Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: December, 2014

Winter Wonderland at the Ford House

Playhouse - A gift from her grandmother Clara, it was built in 1930 for Josephine's seventh birthday. The house contains miniature furnishings in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and sitting room.

Playhouse – A gift from her grandmother Clara, it was built in 1930 for Josephine’s seventh birthday. The house contains miniature furnishings in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and sitting room.

Last night we went with friends and family on a Winter Wonderland tour and stroll of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House grounds. It was a lovely night, filled with the magical feeling I always experience when I enter this beautiful 87 acre estate that was built in 1929.

Edsel was the son of Henry Ford and an executive at Henry Ford Company. He was married to Eleanor and they had four children – three sons and one daughter, all of whom are now deceased. His grandchildren are still alive, and every so often they come to visit the estate, during which time it becomes closed to the public.

Edsel Ford died in this house in 1943 and his wife Eleanor lived there until her death in 1976. It was her wish that the property be used for “the benefit of the public.” So today this house is not only open to the public for guided tours, but also has wonderful programs that the whole family could enjoy, such as the Winter Wonderland, where we strolled under a canopy of twinkling lights, listened to carolers and folktale storytelling while sipping hot chocolate around a fire, and visited with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause who are still working although Christmas Day has passed.

Inside, we saw how the house got decorated during the holiday season. Original ornaments that the Fords used from the 1930s were hung on trees. One tree had elongated purple ornaments which Eleanor wanted but could not find anywhere, so she had the Ford Company make them for her. We wandered from room to room, listening to the sound of live musicians play soft Christmas music while tour guides filled us in with stories of the family.

One story I particularly enjoyed was the one about the painting hung on the dining room wall.

“Who is this painting of?” I asked the tour guide.

“This was Edsel’s favorite painting, because it reminded him so much of Eleanor,” the woman said. “Sometimes, when the two of them were dining alone, they would sit right here – ” she pointed to two 18th Century Queen Anne-style chairs. “So he could see that painting every time he looked up.”

My friend and I were in awe, my friend complaining under her breath that they don’t make men like this anymore.

Seeing our expressions, the woman smiled and added, “They had a very good relationship. A very good one.”

This would explain why Eleanor, after Edsel’s death, remained single for the next 33 years, until she joined her husband once again, and why this house today is still full of life.

photo 3 (1)

Dealing with Christmas Crazies

Pastor Aaron2

I am grateful to have a large loving tribe that consists of 11 siblings, at least 33 nieces and nephews, and at least 10 great nieces and nephews (sorry, I’ve lost count). That’s not counting in-laws, aunts, uncles, and first cousins that all live in our vicinity. Being surrounded by this many family members is great, but it also means dealing with so many difficult people that at times, you feel entitled to an honorary doctorate degree in psychology.

Then during Sunday’s Morning Worship, Pastor Aaron talked about how to handle, in a biblical way, the Christmas Crazies who drive us insane. His sermon helped put things into perspective.

“My father used to always say ‘Hurt people hurt people,’” said Pastor Aaron. “Most people who are difficult are either wounded, fearful, are in physical or emotional pain, self-protecting, worried, or spiritually dying or dead.”

These difficult people usually fall into the following categories:

  1. Dishonest People – they devalue people for their own gain
  2. Demanding People (parents excluded, but please avoid dictatorship style parenting at home)
  3. Deadly People – they love to kill through emotional and spiritual complaints, argument, creating as much conflict as possible, causing pain to others. These are people who love to throw emotional damage to others, even through social media.
  4. Defensive People – They struggle when confronted about themselves. They don’t listen. They just get angry.

So how do you handle people who are either dishonest, demanding, deadly, or defensive? Using biblical verses, Pastor Aaron explained:

1.Realize you can’t get along with everyone.

“You live in a mental prison when you work very hard to please people,” he said. “I realized long ago that I can’t make everyone like me. Once I stopped trying to be everyone’s best friend, I started making better decisions for myself. You are responsible for your life.”

