Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

birthday

August 19, 2017

I was born about 1:10pm on a Wednesday. My mother always said, “I knew the minute you were born!” like that was unusual. I think because from her experience, women were doped up and pretty much unconscious, which is sad, to me. I was the 2nd child and my older brother 8 years older than me. Probably, I took a lot of our parents’ attention that he was used to absorbing. They tried for 2 years to get pregnant for me, & then got the other gender, so I figure I was the center of their world for awhile. Until my sister came along 2 1/2 years later. And then our younger brother 5 years after that! So I was 7 1/2 years from one brother, 8 years from the next. It was my sister & I in the middle.— My dad was a professor and he loved to take 3-4 weeks of his summer and roam around out West. We went to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Yosemite and the Redwoods, Canada and Mexico. My birthday usually occurred on a trip. I can’t really remember hardly anything that I really wanted for my birthday, I think because it was celebrated away from home. I remember more, what I wanted for Christmas. Dolls……. Raggedy Ann, Barbie, “Miss Ideal”, Tiny Tears. Nancy Drew mysteries. A stingray bike. One thing I DO remember I really wanted was a transistor radio for my 16th birthday. My dad said they couldn’t find the one I wanted, they’d get it later. We had the birthday dinner, I went to bed, then I heard this loud rock & roll-type music playing…….. went downstairs, there was the RADIO, my radio. My dad liked to play games & tricks like that on us. He died 9 days later at the age of 50, on my mom’s birthday. I have lived 14 more years than he was able to. He never met a grandchild. I have 6. No one ever knows how long they have on this earth, to be with your loved ones. Life is a gift of God. I appreciate all the bounties I have been given to have lived this long. May I enjoy many more.

happy mother’s day

May 14, 2017

My mother was an amazing woman. Born to Dutch parents whose parents immigrated from Friesland, Netherlands, she married a Baptist rising academic from lower middle class parents whose ancestry was Scottish / Welsh & she & my father decided to raise their kids Presbyterian. She never went to college but supported my dad through his academic career as a Mechanical Engineer Professor at Purdue and later Dean of Engineering at Drexel Univ. She was a stay-at-home mom. They had a son named Daniel, then couldn’t get pregnant until I came along 8 yrs. later, then had my sister 2 1/2 yrs later & a 4th child, my younger brother, 6 years after that (surprise!). When my father died at a young age and the high class academic “friends” dropped her like a hot potato, she turned to alcohol for comfort. At age 63, the age I am right now, she quit cold turkey, went thru rehab and never drank again, then became a strong support of many others in their journey to sobriety. She overcame clinical depression a few years later, when the job she worked at for 20+ yrs. closed their doors without warning. She just went in one day & found it closed up. In her 80s she loved Purdue basketball, being home with her cat, Buffy, and studying the Bible with her women-friends. She suffered from a debilitating malfunctioning heart valve and quickly became tied to her oxygen machine, walking from living room to kitchen with great difficulty. She lived to age 84. Our relationship was difficult but also strong and I still wish I could pick up the phone & call her at times.

me and my mom

world citizens

May 12, 2017

We have raised our children to be world citizens. This was important to us and, I believe, one thing we succeeded at. What do I mean by “world citizen”?

To me, a world citizen is a person conscious of the world. Conscious of and knowledgeable of different cultures and beliefs. A person not afraid to investigate, consider other opinions, a person open to learning. A world citizen knows there is one race, the human race, but it manifests itself in a great variety. This is the MOST important lesson to teach your kids: The WORLD is our home, people the world over are inherently the same, want the same things, clean water, land and beauty of the earth, a safe place to live, peace with their neighbors, family, and community. They want to raise their children to be whoever they want to be, and have the opportunities all other children have, to read and write, learn in school, become contributing citizens of the world.

