernackes, of El Paso; my second niece, Melanie; my second nephew, Jeff.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Dinnebito; Blue Canyon, AZ; Jemez Springs; Durango, CO; Silverton; Ouray; Great Sand Dunes National Park; Chama; Santa Fe; Albuquerque; Chicago; Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL; Greencastle, IN; Las Cruces; Berino, NM; El Paso; Fabens, TX; Andover, MA.

1984- High Points:  Baha’i teaching in Guyana, Pine Ridge, SD and Macy, NE.

Low Point: The passing of Gordon Tong, our Baha’i friend and mentor.

People in the heart:  Our Guyanese  hosts; the people of Pine Ridge and of the Omaha Nation; our friends and our co-workers on the Navajo Nation; Elizabeth Dahe and her family; our  hosts in Houston and Oklahoma; my third nephew, Nick.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Burntwater, AZ; Houston; Ada, OK; Georgetown, Bath, Whim and Meten meer zorg, GY; New York; Macy, NE; Wanblee, Pine Ridge, and Martin, SD; Fort Collins, CO.

1985- High Point:  Both sets of parents visiting.

Low Points:  The deaths of three Navajo boys, in two separate accidents; our separation, while Penny was in Graduate School ( a month is a long time).

People in the heart:  Our parents; Jeff and Helen Kiely; the Baha’is of Dinnebito and Ganado, AZ; my third niece, Kim; my fourth nephew, Matt.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Flagstaff; Dinnebito; Polacca, AZ; Red Rock State Park, OK; Effingham, IL; Columbus, OH; Michigan City, IN; Wilmette and Evanston, IL; Grand Canyon; Lake Powell; Prescott; Montezuma’s Castle National Monument; Sedona; Phoenix.

1986- High Point: Our move to Jeju, South Korea, for Penny’s work, as Visiting Professor.

Low Point:  My father’s passing.

People in the heart:  Our parents; my siblings, our extended family; my fifth nephew, Curtis; our friends and co-workers in Arizona and in South Korea.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Los Angeles; Seoul, Songtan and Jeju, South Korea; Saugus.

1987- High Point:  My hiring as Visiting Professor, in Jeju.

Low Point:  Having to leave Penny behind for a month, to get a work visa.

People in the heart:  Our Korean colleagues, students and friends; three surviving parents;  our siblings; our friends in Flagstaff.

Places in the heart:  Jeju, Muan, Pusan and Seoul, South Korea; Los Angeles; Portland; Seattle; Butte; Madison, WS; Chicago; Wilmette, IL; Saugus; Bedminster; Greenville and Simpsonville, SC; New Orleans; Phoenix; Honolulu; Tokyo.

1988-High Point: The birth of our son, Aram (July 7).

Low Point:  None, actually.

People in the heart:  Aram (from this point on); the Baha’is of Jeju;  Dr. Kim Chung Hak; our students;  our hosts and friends in Taiwan; Penny’s parents (who flew to Korea for Aram’s birth).

Places in the heart:  Jeju; Pusan; Tsaot’un, Chungli, Taich’ung and T’aipei, Taiwan;

1989- High Point:  Bringing Aram to the United States, to meet our family.

Low Point:  Feeling threatened, while visiting Maine.

People in the heart:  Our extended family; our students; the Baha’is of Jeju and Seoul.

            Places in the heart:  Jeju; Anchorage; New York, Bedminster; Saugus; Lynn, MA; Eliot, ME.

So, while visiting Durango, in November, 1980, I had this inkling that I was ready to meet someone special.  It didn’t happen that weekend, nor on my 30th birthday trip to San Diego.  It was on an Anthropology class trip to Zuni, where Penny and I first connected.  Turns out, she also had had a vision, while meditating on a mesa above her residence in Keams Canyon, AZ, where she was teaching at the time.  The message said that she, too, would meet someone.

Our on again, off again, 18-month friendship became a marriage that lasted, physically, for 29 years.  I believe in the eternity of marriage, and though she’s gone from Earth, we still connect, daily.  We had our ups and downs, especially in the early years, but never went to bed angry with one another.

My entry into the Baha’i Faith helped me cast out the demon of alcohol dependency, and put me on a path to dealing with my larger demon, of self-doubt.  Baha’u’llah has opened up many powerful channels within me- at least I feel them.

Aram’s arrival made me be responsible for someone other than the two of us.  Raising him to adulthood was the only big task that God has ever given me.  While I wasn’t the greatest father to have been given the bounty, I gave it a good, solid effort and he is an amazing young man.

We traveled a lot, the two of us, then the three of us, mostly in service to our Faith and to visit family. The Eighties were a decade of primarily air travel, though crowding into a Peugeot, and then a lorry (truck), in Guyana, was quite an adventure.  Our Toyota Tercel got quite a workout, those four years we lived in Tuba City.  It became a young lady’s first car, when we moved to Korea.

Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Sites, in Haifa and Akko, Israel was the seminal defining point of the decade.  Our marriage, and the birth of our son, six years later, were entirely safeguarded by our having begun life together, in this manner.

The Nineties would be a second amazing decade.