December 28, 2011

parenting a junior youth

loving her Aba (father)
i met with a friend this morning for coffee, a friend that i've known since high school.  talking with her about raising our children inspired me to share some reflections about being a parent because we acknowledged how few people we both know who are consciously making an effort to raise their children to be truly good human beings.  it is so much more than providing and caring for the physical or material aspects of life.  it is primarily and essentially a spiritual responsibility of raising a soul -- a soul that is trained with good manners, a praiseworthy conduct and a character that will make this world a better place.
just after a haircut..loving the fringe bangs
 as a Baha'i, i know that each child is a unique soul with the potential to bring light to this world or be full of darkness.  it is the duty of the parents to spiritually train and guide the child toward all that is noble, pure-hearted, godly, and virtuous.  we cannot leave a child to his own material or selfish desires or else he is like a wild animal who is consumed with selfishness.
now that ayana is no longer a child and has entered this new stage of life as a junior youth, we, as parents, are evolving as parents to provide her with the necessary understanding and support her soul needs.  it is a time of great changes which are preparing her to become a youth.  as parents, we are striving to instill in her an identity as a servant of humanity (rather than one who worships herself)..one who is tapping into all the God-given talents and capacity she has to fulfill her potential as a soul.  it is in this spirit that we define true education.  striving to be AND do her best -- rather than just doing.  the 'being' aspect of our lives is equally important.  we are continually guiding her and reminding her how to 'be' just, kind, thoughtful, selfless, forgiving, high-minded, etc. -- just a few of the many spiritual qualities and powers necessary to grow into a beautiful soul.
her best friend, Ana Ramanujan
'bff' shirts: best friends forever :)  with silly dyami in the orange shirt

December 21, 2011

divine assistance through prayer

this frame is up in my dad and stepmom's home.  dyami was drawn to it and took this photo.  i'm so glad he did because it truly encompasses how i am living on a day to day basis.  as Baha'is, we are deeply aware of the spiritual forces at work in the world of existence.  through conscious communion with the Most Great Spirit we are able to tap into those forces of spirit and affect each other's souls.  this is most effective and powerful when drawing upon the holy spirit in the Word of God.  in this Day, it has been revealed through the Revelation of Baha'u'llah.  His Revelation is like an ocean.  it is vast, mysterious and immeasurable.  prayer, then, is like immersing oneself in this ocean and partaking of all its power.  prayer bestows spiritual life to sustain our soul on a daily basis.  it is indispensable, vital and essential for a truly magical, spiritual journey in this experience we call life.

we have a friend who is dying.  he is young.  his wife is my close friend.  she has reached out to me for prayer.  she lives very far away..  my father is battling cancer.  we all know dear ones who are in need of healing -- both physically and spiritually.  relying on prayer brings energy, hope and divine assistance.  it is faith in action.  it is surrendering to the Will of God.  it is relying on God and trusting in Him rather than on ourselves.  this is the magnet of divine attraction in our lives.  without it we are lost on our own paths of vain imaginings.  with each breath we can be in a state of prayer.  it is all about what we fill our hearts and minds..

C-Real - Do The Azonto (Feat. E.L)

this is one of the best songs we've heard from ghana!

December 13, 2011

domani dancing Xhosa style


domani, age 7, has a wonderful way of dancing.  after living in south africa amongst his Xhosa friends for 3 years, from the age of 4-6, he absorbed a lot of beautiful ways of their culture..dancing being one of them.  here is a little sample of him doing the 'osah' in front of a jr. youth group in accra, ghana, this year.  this was the first time he danced in front of other people other than his friends in delft.  it was a very joyful moment for all of the kids watching him, as they, too, enjoy many ways of traditional and modern dances in ghana.

family, water & chocolate

my mom, Susan Strong
i am back in the states for a month visiting family.  it is something we look forward to for a long time while we're so far away.  when we're here, time slows down and we spend the days appreciating everyone and everything that we miss..
dad doing well after radiation treatment 2 months ago
for me, it's particularly a time of paying attention to my parents and honoring them.  i'm aware more than ever of the finality of life and that our time together is more precious than ever because it is so far and few between.  i've recently seen my dad as a cancer patient, and earlier in life i saw my mom with a life-threatening illness.  now that i'm a mother, i see and feel differently than i did as a child or young adult.  i just want to bring them happiness however i can.  i find myself very conscious of respecting them, listening to them, laughing with them and being evermore patient with whatever it is about them that may test that virtue.

the first aspect of life that affected me immediately on this trip -- and which is consciously a significant part of our lives in ghana -- is that i can drink water straight from the tap without any concern that it will make me sick.  in ghana, we have to pay for drinking water -- we bought a dispenser which holds a replaceable jug on top -- and cannot have any unboiled, fresh water enter our bodies.  in new jersey, pennsylvania and alabama where our families live, the water is abundant and easily provided without concern for disease.  it is easy to lose touch with reality that we must conserve natural resources to be part of the solution for an aching mother earth when living here.  we recycle a lot in america but we use up a lot of paper towels, ziploc bags and water.  i am able to see in my mind's eye now how the xhosa and ghanaian people make do with so little and conserve everything they have in order to save $ or not create unnecessary waste.  i have always been this way, but now that i have been able to live in africa, it is especially apparent to me how much disparity there is in how people live and use what natural resources are available to them depending most often on how much $ people have.

since i have left south africa, i have become accustomed to living more simply and have acquired a greater ability to conserve one 'resource' that affects my life in a very sweet and essential way: chocolate.  yes, i consider it a resource because there is no good chocolate in ghana that can be purchased at any reasonable cost and because the variety there is very limited --and without it, i feel like one of life's simple pleasures becomes a precious resource to be conserved.  if i want to, i can go to the gourmet market and purchase a bar of Lindt  for between gh12-15 (at least $10).  i can also buy a Snickers bar for gh1.40 which is about $1.  the snickers bar is somewhat comparable to what you have to pay in the states, but of course i like the Lindt chocolate many times more than the snickers.  i just can't justify spending that much $ on a bar of chocolate.  thankfully, and with much gratitude, i have been given some chocolate from 2 dear friends in america (kathy kelley and ariana salvo).  i now have a little collection of good chocolate -- including Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips! -- which i make last as long as possible.  we will bring back a few bars of Lindt, more chocolate chips and a small variety of chocolates to enjoy for the next year and half (which is how long it will probably be before we return to the states again).

i actually have had very little chocolate this past week.  my mom doesn't eat chocolate but for the 3 days i was there she did buy for me a chocolate cookie ice cream pie which was delicious.  my dad's house doesn't have any chocolate bars but there are so many other sweet options that it's been wonderful enjoying licorice, cream cheese icing, coffee flavored ice cream and fresh blueberries.  being with family is certainly the essence of my experience back in the states, but tasting food that cannot be enjoyed in ghana is next on the list (after water) of what i am appreciating most about being here for a month.