When I was growing up, my dad was a professor of mechanical engineering at a large university, Purdue. Graduate students from different countries came into our home and had dinner with us. I do not remember ever being invited to my major professor’s home for dinner. But my dad was exceptional. We had African students from various countries, those from India, and other places. Sometimes my sister & I were asked to dance for them or talk with them. We also had family music nights. I grew up on Satchmo and Dixieland jazz. My dad played guitar, banjo, flute, and bongo drums. My mom played piano and I was taught that as well.

My husband and I raised our kids on little money. The privileged childhood I enjoyed vanished when my father died at a young age, 3 months before his 51st year. We had 4 children in years of poverty, I would say. But this essay is not about that. All four of our children have traveled internationally overseas, something I never did, and they all did it on a hope & a prayer.

Jasmine, our oldest, went with her sister Leah to China. They joined a program called “the crazy English school”. They had to pay their plane fare but once getting to the school, their plane fare was paid back to them. For 2 weeks, they interacted with Chinese adults learning English, who wanted to sound “American”.

Prior to this, Leah spent a year in Liverpool, England after graduating half a year early from high school. She left before she turned 18. She spent a year doing service for a hostel/type place run as a Baha’i school in Liverpool. We had no money. We came up with the plane fare but England required she show hat she had $1000 and didn’t need to take a job from Britains once she got there. We didn’t have $1000. A co-worker of mine who was Indian said, “OH, I’ll loan you the thousand, once she gets there you give it back to me. Indians do this all the time.” And that’s what we did. She learned many things about English culture, including that they turned on the water heater in the morning for the purpose of a short shower. Then they turned it off. Pharmacies didn’t have the DRUGS we have, shelves and shelves of them, and even aspirin was behind the counter. They sell more herbal stuff. I think at one point I even mailed her some ibuprofen or aspirin.

Our 3rd child, Jamal, oldest son, was a soccer player. He had the opportunity to go to Argentina with a youth exhibition team from our hometown. The whole team had offers to stay with a host family for a year. Our son was the only one who did so. A few of the things he learned was seeing absolute poverty while riding the bus to go to some soccer games. He said we don’t have such poverty here, basically tent cities or shacks for long stretches of miles. Secondly, Argentina was going through a bit of political upheaval and he was downtown during a protest one time. Third, they ate a LOT of meat. His host family had some cattle I believe. Fourth, Argentina is much like a European country. The young adult scene was late night, tight pants, very European.

Our 4th child Levin, 2nd son, went to England with his sister Leah one summer. They roamed London, got to Scotland and saw Lochnaw castle in Stranraer, and got to Amsterdam. Saw LES MISERABLES in LONDON, a requirement from his sister which he was not excited about. How did they have money to go?? Financial Aid! She was living WITH US so had no living expenses, yet the school did not count OUR income because of her age. She got a lot of financial aid. Something in me says, “That’s wrong!” but we had no choice in the matter. She got the money regardless.

Lastly, this same daughter went on pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, with her father as assistant and baby son 8 mos. old, in 2006. And JUST THIS YEAR, our oldest daughter did the same, taking her oldest son with her, the youngest son not able to go.

Today, all 4 of our kids are adults living in 4 different states, with us in a 5th. This makes for loneliness and missing them a lot. However, we raised them to be free to go and live where they wanted to. And they did. We talk on FaceBook, visit when we can. They are world citizens, all of them. And for this, we are proud.

Fruitcake haiku

December 4, 2016

He stirs the batter,
Makes fruitcakes with Great-Grandma,
Building memories.

zakiah

(This Thanksgiving break, Zakiah our grandson helped AL’s mom make her annual fruitcakes she gives out to all the families. She makes chocolate ones, apricot, ones with white and what flour. She is too weak now to make them by herself and use the electric mixer. Zakiah, age 10, did that and built a relationship with her.)

