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Abiding Blog
(2010-2012 Archives)

Lucki Melander Wilder

Still digging the blogs. Keep up the good works.  -- Jim (a reader since the first-ever announcement)

These are personal ruminations on divers and sundry topics of interest to me and, I hope, also to you. Some are long, some are short. Some are silly, some are serious. Some are trivial, some are profound. Nor is it always easy to tell which is which, even for me. And all the opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

Feel free to email me to subscribe and receive notice of new entries, with feedback, or if there are any topics you would like me to ruminate about. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean, though, that we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

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N O T !

"Right now, this country wants to heal. I think the only thing comforting in the face of a tragedy like this is to do something good with it if you can."

That's what Ann Curry wrote in her article about kicking off the "20 Acts of Kindness" and "26 Acts of Kindness" viral  campaigns. I included some of my thoughts about the Sandy Hook horror in a recent email to many of my readers:

   I delayed this email for several days as a gesture of respect for those so stricken by the school tragedy that occurred just 30+ miles from where I grew up. I join in prayerful consideration of those 6 brave adults and 20 beautiful children. Today, tho, seems a good day to turn one’s thoughts to more peaceful things.
   You see, today [Dec. 17] is the first day of the ancient Roman seven-day festival called the Saturnalia. Saturn was the deity who, mythology tells us, reigned over the world when humans were all socially equal and equally valued, and equally enjoyed the spontaneous and abundant bounty of the earth without backbreaking labor. Vergil wrote of him: “Under his reign were the golden ages men tell of:  in such perfect peace he ruled the nations.” Saturn gives his name to the seventh day of our (Gregorian calendar) week as well as our sixth and arguably most striking planet (also seventh, if you count the asteroid belt per Bode’s law of planetary spacing). Among the traditions of the Saturnalia that are echoed in this holiday season nowadays are (a) celebrating peace, (b) gift-giving, and (c) rendering service to the less fortunate.

As a Baha'i, I realized that we lost 28 precious lives that day. I could not help but include the troubled soul of Adam Lanza in my count. And my prayers. Ann Curry said that there were others who felt the same way. I don't doubt it for a second. There are people all over the world, of many faith traditions and no particular faith affiliation at all, including agnostics and atheists, who have that kind of spiritual vision.

I couldn't financially afford to do a lot, but I decided I could afford right away to give away 28 copies of Infinite Blessings to random people. And that's what I did. (And it would seem that I'm not the only person who liked that particular act of kindness. Or even the first. I'm including at the end of this entry some of the responses to my Dec. 17 email, as well as those of and to people who had similar thoughts.)

And I did one other thing. I wrote to President Obama and my three Congressional "voices" about how we as a nation can view and respond to such horror. It's not the first time I've written to them about some issue, striving to offer a positive perspective and eschew partisanship. It won't be the last. It was something I needed to do. This is part of what I wrote:

   I very much understood the importance of and appreciated the Presidential presence in Newtown, a mere 30+ miles from where this Chicagoan grew up. The obviously heartfelt speech touched my heart, as well as making a lot of sense. There were, though, two statements that I disagreed with.
   Those precious children, and their brave educators, were not in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in exactly the right place they were supposed to be, at exactly the right time they were supposed to be there, doing exactly the right things they were supposed to be doing. The shooter was the only one in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things.
    And God did not call them home. Such violent, tragic, senseless cutting short of vibrant lives was never any part of God’s will or God’s plan. The shooter exercised his own troubled will and terrible plan, choosing to act against God’s will. He was divinely allowed to do so only because God loves us so much He gives us the free will even to not love Him or His creation if we so choose. (And I don’t just mean the shooter. I also indict all of us – myself included – who have been too slow to demand and make changes in our culture of violence, our neglect of mental health issues, our all-or-nothing attitude about guns.) What God did was not call them home, but rather welcome them home; there’s a difference.
    And you know, we didn't lose 26 precious lives in Newtown, or even 27. We lost 28! The troubled soul of Adam Lanza also stands in need of our prayers, as do his grieving brother and other loved ones.

I know that the way we think affects what we say and how we say it. I equally believe that the way we say things affects what and how we think. I choose never to forget that the worst-wounded spirits, those who have suffered self-inflicted pain the longest, are most in need of prayer and mercy. And I choose never to even accidentally indict God for what one or all of us do or neglect to do. I choose not to define Him as neglectful or angry or judgmental or vengeful or punishing or a sadistic paranoid schizophrenic. I choose to define Him as an always-loving God. Which is the kind of God I need in my life. He loves us so much He has decided not to make us robots. He loves us so much He lets us make our own mistakes. Learn our own necessary lessons. Achieve our own hard-fought victories. He loves us so much He gives us the right to not love Him or each other or our own self if that's how we want it. How's that for unconditional love?!

In The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah, verse #4 from the Arabic, the Voice of God tells us: I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. When we refuse to love that spirit of life, when we aren't filled with that spirit of life, when we do things contrary to that spirit of life, when we neglect those who are bereft of that spirit of life, that's NOT God's fault.

Khoda hafez,

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 1:58 PM, Mike wrote:
   Wonderful thoughts, as always, Lucki, thanks!
  And for all that we’ve chatted about over the years—both in person and via e-mail—did we ever establish that we must have grown up close-by? That is, I hail from Derby, CT, just down the road from Newtown/Sandy Hook. In fact, when years ago I was taking some grad courses at the U. of Bridgeport, one of my professors lived in Newtown. Doing the math, it was probably 38 years ago this past weekend that I was in that neighborhood at his holiday party. My elderly uncle, also a native of that area but now living an hour away here in Florida, and I remarked how disturbing it was to see our old towns’ ambulances in the backgrounds of the TV coverage.
   At any rate, now moving on, I can only echo your e-mail closing, “Have a joyous and safe holiday season and a peaceful and productive 2013.”
All the best,
- Mike
  Lucki responds to Mike:
   Thank you, Mike. I guess we did grow up relatively near each other. Seeing those Newtown scenes, it was disturbing to me, too, just to know how close it was to where I was raised, even if I didn't actually recognize the streets and buildings. I feel relatively fortunate that the only time I've tended to see on TV the actual streets I walked as a kid was in those old commercials for The Stanley Works (way back before the merger that made them Stanley Black & Decker). Especially since Stanley tools and hardware were decent products.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 8:24 PM, Chris wrote:
   Thank you for your good wishes. All the best to you during this happy season. – Chris
  Lucki responds to Chris (and other readers who gave feedback in the same vein):
   You're welcome. I appreciate the kind wishes. So far it's been good. It's gotten cold over the last little while, and we even had enough snow on Christmas Day to finally turn the ground all white without making traffic hazardous. It's mostly melted off now, especially where people had the sense to salt their sidewalks. Still, I appreciate that my biggest, most fun Holy Days occur in the Spring: Naw-Ruz (our New Year's Day) on March 21 and Ridvan starting exactly one month later. It makes things easier in terms of both mobility and lower stress.
Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 5:15 PM, Lann wrote:
   Thank you for rushing my order of 20 [Infinite Blessings] booklets. I handed them out as gifts at a playschool not far from my house.
Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 6:05 PM, Brit wrote:
   Your little book of blessings came in very handy again. I still had enough to give 25 people because one lady asked for two at a community meeting where we talked about the shootings, so now I need to get more after New Year.
Happy Holidays,
  Lucki responds to Lann and Brit:
   Thank you for the inspiring thoughts. I too decided to give away 28 copies of Infinite Blessings to random neighbors, most of whom were parents picking up their children from a nearby kindergarten. I put a little note on each explaining why and thanking them for accepting it. Not everyone did; a few people either refused or ignored me. Still, most everyone said thank you and some even stopped and talked for a while.
Mon, Dec 31, 2012 2:58 PM, Doug wrote:
   Dear Lucki; Indeed, the fact that God has allowed His creation free will, either to do His Will or to inflict unsustainable pain on His creation, seems to be so important that all the lives in the past and in the future do not outweigh its importance. This is a mystery that will likely remain a mystery for some time. The other option is for God to make it easy on us and just make us God fearing and obedient, but then this seems to make the point of advancement on a spiritual pathway meaningless; we must choose this path of our own volition. If this is the case, it makes sense that God will lovingly welcome (as you most wonderfully wrote) the souls who are the victims of this long, slow process. Thanks for sharing the blog. - Doug
  Lucki responds to Doug:
   I appreciate the insight you�ve added. Making us �God-fearing� robots would indeed make spiritual advancement meaningless. If not impossible. And your �equation� � that free will itself is more important, weightier, than all the damage we can do by its misuse � is clear and concise. Thank you.
Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 5:43 PM, Lily wrote:
Dearest Lucki joon,
   Many thanks for sharing this wonderful article/news with me. Actually at Feast last night there was a strong suggestion that we should use every occasion to sound loud and clear the message of Bahá'u'lláh; exactly that is what you did. May I reflect this act of yours in the next issue of the Newsletter, as an example of what could we do? Or would you like to do that yourself ?
   You are really very special! May the Blessed Beauty protect you from all ills of this world!
Wishing you a very happy international New Year,
As always with lots of love,


Lucki responds to Lily :
   Wow, Lily, a “dearest” AND a “joon”. You are in an especially “hugging” mood, aren’t you. I unfortunately didn’t get to Feast, not having a ride. I look forward, though, to seeing in the Newsletter whether our sector’s Feast addressed the same topic(s) yours did.
   I would be honored to have you “reflect this act” in the Newsletter. And feel free, if you wish, to include in your write-up the article link I gave you in my email.
   I usually call it “Gregorian” New Year, but I like “international” too. Thanx for the alternative wording.


  Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 2:46 PM, Lily wrote:
Dear Lucki,
   We Persians show openly when we love someone, using any words we can.
   Thank you for permitting me to write something about what you have done.
   Hope to see you at the next Joint Feast.
Warm regards,
      Lucki responds to Lily:
   Oh, I dunno, there are many ways of (and, yes, many words for) expressing love. Members of one culture may not always recognize how members of other cultures express it. But love is there.
   You're welcome. I look forward to reading it.
   Hope to see you at the next joint Feast, too. It all depends on whether someone calls (at least a few hours ahead) and offers me a ride. Especially in winter, when having no snow/ice in one part of town doesn't mean 2 inches of the stuff didn't fall in another part. Ah, life in the big, long, sprawled-out city.
Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM, Saba wrote:
Dearest Lucki
   Happy 2013! May we see more progress towards peace this year than the year before!
   Thank you for sharing this with us. When I watched the special interfaith program, all that was going through my mind and heart was, who will pray for Adam and his mom! He has stayed in my mind, heart and prayers along with the children and teachers who lost their lives ... as he was also a young life lost to a world not yet transformed to the teachings of the Blessed Beauty [Baha'u'llah].
   What you have done and sent out is a wonderful step towards addressing this -- we as Baha'is bear that responsibility to spread the name and teachings of the Blessed Beauty -- thank you for all that you do in this path, I am grateful and proud of what you do. With love and wishes for ever increasing opportunities to seize :)
  Lucki responds to Saba:
  Thanx for the kind're spot on.
Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 6:01 PM, Derick wrote:
   I totally agree. Is there a way I can subscribe to your blog?
  Lucki responds to Derick :
   Thanx. Your request is my command; I’ll make sure your e-address is included in all update announcements. This will cover both my blogs, as well as many other interesting pages on Browse around and enjoy yourself.
    Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 10:40 PM, Derick wrote:
Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 9:00 PM, Rich wrote:
   My response to your blog post: Beautifully stated!
  Lucki responds to Rich:
  Thanx. I think it’s a lot easier to make a meaningful statement when the matter truly touches the heart, don’t you?

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"Bumblebees can fly because they think they can."

Although that turned out to not be true, of course, it was an interesting speculation back in the day when scientists couldn't figure out how those little bitty wings could flap hard enough to lift that big bumbling body off the geraniums, so to speak.

Pernese dragons are also said to fly because they think they can. Anne McCaffrey imbued them with more than just the ability to ignite their own burps. They also have the powers of levitation, teleportation, telekineses of a sort, and telepathy. But I don't think she used the bumblebee as her real-world template for the small fire lizards that were gengineered into mighty dragons on Pern. I think she used cats. A goodly number of which she lived with.

Cats don't make a big deal to us about their psychic skills. In fact, they usually work very hard at making sure we don't see what they can do. Probably a survival mechanism left over from the days of witch hunting or some such. But in moments of overwhelming panic, they've been known to goof. To use one of their eerie abilities while under human observation. I have personally observed such on more than one occassion; and as Raymond Wolfinger said (and is so often misquoted/misinterpreted regarding): "The plural of anecdote is data."

Hadji AbdulData point 1: Levitation
Hadji Abdul did not like water. (Except for drinking. Sparingly.) I've had cats who did, but he was definitely not a member of that somewhat exclusive club ... if for no other reason than the humilitating effect water had of plastering his ferociously long and luxurious fur against his relatively skinny body. An excess of water really did make him look like something the drowned cat dragged in.

He did, however, like lying in the bathtub when it was empty. Especially on a hot summer's day. The operative word being "empty". Preferably even "dry". So imagine his chagrin, followed by nothing short of sheer panic, the day he leapt onto the edge of the tub. And then jumped into it. Only to realize too late, on the way down, that there was at least half a foot of oh no! H2O in it.

He was already below the rim of the tub, you understand. But his first order of business at that point was to not get wet. No way. Never mind that I had just walked into the room and could plainly see him. Throwing caution to the winds, he rotated 180 degrees horizontally and then levitated in midair back up onto the tub's edge. Well, no, I have to be honest. It's possible what he really did was land on the surface of the water without sinking into it and then launch a jump from that liquid surface back up to the rim. I say this because, upon examination seconds thereafter, I discovered that the very bottom of his left hind foot was wet; the rest of him was stone-cold dry.

Either way, he obviously demonstrated, in public (more or less), a well practiced feat of levitation. He didn't even have the excuse of being a naive kitten. He was old enough to know better. Unlike his companion who also, as a kitten, got panicked into showing another uncanny feline trait.

Stay tuned for further data points on feline psychic powers.

Khoda hafez,

Book - DragonRiders of Pern trilogyBook - Harper Hall of Pern trilogy P.S. There is a wealth of enjoyable science fiction about Pern, with Anne McCaffrey's son Todd still keeping the wondrous dragons -- to say nothing of weyr folk, craft folk, land folk, sea folk, nomadic traders, and sentient dolphins -- alive and well after her death.

A good place to start is the original Dragonriders trilogy; though if music (and/or women's equality) is what really touches your heart, you might be even more interested in the paraquel Harper Hall trilogy. Both trilogies are now available in single volumes


Be aware that, while these were the first novels about Pern that McCaffrey wrote, she later wrote a number of story-length and novel-length prequels, paraquels, and sequels. But with (or even without) the solid grounding of the first two trilogies, all the other books are fun and understandable even if you're bouncing back and forth in time a bit. (Which, after all, is something the dragons can do with their riders anyway. So why not also with their readers?)

