Archive for the ‘various personal musings’ Category

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.

a quote from Carl Sagan

May 4, 2014

I have always had great respect for scientists, and oftentimes compared the vastness of never-ending space, to a belief in God. I have asked people who do not believe in a God, “Where does space end?” Not everything can be explained. Not everything can be contained by the human mind, and yet we believe. We believe in our existence, in finding our place, in finding our calling, in a world that is in actuality a speck of dust “suspended in a sunbeam”. We are humbled at our insignificance in pondering the stars and the heavens, whether literal or figurative. It shows us our absolute miniscule reality, and yet, our total joy at having consciousness and life. I wonder how my father, a scientist and agnostic, pondered this universe and its meaning. Below is a quote I stole from a page on Carl Sagan.

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” — Carl Sagan.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/12/10/pale-blue-dot-motion-graphics/ 

 

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=earth+in+space&id=97941C113EC6B8136A09926677410E13A01CED4B&FORM=IQFRBA

To Infinity – and beyond!

April 29, 2014

My favorite character in “Toy Story” is Buzz Lightyear. I love him because he is so full of himself, but his heart is in the right place. He is trying to save the world and believes it is his mission to do so, and he is blind to his own frailty, blind to his being just a tiny speck amongst millions. In reality he has no super powers. In reality, he has no link to Mission Control. In reality, there is no Mission Control, there is only him, Buzz, trying to do his best in the midst of chaos. And in the end, that is what matters. And he does, in fact, make a huge difference in the lives of his friends. He is a true hero, not because he has super powers, not because he will save the world, but because he does the most with what he has, and he cares deeply more about his friends than they at first realize.

Buzz

 

lessons learned

October 27, 2011

Lessons learned at this point in my life:

Always trust in the bounties of God.

Life is circular. People you’ve known come back around. Tests you’ve faced return also, especially if you never learned what you were supposed to learn the 1st time. Sometimes they just come back for no reason at all. The only thing that won’t come back is your youth. Unless you want to count grandchildren.

Grandchildren are the EXQUISITE JOY of life!!

Saying prayers works. There is always an effect. It may take some time for you to witness it. I can’t explain it but there are forces and movements in the universe, and prayer has an effect. That’s all I can say.

I have also learned that when you think you’re out of groceries, you can actually exist for at least a week on what’s left in your frig & your pantry. It’s amazing how simple life can be.

this precious life

October 14, 2011

Recently, 2 things happened that made me once again realize the absolute preciousness of life. Every single life. First, we found out grandchild no.5 is on the way. How precious is that?? We are so excited! They had 2 ultrasounds and 3-4 blood tests for the doctors to tell them: normal baby developing as it should. Just smaller, younger than you thought it was! And so, we have a picture of this little one, this precious life. Welcome to the family, may you grow and grow and grow, can’t wait to see you!

isn’t life WONDERFUL??

 

 

 

baby grandchild

 

 

Now I am not a “right-to-lifer”. I find abortion absolutely appalling, however, I believe the mother carrying the child has to have the right to choose. I respect her right to make that decision. I just don’t see how you can FORCE any woman to carry a child she does not want to carry, plus there are too many questions still on the table for folks to know in any way except your own spiritual beliefs, when exactly that growing embryo is a human being with full protection of the law. I FEEL PERSONALLY it certainly is a human being. But I respect any woman’s right to make that choice, that decision, for herself.

Secondly, I saw “YOU DON’T KNOW JACK” a film about Jack Kevorkian’s crusade to assist people in their own suicide. I am still struggling to put into words on a page the internal thoughts & feelings about the sanctity of LIFE that arose from watching this film. To help with this, let me put some thoughts into the form of questions. Perhaps that is the best way:

  • When someone has a debililtating, fatal disease, at what point, on what day, does their life become worthless?
  • If it is a fatal disease, why not wait out a few more days and allow your loved ones to care for you? Maybe this is their task, maybe it is their calling, their joy. Is it your decision when to take yourself away from them? They will never see you again in this world.
  • Suffering is a part of life, always. For some, it seems they receive way MORE than their fair share. Still, we all are susceptible to that. None of us CHOOSE to be the one to suffer the most. It is available to all, and could strike any one of us at any time. None of us are immune. There is no Superman or Superwoman. There is no Bionic Man. So whoever is suffering, in a way, is ALL of us, it is who we are, it is our humanity.
  • When in the process of dying, should we choose to die, to take our own life away? We all will die, it comes to each and every one of us, and when it does, we must go through it alone. It is inescapable. There are no promised rose gardens, no guarantees in this life, in this world, when that time will come to any of us. It could be tomorrow, tonight. It could be 50 years away. None of us know. Why should we suddenly be able to decide the exact moment? What if we were to meet someone tomorrow and affect their life? How do we know? How can we be sure our time is up?