 

Our son named Jamal

July 16, 2016

Our oldest son’s name is Jamal. The quick way to explain it is, our religion is global. It is literally worldwide but its roots, where it started, was Iran. Baha’is have always been persecuted in Iran because for one thing, they came after Muhammed. Secondly, some of the main principles of the Faith are things like equality of men and women; science and religion go hand in hand; and the essential oneness of all major religions under one God. These principles are not often supported by the current government of Iran. Jamal is a beautiful name meaning beauty but is a man’s name. We called our son “Jamie” until he was 7 years old when he announced, “My name is Jamal” and that was that. In TODAY’S climate, he has been assumed to be black, or Arabic, neither of which helps him to land a big job in Milwaukee (the most racially divided city in America). It has been suggested to him by well-meaning business associates that he should change his name to “Jim Hall”. Recently, a neighbor asked Jamal & his wife “if he practiced Shariah law”. And frankly, well-meaning African Americans have asked me, “Why does your son have a black name?” It’s not a black name, it is an Arabic name & we just happened to like it. It is a very masculine name, if you are global-minded. In high school his soccer team nickname was Jamal (he’s not) Black. This was printed onto the back of his soccer t-shirt. Our youngest son’s name is LEVIN. It’s Russian & comes from the book ANNA KARENINA. No religious significance whatsoever. A black graduate student once started laughing hysterically when I told him my son’s name. He said, “OMG do you know what you’ve done to him? Employers will assume he’s either black or Muslim.” I say, “Let your vision be world embracing and not confined to your own selves.”— Baha’i writings.

Final Days

April 26, 2016

These are the final days,

days of remembering,

days of reflection,

of walks down the hall with support on each side,

days of service provided by family,

days of someone accepting their aid.

These are the days of aching bones,

when pain is simply a part of life,

when it is a struggle to get out of bed,

to get dressed,

and to sleep.

Days of being poked with needles,

of taking pills by mouth and IV,

Days to spend with family and friends,

and the loss of all privacy.

Days to say I love you,

Days to offer prayers,

These are the days of memories

when many stories are shared.

Some of these days are filled with tears,

some with laughter and joy,

Some are filled with stress and concern,

Some are over way too soon.

Days of precious intimacy,

of sitting with our loved ones,

days when time loses relevance,

days of God’s infinite mercy.

cfblack  04-26-2016 

 

 

Nov.19 – John Thomas Agnew

November 19, 2014

On this day in 1918, John Thomas Agnew was born to John Wesley Agnew, a bookkeeper for Monon Railroad, and his wife Mary, a feisty-minded and strong-willed woman who loved babies and telling stories. John Thomas grew up without a lot of luxury, and always excelled in school. He found a flute on the street & taught himself how to play it, later writing marches for Purdue band. As a youth, he contracted a disease that took him out of school and caused one leg to be shorter than the other. For this reason he limped the rest of his life and could not tie his own shoes, but that never slowed him down. He became Prof. of Mechanical Engineering at his alma mater, Purdue University, did research at Genl Motors in Michigan, and eventually moved his family to Philadelphia where he became Dean of Engineering at Drexel U. On weekends he was grading papers and reading but always available to his kids. He loved wearing old white t-shirts and bumming around in Natl Parks and hunting for fossils in the summer. He was a small man, a scientist at heart and agnostic but believed in contributing to the advancement of humanity. He died at age 50, as many Agnew men do, with heart trouble, just after my 16th birthday. He was my father, and I miss him.

On this day in 1918, John Thomas Agnew was born to John Wesley Agnew, a bookkeeper for Monon Railroad, and his wife Mary, a feisty-minded and strong-willed woman who loved babies and telling stories. John Thomas grew up without a lot of luxury, and always excelled in school. He found a flute on the street & taught himself how to play it, later writing marches for Purdue band. As a youth, he contracted a disease that took him out of school and caused one leg to be shorter than the other. For this reason he limped the rest of his life and could not tie his own shoes, but that never slowed him down. He became  Prof. of Mechanical Engineering at his alma mater, Purdue University, did research at Genl Motors in Michigan, and eventually moved his family to Philadelphia where he became Dean of Engineering at Drexel U. On weekends he was grading papers and reading but always available to his kids. He loved wearing old white t-shirts and bumming around in Natl Parks and hunting for fossils in the summer. He was a small man, a scientist at heart and agnostic but believed in contributing to the advancement of humanity. He died at age 50, as many Agnew men do, with heart trouble, just after my 16th birthday. He was my father, and I miss him.