German Shepherd resistanceMon, Dec 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM, Cary wrote:
   Many German Shepherd dogs have a comparable but less mysterious ability.
  Lucki responds to Cary:
  Yep. Obviously the GS has been taking wall-climbing/-clinging lessons, and the marmalade judge is carefully critiquing its performance as to composition, degree of difficulty, and execution. You're right, though, gymnastics -- no matter how highly scored -- are not the same thing as psychic powers. BTW, Silver and Angel say "Hi" to Magic and Jewel. (Okay, maybe I left off the "ss".)
Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 4:29 PM, Milton wrote:
   I used to read Anne McCaffrey a lot some years ago, but have gotten to the point where I just can't buy everything I like.
   When I run on the lakefront at night, my buddy and I have come to the knowledge that something strange is going on with the rabbits there. We call them brazen rabbits and suspect them of horrendous activities carried out in secret below ground. We accuse them of many failed attempts at kidnapping one of us because of their large numbers in certain areas. Fortunately their strategic practices are faulty at best.
   The geese are another issue altogether.
   Did I mention the crows?
  Lucki responds to Milton:
   I, too, am well acquainted with Chicago's wild bunnies ... though, because they tend to be solitary rather than invading my yard in bunches, I suspect mine may be hares rather than rabbits. Caught one in a trap by mistake once (trying to trap the raccoon that we eventually caught and moved to a forest preserve). Definitely a hare, what with the longer ears and really long hind legs. But you know, distrust one lagomorph, mistrust them all. You and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's ex-demon Scooby Anya (put your ears on) are obviously kindred souls.
   One of my favorite factoids about geese is that on the wing a flock is known as a skein but on the ground as a gaggle. Fits. Also the whole bit about why geese fly in V formation and honk so much while they're doing it ... which writer Jonathan Groe uses as an object lesson during this whole cycle of financial chaos.
   As for crows, two of them also got caught in that raccoon trap. And they were so brazen that, when I opened the trap door, they chose to keep eating the corn-on-the-cob bait rather than escape. Crows go to the lakefront to breed, of course. And get sort of assertive if it looks like you might interfere. But if you really need to distract them while you escape, throw out a handful of shelled peanuts. They will battle the squirrels, each other, and probably any nearby German Shepherds to get at those goodies.

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"[T]he elector … is called upon to vote for none but those whom prayer and reflection have inspired him to uphold … to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience."

Shoghi Effendi offered that guidance in terms of Baha'i elections of Spiritual Assemblies/Houses of Justice. But to my mind, it also constitutes very useful guidance on qualities to look for in candidates when voting in civic elections.

Shoghi Effendi also offered guidance specifically in relation to civic elections: "The friends may vote, if they can do it, without identifying themselves with one party or another ... always bear in mind that they are voting on the merits of the individual, rather than because he belongs to one party or another." And as with Baha'i elections, Baha'is do not engage in campaigning for or endorsing any civic candidates, nor touting whom they plan to vote or have voted for, so that each and every individual is "...left free to exercise their discretion and judgment."

There is a vast difference, though, between endorsing candidates and endorsing the act of voting. I've already early-voted; and though I'm not going to tell you whom for, I will say that I voted for federal, state, and local candidates associated with three parties and no particular party. As well as on a state constitutional amendment and three public questions. I voted despite not always being happy with the roster of choices offered because I consider it my civic duty to take part to the best of my analytical ability. (And Baha'is are scripturally directed to be contributing members of the civic communities/cultures we live in. Not to stand aloof as if we were "better than" or "above it all". Nor to use religion as a specious excuse to ignore civic duty.)

Sadly, I've heard too many people - in general and especially in Occupy Chicago - take a very opposite view: "A pox on both their houses." Our government is so totally corrupted, they rant, that the only effective way to protest it is to totally disengage from voting. I disagree. Yes, our government has problems and has made some massive mistakes. But our government is also responsible for some amazing progress. And not merely by royal fiat but by rule of law.

We legally abolished chattel slavery and child labor in this country. Because government took a hand in it. We legally established voting rights for women and civil rights for minorities in this country. Because government took a hand in it. We legally created public education for all children and national parks for current and future generations to enjoy. Because government took a hand in it. We legally enacted safe food and clean air standards in this country. Because government took a hand in it. We legally worked towards universal health care and a safety net for the most vulnerable in this country. Because government took a hand in it. And the list goes on.

Did it all get done perfectly? Of course not. There's always room for improvement. Better than any other country? Not necessarily. There are many lessons we can learn from others. But without some strong government leadership, would we have made those strides at all? I suspect not.

Plus which, not voting doesn't tell "the powers that be" that you're disgusted with them. Not voting tells them that you don't care one way or t'other. That may not be the message you hope to send. But it's the one they're apt to receive. Also, if you protest about the consequences later, they can with some justification retort that intentionally forfeiting your rightful opportunity to vote also forfeits your right to complain about the results. And in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, it's not difficult to comprehend the truth behind Bill Cohen's recently-resurrected quip that "Government is the enemy ... until you need a friend."

Then too, I have to wonder where that "just don't vote" meme really came from? After all, if - as the Occupy Movement I think rightfully contends - politics is being corrupted by monied interests, then it seems to me the answer is not to have fewer unmonied interests opposing it, but more of them. Arguably the best way to get the deep wells of dollars out of politics is to get the broadest swath of voters involved in politics. You can be sure the monied interests are going to vote for what they want. If the rest of us decline to vote for what we want, do you think that'll likely make the "1%" morose or ecstatic? Are the "just don't vote" folks unconsciously doing the voter-suppressors' work for them? Would they rather live in a country where they can't vote safely? Or aren't allowed to vote at all? (One reason I personally so appreciate the right to vote in civic elections here is my equal appreciation of how America's religious-freedom law also allows me to vote in Baha'i elections ... something that my co-believers in several more-repressive countries are prohibited "by law" from doing.)

"Yeah, but my one vote doesn't really count" is no excuse, either. Who would've believed that a Presidential election could be decided in the end by a mere 537 votes. That's out of 111 million votes cast that year! Not even counting the 19 million registered voters who didn't vote, and another 57 million eligible citizens who didn't even register. That's national. Now think of what your vote could mean in voting for a state representative. A candidate running for your village council. A judge up for promotion to a higher court. A proposed law or neighborhood referendum on the ballot. Presidential elections aren't just about Presidents. They're also about everyone and everything down-ballot from there. And the closer to your home they are, the more immediate and dramatic the results of the election just might be for you.

And really, if votes don't mean anything, why do some interests seem to be trying to suppress as many as possible? In a way, that's their way of "buying votes" for the benefit of their candidate or platform. But they can't buy your vote - or your electoral silence - if you refuse to sell it to them.

Finally, there's the "I don't see any difference between the two" argument. Really? Not one whit of difference? They are absolutely equal in "the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience"? They've shown themselves absolutely equal in their willingness and ability to serve? (Which is, again, what Baha'is look for in Baha'i elections. And I see no reason not to also consider civic candidates on their willingness and ability to serve, as proven by service they've given or attempted to give in the past. And which is also, incidentally, why I perhaps get less upset than most voters when an elected official is unable to keep all their campaign promises. Because I didn't base my vote on their promises in the first place.)

Well, even that possibility shouldn't stop you. There's always a Plan B. Let's use the current Presidential election as an example, since we all know who the major-party candidates are. (Right? And yes, I also glommed onto the Constitution / Green / Justice / Libertarian parties presidential debate here in Chicago. They raised some valid issues that the major-party candidates haven't been addressing that well. If at all.) If you honestly can't find one iota of difference between President Obama and Governor Romney, if a considered decision between them is impossible, then maybe you can decide on whether Vice President Biden or Congressman Ryan would offer the best service as President should a tragedy occur. If that doesn't help either, have you considered a third-party candidate? Or writing in the name of someone you truly believe deserves your vote? Even your own, if you firmly believe you could do a better job than anyone else?

Vote Nov 6, 2012I urge you to look carefully and "consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities" to keep our civic government honest, effective, and caring. Because no matter what you're voting on, things can't ever truly be absolutely equal. Of all the candidates or options available to you on the ballot, if you look at them carefully, there will be one that most merits your vote.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Click here to read some more Baha'i guidance on civic and Baha'i elections. Then think about what it would be like if we held civic elections like Baha'i elections.

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 3:21 PM, Kim wrote:
   LOVE your thought on the election!  Yes yes yes.
   Though I don't vote because my home state has made it impossible – but I've lived overseas for 30+ years, so I can't say I feel it is total injustice.
  Lucki responds to Kim:
  I see your point about having lived overseas so long. OTOH, it's too bad that you aren't given a choice but are apparently de facto disenfranchised by your home state's unwieldy procedures or something. Especially if, for example, you still have family in the States whom you care what happens to, or pay taxes here, or any of a number of other civic obligations you've been expected to undertake without concomitant representation.
Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 3:53 PM, Mike wrote :
     I did my part and voted early—so can all the ads stop now, just for me, please (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk)?
All the best,
  Lucki responds to Mike:
  See but, since I prefer to get my electoral info from more reliable sources than PR hacks (no matter how good they are at practicing their profession), I love those ads. They give me so-o-o much time to go do important stuff like use the washroom. Or refill my ice water. Or feed the cats. Or transfer the wet clothes into the dryer. Or shred into kitty litter the junk mail they also sent me. Or....  All without my having to worry one little bit that I’m missing something I didn’t want to miss. You know, like maybe a commercial that's actually fun to watch.
Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 8:15 PM, Derick wrote:
    Very well written and I totally agree.
Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 8:15 PM, Jim wrote:
   A well thought out rant.  Thanks for sharing.
  Lucki responds to Derick and Jim (and other readers who gave feedback in the same vein):
   Thanx. Considering how difficult it's likely to be in at least some states for people to vote on Nov. 6, I sincerely hope that no one will give up and go/stay home. I know it's tough for people to stand in line for long hours or to give up a day's work. Still, if people let themselves get disenfranchised this time, then do you think it'll get easier or even harder next time? And really, if we can stand in line for hours to get the new iPhone, we oughta be able to do the same to elect (or reelect) the new President. We often hear that we need to fight for our freedom in order to keep i. I don't think that just refers to military battlefields. Hopefully, my rant will encourage even one person to persevere who was almost giving up. We are all in this together, and every one of us counts.
Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM, Scott wrote:
   Good to hear from you, Lucki.
   I'm back in the States after several years in Egypt.
   Very few Baha�is there, but they exist; and, in fact, there was an "issue" because on an Egyptian state I.D. one must DECLARE their religion, but only Jewish, Christian and Muslim choices were available.
   The country is about 90% [Muslim]. I was forced to register a religion, and when I tried to refuse, the secretary in the office simply quietly submitted one that said "Christian" so the office was least likely to get in trouble with the government.
   There's a lot of UNITY WORK to be done!
  Lucki responds to Scott:
   Ah, yes, when Egypt computerized its system for issuing IDs, the programming wouldn't accept an application unless one of the three "official" religions was marked. Apparently the secretary was trying to be helpful to you without realizing that the "solution" was surreptitiously forcing you to lie about, and thus deny, your Faith. I expect you were understanding when you found out, while still taking action to correct matters as soon as you could, such as after the April 4, 2009 decree amending the law so as to let Baha'is (as well as members of other "unrecognized" religions, agnostics, and atheists) omit any reference to religion on government documents. At least the secretary didn't put "Muslim" on the application, which I believe would've prevented you from correcting your paperwork even after the April 4 rulling. All that was quite a story, wasn't it?
Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 11:53 AM, Roya wrote:
Hi Lucki,
   Thank you for including me in your email. I am not into checking blogs but I am in agreement with Ann Curry and would do anything to spread the love and care to others.
   May your Gregorian new year be happy and joyous.
  Lucki responds to Roya:
   Thanx, Roya. Spreading the love and care, that is the real answer, isn’t it? No tragedy is good; but people do good when they respond to tragedy in a loving and caring manner. No matter how big or small, the answer is to each do what we can. And as the song says: “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!”

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"Whoo hoo!"

Rey on security detailRey's firefighter gearThat's what Number One Son said last Friday afternoon when he called me. I concurred. Vociferously. Repeatedly. Proudly.

Rey has been pursuing a career in public service and safety since 2000. (Not the kind of public service that aims at or involves public office. The kind of public service we think of when we think of firefighters, police, and teachers.) In various years during that timespan, he completed three academies. He is now halfway through his fourth. The first half of this academy was by far his hardest to date, as it had no precedents in his previous three, which were mostly based on paramilitary and legal training of one sort or another. The goal this time was to become nationally certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. Because without that EMT certification, he could not continue the second half of the academy to become a Chicago firefighter.

Rey worked hard on his EMT studies. He studied his EMT manual. Which is at least the size of a Chicago citywide phone directory and has, if anything, tinier print. He used the Internet to augment his study. He worked with a tutor. He joined a study group. He stayed after class to garner some hands-on experience with manikins. He practiced "practicals" on a large doll I gave him. And even on his daughter when she'd play accident victim. And when all else failed, he'd come to me to consult on specific areas that confused him. Because he trusts me to be able to break things down to the point where he can put them back together in his head so they make sense. Perhaps the part I helped him with the most was getting a really good grasp on how the cardiovascular-pulmonary system works. Especially what the sinus and AV nodes do in the heart. (The manual was poorly written in that area -- as in others -- and I had to read it several times and verbalize it until it made sense to me, first.) Once I was able to demonstrate what was going on, he glommed onto it like a champ and aced the quizzes on it.

So the day before his birthday, he took and passed the national EMT certification exam. And for the first time since he started the academy, he was issued his own, personal, Chicago firefighting gear ... 60 to 80 pounds of it, depending on what-all you count as being carried. Gear that he's going to need and use during the second half of the academy, where he'll learn a combination of Chicago-specific EMT and firefighting techniques.

Did I remember to mention how proud of him I am? Whoo hoo indeed!

Khoda hafez,

Fri, Aug 24, 12:22 PM, Lily wrote:
Dearest Lucki,
   How very nice of you to share the good news about Rey with me, many thanks and tons of congratulations to the three of you (Mya included)! I am very happy that he is now among one of the most revered group of servants of the community. May the Blessed Beauty keep him protected at all times.
With all my love,
  Lucki responds to Lily:
   Thank you. Prayers for protection are always appreciated "...from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed."
   Rey will graduate on November 1, in a ceremony at Navy Pier. Needless to say, I'll be there -- as I was at his previous three public-service academy graduations -- looking all supportive and proud of him.

