Saturday, January 07, 2012

"Dear family and friends..." - Dormgrandpop's holiday newsletter

Dear Family and Friends,

When writing end-of-year newsletters my recent practice has been to read over my Dormgrandpop entries for the year and compile a list of topics. Then I sought to summarize the year’s events for me and – more briefly – for family members. This year, my letter is being written late, and with the benefit of reading those of other friends first. Reading these conversational missives, simply summarizing family and events often interspersed with a few pictures, made my previous ones seem a bit pretentious; probably boring. They have become this year’s template.

My four grandchildren are now 6,8 15 and 20. In the fall my 15 year old grandson and I spent four days together Washington DC, which I wrote about in a blog, “Non-Judgmental Listening.” More recently, we gathered at son Bradford’s classically beautiful newly purchased historic home in Kentucky. My granddaughters and I devoted time to an activity I can recommend to other grandparents – “writing books” together. They told their stories, and I recorded them on my iPhone. As our partnership progressed, over a long weekend, both began to do their own writing, just seeking spelling assistance for difficult words. This is a great activity for grandfatherly listening and learning. Bradford continues his passionate pursuit of business growth, with priority given to new ventures in China, India and Southeast Asia, as President of Shaklee International. When we met on our first night in Kentucky, we spent nearly five hours in animated conversation, catching up with one another, discussing our lives, the world’s problems and the respective opportunities/challenges we both face.

While in Kentucky I also had a lengthy visit with my stepson, who now is pursuing his horse-breeding/care-giving business on a magnificent 500-acre farm that he rents near Lexington. I always look forward to our rare times together and the window into a very different, rewarding life-path they provide. Sadly, my oldest grandson could not be with us. His present calling combines college and work as a ski instructor in the west where the family lived for a number of years. Dormgrandpop readers may remember the description of his beautiful high school graduation ceremony that I attended two years ago.

Dormgrandpop readers will also know of my daughter’s activities from my recent blog about her “Holidazzle” project. Along with other members of an active artisan community, she has raised funds for a new Art and Music Center in Safety Harbor, Florida. Her landscape gardening business is successful enough that she has to turn away customers. During an all-too-short Florida visit, we had long talks, I bonded with her new dog “Tinglie,” a miniature Daschund rescued from an animal shelter, participated in a parade hyping a fund raiser for the new art center, and at the fund raiser, urged visitors to add links, for a one-dollar donation, to “the world’s longest holographic bracelet chain.” Since, as far as we know, there are no other such chains, we are hoping this will be enshrined in the Guinness Book of Records. When last I checked, nearly 2,000 visitors had attended the event.

My wife continued to pursue her passions of horseback riding, university teaching, and maintaining the beautiful country home that is her base of operations for these activities. No doubt she will have shared news of her rich lifestyle and remarkable achievements, with those whom she thought might be interested. Like, my daughter, she provides a valuable role model of an individual who is skilled at pursuing her passions and surrounding herself with a nurturing, loving and supportive community.

For me, this has been a transitional year filled with completions and new beginnings. Following my mother’s dictum of “leaving the stage while the audience was still applauding,” I retired from American University. The degree to which others were “still applauding” is for others to judge. Sadly, this necessitated that I give up my AU Anderson Hall apartment that had been my second home for nearly ten years. In making this move, I was empowered by the example of my father who, as he lived into his mid-nineties, survived the life-changes that aging inevitably entails, with grace and good humor. Hopefully, I can emulate his example. I was fortunate to find a beautiful new apartment to purchase within five minutes walk of American University’s campus and to receive an exciting offer at the National University of Singapore, combining teaching system dynamics modeling at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Policy with leadership of the “System Dynamics Initiative” at the University’s Global Asia Institute.

The opportunity to move to Singapore full time, which certainly would have been a possibility, was a tempting but would have unbalanced my life at a time when I need to be giving greater priority to family than in the past. Singapore, is after all, about as far from Washington DC and from wife, children and grandchildren as any place could be. However, as in the past, residing in several worlds, simultaneously, appears to be my karma (the product of the causes and conditions that define my life). As I look to the future, with optimism but also an awareness of life’s vicissitudes. It would seem that I may still have promises to keep – and miles to go before I sleep.

Thanks to all for beautiful end-of-year messages and your patience in staying connected with a not very reliable correspondent. May you be fulfilled and blessed in the New Year



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