to my grandson

July 27, 2014

I have given you my quiet moments,
those hours I need to feel myself again,
to organize my files, my desk,
and get ready to be with people,

because when you are here,
I am with people
every minute of every day,
because you have a way
of making friends,
it doesn’t matter where we are,
You are a natural extrovert,
You mingle with those you do not know,

while I would rather sit by myself,
meditate
and pray.

It is not that I am a pious nun,
but more that this is the way
I stay sane,

because people tend to drive me crazy,
and I need my time alone,

But I have given up this time, for you,
because you are the sweetness
of my life,
you are the future, and not the past,
you are the next generation,

and when my bones hold me up no longer,
and I am laid to rest,
you are the one to pray over me,
and hold me in your memory,

I count on you, to remember me
and place a flower upon my grave,
while I will promise to do my best
as your personal guardian angel.
cfblack 07-26-2014

my husband’s presence

March 10, 2014

The older we become,

the more I take comfort in my husband’s presence,

and the more I am aware,

that our friendship and love

is all that will survive of our existence,

and all that we may pass on

to our children and grandchildren.

oldest daughter

May 31, 2013

I am in denial about my age. I really am. It is not possible my oldest daughter, oldest child, will turn 36 in another week. But it is.

I want to do my best to post something about each of my children on their birthdays this year. They were all born in warm weather, Spring, Summer, early Fall. June, August, early September. Jasmine was born in June.

She was a tiny-featured, delicate, petite baby, about 6 1/2 lbs. at birth. From what I remember, 6 lbs. 5 1/2–6 oz. I am one of those mothers who doesn’t automatically remember weight & length of babies at birth. But I can get close. She was about 6 lbs., 5 & 1/2 oz. & 19″ long. So petite. Born to be blonde for sure, as there was just a little light colored hair. Thin little fingers, and almost no nose at all. So tiny. So sweet. And so her name befits her well: Jasmine. The delicate, white or yellow Jasmine flower, so sweet-scented.

The labor was long, but who knows how much of that was because of the ancient, barbaric practice of keeping me tethered to a fetal heart monitor which allowed me little movement in the 15 hours we were at the hospital before the birth finally occurred. Total labor time was about 24 hours. The doctor was … typical doctor, egomaniac, but at the same time, open to a Leboyer birth. He tried to be caring and respectful. We turned down the lights, no spotlight was used, it was about 5:15pm with dusk approaching, and we kept our voices low. All natural birth, and out she came, Jasmine entered the world. Immediately she was placed into a warm little bath, where her daddy held her, the Leboyer bath. It is supposed to make newborn babies feel comfortable, as they just left the water world behind. It seemed to work exceptionally well. There was such JOY in the room, and she relaxed and opened her eyes. Pure joy and happiness. Then little Jasmine Aglaia was whisked down the hall, her father carrying her, to be weighed and measured.

Delightful mother memories of a 24-yr-old new mommy. We had an ancient pediatrician who denied breast feeding because of a “possibility” of mother/child problems with blood types, so after nursing her once or twice, I pumped breast milk down the drain and nurses fed her a bottle. This was our first major trial. I could have stopped breast feeding right then & there. But with support of husband and mother-in-law, when we got home I soon put the bottles up on a shelf. She was used to them and preferred them, & I realized, if I don’t put them away I’m done. We made the shift, she adjusted and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

These are happy memories and I cannot imagine, really, that I am the age that I am, with current knee pain giving me fits, and an inability to lose weight. My husband & I each face our own health challenges at the moment. But these are sweet memories.

Her middle name, Aglaia, is a name of one of 3 Greek goddesses. Aglaia was a goddess of beauty.