Rey - firefighter graduate   [Nov 2, 2012] Yep, I was there -- looking all supportive and proud of him!
   Mya was there too, of course. As well as a bunch of friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. His best friend came in from out of state; they've been BFFs for so long that when Mya asked me how long I'd known "Uncle Dino", I had to admit that "I don't know." (I asked Rey, and he said they started being pals when he was 9 or 10. Yeah, it's been at least that long.)
   One anecdote: Before presenting their badges to each graduate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel talked about how historically important this long-day-coming was. Because it righted an injustice perpetrated in and by the City of Chicago for years. But he also leavened the mood with a little humor. He noted that Chicago's is the only Fire Department that has its own TV show, and added that, if any graduates (when off duty, one would assume?) needed an agent, he had one for them ... a reference to his cameo appearance in the series opener of NBC's Chicago Fire. It got a good laugh. Being who we were and why we were there, I suspect everyone in the packed room (the Grand Ballroom on Navy Pier) had seen that episode. I watched that pilot ep with Mya. And her first comment -- as the raging fire washed over one fallen fireman -- was: "He's toast. That fire's too big, I don't care how much fireproof gear he's wearing." She wasn't being callous; she was critiquing the FX based on experience helping her dad study.  
***SPOILER ALERT***  And she was right. The character was toast. *END SPOILER ALERT*
    Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 2:53 PM, Lily wrote:
     Thank you, Lucki joon, for sharing all this info and congratulations to Rey on his continuous progress.

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"...immersed in a sea of materialism, a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice, and notorious for its political corruption....”

Those are words that Shoghi Effendi used -- in a letter to the Baha'is in the U.S. and Canada way back on Christmas Day, 1938 -- when he wrote about America's uniquely great destiny and cited the biggest and most intractable challenges then standing in its way. Sadly, he could just as well have been talking about today's America.

I remember reading -- and occasionally rereading -- that line and thinking how vitally important it was, as decade after decade passed, that we learn to deal with each of those three issues. Deal with them completely. How imperative it was to our survival as individuals and as a society that no matter how great the challenge, we persevere, little by little, day by day, to work on each and every one of those defects in our national character. Persevere until we got it right.

I think I always felt, though, that we would deal with them separately … working on each one in turn, albeit probably by fits and starts, until we had conquered them all. It somehow never really occurred to me that if we didn't conquer them one at a time, the time would come when they would gang up on us. Demand to be faced as a horridly synergistic, virulent whole.

Never occurred to me until now.

I spent the end of last month in the hospital having and recovering from routine surgery. Which was, by the way and thanks to our social safety net, very successful and will improve my health and quality of life. And it gave me a lot of time to think. And somewhere during those long hours of enforced inactivity, I came to a realization. That, since we didn't -- at least completely -- deal with these issues separately when we had the chance, we have now been facing a perfect storm of inextricably intertwined racism, materialism, and political corruption. Talk about a quantum leap of the worst sort. Or rather, the fall that follows our prideful inability and refusal to deal with, or admit to, or often even recognize our national shortcomings.

Proclastic cloud over an abandoned cityTo me, that's exactly what's been going on recently. We're seeing the results - played out on the national (and even the global) economic and political stage - of what happens when racism, materialism, and political corruption all come together in one massive pyroclastic eruption of hateful fear, arrogant greediness, and rampant power-mongering.

It sure gives one to pause, doesn't it? And haven't we been reminded lately that we can't fix the problem if we can't see the problem? More to the point, isn't it obvious that this is more than an economic problem that demands financial solutions? More than a legal problem that demands legislative solutions? But underneath it all, also a spiritual problem that also demands spiritual solutions?

So the big question now is: What are we doing on that front? What am I doing? What are you doing? What can we do? What can we do together?

Khoda hafez,

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“Grams, can you make me a costume this year?"
"I can try. What do you want to be?"
"A jester. Or a princess."
"I can do a princess."

That was a conversation my #grandMya and I had last fall. I was thrilled. You see, when I was a kid, my nurturant mother always made me a Halloween costume. Not that she sewed something elaborate (though she could have) so much as that she had the ingenuity to make a fun costume using things from around the house. One year, however, I begged her to buy me a princess costume that I'd seen in the department store. She did. So there I was. In a ticky-tacky plastic-and-glitter princess costume, Which came apart before the night was over. Even worse, I saw some other girls in the same costume. I wasn't even unique. It was my worst Halloween ever! I never ever made that mistake again.

When my son Rey was old enough to do Halloween, I started making his costumes. Something different every year. But always with things from around the house. (Well, mostly anyway. There was one big exception. More on that later.) I don't remember everything we ever did, but I do remember:

  • A green alien with antennae and raygun.
  • A bag of jelly beans with price tag. The bag was one of those thin clear ones from the dry cleaners. I cut holes for his legs to go through. Filled it with colorful round balloons. Tied it with the price-tag ribbon at his neck. Since his arms were inside, I had to carry his bag of treats.
  • A clown, with broken umbrella that I also cut so that some of the panels dangled down. And big feet made of my stretched-out old red socks stuffed with paper and pulled over his shoes.
  • A silver-clad, caped, besworded Corwin of Amber with the black bird of his desire sitting on his left shoulder. No, wait a minute, that was for a science fiction convention. Never mind.
  • An Indian brave with leggings and loincloth, stick-and-string bow and arrows, and headband holding a couple of feathers. He even had some Chahta (Choctaw) ancestry to take with him. On our way around the neighborhood, we ran into a young man walking his dog. A calm, stately Great Dane. "Ooh," I said, "my son's being an Indian and he needs a horse. May we borrow your dog?" "That's not my dog," he answered, "that's my brother. Doesn't he have a great costume?" Best Halloween line ever?
  • A handsome prince with fine clothes. Swirling cape. Bejeweled tam and dagger. Tons of gold and gems. And a pearl-wrapped scepter the size of a walking stick.
  • A boxy silver robot with an opaque black eyeplate, controls and readouts on his chest, and a rod and a scoop for arms. His arms and hands were hidden inside the robot body box, holding the rod and scoop. He'd extend the scoop for the treat, then manipulate the scoop to spill the contents into the pumpkin basket hanging on the rod. People enjoyed that, especially as they also couldn't figure out how he was able to see out of the robot head. (The secret was several layers of black and silver hairnet covering the eye opening, which Rey could see through from the inside but no one could from the outside.) He got double treats sometimes, just so people could see him do the trick again. Nothing works like SFX.
  • A hapless scarecrow with grass stuffing coming out from under his pants cuffs, shirt cuffs, and buttoned shirt front. And big hat on which was perched a crow's nest with two half-shells and one unbroken egg. Actually they were chicken eggshells, and the "whole" one was also empty. He'd pose for people with his arms stretched out at his sides and his head tilted forward so they could see the nest.
  • A vampire with long black cape, deep widow's peak, and blood dripping from his lips.
  • A sort of combination Wookie/Sasquatch with dusky face, furry feet, hairy body and head, and a crossbow-like weapon. He went to one family's back door, which was open, and knocked on the screen. A lady was sitting near the door with her back to it, talking to the homeowner. She looked around at the knock, screamed, and jumped away from the chair. Then she realized it was a trick-or-treater and laughed.

Mya, Princess of India - Halloween 2011Four costumes won prizes at neighborhood events: The alien, the prince, the robot, and the scarecrow. And did you notice that only one costume, the robot, actually involved his wearing any kind of mask? Every other face was handled with makeup. Made Halloween a lot safer for him.

As for the special exception: Well, one autumn day Rey was wandering around the neighborhood and happened to go through the alley behind a clothing store. There he found a large bag jammed full of discarded wigs. He brought them home, sure I could make a costume out of them. He was right. My gorilla socks over his sneakers. Ragged old blue jeans. Face make-up. A long puffy wig on his head. An old shirt with wigs safety-pinned all over it. And voila! Wookie/Sasquatch.

Mya, on the other hand, always had a bought costume from her 1-year-old pumpkin all the way through age 8. Cool costumes, I gotta admit, like the year she dressed as Belle and her dad rented a Beast costume to go with her. But last year, having heard various stories about costumes her dad had as a kid, she asked me to make a costume. A jester or a princess. I thought about what I had around the house and agreed I could do a princess. An Indian princess. From India, she asked, or a Native American princess? From India, I told her. She was okay with that. And here you see the results (her mom Daisy took the picture).

Thanx to reader Andre for motivating me to find a picture of Mya for him; seeing this one as I searched brought a lot of fond memories to mind.

Khoda hafez,

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"You once used the term 'adder in the garden' when commenting on a story of mine. I smiled when I remember how I react when I hear some horrid person described as a snake. I consider the comparison unfair. I like snakes, and so does [Analog Science Fiction and Fact editor] Stan Schmidt."   -- Tom Ligon

My friend and fellow author (though of deservedly much greater renown), Tom Ligon, recently reminded me of a cute story about my son when he was but six years old. And as you know, cute stories are great grist for my Abiding Blog mill. So here it is.

Rey grew up in Chicago. As I'm sure you realize, urban kids don't have the same opportunities to learn about common, everyday animals – at least not about the same animals in the same profusion – as do rural kids. So when he was introduced to the topic of snakes in school, he came home with a fearful reaction. When I asked why snakes bothered him, he responded that they must be cold and slimy and would squeeze you and lick you with their icky poison tongue.

Rey has always been a very "I'm from Missouri; show me!" kind of person. Which I think is cool. And even as a kid, he frequently came to me to verify something he learned in school. Because I didn't just tell him to shut up and learn it. I arranged demonstrations. Like the time he was told that acid could heat up or even burn things. So we got some cream. Squeezed lemon juice into it. And watched the acid "cook" the cream into cottage cheese. Or the time he was absolutely certain they had lied to him. When they told him that the sun didn't go around the earth. That night we went out and I stood him under a street light. Put a dot on his nose. Asked him to pretend he was the earth and the dot was Chicago. Slowly turned him around and around to show him how, even though the street light never moved, sometimes the Chicago dot was in the light and sometimes it was in the dark.

So naturally, it was snake-demo time. Luckily, a local pet store had one of its south-facing storefront windows tricked out as an ophidiarium for its populous collection of baby boas. Come Saturday, off we went to the pet store, though I didn't tell him why. We went in and looked at all the colorful fish and birds. Played finger games with the rodents in their cages and runs. Petted a saddle-backed white rat. Exchanged hellos with the mynah bird who called himself Spike. Then I simply asked the counter-person to please bring me a baby boa from the window.

As Rey watched, I held the baby and let it slither around my fingers. I asked him why he thought snakes were cold and slimy. Oh, because they look like worms, obviously. I replied that snakes aren't worms and are pretty dry unless they've been swimming. I invited him to touch the snake's back while I held the head. When he did, he agreed that its skin wasn't slimy or slippery but rough and even warm. That's because it's been basking in the sun in the window, I explained. Snakes can't keep themselves warm the way people or, say, furry cats can. They feel warm when they've been in the sun and cool when they've been in the shade. That's why the baby likes being in my hand, I added. Because it likes how warm my hand feels.

Rey was still afraid of being "poisoned" by the tongue, though. So the next hurdle was assuring him that snakes don't sting you with their tongues. They use their tongue to smell you because they don't have noses like we do. Rey thought it giggly funny that something can sniff you with its tongue.

Finally, I asked if he wanted to try holding the snake. Showed him how to hold it so that it couldn't bite him even if it got scared of him, him being so much bigger and all. He agreed to try, but got a little troubled when it twisted to wrap itself around his wrist. It's going to squeeze me bad, he feared. So the final hump was our discussion about how maybe a 6-foot boa or python can squeeze you too hard if it wants to. Which it wouldn't want to unless it's hungry or hurt or scared. But a little 6-inch baby certainly can't. Because you're way stronger than it is. Remember, I told him, it wants to wrap around you because it likes how warm you feel. Plus which, hey, if someone picked you up dangling by your neck, wouldn't you try to grab onto their arm or something to help hold yourself up? Aha, putting himself in the snake's non-existent shoes like that really helped. He became very comfortable with the little critter. And was disappointed when he had to give it back to the counter-person. Though he grudgingly agreed that we couldn't buy it because cats and snakes might not get along too well.

Boa constrictor with heart-shaped spotFast forward a month or two. To our trip to a big Chicago pet show. As we were touring the exotic pets section, he saw a lady with a boa constrictor that was at least six feet long. He wasn't concerned about the size, though. Hey, he'd held a boa in his very own hand and, you know, handle one boa, handle 'em all, right? So he ran over and begged the lady to let him hold her snake. At first, she said no. Not because she didn't want anyone to touch her pet. Rather, I suspect, because she was just waiting for parental screams of fear and outrage. When she ID'd me as his mother, she gestured a question. I responded that it was okay with me if it was okay with her. So with a smile, she had Rey face away from her and hold his arms out to his sides. Letting its tail drape out of his right hand, she laid the snake along his arms and across his shoulders, ensuring that he properly held the head in his left hand. Of course, the snake was certainly longer than he was and may have weighed more, so she helped support the weight of its middle on his back.

There he stood in all his little-boy glory. Grinning fit to burst. Proudly holding his new big-snake friend. Well, I'll tell you, flashbulbs flared in droves for at least two minutes. I suspect there are still pix of him all over the country, my happy little six-year-old ophiologist. (Wish I had one of them myself. A photo, not an ophiologist.)

Khoda hafez,

Mon, Oct 25, 2021 at 10:51 AM, Brant M. wrote:
   A short uplifting story: Thank you.
  Lucki responds to Brant M.:
   I know what a phobic reaction can be like; it's no fun. Based on the byplay in one of your recent weathercasts, I thought (or hoped) you might enjoy my old blog story of conquering a fear of snakes. Glad you saw it. You're quite welcome.

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“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”   -- Baha'u'llah

Unit of Mankind Certificate of AchievementThat's what it says. Right there at the top of the elegant Certificate of Achievement my #grandMya received from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the U.S. For completing her Level One Unity of Mankind badge as a Brownie Scout. (Read about what she accomplished here.)

The cert is signed by the current Secretary General of the National Assembly. Not by a stamp. Not by a surrogate. By Ken Bowers himself.

The packet also included a letter lauding Mya's efforts, experiences, and accomplishments. Report of which will be used by the the Office of Education & Schools as it reflects on and enhances the program.

I'm hoping that Mya will be interested in pursuing her Level Two badge now that she has "graduated" from Brownie Scouts. But whether she chooses to or not, I'm still wearing that proud-Grams expression of mine.

If you'd like to add your congratulations to Mya for her perseverance and hard work, write her a note, email it to me with MYA as the first word of the subject line, and I'll print it out for her.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Remember, if you want to learn more about the Unity of Mankind badges for Scouts, email us with BAHA'I BADGES as the first words in the subject.

Fri, Apr 06, 2012 at 6:02 PM, Nancy K. from Chicago wrote:
   Congratulations, Mya! What an excellent achievement for you!
  Mya responds to Nancy:
   Thank you, Nancy! I also agree that it was a great achievement for me because I worked so hard on it!!
Fri, Apr 06, 2012 at 6:52 PM, Valerie S. from Connecticut wrote:
   Congratulations to Mya and her proud Grandma on this wonderful achievement!
Signed, a Girl Scout from long ago,
  Mya responds to Valerie:
   Thank you, Valerie, you are so nice! And I am so glad you were once a girl scout. Also, do you still have your badges?
    Mon, May 14, 2012 at 4:54 PM, Valerie wrote:
Dear Mya:
   No, I don't think I still have my badges; it's been a very long time since I got those, though I wish I had kept them. For now, I simply have the memory of those badges and that sash.
Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 11:09 PM, Lily A. from Chicago wrote:
Dear Lucki,
   Thank you for sharing the wonderful news about dear Mya. My heartfelt congratulations to you, for being such a loving and watchful granny for your precious granddaughter. Will you please see that she too gets my loving congratulations.