It is questions like these that struck me while watching each person in the film decide the moment they would die. I thought, “How selfish,” really. How presumptuous. Why not let life take its course? You know why? Because we want to die with DIGNITY. And this is oftentimes what is denied to us in hospitals, especially if we have INSURANCE to cover treatment! More treatments, more unnecessary surgeries, at the end of life, when we SHOULD be given time with our families, time to say good byes, time to somewhat adjust to our upcoming loss. Time to reflect, time to make ammends, time to forgive. So often we do NOT get that, because doctors do not even share WITH us what is happening!

Also, we don’t want to be a burden to our families. But perhaps this is part of our humanness as well — taking care of another human being, especially when they are HELPLESS and when they are suffering, because that is when they are in need. Do we really trust our families, our loved ones to love us enough to see us at our most vulnerable state? I think it is a matter of wanting to feel in control, and fearing loss of that control. Of course. I feel it too. But this is part of what we need to LEARN, while still breathing in this world — to fully and completely, totally trust another human being enough to have them take care of us, even when we can no longer take care of ourselves. Isn’t that what happens when people grow old? They become, once again, a child. They are more interested in playing and enjoying simple pleasures than worrying about this or that problem or event happening perhaps next week.

 There is much more I could say and write, but I will close for now. I could talk about being with my mother the last 5 days of her life, or my brother for the last 3-4 days of his. I could talk about how the hospital told us we had to move our mother when she had less than 24 hours to live, and our refusal to do so, after which they found us a hospice space within the hospital. She was in no pain, they couldn’t do anything more “for” her so they wanted us to leave. I can’t imagine the horrific scene that would have been while she died in the process of trying to move her into a “rehabilitation center”. Thank God my brother had the common sense about him to look them straight in the eye and say, “Well, we’re not moving. So find us a room.”

We didn’t know at the time that she had less than a day to still be breathing. But we were starting to guess. They don’t confide in you, don’t tell you these things. And so, we were given that last night to be with her in her room, and she passed the next morning before we had a chance to eat breakfast.

So yes. We deserve to die with dignity. But I do not think taking one’s own life, or assisting others to do so, is what a physician should be about. My mother had a worsening heart condition. She could have decided herself that she was not going to get any better, and to end her own life sooner than it happened. But why do that?! She was very accepting in her later days. She accepted her condition, and spent time with her family as much as possible and just enjoyed her life at home. She prayed and studied her Bible as well. I feel happy for her to have this time. And she was there when her new little grandson came to visit from North Carolina and played in her living room, some of the last pictures I have of her smiling, with her oxygen tube in her nose in her own living room.

This is life! It is wonderful, it is great, and it lasts as long as it lasts. In each moment there is value, in each precious life.

what is in my office

August 20, 2011

If I wondered just exactly what all was in my office, now I know. It was recently painted. This miracle occurred suddenly, causing me great happiness. They even did the floor. However, all had to be moved out, and then moved back in. It is now sitting all around me, not yet quite in order.

What is really sitting here is 10 years of painstaking graduate, and in some cases undergraduate, study. Every book I used in a graduate class is now sitting in this room. Each one means something to me. I remember the class, I remember the papers I wrote, I remember the pain it took to get through the class. More important, I remember things I learned, things that turned my head around, things I read that change my outlook on life. It does happen. It happened to me any number of times.

