About Me

My photo
As I begin this blog I have begun my 50th year, and that sounds both scary and exhilirating. I was raised in a Christian home by two loving and faithful parents, for which I am forever grateful. I have served the Lord my entire life, and look forward to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, where I will be united with all who have come before me in the Lord and all who will succeed me. I am married to a beautiful woman that I met in China in 1985 when I was teaching English in the city of Changchun, Jilin Province, China, and we have two teenagers that we love to pieces and delight in bragging on. I live in the Chicago area, and all of my career has been as an educator, teaching the English language to international students at the collegiate and university level, but for the last few months I've been laid off. Here I am, wondering why I'm in this place, why this fork in the road has been placed before me. I'm contemplating going into a completely new direction, of becoming an entrepeneur and starting my own business, another thing I find both scary and exhilirating. This blog will be a chronicle of what unfolds.


A Word About the Title of This Blog

The Bear represents my heritage:

I am Ben, born 1958,
the son of Ben, born 1930,
the son of Benjamin Siever 1885-1943,
the son of Jacob "Seven Folds" 1845-1911,
the son of Michael 1814-1898,
the son of "Red" Yost 1775-1856,
the son of John 1732-1813,
the son of "Immigrant" Christian , born c.1700 in Switzerland, died 1775 in Berks County, PA.

The area my ancestors came from is called the Bernese Oberland, the region around Bern, which is now the Swiss capital. Bern means "bear" and a bear is featured on the Bern flag. They immigrated in 1742. There were two families on the ship, one headed by Immigrant Christian and the other by a certain "Widow Barbara", whose deceased husband is believed to have been Christian's brother. I have no way to know what any of them looked like, but one of Widow Barbara's sons was called Strong (German "Stark") Jacob. According to accounts, he was a massive man of great strength, hence his nickname, but he was also a pacifist who took great pains to never be violent with anyone, even when provoked. He had a son named Christian, whose nickname was "der Dick Christel" (literally "thick-through"), and this man had a son called "Big Dan." Obviously they had the genes for size. Then you add in my great grandfather, who was so large and ponderous that he was given the nickname "Seven Folds" for all his double chins, and my dad, who has never been extra-large or anything, but whose co-workers sometimes called him "Gentle Ben" for his easy going ways, and you can see that I am descended from a line of bearlike men. We aren't the ferocity of wolves, the duplicity of serpents, nor the royalty of eagles, just men that are big, strong, unfussy eaters, affable, good natured and middle class. I am a bear!

The Dragon has a number of connections. First and foremost, it represents my wife, who is from China, and thus it pertains to my interest in Chinese people and culture. When I was studying Mandarin, I asked her to give me a Chinese name. She chose "Bin-Long" (bean-loong). "Bin" means "talkative, well mannered, well educated" and is often translated "urbane." She chose it because she felt it described me and it sounds like Ben. She then told me, "I chose 'Long' because it means 'dragon,' and I know how much you love dragons!" Lastly, dragons represent to me the exotic, the far away, the mythical, which has always drawn me. I can at times be a grumpy, overweight, slovenly bear, but in my heart, I dream dragon dreams. I have always loved Tolkien, fantasy and science fiction literature, folktales, epic sagas, the distant past and the distant future. It's what drew me to China in the first place, I think. It's why I enjoy thinking about all kinds of non-standard and even bizarre things. Coiled up inside, I am a dragon!

Family Pictures

Family Pictures
Susan and Maranna (8th grade graduation)


Maranna's last birthday and new laptop

Julian being all serious

Julian being all unserious

the two together

And finally, me

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Elena's 2009 Birthday

Today is my sister's birthday. Happy birthday, Elena! A birthday is a good occasion to take a look back. I remember one time Elena and I had gotten to the age Mom and Dad thought we were old enough to be at home by ourselves. They may have miscalculated. :-) As soon as they left, we got to chasing each other through the house. At some point, I slammed the door to cut off Elena's hot pursuit, and caught her finger against the jamb. She immediately began howling at the top of her lungs, screaming that her finger was broken, that I was mean, that she was going to tell on me. I went into a panic. What was I supposed to do? I had just squashed my sister's finger, and boy was I going to get it when Mom and Dad got home. I thought for a minute and then realized I had the answer. What did Mom do when we had an owie? She stayed calm and broke out the Band-Aids. Of course! A Band-Aid is the answer to any known medical crisis! I ran to the kitchen, got the box of them out of the drawer, unwrapped it and took it to Elena. By this time she was lying on the sofa, still screaming, holding her hand up (no visible damage, but hey, you never can tell about this kind of thing), and proclaiming she was going to die any minute. I told her to let me put the Band-Aid on her finger. To my utter astonishment, she refused! Here was medical treatment, and all she said was, "No, no, no!" My panic level rose even higher. What was I going to do? She had to see reason. Mom and Dad walked in the door to witness me sitting on top of Elena, waving the Band-Aid with one hand, and with my other hand slapping her on the cheek to bring her to her senses. Needless to say, that was the last time, for a very long time, that Mom an Dad let us stay home by ourselves!
Then there was the time we were running through the house, and we broke one of Mom's vases. It was a tall plaster one that stood in the corner and had a lot of peacock feathers stuck in it. We had snapped the narrow neck clean off. We gave each other a look of dread. But Elena's quick thinking saved the day. She got a roll of masking tape and we quickly got everything back in shape and lashed together with several wrappings of tape. For several days after we were on our best behavior, practically tiptoeing around the house, but Mom never noticed a thing. It was only several months later that Mom happened to look at the vase and exclaimed, "What in the world!" But by then, it was way too late to be punished. "Mom, that happened a long time ago!" we exclaimed. So we escaped, and I have Elena to thank.
It's been many years, with lots of long talks, lots of hearing each other's ups and downs, and not nearly enough of actually being able to be in each other's presence, but I truly count myself fortunate to have such a wonderful and loving sister. You're a treasure, Elena! Happy Birthday!


  1. Totally hilarious, Ben! Thanks for brightening my day! I don't remember those incidents, specifically, but I knew that you two were always getting into it. Good thing you both learned better negotiating skills, huh? Luv ya! Your sis, Denise

  2. Thanks Ben for the birthday wishes. I got your card on my birthday! I enjoyed this post. I read it to Rich and Linda and we all had a good laugh.