Dearest Mya,
   You may not remember me, I am Lily, whom you used to see quite often at the Baha'i Center. I've known you since you were a tiny little girl, and watched you grow with a keen interest in learning. This is why I would like to congratulate you on obtaining your Certificate of Achievement for your praiseworthy accomplishments. I pray that this will be just the beginning of many more to come.
With much love,
  Lucki responds to Lily:
   Thanx for your kind words, Lily. Of course I'll make sure she sees them.
   Actually, knowing how computer savvy she is -- remember, she also earned two computer badges I got to help her with -- I suspect she's already seen your feedback. Only, she has to wait until the next time she's here with me to actually enter her response on this site. Keep an eye out for it.
   And certainly she remembers who you are. After all, think how many times she did something to help you cook at the Prayer Breakfasts. Like finding where the "panda" plates were hidden. Or getting you something from the fridge. Right? In fact, sometimes I can help her remember someone by describing them in relation to you: "Lily's daughter, the one who wasn't your Baha'i School teacher" or "the person who cooked the Prayer Breakfasts when Lily wasn't there" or like that. So no, of course you are not forgotten.
  Mya responds to Lily:
   Thank you, Lily, so much. I love you so much because you feel like family to me a lot!! I will pray for you also.
    Mon, May 14, 2012 at 5:23 PM, Lily wrote:
   Thank you, Mya joon, for this warm and lovely message.
Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 11:16 PM, Andre S. in The Netherlands wrote:
Dear Lucki,
   For Mya I have a deep admiration. She is the fulfillment of the prediction that the youth of this time are more equipped for life than we were at that age! Congratulations for her and I hope to hear more from her. Perhaps a photo would be very welcome. Her prayer to add onto ours for the...people over here could work out wonders, I think.
Loving greetings,
  Lucki responds to Andre:
   Mya seems interested in working towards her Level 2 Unity of Mankind badge, which we already know again includes doing prayers together. I'll consult with her about including prayers specifically for you and your neighbors.
   Also, I asked if it was okay to post Mya's picture on this site. Her dad was fine with it. So here is a picture of Mya. It was taken back when she was six, and it's a picture I adore. Starting with summer vacation when she was five and working through till the end of the next school year, Mya read 16 books with me. Pretty good when we only get together a couple of times a month. And that picture shows her with 13 of them from our personal library. (The other three, the Dr. Seuss books, belonged to a younger friend of hers. She read them to him when she was visiting him.) She'd set a goal of one book per month. And surpassed it. The books she read were:
  • Mya with booksAll the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger (29 pgs)
  • A Baha'i Alphabet Book by Anne Breneman (54 pgs)
  • Black, White, Just Right! by Marguerite W. Davol (29 pgs)
  • Blessed Is the Spot by Lisa Blecker, artist (31 pgs)
  • Cat Tales by Richard Watherwax (44 pgs)
  • Dolphins by Center for Marine Conservation (8 pgs)
  • Full Color Designs from Chinese Opera Costumes by North Drama Institute of China (48 pgs)
  • The Good in Me from A to Z by Lisa Blecker (29 pgs)
  • Hooray for the Planet by Michael Fitsgerald (27 pgs)
  • Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss (20 pgs)
  • Let's Draw Animals by Ann H. Davidow (80 pages)
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss (20 pgs)
  • O God, Guide Me! by Wendy Cowper Thomas, artist (41 pgs)
  • Strawberry Shortcake Just Doodlin' by Creative Edge (108 pgs)
  • Ten Apples up on Top by Dr. Seuss (20 pgs)
  • Van Gogh's World of Color by Julie Algner Clark (13 pgs)
   And thanx for bringing up the idea of a picture. Because looking for a fun one of her led me to another fond-memories blog topic.
  Mya responds to Andre:
Dear Andre,
   Thank you very much for the kind words. I did not get what you meant about "when we were at that age" but Grams explained it to me. I knew she would. Anyway, thank you very much.
P.S.: I will pray for your people!!
Sat, Apr 7, 2012 at 6:08 AM, Sharon R. from New York wrote:
Dear Mya,
   What a great accomplishment you have made in receiving your unity of mankind badge. We are very impressed and inspired!
   Keep up the great work!
Sharon (along with Jon, Josh and Ryan :))

Hi Lucki,
   I'd love to learn more about the scouts program and the unity of mankind badge. Is anything like this offered in New York? I am off to read your other posts now!
  Lucki responds to Sharon:
   Yes, the Baha'i Scouting Program offers the Unity of Mankind badges under the Office of Education and Schools at the Baha'i National Center. Since the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States covers the 48 contiguous states, the program is obviously available to Scouts in them all. (For that matter, it may be offered in Alaska and Hawaii and outside the U.S., too; at least that's worth checking out when you contact the office.) Neither the Scout nor their Counselor needs to be Baha'i to earn this badge.
   Currently, there are four badges in existence, based on grade in school:
  • Level 1: Daisy and Brownie Scouts (K-3); Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Cub, and Webelos Scouts (1-4)
  • Level 2: Junior and Cadette Scouts (4-7); Webelos and Boy Scouts (5-8)
  • Level 3: Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts (8-12); Boy Scouts (9-12)
  • Adult Service to Humanity Award

   However, I know that the Scouting Program is being reviewed and may be modified in the near future. So, rather than send you to another website that might become outdated, let me refer you directly to the Scouting Program point person at the Baha'i National Center:

Linda Seabloom
Office of Education and Schools
Baha'i National Center
1233 Central Street
Evanston, IL  60201-1611
[email protected]

Tell her I sent you. Really, tell her; we're friends and I'm sure she'd like to know whom you heard about it from.
  Mya responds to Sharon:
   Hi, Sharon. I remember you a lot because of that time when it started raining and we were riding bikes!! I'm glad you got home safely. And thank you for saying such kind words. Your sons are like cousins to me because they are so nice and kind like everybody in my family!
   Grams and Daddy and me went to Tickie's on Sunday because it was the Ridvan day that Baha'u'llah and his family were reunited and we celebrate it every year as our Family Day. Didn't we take you to Tickie's that time because you hadn't ate food from Belize?    
Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 8:42 PM, Milton L. from Chicago wrote:
   Three cheers for Mya!
  Mya responds to Milton:
   Thank you for the kind words. And hip hip hooray to you back, Milton!
Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 3:31 PM, Lisa B. from Hawaii wrote:
Mya girlfriend!!
   I know exactly how hard you worked for that badge--and also the horse badge I helped with--and I'm your button-popping-proud auntie!!
All my love,
  Mya responds to Lisa:
   Hi. Lisa. How's your horses? And thank you so much for helping me with the horse badge, which the Heart of New Jersey Council sent to my troop leader and gave me. I dedicated all that work to you so much! And I am your button-popping niece because you wrote that book!!

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“Moreover words and utterances should be both impressive and penetrating. However, no word will be infused with these two qualities unless it be uttered wholly for the sake of God and with due regard unto the exigencies of the occasion and the people.”   -- Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah. p. 172

He also, in these Tablets, repeatedly exhorted us to use “tact and wisdom” and reminded us that “Every word is endowed with a spirit”. (TAB, p. 172)  In addition, 'Abdu'l-Baha said: “If we are true Baha'is speech is not needed...Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom.” (Paris Talks, p. 80)  And the Universal House of Justice wrote: “Speech is a powerful phenomenon. Its freedom is both to be extolled and feared. It calls for an acute exercise of judgement, since both the limitation of speech and the excess of it can lead to dire consequences.” (Letter dated 29 December 1988 on "Individual Rights and Freedoms")

These excerpts -- from a course I'm taking on "Social Action and Public Discourse" -- especially rang out to me. They clearly delineate the immense importance of distinctive discourse. While clearly reminding us that discourse without supportive and even modeling action soon proves empty.

In pondering these concepts, I was reminded of something else I learned in a race unity conference that the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Chicago sponsored many years ago. (Scroll down to 2011-09-27 N'Offense to see another thing I learned.) The keynote speaker was Dr. Thomas Kochman, who addressed the conflicts that often arise in the U.S., even among the most goodhearted, because of unrecognized differences between black and white cultural norms. One of the points he raised was that members of the two cultures tend to engage in intensive discourse for radically different purposes. And therefore may conduct discourse in very different, and unfortunately contradictory, ways. Which leads them to often be at loggerheads with each other when they are engaging in a common discourse.

I learned a lot from Dr. Kochman's address and his book Black and White Styles in Conflict [BUY IT NOW]. And, more importantly, I was able to apply it in real life according to, as Baha'u'llah exhorted, “the exigencies of the occasion and the people.” (TAB, p. 172) The word led to action. Being able to share the book's insight with my then employer, for example, really – amazingly – changed the tenor of our discourses both as coworkers and as friends and fellow Baha'is.

Dr. Kochman explained that in the white culture, the primary purpose of deep discourse is to achieve peace. While in the black culture, the primary purpose of deep discourse is to arrive at truth. Too often, the result of this cultural conflict leads to white participants considering black participants rude and out of control for not helping to pour oil on possibly troubling waters. An accusation of "excess of speech". While the black participants consider the white participants aloof and selfish for appearing to withhold their piece of the truth from the conversation. An accusation of "limitation of speech". Since the two cultures have totally different default assumptions about the purpose of, methods of conducting, and expectations from the discourse, neither purpose – achieving peace or arriving at truth – is fulfilled. (And, of course, it's usually the needs of the minority culture that get disregarded in the process.)

Thomas KochmanI spoke with Dr. Kochman after his address. Thanked him for the insights he provided. Mentioned that the Writings give the Baha'i community a methodology – Baha'i consultation – for fulfilling both of the purposes of intensive discourse that he identified: First, in striking the spark of truth through the clash of differing opinions without the so often concomitant defensive ownership of ideas by the individuals who proffered them. Second, by full support of the final decision, even – especially – by those who argued against it, as the only foolproof means for testing the decision arrived at. Truth and peace. He said that if the Baha'is really were pulling this off, they were the only culture in the world who was. (To assure him that the community was at least striving for it, the following week I sent him a copy of Baha'i Consultation.)

Baha'u'llah exhorts us to “tact and wisdom” in both private and public discourse. Tact is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. So the broader the range of the beholder's vision, the better able s/he is to recognize tact both in her/himself and in others. Then too, one of my favorite paraprosdokians is this definition: “Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” I think that in order to both use and recognize tact, we are well served when we understand the too often unrecognized differences between the black and white cultures. Including the fact that many in the majority culture don't even realize that there is a minority culture. And then have the wisdom to apply that knowledge in daily discourse and social interaction.

First and foremost among my reasons for asking my Spiritual Assembly to support me in taking part in this course is to enhance my ability to serve as the Baha'i chaplain for Occupy Chicago. I look forward to learning and applying more guidance from the Writings to OC social action and public discourse.

Khoda hafez,

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O C C U P Y !


That's what my sign says as I march with the other members of Occupy Chicago. And when people engage me in a more-than-momentary conversation about the sign or why I'm there, or when they do something special for me, I give them a copy of Economics, Wealth and Poverty from my catalog of free handouts. (Interestingly, more than one fellow protestor has looked at my sign or heard what I was saying and, before I could even mention the Faith, declared: "That's Baha'i, isn't it?" or started talking about "that Temple in Wilmette".)

I spent a few days observing Occupy Chicago to see how things worked. If you want to find out, all the reading in the world isn't going to do you as much good as going to observe for yourself an Occupy group near you. To find one, go to the Occupy Together website and use the "Find Your Local" feature below the fold in the rightbar. The website will also give some basic guidance on how to move the Occupy Movement into your hometown if it isn't already there.

I presented info on Occupy Chicago to members of the Chicago Baha'i community at the Feast of 'Ilm last Sunday ... to much nodding of heads and Amening and some requests for detailed info. A couple of people have already committed to attending some of the actions and General Assemblies to offer whatever wisdom they may have to the protestors' youthful enthusiasm. One friend -- who knows I'm on a limited fixed income -- even unexpectedly and unsolicitedly deputized me financially to travel to and from 25 (more) General Assemblies in the Loop. Blew my mind.

So I'll not only get to talk with more people. About principles like the withdrawal from partisanship in politics. The elimination of the extremes of wealth & poverty. The need in solving economic problems to include spiritual solutions. Even -- because so many of the protestors are students -- the unconscionable denial of access to higher education as addressed by Education Under Fire.

No, I'll also have more chances to help them mature their processes. Which are, in so many ways, very like what Baha'is strive to do in the Faith. But then, the Writings do indicate that when a Manifestation brings a new Message, it's so powerful that even people who never heard of Him or Her start trying to do the things S/He said.

BTW, for those in the know, I'm considered "red" on marches and other actions. "Greens" are people willing to engage in civil disobedience, aware of and willing to accept the consequence of possibly being arrested. "Yellows" are people who hope not to get arrested as it may lead to unexpected trouble, such as someone who fears they might possibly lose their job if their boss sees them being arrested on TV. "Reds" are people who for one reason or another definitely do not want to engage in civil disobedience and/or risk arrest. As a Baha'i, I'm willing to engage in non-partisan protests, but not in civil disobedience. No one I've met in Occupy Chicago has had any problem with that.

In fact, Occupy Chicago (I can't speak for other cities, but I should think this pertains to them, too) bends over backwards to ensure that people who don't want to engage in civil disobedience can get offsite beforehand. I once asked one of our Safety & Security people what they were going to do in two hours when the particular action we were engaged in became illegal due to a curfew. I expected something about trying to help people in case of brutality. Or getting pix/videos of arrestees so they could be found and bailed out later. But what he said first was that Security would do everything it could to help get out the people who didn't want to stay for the civil disobedience.

So far, though, we've had a decent relationship with the CPD. Witness this fact, for example: One day a marcher on our HQ-to-GA march got carried through an intersection on the hood of a stretch limo with a ridiculously impatient driver -- or, more likely, passenger -- who accelerated into us when the light turned green. And the next day we suddenly had a police escort for every evening's march to ensure cars are held back at every intersection until the whole line gets across.

Anyway, I've willingly offered to help with certain things. Things where I thought my experience, or just my perspective, would be of real value. But for some reason, I never quite felt inspired enough to actually join one of the self-forming committees. Until, that is, an announcement of the formation of a committee on Spirituality and Pastoral Care. And then I knew why I'd waited. I'm currently consulting with the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Chicago regarding taking on the role of Baha'i chaplain for Occupy Chicago. I have a bit of an edge, too, because #2 Son, Mead (read his blog here), is the Baha'i chaplain at a university. And I can also consult with him on how best to work with students, the very group that the Occupy Movement is being carried on the shoulders of.

