Category Archives: Personal

Brothers from…in Moscow

Brothers in MoscowIn April of 1998 my brothers (two of them: Tim and Leonard, sans one: Fred) and I made a trip to Russia to visit my parents who had moved back for a time to start a church in my Dad’s hometown, Mikhaylovka.  Mikhaylovka is a few hours outside of Rostov on Don, just off the Black Sea.

My mom died in 2013 (coming up on the three year anniversary) and my dad is pining to join her. So I decided to launch a project to keep him and me busy until that happens. Starting next week, September 13,  I will be launching a series of blog posts and a podcast featuring interviews with my father about heritage and immigration. The focus will be the story, but the periphery may range from politics to ethics to theology – whatever might interest me. Hopefully it will interest you – stay tuned for “The Immigrant Song.”

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It’s Just Tuna…

It’s Just Tuna…that’s what I thought until I read the bottom of the can. IMG_20160831_143833

Eating is so complicated. The first thing I noticed was the invitation to not drain the tuna (no photo, but really, fish in a can is visually unappetizing, and the liquid may be the most unappealing part). But I left it in and mashed my way to a sandwich.

Then, the line: “we select smaller albacore which accumulates less mercury than larger albacore.”

I hadn’t thought much about mercury in fish (since the 80’s when it seemed a national epidemic) until I recently heard Tony Robbins interviewed by Tim Ferris. Apparently he had a huge problem with mercury in his body. Well, I am not a scientist, nutritionist, or other kind of expert but here is what seems to be the bottom line for your tuna (and other fish/seafood) intake.

  1. Mercury is present in all fish. Some fish have higher concentrations than others. You should consume less of the fish with higher concentrations. Tuna is one of those fish. Canned Salmon is a great alternative to canned Tuna. The lowest canned Tuna variety (light tuna) has 16 times more mercury in it than canned Salmon. Some canned Tuna has up to 45 times more mercury in it than canned Salmon. Check out this chart for comparisons.
  2. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the fish the more mercury. The reason for this is that a bigger fish, especially predator fish (shark, swordfish, tuna, orange roughy), has lived longer and eaten more other fish and food products in the ocean and has accumulated more mercury as a result.
  3. Bottom feeders have less mercury:  shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, etc. have less mercury.
  4. The source of Mercury in the environment has both natural and anthropogenic sources, so it would be in our best interest to do as much as possible to reduce the amount of mercury we contribute to the atmosphere/ocean.

My favorite quote from the articles I read was this from Time Magazine online:

Still, the health benefits of canned tuna outweigh potential contaminant risks, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “All studies comparing the inclusion versus the exclusion of fish show better health associated with the inclusion of fish in the diet,” he says. “Those contaminants are unfortunate—but that’s the reality in a world we haven’t treated all that well. Perfectly ‘pure’ food no longer exists on this planet.”

Here are some resources:

Mercury Myth: A Fish Tale Of Epic Proportion

United Nations Report on Global Mercury
FDA: Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish

 

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Remember to say “Thank You”

Cleaning the garage today I stumbled on a thank you note from my daughter in law from August 2012. My son and d-i-l had moved from Southern California to Fort Collins, Colorado and I drove the U-Haul. So she wrote the following kindness:

scan0001Dear Parent of the year (don’t you dare tell Kelly!):

Thank you ad infinitum for driving 1,062 miles in 18 hours only to sleep on the floor and carry everything we own up some rickety old stairs! I assure you that you were never really “the third wheel” – that your presence, conversation, insight, and support were welcomed and treasured. We are so fortunate to have you in our lives, and are thankful for the many blessings you have & continue to bestow upon us.

Love, 

Levi & Kristin

I have to say that in light of the last few months of my life this was a treasure to discover, dusty and dated (well not so dated, but it sounds good). I haven’t felt the part lately – those who know, know – and this gave me hope that I am not the jerk I feel like I am today.

So make sure you say thank you, I love you, you are special, and all sorts of other kindnesses. It pays dividends even into the future.

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Irreplaceable

Nadia Bagdanov, 1924-2013 Rest in Peace

“There is nothing that can replace
the absence of someone dear to us,
and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard,
but at the same time it is also a great comfort.