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.    Romans 12:8

 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.    Proverbs 29:25

2. Refuse to give into payback mentality

Do not repay evil with evil or insult on insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessings, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9

3. Respond with Love and Concern

Even if we decide to never be in contact with someone again, because of how hurtful they once were or can continue to be, we must realize two things: 1) God loves these people; 2) God does not love you more than he loves them. He might not love their behavior, but He loves them.

“God does not intend for us to be a doormat or to be a wimp, but when you focus on something long enough – angry prayers or retaliation, for instance – you become it,” said the Pastor.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.   – 2 Timothy 1:7

“My mother always said, ‘When you live your life in the right way, in the end even your enemies will want to make peace with you,” he said.

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them. Proverbs 16:7

“So let’s live up to the calling God gave us and respond to difficult people the way Jesus would have,” said the Pastor at the end of the sermon, preparing us for a lovely holiday season with our families – we pray.






Working Towards Your Passions


“As a teacher I employ art, not as a mere subject but rather a holistic experience to cultivate knowledge.  Entering into a sensory experience that is informative, thought provoking, and idea inducing provides one an opportunity to be inquisitive, contemplative, and theoretical. This is the territory into true learning that I wish to navigate my students through.”

These are words that Nina Caruso, a mother of three children, wrote in her thesis paper. She is finishing her bachelor’s for Studio Arts Education at Oakland University, which would qualify her to teach K-12 for art. Next year she and her daughter will be graduating college.

I met Nina years ago at a poetry group and as mothers trying to pursue our passions, we immediately connected. I remember at the time Nina was working full-time as a pre-K teacher with the Waldorf Education.

“The economy went bad, and it was not picking up again,” she said. “The school lost many families and they let some of the teachers go.”

Nina was one of the teachers they let go and that was a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, she would not have pursued her dreams.

“As mothers, we don’t get rewarded for our hard work,” she said. “By going back to school, I was rewarding myself. It was very cathartic. You have to feed yourself or you’ll burn out.”

Last week Nina’s work was part of an exhibition at Oakland University, where seniors show their work. I was sent an invite, and reading her name on the exhibitor list, I was impressed and inspired by her accomplishments. I called her and asked, “How did you do it?”

“I feel it’s important for people not to brood about the bad and to do what’s good,” she said. “It’s all work anyways. Whether you go against the current or fight for the good – it’s all work.”

While Nina is a little sad to be finishing the coursework she really enjoyed, she’s ready to enter her major as a teacher.

“I look at an artist and an educator as the same,” she said. “Educators are very creative in how they teach students to learn and artists find ways to enter into people’s sensory experience for them to learn. It can meet us where we need to be met. There are no rules. The artist might have had an intent but the receiver or viewer will get what they needed out of it.”



Wise Words from a Republican

George Brikho

“We created ISIS, and we need to destroy ISIS,” said George Brikho. “ISIS is funded by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, our supposed allies.”

These words by a Republican running for Congress in 2014 caught my interest in an event I recently covered. Unlike most Republicans, what Brikho said was honest, bold and heartfelt, not staged. He is obviously not afraid to look at the root of ISIS’ formation, which he blames on our foreign policy as well as the current and past administrations.

“Today’s Republicans are not behaving like Republicans,” he said. “Today it’s all about the money changers. Wars are being made for profit. Corporations are directing politicians. It’s no longer about liberation for the people.”

His solution is simple – stop getting involved with other countries and going to war, because the more war we get into, the more debt we have.

“Saddam and Kaddafi wanted to sell their oil their way through OPEC,” he said. “It’s like you have a store or any another business. You have the right to set the prices and do business the way you want.”

Saudi Arabia is the leader of OPEC. It is also the only member of the OPEC cartel that does not have an allotted production quota. Oil can be bought from OPEC only if you have dollars. In November 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in euros. When OPEC oil could be sold in other currencies, like the euro, that’s not too good for the U.S. economic dominance.

“Leaders of other countries were not happy about what Saddam and Kaddafi were doing and wanted things to be done the way they wanted them to be done,” said Brikho. “So they went in and polarized that nation into submission. Then the federal banking comes in, and the new leaders are given money to rebuild, and in order to be able to give this money back, those countries, who never taxed their citizens before, start taxing their people the way we do.”