It was back in '47 that one Baha'i student in Chicago joined a college protest against racism in health care, carrying a sign that said "Baha'i", a picture of which appeared in a major newspaper. What happened then is a story for another blog entry, though, when I have the chance to write it. Please be patient.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. I've seen myself on TV five times so far -- and that's only on the few nights that I managed to get home in time for a late news broadcast -- and been interviewed once for radio. (I'll try to see if I can get a copy posted onsite here, but no promises.)

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N ' O F F E N S E

"I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I am going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do."

As he's been doing lately, much to the joy of many of his supporters, President Obama went on the offensive in his speech to the Congressional Black Caucus. But just because he was on the offensive didn't mean he was offensive. The fact that the attendees loudly applauded just about every sentence there towards the end of his speech means they understood that his was an impassioned and very positive rallying cry. That he was calling out to them as trusted colleagues and fellow fighters. Giving them the same call to arms he'd given his own self.

So after laughing about the media's hyping the whole thing as him chiding the Black Caucus, I stopped and asked myself why they so badly -- and baldly -- misunderstood. And to me, the answer seemed simple on the surface yet complex underneath. Well, cultural things usually are; and this was definitely a cultural thing. Something that even his advocates, those media pundits who didn't really think he was being negative, didn't seem able to explain ... or even realize there was a clear explanation to be made.

Granted, there were probably some media folk who cast the worst possible light they could on the President's speech 'cuz that's their agenda ... that's what they always do. In most cases, though, the misunderstanding probably wasn't anyone's immediate fault per se. It was a cultural misunderstanding. And the underlying problem is not only that so many people don't understand each others' cultures but also that so many don't even realize that there are different cultures in the mix.

Black culture, often going unrecognized in White America, is not some poor-relation substitute for White culture. They are often very different cultures. Coming not only from different experiences but even more so from different ages-old value systems and accepted cultural axioms. And leading to different default assumptions and patterns of thought, speech, and behavior.

In the case of President Obama's speech, what many pundits didn't understand is that, in the two cultures, there's a basic, essentially intuitive difference in who's responsible for the impact of what someone says.

In White culture, the responsibility for excluding the listener from some generic statement -- like, say: "Chicagoans are lousy drivers" or "Men are idiots" -- falls on the speaker. Hence the oft-used expression among white people: "Present company excepted."

In Black culture, the responsibility for excluding the listener from a generic statement falls on the listener. You almost never, ever hear black people say: "Present company excepted" -- especially not when all or most of the listeners are black. Rather, it's assumed that, if the generic statement is not true of the listener, the listener will mentally exclude her/himself from it: "Ain't talking about me."

In White culture, furthermore, a person is expected to protest that the generic statement doesn't apply to them. To not do so is considered a sign of guilty shame. Protestation is seen as a sign of innocence. In Black culture, the reverse is true. If someone protests, others assume that it's probably because the shoe pinches. That it wouldn't bother the protester if s/he don't feel it applied to them. (This self-exclusion doesn't work very well in cross-cultural conversations, of course, especially those of an actual or seeming racist nature.)

This is so second nature that, when the media asked Black Caucus members about the "attack", some of them were probably so flabbergasted by the thought that anyone would be offended, or ask if they were offended, that they second-guessed themselves and talked as if they maybe were or should be offended. It was a prime example of gaslighting by the media: manipulating the Caucus members into questioning and second-guessing their own reality.

Because most of us operate most of the time in line with our default assumptions or cultural axioms, we don't actually stop to analyze why. So when someone throws us a curveball, as the media did in this case, we're apt to swing and miss. And, of course, since black people have to be much more aware of White culture than most white people bother to be about Black culture, black people sometimes find themselves reacting in White-culture ways. I could easily see this happening with both Caucus members and black reporters/bloggers. (This isn't all good or all bad; it just is.)

So, this was a black man talking to a black audience. Subconsciously both sharing their cultural axioms (even if he didn't exactly learn them at his mother's knee) and trusting that they knew what he was saying and why he was saying it that way. Neither he nor they expected that media types would come up to them and start playing a game of "Let's you and him fight." They shouldn't have had to expect that. People in the media should educate themselves about the cultural backgrounds and mores of those they are constantly reporting on. And that includes Black culture and White culture in America.

Book - Post Traumatic Slave SyndromeBook - Black and White Styles in ConflectThe sources I discovered to help me understand this cultural difference (and many others) include Joy DeGruy Leary's work in axiology, leading eventually to her book on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and Thomas Kochman's research on Black and White Styles in Conflict.


I've had the pleasure of meeting both Dr. DeGruy Leary and Dr. Kochman, and of attending workshops that they have individually conducted or keynoted. Their respective work has proven synergistically useful on a very practical basis, most notably in helping me recognize, understand, alleviate, and sometimes even obviate culture-conflict tensions in work and social situations. I recommend their work to you, especially if you can hear them in person.

Khoda hafez,

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"Obviously the people who get elected are the people who've already shown their willingness and ability to serve by already giving service. When it comes to how to hold elections, Baha'is got it right."

When David said that, back when we were coming home from Mya's presentation, I reminded him that it wasn't exactly the Baha'is who got it right ... it was Baha'u'llah Who got it right. (Well, what else would you expect from one of God's Messengers?) Baha'is didn't just consult and decide, "Hey, let's try elections this way." Guidance on how to hold elections comes directly from Scripture as set forth by Baha'u'llah,  interpreted by 'Abdu'l-Baha, and explicated by Shoghi Effendi. (I'm so-o-o glad that Shoghi Effendi learned English as a second language and wrote so much material in English; I can thus read it "in the original". It's good stuff. You can find a lot of it here.)

Let's review what David knew: Assemblies are elected with no nominating, no campaigning, no politicking, no electioneering whatsoever. In a prayerful atmosphere. According to each voter's conscience. And the elected members have no authority as individuals. Only the nine-member institution has any authority.

Think about what it's like to take part in an election where there is no adversarial politicking. No partisan bickering. No divisive debates. No deceptive sound bites. No negative (or, for that matter, positive) ads. No name-calling and reputation-bashing. No obfuscations and outright lies. Where no one stands on party platforms that they're then trapped on whether they agree with everything or not. No one spends a cent on trying to get elected. No one trades favors or gathers power. No one is beholden to campaign contributors after the election. Electors don't have to wonder whose promises will be kept. Because no one makes promises. Electors vote based on the service that members of the community have already done. Provisions exist in the Writings to ensure dedication to service, ability to serve, and diversity among Assembly members. It's even OK to vote for one's self, if one feels one is best able to serve.

Sitting in the joyously quiet atmosphere of the annual meeting, filled with courteous silence as people pray and ponder their choices from among all adult members of the community, is impossible to really describe. Even if I can't get to the annual meeting, I feel a sense of calm and happy purpose as I fill out my absentee ballot. I don't know whom anyone else is voting for. They don't know whom I'm voting for. No one talks about their choices before or after the election. I do know, though, that every Baha'i in the world (barring in a few countries -- most notably the Cradle of the Faith -- where Baha'i administration has been declared illegal) is able to exercise her or his right to vote for their local Spiritual Assembly on the same day (sundown April 20 to sundown April 21) that I do for mine here in Chicago. There are no losers or winners. The nine people with the highest numbers of votes become members of the Spiritual Assembly. And, in the process, they take on heavy responsibilities that may consume untold amounts of time, energy, and effort. But then, if they weren't already known to be willing and able to serve, few if any electors would have voted for them.

Oh, and one more thing. The Writings make it very clear that, once an Assembly is elected, everyone in the community is expected to respect it and follow its guidance. (This is true on the local, national, and global level.) In fact, when the Assembly members themselves disagree on a course of action, cannot arrive at a true consensus (which is not the same thing as a compromise), and have to decide by majority vote, then even -- especially -- the members who voted against it are expected to support the decision and work hard to make it succeed. Why? Because if the decision is right, but half the people don't pitch in to help achieve it or, worse yet, actively obstruct it, then it probably won't work out the best it could, or at all, even though it was the best decision. Whereas if the decision is wrong, and everyone still pitches in to help achieve it, then it may still result in something good. Or, if it doesn't, it'll be readily obvious that it's the decision at fault, not the implementation (or lack thereof), and the Assembly can clearly see the need to go back to the drawing board.

See, that's the beauty of not having partisanship. No member is forced to hold to some party line even when s/he may believe it's not the best decision for the community. Everyone is expected to present their best ideas and arguments. BUT ... once presented, the idea belongs to the Assembly, not to the individual who contributed it. I have actually seen more than one Assembly member passionately present an idea, listen to the feedback from fellow members, and ten minutes later argue just as passionately against it  The purpose of Baha'i consultation is to, first, arrive at the truth regarding any decision and then, secondly, achieve peace through unstinting support of that decision.

Wow! Talk about a positive model. Can you think of any other elections and governing bodies you'd like to see work like this?

Khoda hafez,

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  "O my God! O Thou forgiver of sins, bestower of gifts, dispeller of afflictions!
   Verily, I beseech Thee to forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world.
   O my Lord! Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light. Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendors on the loftiest mount.   -- 'Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i Prayers, pp. 45-46

9/11 Survivor TreeToday is, of course, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The memorial park at Ground Zero has been opened. The bedrock museum has been roofed. The two tridents have been upraised. The survivor tree has come home. The footprint waterfalls are running. The mourners have gathered, the silences have been observed, the Presidents have spoken, the bells have been rung, the songs sung, the names read, the tears shed, the flags arrayed, the flowers laid, the rubbings made, and "Taps" played.

The panels surrounding the twin waterfalls contain 2,983 names. These represent the 2,977 innocent victims and fallen heroes of 9/11/01 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, as well as the six victims from the WTC bombing in 1993.

For weeks before today, I've been seeing a TV commercial about what various individuals would be doing to commemorate today's anniversary. And I decided what I would do: Offer a service to survivors (done). Watch the memorial ceremony (done). And pray for the progress of the souls of the tragically departed victims (done).

Not a prayer for 2,983 souls. A prayer for 3,002 souls. Because the nineteen hijackers were also tragic victims of 9/11. Victims of vicious brainwashing. By a hateful agency that convinced them their actions would be heroic and God would be pleased with them. And of all the souls who ascended that day, theirs carried the greatest and most immediate burden. Faced the harshest self-judgment. Had most separated themselves from their loving Creator. Stood most in dire need of prayer for the progress of their souls.

And so, I set their names to the head of my list. Not because they most deserve our prayers on their behalf. Because they most need our prayers on their behalf. And how can I call myself a person of faith if I am not willing to forgive? To care? To love? To invoke even -- especially -- for them, the most in need, the mercy of the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful?

Khoda hafez,

P.S. About 6:45 PM EDT, I was blessed with the opportunity to share these thoughts live on the air at C-SPAN. Run the video from about minute 11:00 to about 16:45, 'cuz it's interesting what the guy after me then said about Muslim families. (I'll try to see if I can get a copy posted onsite here, but no promises.)

Mon, Sep 12, 3:29 PM, Kim wrote:
   Oh my God! Lucki. What a magnificent set of thoughts! What a beautifully written blog! Wow.
Mon, Sep 12, 4:16 PM, Mead wrote:
   I posted it on facebook and twitter, and have since seen a number of my friends forward the posting ... One person commented "Thanks for sharing this! I am sorry to say this is the first I've read [an entry] of Lucki's blog. It won't be the last!"
  Lucki responds to Mead and Kim (and other readers who gave feedback in the same vein):
   Thank you. If anything in Abiding Blog -- or even the whole website -- came from the heart, it was that. I think I could no more have NOT thought it and written it -- and, yes, wept over it -- than I could have not breathed.

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Unity of Mankind Scout Badge"Your Grams told us that you have completed the very demanding activities for the Unity of Mankind scouting badge. We are so proud of you. We want you to come meet with us and show us the list of activities you completed, so that we can buy your badge and, once we have it, present it to you in front of the whole community."

My #grandMya and I met with the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Chicago last night. All eight members who were in town (one was out of town at a conference) were present. Mya's mom, her dad, her Brownie troop leader Clara and a guest, and my guest David -- none of whom are Baha'i -- were also invited. The Assembly had scheduled half an hour for us, and it may even have run over a few minutes. This is a copy of our presentation. (I typed up my part ahead of time, which is why I can so easily share it with you. The Recording Secretary probably made detailed notes when others spoke, but I didn't. Sorry)

Thank you for this chance to present what Mya did to earn her “Unity of Mankind” Scouting badge. Let me start by noting that this was a very demanding badge program. I've worked with Mya on 3 other badges these past 2 years. Her first computer badge offered 10 steps of which she had complete at least 6; she completed 7. Her second computer badge offered 10 steps of which she had to complete at least 9; she completed all 10. Her horse-lovers badge offered 13 steps of which she had to complete at least 4; she completed 7. So for those 3 badges together, she needed to complete at least 19 steps and she chose to complete 24.

This badge alone offered 27 steps and required her to complete them all. And she had to complete them before entering 4th grade. (Incidentally, if she were a boy, she would've had another year to complete them.)

This badge program was set up in 3 sections. The first addressed the Three Onenesses: the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of humanity. The second addressed family unity. And the third addressed the unity of the world. Each section contained 3 categories of steps: study, a project exercising Mya's talents, and service work. There were 2 to 4 steps in each category.

If I managed to count them all correctly, Mya's tasks included, among other things: reading 4 books or stories; memorizing 12 quotations, prayers, songs, and principles; creating 6 art and science projects; and doing 8 presentations and service projects with me, her mom, her dad, and her Baha'i School class.

Lastly, I'd like to briefly show you 5 examples of what Mya accomplished. Well, 6…IF Mya is willing to recite the Short Obligatory Prayer for us. Mya, if you're willing to, please recite “I bear witness”; but if you don't want to right now, that's OK too.

[Mya enthusiastically recited the prayer.]

Good job!   CALENDAR:   Now, one of our tasks was to say prayers together every day for 3 months. This is the calendar we used to keep track. We did them in person when we could and over the phone at bedtime the rest of the days. You'll note that we missed 2 days when Mya fell asleep on the way home late at night and no one woke her up to say prayers. But you see that she made them up by adding 2 days in April. Even when she went on a Scouts camping trip and wasn't supposed to bring a phone, she explained to Miss Clara about bedtime prayers with me, and Miss Clara trusted her to bring her phone and use it only for that purpose.

DRAWING & COLLAGE:   These are 2 art projects: one on the oneness of the religions and the other on the oneness of humanity. Mya created and used them to make presentations at Baha'i School.   Changiz, please tell us about that?

[Changiz, chairperson of the Assembly and one of Mya's Baha'i School teachers, talked about how well she did her presentations and how well received they were by her classmates.]

