Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dance Around the World

Happy New Year!  This you tube video was sent to me by a friend.  It's from last year, but it is still good and makes you smile.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand and Me

In the days before Depak Chopra and Tony Robbins, there was EST, and other "self-actualization" movements.  I was single, between husbands, and determined to improve myself and meet attractive, single men.  What better way then to go where they might be?  (This was before on-line dating).  Not bars necessarily, not quilting classes, but wine seminars, financial workshops, and. . . a weekend with my then guru, Nathaniel Branden, one of the fathers of the self-esteem movement, and a protege of Ayn Rand.

After reading several of Branden's books, including The Psychology of Self-Esteem, I learned that he would be in town conducting a weekend seminar in Denver.  Perfect, I thought, and I signed up.

I can still visualize some of the scenes of that weekend.  More men than women, (yes!); everyone trying very hard to look confident, wondering what was in store for them.  What the weekend consisted of was a series of what anyone would recognize as psychological exercises.  One scene I remember was this poor guy, up on the stage, with Nathaniel skillfully leading him through some emotional memories which ended up with the "patient" sobbing into a huge teddy bear that was a prop.

The culmination of the weekend was an exercise where we all gathered in the gym, lights very dim, told to lie down on the floor, lift up our pelvises and make whatever sounds or words that came to mind.  What am I doing here I thought, as the man next to me was calling his mother every horrible thing, swearing, swearing, swearing.  There was a tap on my shoulder.  "Natalie,"said one of Branden's assistants, (we were on first-name terms by then).  "You don't seem to be getting into this."

The weekend ended, $300 later, although there were many smart, tall, men (my template), I really did not make any connections, but felt sorry for so many people that seemed deeply troubled.

I came home and called my boyfriend in California and told him about the weekend.  "Honey," he said.  "Anytime you want to feel 'actualized,' come to California and visit me."

I am adding a You Tube interview with Nathaniel Branden.  I was flippant about my experience, but I did read his books.   And he is still with us. I think seeing this You Tube will explain his philosophy, Ayn Rand and her books.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Haiti, Peru, Mexico, and Indonesia

Merry Christmas to all blog readers and others!

"For to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be sign unto you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

"And suddenly there was with the Angel, a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace Among Men."


Please click on the photos for a larger image.  The manger scenes are lovely and a tribute to all those who created them.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Bless the beasts and the children.  A good thing to keep in mind this December.  Animals and children, both innocent and helpless are dependent on us.  This is the time to make a magic time for children, not so much to buy them expensive gifts, but to give them a gift of your time, which is what they will remember long after the electronics get broken or lost.

This year we are following a tradition we began two years ago, and that is to give our children and grandchildren a gift of a special event, a play, a ballet or?  Last year one family went to see a fabulous "Nutcracker" ballet, the other family went to see the amazing play, "Warhorse,"  modeled after the movie.  Warhorse used giant puppets made of pieces of wood, modeled after real horses, but they only showed the "bones" to allow a person inside to manipulate the puppet.  Both families enjoyed the events.  We received crayon drawings, beautifully and carefully done of the Nutcracker ballet as a thank you and photos taken in the lobby during the intermission of Warhorse.

Animals all over the world are at our mercy, especially those in Africa and especially Elephants which are killed for their ivory.  My sister visited Kenya this past year and adopted a baby elephant from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:  Nairobi, Kenya.  Once you are on their website, you can see films and stories about their rescue missions.  There are stories there about the baby elephants that are orphaned because their mothers were killed.  The Trust's mission is to care for these babies until they are three years old or so and then they are carefully returned to the wild.  Of course, many adopt each one, but the amount of food, veterinary care and care that is needed can support many parental adoptions.  


There is much need in so many parts of the world and most of us are not in the position to give large amounts of money, but a small donation to the many qualified and deserving causes both human and animal can help. 

The Denver Post, November 2013.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Estonian Grandmother, a mystery

Christmas, more than other holidays, brings on so much nostalgia, especially memories of our parents.  My sister and I lost our parents when we were 19, and 26 respectively.  They died within a year and a half of each other.  Although we knew quite a bit about our mother's background, we knew very little about my father's.

I noticed I have a few Estonian readers of this blog and I thought I would write what little I know about my Estonian grandmother.  

When emigres came to the United States, especially in the late 20's, early 30's, many of them wanted to keep their past secret for many reasons: to avoid reprisals, wanting to start fresh, and with new names, after cutting off all ties with regimes that were at the very least, not friendly.

I think my grandmother's name was Mildred or Marina and her last name I heard was Neurman, but I believe she marred again, so this was not my father's last name.  Her last name could have been Kueller.

She was born in Estonia in 1886 and married an Austrian.  They were divorced when my father was five and I think my father went to live with his father who lived in Moscow.  And perhaps he lived part of the time with my grandmother as well.  But I do know he went to school in Moscow, a gymnasium, they were called.  My grandfather had something to do with the Trans-Siberian railway; we have few real facts.  My father changed his name before I was born to Allan French, but his first name was Alexander.

Later, much later, after the Russian Revolution, and a few intervening years spent in Paris, my father came to the United States.  His mother followed later; the 1930 US census, lists her as living in New York with my mother and father.  I do remember that we were told she died of cancer in New York City. It was interesting as he changed my grandmother's name to Millie French.

I know this photograph was taken in Parnu, Estonia, and from the dress, perhaps in 1918 or when dresses were still long, but shoes and hose showed.

I have no photos of my grandfather as his picture was cut out of the few family photos we have.

So, the mystery remains and will probably remain.  I send her picture out in cyberspace in memory of a grandmother my sister and I never knew.