For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled
one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness.
God in no way fills it but much more
leaves it precisely unfilled
and thus helps us preserve — even in pain —
the authentic relationship.

Further more,
the more beautiful and full the remembrances,
the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms
the torment of memory into silent joy.
One bears what was lovely in the past
not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within,
a hidden treasure
of which one can always be certain.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

ht: Tiana Steinhoff for the Bonhoeffer quote; Ellen Bagdanov for the photo

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In Memory of Nadia Bagdanov

Nadia Bagdanov April 8, 1924 – September 13, 2013 226880_1077708471220_5125_n

Services:

These words were penned by Nadia’s granddaughter Melissa:

If I said that facing the impending death of someone as amazing as my grandma was hard, that would be an understatement. It doesn’t matter how much you try to prepare yourself because the truth is, you’re never really ready to face such a great loss…

As I sit here trying to process it all, her life, her death, the amazing gift of even being able to call her my grandma, the reality of having to live the rest of my life on this earth without her, I find myself overwhelmed at God’s love, His goodness and His perfect timing. Many of you who knew Baba know that she was a very strong, very stubborn woman and she demonstrated that until the very end. The doctors gave her less than week to live, but she and her stubbornness proved them wrong and instead, she lived almost 2 months. Because of that, my family was given a very special gift, a long goodbye…the opportunity to spend precious time with her all the while knowing that every goodbye could be our very last…until it finally was.
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I know her memory will live on…we’ll be able to hear her critiquing our varenyiki every Christmas from now on (we promise not to make them look like slugs, Baba…we’ll aim for 5+’s now more than ever ), we’ll still be able to hear her snarky remarks during Dzeda’s speeches before family meals, and her telling us to love each other…something she did so well.

Until we see her again, we mourn our great loss but celebrate her GREAT gain. I have no doubt she heard the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful, servant’ when she entered the presence of her Savior this morning. She truly was an incredible example…an example whose footsteps have been etched so deeply in my life and heart. She will forever be one of my greatest role models and inspirations and I feel so blessed to be part of such an amazing legacy.
But words cannot even begin to express how much I will miss her…
I love you SO much, Baba

Please leave any comments here and I will be sure to pass them on to my Dad.  I am sure he would love to hear words of encouragement or remembrance from you.  Mom loved Jesus and was confident in her last days.  She loved her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  She will be missed and her words will encourage us for years to come.  The Bagdanov family was blessed by God to have Nadia as our Mom.
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Murder in a Small Town, Part 2

It has been quite a week in Southern California and Nuevo.  I wrote earlier my initial response to the murder here in Nuevo, and feel a follow up post is warranted.

Tonight we have a meeting at Mountain Shadows Middle School from 7-9 that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is hosting regarding safety.  I am sure that Captain Collins and the department will have good information for us at the meeting, here are some thoughts in preparation for that meeting:

  1. These events are disconcerting and hit close to home.   It is reasonable to feel out of sorts and uneasy.
  2. This murder is not an accurate reflection of our community.  Our response to the murder is a much more accurate reflection of our community.  If we respond in fear, suspicion, distrust, and isolation then evil wins as we lose.  If we rise up and find ways to have compassion, reach out more to those who live around us, develop stronger ties of trust with neighbors, then we overcome evil and grow in goodness and strength. I know many of you, but not enough of you.  Those of you that I know are marvelous people (well almost all of you).  You know what I mean!  At tonight’s meeting there will be many quality people representing a quality community.  Let’s not let this horrible event overwhelm us, rather let’s use it as an opportunity for good.
  3. Fear is real, and often it is justified.  But just like any other human emotion it must be interpreted and rightly directed.  The mind needs to direct our emotion to its appropriate and right end.  It cannot be the dominant factor in decision making.  In our community today there is a reason to fear.  That fear should cause you to act cautiously, with appropriate limitations on behavior in light of a real threat. The individual who killed Maria and Connie Gonzales has not been apprehended, and may very well still be in our town.   That is cause for concern and a change of some behavior because he is dangerous and his behavior and location is unpredictable.  So be careful, but don’t let fear dominate your life.
  4. Control what is in your power to control and let the police do their job.  Here is what you can do.  Be a good neighbor.  Watch out for those who live around you.  Make an extra effort to build bridges of communication with those who live in proximity to you. Could you make contact with your neighbors in an emergency?  Swap phone numbers, email addresses and other ways to communicate.  Make an effort to forge a relationship that moves beyond the simple wave as you drive on by.  This sort of networking of people is real strength.  Frankly, it has an effect that no amount of police patrols can match.  Police have one level of input, but communities that join together and know one another are strong in ways that can never be supplied by the Sheriff.
  5. The Sheriff’s department are our partners in this process, not our adversaries.  Tonight is not a night to lobby for more police presence or to be critical of a lack of police presence.  Frankly, I pray that we don’t have a need for an increased police presence in our community.  Not because I don’t like them, or want to “get away” with speeding in Nuevo, rather it is a sign that our community has returned to “normal” and I can go back to not worrying about whether or not I remembered to lock the door.
  6. When a murder occurs, whether you know the person or not, it is personal.  Murder is a crime against all of us – someone who murders presumes the right to kill another.  Life, humanity is a component we share together, and as a society and community we are elevated when we respect life, and diminished when any one of us disrespects life.  The murder of a police officer is especially egregious. It is not only offensive to the person, his family and friends, but society as a whole because he works to uphold our values and social mores. These murders are offensive and reprehensible.
  7. It is the job of the police, District Attorney’s Office, and the whole justice system to render justice.  It is the job of the citizenry to stand behind law enforcement by obeying the law and in responding with compassion towards those who are the victims of crime.  The best thing we can do is reach out to the Gonzales family.

Obviously, the women killed here in Nuevo are close by.  Our community is a generous one and people are planning ways to help them (This Saturday there will be a car wash at the Hardware store to raise funds).  The Riverside officers who were shot today are also part of our extended community.  Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity for the community to see that we all still respect life and stand against the lack of respect for life. Tonight’s meeting is a gathering of the community so that we can remind ourselves that not everyone is going nuts, most of us are still standing up for what’s right.

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Murder in a Small Town

Yesterday two people out for a walk on a familiar stretch of Nuevo, a mother and daughter, were brutally stabbed to death.

We are exposed to murder in abundance in our culture:  Real murders on the news, dramatic portrayals on television, in movies, in books, in music, in video games.  It is pervasive. When it strikes close to home, it all takes on a different, more real impact.  It breaks through the “distance” we usually experience with a murder.  When there is a “connection,” it now invades my world.

How should we respond to a murder in a small town, or a murder in our neighborhood? Here are 6 ways to respond:

  1. The first response is compassion.  Real people lost real loved ones.  These aren’t actors.  A husband and brother lost a wife, and a mother, and a sister, and a daughter.  No matter what other emotion tries to climb to the top of your emotional staircase, compassion is the right one to feed.
  2. The second response is to keep your feet firmly planted in reality.  We are still the same community that we were last week.  This isn’t the first crime committed in our town.  Murders occur in towns of every stripe, because people live there.  You should always be aware of your surroundings and be discerning when odd circumstances or individuals present themselves, not just in the week following a crime.  Don’t jump to conclusions when you don’t know the whole story.
  3. Justice will be done.  We have great law enforcement officers.  I know several of them.  They are equipped to do all that you want done, to catch the person responsible and bring him to justice.  So direct your justice meter in this direction.  And the next time you see a police officer in your rear view mirror or on the side of the road or at Starbucks, thank God for them and pray for their instincts, wisdom, and safety.
  4. Don’t let fear dominate your days and decisions. I was so encouraged to see one of the “regular” walkers out this morning on my way into the office.  I know it is a temptation to be distrustful of every stranger, to hole yourself up in your house, or to stop your normal routine.  Resist the temptation.  Behave reasonably with discernment and take necessary precautions, but don’t be afraid.
  5. Get to know your neighbors.  Interestingly enough, in our small town, not everyone knows each other. One of the news reports characterized Nuevo as a town where everyone knows one another. It really isn’t true.  Our community, like most American communities, pride themselves on individual space and privacy.  I didn’t know this family personally, but they live in the same community so it is geographically personal.  The more we know each other and are concerned about one another the better off we will be.  It may not have made any difference in this instance (some things are out of our control which is what makes it so disconcerting), but it is a safer place when there is neighborhood awareness and concern.
  6. Pray.  There is a lot of pain and suffering.  Pray that you would have opportunity to be God’s instrument of love, encouragement, and truth.  Pray for a family grieving.  Pray for a family that will be embarrassed, ashamed, and burdened by the guilt of a crime that cannot be undone.  When God appears to be absent, His people need to be present.