Thank you.   PUZZLE:   This is the puzzle that Mya put together and used to talk with her mom about the oneness of humanity and the importance of caring about not only our own part of the world, but the whole planet.   Mya, you also asked Mommy to help with a service project for the block you live on. Please tell us about that?

[Mya explained what she and Daisy did together while walking the dog one evening. Daisy gave Mya a bag and a pair of plastic gloves so she could pick up trash on their block. When Mya saw a bunch of trash in the next block, Daisy agreed they could go pick that up, too. By time they were finished, they had a full bag of trash, which they took home and threw in the dumpster.]

Thank you.   MAGNET:   This is the scientific experiment Mya used to talk with her dad about how religion can bring together very different types of people and help them not get blown around by the ill winds of life.   REY, how did that go?

[Rey explained how Mya, using a scientific principle to demonstrate a spiritual principle, put a pile of used staples and big and small paper clips on the table and had him stir them up and blow them around. Then she used a magnet to gather them together, and he couldn't blow them around any more. Mya chimed in to add that it was OK if some of the clips (people) didn't stick to the magnet; if they didn't want to hear about God now, they'd have other chances later if they wanted them.]

Thank you. In closing, I'd finally like to remind you of the “Art on the Wall” you saw in our recent newsletter. Mya's Baha'i School class did that, and her special contribution to the design was the concept that all the babies should be dreaming about Love.

At that point, I gave Mya a congratulatory greeting card. Her parents also had one for her. Then the Assembly members talked with her, congratulated her on her achievements, and asked a few questions. The most notable one was "What was the hardest part for you to do?" She answered that the hardest part was memorizing the principles and what they meant, so she could present them to her dad.  The members praised her for doing that even though it was so difficult for her. Changiz extolled Mya's perseverance and her being "a bedrock of our Baha'i classes" (Mya immediately wanted to know what that meant.) And Clara talked about how Mya was becoming a good leader, always ready to do and help, in Scouts and that Clara would be depending on her to help the younger Scouts when she moves into Junior Scouts this fall.

On the way home, David commented more than once on how surprised and impressed he was that the Assembly gave so much time to one child, especially considering that it had to meet for a lo-o-ong night every week. I reminded him that the Assembly was elected not only to administer but also to serve the community. It is willing to consult with anyone in Chicago (Baha'i or not) who asks its assistance. Since he knows that Assemblies are elected with no nominating, no campaigning, no politicking, no electioneering whatsoever -- in a prayerful atmosphere, according to each voter's conscience -- and that the members also have no authority as individuals, he said that obviously the people who get elected are the people who've already shown their willingness and ability to serve by already giving service ... and added that, when it came to how to hold elections, Baha'is got it right.

One last point: When a Scout earns a badge through activities with her troop, the troop uses its annual dues to pay for the badge. When a Scout earns a badge on her own -- as with the three others I helped Mya with -- she (or her family) is expected to pay for it. But when a Scout -- Baha'i or not -- earns the Unity of Mankind badge, the Assembly of the city where she lives buys the badge for her (or him, of course). That surprised even me.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Did you get the "proud Grams" expression on my face? And as I've said before, if you want to learn more about the Unity of Mankind badges for Scouts, email us with BAHA'I BADGES as the first words in the subject.

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G R A D U A T E D !

"Wow! I'm very impressed with your exercise regimen! Keep it up."

That's what my cardiologist, Dr. Marmor (you read about him here, yeah?) said. When I completed my 12 weeks of cardio rehab (although it actually took me 13 weeks because of holidays & a couple of other timing conflicts). And told him what goals I'd met.

That's what was eating up so much of my time, you see. It took up about three half-day mornings a week (not even counting the long naps I needed by those afternoons). And something eventually had to give. Family stuff, other medical stuff, and prepping for Bud Billiken Day came first. Plus, I've been lower than usual on energy due to something or other that they haven't yet ID'd in my lower right lung. Which they don't think is cancer but it didn't respond to two weeks of antibiotics. Maybe it's a resistant bacterium. Or a virus. Or a fungus. Needless to say, I've already made an appointment with a pulmonary specialist. (I'll tell you, though, if it ain't one thing, it's another.) So that's how come it seemed like I fell off the earth for two months as far as Earthstar Works was concerned.

Yet, despite all that, cardio rehab was a gas. Hard. Fun. Exhausting and energizing. Confidence-building. It's surprising how much you can accomplish when you're with a bunch of people who are there for the same reason you are. To get healthier. And another bunch of people who are there to take care of you while you do it. You chat. Share. Encourage one another. Compete a little. Egg each other on to unexpected heights. And as a bonus, the wall of windows in the sixth-floor cardio rehab lab framed an absolutely gorgeous view of the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette. So whenever I was working on the bike or especially the treadmill, it was like I was actually headed up that way. What a joy!

Anyway, Dr. Marmor didn't actually set me any objectively quantifiable goals. Instead, his rehab orders read that I should maintain an average of 13 on the RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) Scale. 13 is smack in the middle of "HARD". It means you're pushing yourself a bit above your comfort level. Sweating. Breathing quite hard. But you can still hold a conversation. So over time, as I got more conditioned, I needed to do more to stay around that 13 mark. So I set some goals my own self. And I met them. And they were more than Dr. Marmor expected, I guess. I didn't consider them all that impressive, but who am I to argue with an expert? ;-)

What were they, you ask? (I'm absolutely sure I heard you ask. Didn't you?) Well, let's see. The first goal was to do something fun to prep myself for doing 12 weeks of rehab. So I went through my T-shirts. Picked out 36 different ones in good shape. Sorted them from relatively boring to really cool. Stacked them on the bureau. And watched the pile shrink week by week. All the way from "Business Solutions" on the first day to "One Race -- Human" on the last. When the people in rehab realized I was sporting a different T-shirt every time, they started asking about some of them. "Gettin' Wilder" and "Toad Suck Daze" and "Laughing Bulldog" and "Mardi Gras Cats" garnered a lot of laughs. Others -- like "Raising the First Prejudice-Free Generation" and Chicago Public Schools' "Just Go To School and Become... [a list of interesting jobs on the back, starting with] President" -- were more thought-provoking. Accomplished.

My next goal was, if not to lose weight (I'll tell you, that rehab work makes you hungrier than a horse), at least not to go up over where I'd been. Accomplished.

They also had a cycle of weekly pre-session classes on all kinds of things related to cardio health. I think there were ten in all. It meant coming in a half-hour earlier on Wednesdays, but I was determined to get to every one of them at least once. Accomplished.

Then my exercise goals grew to include: Working up to 3.3 mph on the treadmill and resistance level 4 on the bike in circuit training. Accomplished. Working up to 3.0 mph with a 10.0-degree incline on the treadmill in endurance training. Accomplished. Working up to 10-pounders in weight training. Accomplished (except on a couple of exercises where the nurses had me use smaller weights in my right hand because of the back muscles removed on that side). And working up to not only descending but also climbing all 132 steps between the ground floor (below the first floor) and the lab on the sixth floor. Accomplished.

I also mentioned to Dr. Marmor that since completing rehab I've been doing things like walking three miles and climbing the 62 steps to the L station. Sometimes it's the little things that have the biggest impact over time.

Cardio Rehab CertificateBaha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL, by RogerOn graduation day, I got the customary certificate. My case manager Jan wrote "Great Job" on it. And one of my fellow patients, Roger, gave me a stunning picture he had taken of the House of Worship. We went up there after that day's session, and I gave him a personal tour. Including a few things not normally seen by the general public. Not 'cuz they're secret, you understand. Just 'cuz they're in out-of-the-way places that the general public -- and lots of Baha'is, I suspect -- wouldn't know to go look for.

Me, I gave the nursing/physiology staff a thank-you card. Tweety on the front offering "wots of gwatitude" and on the inside giving "tanks from the bottom of my wittle heart". Seemed appropriate. My fellow patients had also been making noises for a week or so about how were they going to get along without me. Pointing out that I was very welcoming to newcomers. And very encouraging when people were fearful. And had grasped the weekly pattern of work well enough to easily remind others of what we were up to each day. And so on. I just told them it was up to them to take all that over once I was gone. And on my graduation day, I gave each of them a thank-you card with this poem printed inside:

Just wanted to say that I thank you today
     For your helping me get where I got.
Your camaraderie was a big boost to me;
     Your encouragement meant quite a lot

We pushed hard and fast and we psyched ourselves past
     All the fears and the balks that we had.
We pedaled, jogged, walked, lifted, stretched, laughed, and talked
     And we cheered on each newbie and grad.

Remembering you will now help me stay true
     To the plans for good health that I made.
I leave you my best and my legacy test:
     Keep it up. Pass it on. Be of aid.

Khoda hafez,

Fri, Aug 13, 2021 at 11:07 PM, David N. (cardiologist) wrote:
   Pretty neat and well written (although as we allow so many children to grow into adulthood without correcting their lisps, the intentional spelling mistakes I wouldn't have put there).
   I agree with "pwetty" much everything else.
  Lucki responds to David N.:
   Spelling mistakes? LOL There's no spelling mistakes. Not on my part, anyway. I quoted the card exactly as it was written. (That's how Tweety Bird talks. He always has. He lisps 'cuz he's a perennial little baby, not 'cuz no one has been correcting him...although true, no one has been.) Thanx for the feedback, though, and the compliments. That "pwetty" of yours was cute, too. Any links to interesting stuff you've written [in medical journals or elsewhere]? I'm as avid a reader as I am a writer.

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"Can you tell me please where can I buy a puzzle like the one in [CIRCLE]? I had one like that, bought by my father 18 years ago when I was a child, and I lost it."

Wow, it's been around two months and I'm still getting feedback on my CIRCLE entry. Omar's succinct question from over the weekend is the latest, but I suspect not the last. And I didn't want to gum up the Feed Me page with a lot of the same basic question, so I just put in Silvia's as an example. 'Cuz I liked her story. And 'cuz I thought it'd be fun to share feedback that you can clearly see is from a continent other than North America.

Anyway, I figured it's about time (and I have the time) to tell everyone what I know. So this is what I know. And, admittedly, also what I presume.

To the best of my knowledge, the UNICEF Friendship Circle Puzzle is out of print and no longer for sale by UNICEF. (Though I suppose it's possible that one of their local "stores" has one sitting around somewhere in some country.) I bought mine for my son, and am now using it with my granddaughter. And no, it's not for sale or trade.

48-Piece Circle PuzzleFloor Circle PuzzleAmazon doesn't have the wonderfully complex Friendship Circle Puzzle. But it has some (lesser) alternatives. Like its Children of the World puzzle (< left). Or its Circle of Friends puzzle (right >).


However, a copy of the puzzle appeared on ebay a while back; it sold in April for a ridiculously low $0.99. So if you want a copy, I'd suggest keeping an eye out there. (I just hope that, if any others come up for auction, my readers don't get into bidding wars over them.)

I also realized that a final alternative would be to print a color copy of the puzzle (maybe over several sheets of paper), laminate the printout onto heavy cardboard or even wood, and then cut it up with a jigsaw. I offered to send inquirers a larger image file than the one I used in Abiding Blog. When I had that idea, though, I contacted UnicefUSA about whether there was a current copyright. I also asked about who the designers were, as (a) they might be the copyright holders and (b) I detected a Baha'i hand in the design and was curious about it.

I finally got an answer back. The responder assumed that the puzzle image was copyrighted and therefore couldn't be copied. When pressed, however, she could not provide any info as to when or by whom it might have been copyrighted. (She had no info about the designers, either, nor about what it was originally priced at.) So I carefully checked both the box and all the puzzle pieces to see if there was any copyright info. Did not find any.

Even if I missed seeing it, though, if they have no record of a current copyright extension, then the original copyright expired after 28 years if it was done before 1978, which it had to've been if I bought it when my son was still a kid. (1977 + 28 = 2005, latest possible year copyright was still effective in.) 

In any case, it's my gut reaction that, at least for people whose family bought the puzzle in the first place, one could probably use the image (as if one still had the original box) to recreate the puzzle for one's own continued personal use. (But no one can go selling it to anyone or claiming that it's their image, only that they originally purchased it from UNICEF). And it might be a nice gesture to then go ahead and make a general donation to UNICEF (since you can't actually pay them for a puzzle they no longer have).

I'm not a lawyer, though ... copyright law or any other kind. I'm just going on common sense here. And too often, in the legal arena, that and five bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Khoda hafez,

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G O O D ?

"I think we can all agree this is a good day for America."

I understand why President Obama made that statement. Successfully completing an operation as momentous as (the perhaps not so sensitively named) "Geronimo" can indeed give us a sense of accomplishment. Of closure. I agree with Dick Durbin's statement that it was “an important moment” and Madeleine Albright's comment that it was “a big deal”.

I'm not sure I can agree, though, that celebrating in the streets another human being's being killed – no matter how justly deserved that death might be – constitutes a good day for America or for the world.

Eye of MercyI must admit that my gut reaction, the instant I heard of the death of Osama bin Laden, was to recite a short excerpt from a Scriptural prayer for the departed: “Change [his] darkness into light.” Begging mercy for a soul now faced with trying to account to its Creator for why it had built such a massive wall of hatred between itself and Allah's Love.

It wasn't even a “love your enemies” moment. Which anyway seems like the height of hypocrisy (for how can you brand them "enemy" if you truly love them?). Rather, it felt natural to express concern for a soul that I believe will remain separated from God until it so yearns for reunion, and so many are able to forgive it and plead on its behalf, that the Eye of Mercy finally turns Its beckoning gaze upon it.

Perhaps that's the lesson the country needs to learn now. To truly care for every single human being. Even – especially – for those who cause us the greatest woe. Talk about unifying!

Khoda hafez,

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Let your vision be world-embracing....   -- Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 94

My #grandMya is currently working on her Unity of Mankind badge for Scouts. (She just this past weekend completed her badge about horses. Which her Parelli guru Lisa Bradley helped her with.) There are three units in the Brownie Scout level: Unity and the Individual; Unity and the Family; Unity and Humanity. And each unit has three components: Study; Project; Service. Mya has completed all three components in the Individual unit, two components and half of the third in the Family unit, and at least one part of each component in the Humanity unit.

Unicef's Friendship Circle PuzzleAs one of her activities for the badge, Mya and I completed UNICEF's 200-piece Friendship Circle Puzzle (presented by the U.S. Committee for UNICEF). And we discussed the fact that not only does the puzzle show eighteen children from different races and cultures, it also shows nine different habitats. And the children aren't all standing by their native habitats, either. From that juxtaposition, Mya deduced that: "...all the people are the same human family and they should also care about all the places in the world, not just the one they live in."

Talk about a world-embracing vision. Not just that all people are one, but that the whole world is one. And if we're going to pride ourselves in loving all mankind, then we have to also love the whole planet and every creature on it. Because they constitute our family's home, and it doesn't help to have a splendid decor on one side of our house if the other side of our house is falling down. Caving in. Burning up. Washing away. Turning to dust. Covered in sludge. Rife with poison.