I wondered why this Republican was not talking like most Republicans. What was so different about him?

“I’m a statesman, not a politician,” he said. “I’m a concerned American, and I work for the people. I am willing to expose anyone whose allegiance is to money and not the people.”

On his website, it says:

The Constitution of the United States of America is the most intelligently crafted governing document in the history of mankind. The US Constitution protects personal liberty by limiting the power of our government. Unfortunately, our government violates its boundaries on a daily basis. Our federal government must be restrained.

One wonders why the people have given their powers away.

“We have become too comfortable, to where unconsciously we’re allowing for things that don’t benefit us to happen,” he said. “For instance, a third of our paycheck goes to our government. This is modern day enslavement. You don’t need a cage to be a slave.”

I researched the difference between a statesman and a politician and found an interesting quote by James Freeman Clarke, who said, “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”

I also found an interesting article by Mike North who wrote that the founders of this nation were not politicians, but were statesmen, adding, “We are suffering from a drought of statesmen and a flood of politicians. It’s like a diet full of calories with almost no nutrition. Statesmen are like vegetables. Many people don’t like them, but they’re good for you. Politicians are like too much ice cream. Yummy, I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.”

I feel we should be grateful that George Brikho is helping our country fill this drought, and do, what I think is so crucial for our nation to do, which is to become politically fit.

You can read Mike North’s full article here:

Having Great Powers


I covered a story a few weeks ago about the genocide in Iraq. The event was organized by Assyrian activist Nahren Anweya and other influential group of people who are of Christian Iraqi decent. I later followed up with Nahren with questions for the article I had to write, and in the process, met with her briefly.

During this time, she mentioned, “Oh, I forgot to share my experience of helping to save 400 Yazedis from a sinking ship last week.”

What? I thought.

She told me the incredible story.

“A Yazedi man called me on Facebook thinking I have great powers not knowing I’m an ordinary individual, and he claimed that there were four ships filled with Yazedis. One of them had 400 passengers and it was stranded in the open water between Greece and Italy. He was hysterical and pleaded for help. I called my brother-in-law who is in the navy and informed Fox News and we were able to save all of them and bring them to Greece. They were very thankful and they were crying.”

The man knew that she was a woman with great powers, not an ordinary individual. And yet the beauty of people with great powers is that they are usually humble, and consider themselves ordinary individuals because they know that within everyone lie those same great powers – if only they were to tap into them.


Wild, a Meaningful Adventure


A few days ago I was invited by AMC Theater to a complimentary screening of Wild. The film was described as one woman’s 1,100-mile journey to self-discovery, and it was based on the bestselling book by Cheryl Strayed. I decided to go because the story seemed unique and meaningful, and such stories are not easy to come by. I invited my friend to come along. She is not as enthusiastic about meaningful films, and asked, impishly, “Can we watch Dumb and Dumber instead?”

“No,” I said, knowing that she’s trying to say I watch boring films.

Within ten minutes of Wild, my friend and I were captured – captured by what the main character, Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) is trying to do by leaving everything behind to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own. She is washing away past hurts of her own reckless behavior, a heroin addiction, a divorce, and her mother’s untimely death. She is healing and ultimately empowering herself.

The film had no car or rape chases, no one being shot at or shooting at someone, no child abuse, or physical fights. It had humor and real people. The suspense was in caring about this one woman’s journey, because we relate to this journey that most of us want to take – though not necessarily through a 1,100-mile hike.

When we left the theater, my friend admitted that she really liked this film, to which I thought, “Halleluiah.” I have finally converted her. I noticed a man standing with a pen and paper asking for our views to submit to the studio. People told him they liked the film, that it was touching and interesting. I said to him, “The film reminds me of the foreign films I used to watch (especially the French), where stories were saturated with feelings and meanings.”

At home, I did a little research on Wild and discovered that it was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, a Canadian film director from Quebec. Still, it was made by an American studio, and will have a theatrical release on December 5th, and not just in independent theaters.

Years ago, a successful screenwriter said in a lecture that Hollywood executives told him, “Don’t have a message. People don’t like to think.”

Either these executives were totally wrong, or times are changing – thank God.