Sitting on the shelf next to me is the “Norton Anthology of Literature by Women”. The pages are so thin, they feel like tissue paper and there are 2450 of them! Enclosed in this book, only about 3 inches thick because of the tissue-like paper pages, is Jane Austen, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Mary Wollstonecraft, George Elliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sojourner Truth, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti, the complete Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the complete Kate Chopin’s Awakening, Zora Neale Hurston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks. Women whose words amazed and inspired me, and truly affected my outlook on life. This is from the very first class I took when I returned to school. That was about 15 years ago. I was 43. I returned to school in Women’s Studies, which was a very good move, if I must say so myself. I didn’t know how to word process a paper. The world of computers was knew to me. It is hard to imagine how much things have changed, since then. It is hard to imagine that I now assign and grade 10-12 page papers in upper level social theory classes. I have 4 of my own publications. Can this really be real?

Other things in my office are graduation commencement booklets, my own, my children’s, and now, 3 years’ worth of students. I miss them already, sad that some of their familiar faces will not be with me in classes this Fall.

There are a few personal things in here. Shells from a trip to the beach, where I walked with grandsons, looking for them and marveling at the waves on our feet. I miss them now, wish I could be there again. There is a little snow man hanging from a book shelf, saying, “Let it snow.” That is for the Indiana home I left behind. A butterfly with a tag that reads, “Celebrate each day,” which came from my mother. A reading-of-the-day pad, made with 3 X 5 cards, hole-punched and held together with binder rings. This came from my Dutch grandma, includes her strong Christian faith outlook, and reminds me of my past. There are two sets of book ends from Mexico– one of a man with sombrero hiding his face and taking a nap, the other set of horses. These were my father’s. Some of his books are here as well. People probably wonder why my shelves contain books on “thermodynamics” and “Who’s Who in Engineering of 1964”. My father.

And so a new Fall begins, in my freshly painted office, pieces of my identity all around me. It is a good space.

what is a book?

May 18, 2011

What is a book? A book is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Especially today, when power has become = to being able to find information. Knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips. The key is being able to decipher all those millions and millions of gigabytes, decipher good information from bad information, reasoned information from babbling.

Today I go to my college, to remove books from the library. We are to remove as many books as possible, books not checked out in 10 years, books no longer having pertinent information, books in languages no longer taught at our college, BOOKS. Books books books.

We have a small library to begin with, something like 80,000 volumes. The library “space” is to be turned into a knowledge commons, a cool place to gather for students, with the Writing Lab and other helpful offices within its walls, plus: a coffeehouse.

I am right with the administration on this idea. I worked in a university library for 16 years and saw it evolve from a collector of volumes, to an interpreter of information mostly available online. Still, I love books. If there is anything I have trouble getting rid of, it is a book. An interesting, OLD book is even harder to get rid of. My office is a collection of books. Those by some famous theorist are the most valulable when old.

So this, today, will be a painful task, but also fun in some ways. It’s a treasure hunt. We are allowed to rescue titles that we want to keep back in our Departments. This is going to be a tough task.

I wonder about random musing of shelves in the future, times when you stroll through the shelves and randomly search, then find something wonderful that you never expected to find. What will that be like online? Somehow it just doesn’t “feel” the same to me. Is a relationship with a book you can hold in your hand, the same as a relationship with a gigabyte? That is something my great grandchildren and I will have to figure out.

status in your home neighborhood

April 26, 2011

In my sociology of poverty class, we have done a reading on status within a trailer park. We have also read sections of “Code of the Street” about inner city Philadelphia, where the people themselves call each other either “decent” or “street”. Then I asked the students how stratification existed in their home neighborhood where they grew up.

In my home neighborhood, status was evident in a number of ways. First, there was the one family on the block, a Catholic family, who bought 2 neighboring houses & then built a mid-section to unite them. They had THE BIGGEST house on the block, and 11 kids. Not only that, they had money. When you went into their house, they had a stereo speaker system where music played from room to room, and the parents could talk into it from the kitchen or living room, and reach any one of the many bedrooms and carry on a conversation with whoever was there. Now that was status in the late 50s to early 60s.

There was a division between the lower part of the street and the upper. The upper part, my family’s area, had larger houses, 2-3 stories, and sometimes a screened-in porch. The yards were kept up and trimmed, with nice green grass, although not quite up to the bright green yards people have today through a lawncare company. Our house was 3 stories. We also had a full basement we roller-skated in, on rainy days, it was so large. My dad had an “office” down there, and my mother had a washer & dryer. My older brother also carried out science experiments down there and later made films.