This is especially important, I think, for me and my fellow citizens in the U.S. We account for about 5% of the world's population and use about 25% of the world's resources. To me, that's unconscionable. Yes, I recycle. I go out of my way to recycle. And yes, I reuse. I get very creative - even oddball - about reusing, the shovel being but one case in point and artwork and handicrafts another. I'll keep working at it, too. I can do better. I can do more. We all can. Even Mya.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. My thanks to reader Lisa S. for inspiring this blog entry. And if you want to learn more about the Unity of Mankind badges for Scouts, email us with BAHA'I BADGES as the first words in the subject.

Sun, May 8, 2011 at 2:37 AM, Silvia wrote:
Hello Lucki!
   My name is Silvia and I live in Europe. In Hungary. I read your post about Circle and I saw Unicef Friendship Puzzle which was my most favorite toy when I was a I'm 37 and have 2 children :).
   Unfortunately mine was demolished during my parents' moving, and my dream is to play it with my daughter who is a big puzzle-fan, but it is not possible to buy in the shop anymore.
   So I would like to ask, do you by any chance want to sell it to me?  Or change it for another puzzle ? (I would buy it for you instead of it.) I'm open for any solution. :)
   If yes, please let me know the details, I would be very grateful for your help!
   Thank you for your reply in advance, have a nice day,


Lucki responds to Silvia:
   Hello, Silvia. I'm glad you're enjoying Earthstar Works.
   The toys, puzzles, and books I hung onto from when my son was young now "belong" to my granddaughter. So, no, the circle puzzle is not for sale (or exchange for another puzzle)...not from me, anyway.
   However, I did a quick search and noticed that one had sold just a month ago on ebay...for a ridiculous US$0.99. So I suggest you keep an eye out there for another one.
   Amazon doesn't have the Unicef Friendship Circle puzzle, but it has some (lesser) alternatives. See if you'd like this 48-piece puzzle or this floor puzzle.
   I wrote the following to UnicefUSA:
   "Good day. A friend in Hungary saw me blogging about Unicef's 200-piece Friendship Circle Puzzle & asked me where she can get one. Do you still have them for sale? If they are no longer for sale anywhere, is there a current copyright on the image, or can she make her own puzzle for her children using the image? Thank you."
   We'll see what their response is. If there's not a current copyright, or if there is but they give copy permission, a final alternative is to print a color copy of the puzzle (maybe over several sheets of paper; I could try to send you a larger image file than the one I used in Abiding Blog) and you can laminate the printout onto heavy cardboard or even wood and then cut it up with a jigsaw (assuming you have or know someone with power tools).
   That's about all I can suggest at this time. I'll let you know when I hear back from Unicef. 
   No, wait, I just thought about the fact that the puzzle design indicates it might have had a Baha'i designer or on the design team. If Unicef responds with "none available; no copying", I'll see if they're willing to tell me who the designers were and how to reach them, as that may be another source for getting a copy.
    Sun, May 8, 2011 at 11:28 AM, Silvia wrote:
Dear Lucki!
   Thank you very much for your very nice reply. I was so happy when I read it.  I fully understand that puzzle is not for sale - I should say, I supposed it, but thought it may worth to give a try... 
   Unfortunately I also saw this great offer on ebay, but too late; I wish I would see it couple of weeks ago. Thanks for Amazon links, I did not know these puzzles; the second one looks similarish. I will definitely buy one, however still continue to looking for my favourite Friendship circle, as I have a deep emotional link to only this one. :)
   Preparing (copying) this puzzle is a good idea, I also thought about it, but I assume it would need a good and high resolution picture to do it.
   I'm curious to see UnicefUSA's reply, and still keep a close eye on ebay and other auction sites. I hope that one day, I will have one. :)  If this happen, I will make it with my daughter, remembering my sweet childhood memories, and one day I will also give it to my grandchildren. :)
   I'm amazed how much help you give me to find my Friendship puzzle, so if you would come to Hungary one day, I welcome you in my house. :)
   I'm waiting for Unicef news and thanks again for your efforts. Have a nice day!
Sat, Jun 8, 2011 at 12:08 AM, Omar wrote:
   Can you tell me please where can I buy a puzzle like the one in the following link?
   I had one like that, bought by my father 18 years ago when I was a child, and I lost it.
Thank you!
Best wishes,
  Lucki responds to Omar and Silvia (and other readers who gave feedback in the same vein) in her 2011-06-16 Abiding Blog.

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"It goes in the Recycle."

Number One Son, Rey, came over yesterday. To help me with some household stuff. He's cool that way. In the process of trying to decide whether to replace one item, I mentioned that the design of the product had recently been changed. It now contained less actual product and more plastic product-holder than it used to.

"Well, it still goes in the Recycle," he responded.

Reduce Reuse RecycleDon't get me wrong. I'm glad he's into recycling. He didn't used to be, all that much. But generally getting older, and especially having offspring, can tend to make one more conscientious about such things.

But that wasn't the point. The mantra isn't: "Recycle. Recycle. Recycle." For some people, granted, that kind of harping is still in order. But the mantra is:

Reduce   Reuse   Recycle

Yes, we need to recycle. And heaven knows I wish Chicago would get back on the ball with that. If it ever really was. (Maybe our new mayor, incoming next month, will do something. Maybe I'll write to him about it.) But that's not enough. It's not even half enough.

Now, I'm not saying I'm all that good at this yet, but I'm new mantra being:

Recycle everything you can
  Reuse twice as much as you recycle 
Reduce twice as much as you reuse

That's my new environmental "3 R's", and I'm working on it as best I can. How 'bout you?

Khoda hafez,

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"They also serve who only stand and wait."   -- John Milton

Attended the funeral of a Viet Nam vet yesterday. At Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, south of Chicago. He was Ravin White (9/11/42-3/18/11), someone I knew from way back. In fact, my grandMya and three of his grandkids spend every other Saturday afternoon together. His family did me the honor of allowing me to offer him a final service...that of saying the special prayer for the departed revealed by Baha'u'llah in the Scriptures of the Baha'i Faith. But that's not the service I want to talk about.

Ravin WhiteWhen we arrived at the cemetery's interment shelter, we encountered a cluster of waving US flags, the flags of all the armed services, and a squad of men in uniform standing at attention. Men who looked to be from the same generation as Ravin. Five of them were holding rifles, one was a bugler; the others greeted Ravin's flag-draped casket with a half-speed salute. (To see what that looks like, it happens right after the 35-second mark in this movie trailer; the scene was shot in real time, not slow motion.)

Once the family and other attendees were gathered in the shelter, one man commanded the three volleys of the 15-gun salute and then the bugler played "Taps", all during which the other two held Ravin's flag at display. They then folded it into the traditional triangle. Inserted three spent shell casings into the final fold. And presented it to his family as proof that Ravin and his flag had received proper military honors.

These were not active servicemen. They were not paid for their service. Every half hour of every day, whatever the season, whatever the weather (and Chicago certainly has some extreme weather), these volunteers - and men and women like them - render military honors for their fellow veterans. It is the final service they are able to perform for their departed comrades-in-arms. And for the families who are laying their loved ones to rest. It's a given that they hope to be able to continue doing so until the day when they receive the same honors from others.

Just because someone has finished their stint in the service, it doesn't mean they've stopped serving. These volunteers, too, deserve our honor and respect.

Khoda hafez,

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"Now is the only time you own."

Every place has its heroes. Chicago is no exception. And like heroes the world 'round, some of Chicago's heroes seem brightly born to it and are rightfully honored. While others come to it accidentally from a much darker space and receive perhaps undue honor. I'd like to share a couple of stories that demonstrate this.

Butch O'Hare
   World War II produced many heroes. One such man was aviator Butch O'Hare. Butch entered the US Naval Academy in 1933 and, after the required years of service on surface ships, started aviation training in 1939 at Naval Air Station Pensacola. In July of 1940, he made his first carrier landing. His flying skills soon impressed his XO, who tried to outmaneuver Butch in the air but couldn't.
  Wildcats On February 20, 1942, Butch demonstrated in real life, and when it mattered most, the flying and gunnery skills he'd mastered. His carrier had been assigned the dangerous task of penetrating enemy-held waters so her planes could make a strike at Japanese shipping. But the ship was discovered. By a giant four-engine flying "Snooper". Which radioed the carrier's position before it was shot down. As a result, two waves of twin-engine enemy bombers flew to attack the ship. The first wave was shot down by six US planes and ship anti-aircraft fire. And six planes, one of them piloted by Butch, roared off to intercept the second wave.
   Butch and his wingman were the first to spot the Japanese bombers, and dived to head them off. The other pilots were too far away to reach most of the enemy planes before they released their bombs. As if this weren't bad enough, O'Hare's wingman discovered his guns were jammed and was forced to turn away. Now only Butch stood between ship and bombers.
   Butch refused to be stopped. Full throttle, he roared into the enemy squadron. While tracers from the concentrated fire of the nine bombers streaked around him, he spun and ducked from one side of their formation to the other. Before he ran out of ammo (some 300 rounds), he took out five bombers, three of them actually falling in flames at the same time. Luckily, his fellow pilots arrived to join the fray, downing more bombers; and the ship was able to evade the few bombs dropped.
   For his courage and skill, Butch became the Navy's first WWII "ace". Was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. And was awarded our country's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Posthumously, he also received the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross.)
   On November 27, 1943, as a result of a freak occurrence in a dangerous and complicated operation, Commander-Air Group Butch O'Hare was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. Chicago would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade. The city renamed its expanded Orchard Field as O'Hare International Airport in tribute to this great man. A large memorial display, including his Medal of Honor, is located in Terminal 2.

Easy Eddie
   As you know, there was an era when Scarface Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. He wasn't famous for anything heroic. But he was infamous for enmeshing the Windy City in everything from bootlegged booze to prostitution to murder.
   Capone's posse included a lawyer nicknamed Easy Eddie. And he was Capone's lawyer for good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. He was also Capone's partner, business manager, and political and judicial "fixer" in various illegal activities, especially in dog and horse racing in Illinois, Florida, and Massachusetts. His way with stock and real estate transactions was demonstrated by the fenced-in mansion he and his family occupied with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. An estate reportedly so large that it filled an entire Chicago city block (10 acres). The only "good" thing that some people had to say about Easy Eddie was that he was never known to carry a gun.
Dusenberg   Yes, Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob. Gave little consideration to the atrocities that went on around him. Did have one soft spot, though. He had a little boy whom he loved dearly. Over the years, Eddie saw to it that his son grew up with fine clothes. Fast cars. An excellent education. And plenty of daddy-time at sporting events, theatrical presentations, and just hanging out together. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object.
   Perhaps Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. There's no way to know. But when his son, about to graduate high school, expressed his burning ambition to go on to Annapolis, Eddie was one hundred percent behind him. Only, that wasn't exactly something money could buy.
   So Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Well, maybe not as difficult as all that. Maybe he could see the handwriting on the wall. Knew that Capone was going to be nailed one way or another. Figured he could keep himself out of prison by helping the government. And maybe government connections could help get his son a berth at Annapolis.
   That's how it went down. A reporter friend took Eddie's proposal to the Capone prosecution team. Who took it to the IRS commissioner. Who took it to Congress. Word soon came back: if Eddie would spill all to the Feds about Big Al, his son was in. Perhaps Eddie knew he would be killed for turning state's evidence. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, he did it. Capone went down for two years in Atlanta's federal pen and nine on Alcatraz.
   On November 8, 1939, at the age of 46, as he was driving on a lonely Chicago street, Easy Eddie's life ended in a hail of big-game shotgun slugs. Police found in his pockets a pistol he'd been seen cleaning and loading that day at his office, a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

The clock of life is wound but once,
and no man has the power
to tell just when the hands will stop,
at late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.

And yes, Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare was the son of Edward Joseph "Easy Eddie" O'Hare.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. I have seen variations on that poem attributed to Robert H Smith, to Wilfred Grindle Conary, and to Dwight Fuqua.

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"You looked at it and saw.... "

Boy, I'll tell you, when you encounter a phrase like "first weather-related death", you know the news can only get worse. And it did. During Chicago's "Groundhog Blizzard", the 3rd worst in its history. I know, 'cuz I was out in all three of them. In 1967, we had 23 inches and 60 people died. In 1999, we had 21.6 inches and 43 deaths. This month's blizzard dumped 20.2 inches, we know of 15 dead so far, and the sad fact is that there may be more bodies no one has found yet. So before I get on with my actual story here, I'd like to take a moment to remember the people who died and their survivors. Please join me in wishing or praying for a healing balm to those who mourn and for the progress of their loved ones' souls in the Kingdom.

Thank you. Now to talk about The Shovel. Which my little grandMya used over the weekend to help me clear out the car circle in front of my condo. You know, so I wouldn't need alpine gear to get from the sidewalk to any car picking me up. (And don't get me started on the snowplow driver who dumped a 2'-wide/2'-high wall of snow along the whole curb). Several years ago, when I was living in the upstairs "in-law" apartment of my son's home, I loved to shovel snow. That, leaf raking, and feral gardening were my big outdoorsy contributions.

Snow shoveling childNow, to me, snow shoveling is wonderful exercise where I can:

   = go at my own pace (slow, with lots of rest stops, to avoid a heart attack ... which is the cause of more weather-related deaths than any other factor),
    = enjoy the outdoors (properly dressed, and periodically going inside to warm up when even that isn't enough),
    = perform a service for my family and community (we also tended the yard and sidewalks of our disabled neighbor),
    = let my cogitation and imagination run free (wild, even), and
    = keep my son from using the obnoxiously polluting snowblower (and really don't get me started on how snowblowers are specifically designed to be used by men and not by women).

To my son, though, it's just a chore. One he helps with only occasionally. So the day he cracked the hollow metal shaft of his plastic snow shovel about two-thirds of the way down, he just left it propped against the wall on the front porch. He meant to throw it out, but it stood there for a long time. And one day, I had a brainstorm.

"Hey Rey, your power tools in the basement. Can you saw and drill through metal?"
"Yeah, Ma, why?"
"Well, let's take this busted shovel down and you saw the shaft all the way through where it's already cracked."
"Sure, but why?"
"You'll see. Wow, that saw is loud. Now, gimme the handle end. And a Philips screwdriver. See, took the handle off the broken shaft."
"I see that, but why?"
"It's a surprise. Put the handle on the piece of shaft still on the shovel. Mark where the holes are. Drill. And screw the handle on."
"OK, so instead of a 4' shovel, now I have a 2-1/2' shovel."
"Which is short enough for your daughter. So she can have fun shoveling with you. She so wants to help."
"Hmmm. I gotta hand it to ya, Ma. Sometimes I wonder why you save stuff. But I looked at this and just saw a broken shovel. You looked at it and saw a toy for Mya."

What a wonderful compliment!

Khoda hafez,

P.S. It's become more than a toy. Not only can Mya still use it, but it turned out to be mighty handy for us grown-ups to shovel stairs with (from the bottom one up). And it ain't taking up space in a landfill (we eventually found a use for the leftover cylinder, too).