Last.  Someone knows the perpetrator. The best thing that could happen to him is that he be caught and brought to justice.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he needs protection from the proper authorities and prosecution.

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Having A Bad Day?

Grace Challenge, Day 15

Here is a repost from December 1, 2007…

Have you ever had one of those days?  Where you skipped breakfast, didn’t eat lunch till 2 and finally stopped for dinner at 10pm?  Where you ran from thing to thing, didn’t get anything done, had all sorts of interruptions, and then the water heater stops working, then your wife calls and tells you she was robbed at Costco.  Well, here is how you can praise God and rejoice even in the midst of your worst day.

I have been using this phrase lately, with myself and with others I have been interacting with:  “I have forgotten more good things that God has blessed me with than I deserve.”

I had dinner with some old friends a few weeks back and we reminisced about days gone by.  It brought back so many good memories that I had truly forgotten, abandoned to the deep crevices in my brain, banished by the onslaught of my pessimism and negative attitude.  For most humans, our default mindset is on the failures, shortcomings, disasters, hurts, regrets of our life.  It takes initiative and purpose to remember the good, the successes and the joys of life, all of us have forgotten a wealth of happiness and blessing.

Why do we have to think about smiling?
Why is it that if happiness is not directly connected to some current experience that we are having, we have to “choose” to be happy?

As Christians, we have substantive foundation for our positive outlook on life.  The Bible even commands us to be positive in the direst of circumstances.  Our foundation for positive thinking is the sovereignty and fatherhood of God.  He is in control and he loves his children.  Plain and simple.

So, here is how I found room to praise God on one of “those days.”

I was busy…I have a job, a family, a home (they demand my time).  That is a good thing.
I ate…I never go hungry, the only variable in my eating is my schedule.
I have a water heater to fix…or replace.  In Russia my parents showered with a pot of boiled hot water and a cup…like I did, once.

In the midst of the day there were also endless supply of joys…friends called my phone, friends helped with my project, a big check is on its way to my mailbox, the sunset that night was indescribable…very simply, counteract your default mindset with active thanksgiving and gratitude for all the good things during the day.  When you are overwhelmed by circumstance, actively look for something good, and praise God for it.  Make lists of memories that can serve you at low times.  In the OT they were big on memorial stones, memorial piles of stones (they called them altars).  Build yourself a memorial at the entrance to your home, to remind you every time you park your car that God has blessed you with a mansion, good relationships and …electricity.

Kelly’s wallet was stolen during “that” day…here is what Matthew Henry said when he was robbed:

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (James 1:2)

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Hit a Home Run with Your Wife

 This isn’t hard, nor was it expensive – but this will be a hit at home, I guarantee it. My wife was recently out-of-town for a few days and I wanted to welcome her home.

This coming home table cost me $14.96 and took me less than a half hour, but the response was the proverbial “priceless.”

What you have here is a bag of m&m’s, chocolate covered raisins (her favorites) spread over the table in a random fashion; tulips purchased at Super Target for $9.99 (roses from a florist can be overpriced and over-rated), and a plate of cookies on a “You are Special Today” plate we had at home.  Now, if you are an expert like I am, you can bake your own cookies (chocolate chip) and steal your wife’s heart-shaped cookie cutters and cut them into heart shapes after baking.  No need to worry if you aren’t metro-sexual and handy in the kitchen, just go to Panera Bread(or anywhere they sell fresh-baked cookies) and skip the baking.  Baking your own gets huge points though.  Cutting into heart shapes is also optional, but those kind of “feminine” details really make the women swoon.

A little effort like this on a regular basis can make huge deposits into your emotional bank account with your wife.

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