Down the street, the houses became smaller and the families were working class. We knew the difference, even as kids. When we walked to school, which we did every day, we saw the change occur. Poverty showed up a little farther on, just a few streets away. The kids there never had anything, and their hair was unkept, the girls’ hair may have been matted or wildly natural curl, not neatly bobby-pin curled. They didn’t have their own bedrooms either. If you went inside their houses, they felt “dirty”. They didn’t have the giant dining room with mahogany or cherry-wood table sitting there like a trophy you could never touch.

Our mothers were home. We came home for lunch. Working class kids had to go home w/ someone else for lunch, as their mothers were working.

As a kid, if you had a COOL BIKE, you had status. For us, it was a stingray-seated bike. If you had roller skates with a key, you were cool. We created our own private, membership by invitation only clubs of kids. If you were “cool” you could join our club. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood and climbed trees, sometimes finding a little nook or cranny we called our “hideaway”. This is where our club would gather and meet, like a secret society.

As a kid, I always played w/ the poor kids at school, but my mother would never let me go to their houses much after school. Unless their mom happened to be the Girl Scout leader, and I would go there for a weekly GS meeting, but then come home.

I never fought much. I was never a fighter, in any way. Occasionally, someone attacked me, as I vaguely recall. In those instances, I would throw a punch & then duck out. I can remember being really angry with some close friends. We would VERY rarely physically fight, but would yell and send them home, not allow them to come in our house, gang up with other kids to exclude them, those kinds of games. More than likely, I was the one being excluded. I tended to be really close with just a few girlfriends. When they turned against me, I was crushed, & then my parents would go to bat for me & tell me how they weren’t anything. I was a fairly lonely kid. 🙂

can’t say what I’m thinkin’

April 1, 2011

I have recently realized, the really important things that I am learning and thinking in life, I can’t really post on a blog because someone might see it who won’t understand it. I picture people in the future reading my blog or somehow gaining access to old e-mails and thinking, “Wow, she really didn’t think deeply at all!” when in reality, it is just that the truly important lessons in life are not for the world to see on a blog!

Tonight I am thankful for my husband’s listening ear and support,

I am thankful for the blessings of God in my life,

I am thankful that I’ve been around the block enough times, that the roadblocks people sometimes put in my way are something I’ve learned to walk around and avoid.

I am thankful that life has thrown me yet another curve ball that I had to get over, to know that I am a good person, I try my absolute best, I work my absolute hardest, and I am damn awesome!!

and I am so thankful that I live in the south, where the sun was warm on my face today. Thank you Sun.

and thankful for the awesome evening with friends at an art show, music and poetry night. It was fun and relaxing.

directing your life

February 21, 2011

My oldest son recently wrote in his FB “status” that he often feels as if he is watching his own life and not acting in it. Many responded, “I know exactly what you mean, I totally get it.”  I wrote, “I don’t really get it.”

It is my belief that we each have one life. Length doesn’t matter. What we learn while here matters. For those whose life is cut so short it seems senseless, if there is a merciful God, then they will be recompensed. They will be shown all the beautiful things they needed to learn while here.

In any case, my point is this. I think we have to take responsibility for each day of our life. You’ve heard the cliche, Live each day as if it were your last. That’s basically it. Because it could be. It doesn’t mean you don’t plan, set goals, or wait to get something. It means, you live responsibly, and you enjoy the blessings you have, each & every day. You treat others w/ respect, if they deserve it, and if they don’t deserve it, leave them to themselves & pray for them. It is not for you to judge. Don’t live your life as if you are “watching it” because you are IN it. And you are the star. You are for the most part, the director. It is not that you control everything. There is much that you do not control. But only you, control your response. Your response to whatever happens to you makes all the difference. I think you should FULLY understand exactly where you are, even understand the little impact that you really have on most people. But still give. And live each day to the best of your ability. Don’t make plans for tomorrow, and expect them to come. They may not. You never know. Make plans, but realize they may never come, and that’s okay. Because you are doing the best you can, today.

In other words, make the effort, strive, appreciate, and know that’s what counts. Have few regrets. If you get the chance to do something you’ve wanted to do, DO IT, as it may not come again. Dance when the music is on, if you feel like it, because it is fun, and you love it. Tomorrow you may be unable to dance. If you want to do something you know is not good for you, or others around you, DON’T DO IT, and give up the desire. It’s not worth it.

Strive to reach your goals. But appreciate this day, today.