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

A lot of the hoopla over new Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's admittedly divisive rhetoric in church centers around whether his choice of words is covered by the First Amendment right to free speech. I think that's barking up the wrong tree. I think he's covered before one ever gets to the free-speech clause, which comes after the opening clauses quoted above.

Don't get me wrong: I think he was wrong. I believe everyone on the planet is his brothers and sisters. That's because I believe everyone on the planet is my brothers and sisters; so being that I'm their sibling and I'm his sibling, then he's their sibling, too. Granted that genetically we may only be, at farthest extreme, 50th cousins. But spiritually, we are all God's children. All siblings in one huge, global, immediate family. And I can't deny his being my brother just because he isn't a member of my religious community. (Or my gender or my ethnic heritage or my age group or my level of education or any other "not my" that you can think of). Even if he does mouth off to my disliking.

1st AmendmentBut for Paul's sake, the Constitutionalists (especially those who use it as a bludgeon) can't have it both ways. Bentley was in church. His speechifying was not part of the official inauguration ceremony. He was speaking to what he considered (whether or not that was insensitive) a Christian crowd. He was using (if not using well) typical Christian rhetoric and common tropes. And as far as I can tell, he certainly wasn't inciting anyone. (If anything, he was extending an invitation, and didn't realize or didn't care how rude he sounded.) Nor was he falsely yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

I agree with the concept that the purpose of the Establishment Clause is to protect the church from the state, not to deprive the state of moral guidance. But if we're going strictly by the Constitutional verbiage, what Bentley has to say about his personal interpretation of his Faith, whether I agree with that interpretation or not (and I obviously don't, nor do I think Christ Himself would), what he has to say not as a public servant but as a sort of preacher, is protected. What a Robert Bentley or a Jeremiah Wright says in the pulpit is one thing ... and maybe I need to listen more carefully to see if I really understand what they're really trying to say and why. More to the point, though, I need to watch their deeds before I can really decide what they meant. And what it will mean for others. And when I disagree with them, that's when I especially need to defend their right to speak. Not just in spite of disagreeing, but because I do.

Khoda hafez,

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Lucki: "I just wasn't acclimated to the (admittedly baby) Hawk yet."
Kim:    "How does someone become acclimated to a hawk?"               

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, ILVerrry slo-o-owly. At least it feels that way the first time the Hawk screeches every winter.

See, while it's true that Chicago's "Windy City" nickname refers to all the hot air its politicians keep blowing around, the nickname also describes the city's meteorology. And when you mix that windiness with cold...

Well, just about 25 years ago, on January 20, 1985, Chicago bottomed out at -27 F (-33 C) around quarter after six in the morning. It was a Sunday; and by time I got to the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette (about five miles north of Chicago) for noontide devotions, it was a balmy -20 F (-29 C) there. Still, the wind was gusting so hard that the wind chill factor was around -80 F (-62 C). So there I was, sitting in that massive building...listening to it cre-e-eak and gro-o-oan in the wind.

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, ILIn fact, the wind was so strong and wrapping itself around the building so tightly that people coming up the steps had a very hard time pulling open the customary door on the building's south side. Even the lady who always greeted people in the airlock on Sundays couldn't push the door open against the suction the wind was causing. So the building director, a big burly guy, stood in the airlock. And, every time someone started trying to pull the door open, he threw himself against it from the inside to help them. That's how windy it was.

When you can hear the wintry wind whistling and screeching and moaning around your doors and windows even though they're tightly sealed, that's the full-grown Hawk (of which I was just feeling the baby version on this past Thanksgiving Day). And when it can cause strain in the structure of the House of Worship, that's the Hawk on steroids.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. My thanks to reader Kim for inspiring this blog entry.

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"Ascii the Byte -- She Learned How To Purr"

Buried Ascii yesterday. In the forest, in a little cave under a big logfall. Her return to nature was also attended by friend David and several deer. The eulogy inscribed on the little tiger tabby's paper coffin extolled that: "She Learned How To Purr". Maybe that doesn't sound like much; but believe me, it was a bi-i-ig deal.

Ascii was a rescue. No, that's not quite right. She rescued herself. Accidentally.

Ascii the ByteI remember seeing her out in an alley as a kitten, back in the summer of 1994. All by her lonesome, even then. My funnest, fondest memory was seeing her playing with a leaf one bright day. Pouncing on it. Throwing it up in the air. Chasing it. Pouncing again. But that was the only time I ever saw her play. Life was hard out there all alone. I never saw a mother or siblings. Perhaps she was an orphan raised by a tom ... they do that, sometimes, if they find a kitten old enough to eat regurgitated food.

When winter came, I did what I usually do. Built a warming box for any stray who could find it. Since I lived on the first floor, I put it between my back door and the screen door (which, of course, meant that the screen door stayed part way open all the time) with the box opening facing in towards where the doors met, so that wind couldn't blow into it from across the porch. And I always put a handful of dry catfood atop the box, and some in front of the opening, in hopes of attracting the needy stray to find the opening and shelter there. And I learned from pawprints in the snow that at least one cat had found the box.

One night, I got home late. About 11 o'clock. Got out of my coat and boots and all. Then remembered that I hadn't yet put out food. It was co-o-old as all get-out, but I wasn't about to dress for the outdoors again. I grabbed a handful of food. Yanked open the back door. Threw the food on top of the box. Blinked. And slammed the door shut.

What I didn't know was that the little tiger tabby kitten I'd seen during the summer was now grown up ... and sleeping in the box that very night. And what she didn't know was that the back door wasn't an immovable wall. When the food hit the top of the box, she apparently jerked awake, panicked, and sped out the opening of the box and over the top to get away. Only she zigged when she shoulda zagged ... and instead of diving off the box onto the porch, she dived off the box into my kitchen. And didn't have time to correct her mistake 'cuz I was already slamming the door shut. So I saw this streak of fur flash by my feet; but by time I was finished blinking, she had disappeared.

Still, she was in the house somewhere. So I just made sure my cats' food and water bowls stayed over-full, and let the presence of other cats reassure her that maybe she hadn't made so big a mistake after all ... plenty of food, clean water, fresh litter, blessed warmth, no rain or sleet or snow, no cars, no dogs, no one kicking or throwing rocks or whatever had made her scared of people.

It was three months before I learned that she was living behind the kitchen stove. I made sure she saw that I saw her back there, but otherwise left her alone. It took about six months before she was willing to come out during the daytime. It took about six years before she let me touch her ... and then only when I was putting her food down. It took another six years before she let me pick her up ... again, only if she thought I was putting food down. And another three years before I could pet her or pick her up when there was no food involved. In the meantime, though, she hardly ever played. Ever. With the other cats, with a toy, chasing her tail, nothing. If she played for a few minutes once a year, it was a big occasion. She wasn't even interested in catnip ... would watch the other cats gafloozing out on the stuff and look like she just didn't get it and why were they acting that way.

Which brings us to this year. The year when, one day, she let me pick her up and pet her for a good five minutes and -- more than just arching her back like she'd learned to do, more than just pushing her head into my hand like she'd learned to do -- she purred. And, well....

Eeee what was that?

She didn't remember what purring was. She didn't remember what it felt like. She didn't remember what it meant. She didn't remember what it was for. It scared her. She scared herself.

But the next time I was able to pet her into purring, she wasn't so scared. And by the third time, she had decided purring was an okay thing to do if one felt like it. She even kneaded my arm a few times. So, it took almost all of her life, this most feral of all rescues I've ever adopted, but before she died in my arms, little old Ascii the Byte learned how to purrrrr.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. If you want to learn how to make a warming box out of recycled materials, email us with WARMING BOX as the first words in the subject.

Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 2:28 PM, Kim wrote:
   I loved your two blog entries. The Purr story deserves to be much more widely circulated - should be able to find a niche in print somewhere. The calamity-providence story is great also, except there is a spot where I got stuck and could not make sense of it - the "(admittedly baby) Hawk" What was that? How does someone become acclimated to a hawk - and there was no other mention of a hawk anywhere. Maybe it is some local slang that did not compute.
  Lucki responds to Kim:
   You've got me contemplating doing some other cat stories and maybe ending up with a book of shorts. As for what "the Hawk" is about...well, what a great topic for my third blog entry.
Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 10:16 PM, Joan wrote:
   Your two stories are VERY well told. I identify with the Ascii story; my cat Mimi was with me more than 4 years before she would sleep where I could pet her. For those four years she would sleep at the FOOT of my bed. Now she sleeps by my pillow. About 3 years ago I got Annie, who wouldn't let me touch her, either; she also chose to sleep at the foot of my bed. Just this last month or so she has started choosing to sleep upon my hip and to be cuddled . . . and she, too, seems to be beginning to purr . . . . . yes, I recognized Ascii in them, though THEY did not require QUITE as much patience from me as your Ascii did from you !!!
  Lucki responds to Joan:
   Ascii slept on my bed sometimes. She'd come up only after she thought I was asleep -- I occasionally fooled her and got in a stroke or two before she moved away -- and jumped down as soon as she knew I was awake in the morning.
   I once read a fantasy about a woman who had a pact with Bastet that she'd give a good home to a feral cat even if it never responded to her. Can't remember the title or author; so if anyone knows the story I'm talking about, please email me. Once I have a rescue in my house, I consider that a contract: I'll do the best I can for the cat, and the cat'll do whatever it can in return. In the long run, Ascii did a lot.
Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 11:39 PM, Lisa B. wrote:
   Stole a minute and looked at your blog. Awwww, Ascii passed away. How bittersweet the blog entry tastes to me! On her hand, she capped off a difficult life with a crowning achievement. On your hand, I hope your morning stuffiness lessens with less cat hair in the air. (Is that some kind of verse?)
  Lucki responds to Lisa B.:
   Yes, she did, didn't she. So perhaps she'll decide to wait at the Rainbow Bridge.
Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 9:35 AM, Lisa S. wrote:
   Hello Lucki! Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed this story on your blog. I sent it along to my daughter who loves cats and has a few! "Ascii the Byte -- She Learned How To Purr"
  Lucki responds to Lisa S.:
   Thanx, Lisa. I look forward to hearing your daughter's feedback, she being a fellow cat-adopter and all. And keep checking back. It's true I'm not one of those every-day bloggers. OTOH, that means I tend to blog about things that really interest and inspire me, which hopefully means they'll interest and inspire you, too.
   BTW, I like your sig: "Let your vision be world embracing," Baha'u'llah tells us. Ooh, I think I feel another blog entry coming on.

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O Son of Man! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance,
but inwardly it is light and mercy.
   -- Baha'u'llah, The Hidden Words, from the Arabic, #51

So there I was, on Thanksgiving Day, out in the sudden cold snap that had hit that morning after a very mild autumn. Walking a half mile to dinner with a bunch of friends, then a further half mile to visit some neighbors. On the way to dinner, the frigid air hit my lungs like a ton of icicles, but I made it OK. By time I got to the house I was visiting, though, I felt like I was going to keel over. Out of breath. Lungs screaming. Arms hurting from the stuff I was carrying. I couldn't wait to get into their nice warm abode and, um, I started to say "chill out". Well, more like warm up. And loll around. Which I did. So all in all, trouble during the walks aside, it was a great day with great friends, bitterish cold notwithstanding.

Look, I know how to dress for Chicago's cold. Layers. Lots of 'em. Breathing and non-breathing fabrics in the right places in the right order. Protecting my hands, the top of my head, the soles of my feet ... the 5% of skin area that accounts for 40% of heat loss. But this was ridiculous. I just wasn't acclimated to the (admittedly baby) Hawk yet. No one was. Needless to say, I asked my neighbors for -- and got -- a ride home. And then I felt fine.

Only, not for long.

Over the weekend, things seemed all right. But by the start of the new week, I was beginning to wonder whether the pneumonia I'd suffered almost exactly a year before was beginning to inch its way back. Well, it was a good thing I had my annual checkup coming up; 'cuz whatever it was, I trusted that the doctor would catch it, um, I mean identify and treat it. In the meantime, I'd just take it easy ... and stay warm.

If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. When it started hurting worse to lie down than to be up, when I ended up having to sleep overnight Thursday in my rocking chair, I realized annual checkups weren't the be-all and end-all of medical existence, no matter how soon scheduled. So Friday morning, thanks to an emergency ride from friend Gregory, who rousted herself out of bed and was at my door in less than an hour from my call, I walked into the doctors' office, agreed to be seen by whomever in the practice was that day's walk-in handler, and was waited on pretty quickly.

Arter before procedureThe assigned doctor ordered three tests to determine whether my problem was based in the lungs, heart, or stomach. The blood tests and X-rays were easy to do right away. Then I walked the block over to the hospital to schedule the stress test. Even that short walk had me in pain. The person at Reception graciously investigated whether I could have the stress test that day (so I wouldn't have to go home and come back), and I was in luck.Artery after procedure

Long story short? Stress test showed arterial blockage, I was scheduled for an angiogram first thing Monday, and I ended up having a cardiac procedure. The good news? Significant blockage in only one location in only one artery. Angioplasty with drug-eluting stent right on the spot. Blockage successfully eliminated. No damage at all to heart itself. Nipped, as it were, in the bud. Not end-of-story, of course, but amazing nonetheless. I stayed in the hospital overnight and slept lying down. Heavenly, even in one of those irritating hospital beds. Then I came home. And here I am. Here I still am.

Think about it. If Thanksgiving Day hadn't been so weatherishly horrid, my system might never have been stressed enough to feel anything untoward, never mind escalating pain. And if it weren't for that pain, my first symptom of any trouble at all would likely have been a full-out heart attack. Instead, the medium-large calamity of all that cold and pain turned out to be the humongous providence of catching something before it killed me.

In retrospect, that kind of process has been running rampant through my life since I don't know when. It's just that, nowadays, I seem able to recognize the result a lot faster. Even sometimes to be hopeful of providence when calamity strikes.

So, that's my story ... and I'm sticking to it.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Many, many thanks to Drs. David Hwang, David Marmor, and Timothy Sanborn, their staffs, and everyone at Evanston NorthShore Hospital who was involved in my diagnosis, procedure, and recovery. And by the way, Dr. Sanborn liked that Scripture so much, when I mentioned it during the angioplasty, that he had me email it to him.

Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 1:22 PM, Timothy wrote:
   I liked your story and writing style very much. I have been writing creative non-fiction medical short stories for several years and actually started a draft of a story from the doctor's perspective along the lines of your story and your quote “My calamity is My providence”. Maybe you would like to review it when I complete the draft?
  Lucki responds to Timothy:
   I'd be honored to help you in your creative writing endeavors. And you'll note that I've added you to the Portals Quilt so that people can go read the non-fiction medical story you've already had published.
Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 10:16 PM, Joan wrote:
   Hi, Lucki . . . glad you GOT that angioplasty !!! Way to go.
  Lucki responds to Joan:
   Thanx. Me, too.

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