Honoring Remarkable Individuals We Encouter In Our Everyday Lives

Most of us believe it is rare to encounter truly remarkable individuals in our everyday lives. I believe we come across them every day. Maybe we would recognize them more often if we redefined what we as a society consider remarkable or heroic. We may not encounter movie stars, sports stars, or billionaires, but we do encounter heros - those who make their own corner of the world a better place.

I began a Mandala Art Series to honor those extraordinary individuals I've encountered in my own everyday life.  I hope in reading through - you find some pearl of inspriation as well and invite you to think about any remarkable individuals you come across in your everyday life. I'd like this to be a place to post projects you've made to honor someone in your own life who has made a difference in their world or inspired you in some way to be a better person. Submit your project along with a word or two about why you chose this person and invite others to be inspired too.

Mandala Series - To Honor Those Extraordinary Individuals I Have Encountered In My Everyday Life

Why My Dad is Better Than Your Dad

This piece was made for the most extraordinary person I've ever met - My Father.  The title of the piece comes from that old playground argument between children - "My daddy is better than your daddy" or "My daddy could kick your daddy's A(*!&! - neither of which I've ever lost - still to this day.

I presented this piece to my father on his 65th birthday.  My brother threw him a surprise party (no easy task) with his students (teaches Tae Kwon Do) and friends in attendance.  Below is an outline of the speece I gave when I presented the mandala to him.  My brother and I improvised quite a few funny stories from our childhood to poke fun at my dad - all out of love - for the best dad in the world.

The piece is worked in rounds in cottom sport weight thread.  The inner most circle is a silver winged dragon holding the two circles of the Yin and Yang.  My father is a 6th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.  His first Master (Master Kim) was "Blue Dragon".  My father is now "Silver Dragon".

The inner blocks are the names of our family.  The outer blocks are words describing either what my father is or does.The outer silver dragon was crocheted in a lion brand's silver lame thread then sewn on top of the madala.  He has a Swarovski crystal blue eye.

The Back is covered in a shiny royal blue fabric.

Presentation Speech to My Father

You are the silver dragon (middle circle), you are what connects all of us (names outer circle), but you surround us with more than we all combined could ever give you in return.

I was initially going to write the Korean lettering, like the mandala I did for Master Choi, but then I realized – we aren’t Korean and none of us can read Korean. But I kept the 8 trigrams because I like what they represent – balance and harmony in the universe etc.

When I was thinking of words to describe you, I hadn’t initially meant for the words to coincide with each name of a family member, most just worked out that way when I began stitching them. Some are obvious – Your dad’s name then son – Fay, husband etc. Lily & Artist - you may not have thought of your mom as an artist but she was a seamstress – which typically isn’t thought of as an art, but is an art requiring a practiced skill to do. You are truly an artist – you can draw, sculpt, paint, build custom models etc. You are where I’ve gotten my will to not only create – but to believe in myself enough to pursue it. Without your example I would never have even tried to send my designs off much less to get any of them published – for that I will always be grateful.

These words are all just nouns for most people - but you are these words in their truest sense, the verb sense of each word. These were not just things you are but things you do. These are only a few of the many things you are to us but to list everything I would have been working on this thing until your 66th birthday. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but when I asked Brian if he could think of any stories or things he remembered from our childhood about you and what you did for us or taught us (or did to us!) – without even a moment’s pause he said – daddy did everything with me.

And that is what I remember too. You aren’t our father only because of biology – you are because of your actions – because of how you fathered us in the verb sense of the word – through your actions. It’s easy to biologically reproduce but it takes hard work to father children as you did. I have no memories of a father who would lay around the house on the couch or went off with “the guys” or shuffled us off to baby sitters etc.

If Brian (my brother) played football, you’d coach the team. You took us roller skating – so you became a referee and taught us to trick skate, dressed us as clowns, built shriner type cars, made lighted costumes etc. etc. I became a cheerleader and you learned pom pom moves – no that’s a joke – but you were always in the stands cheering me on. You were always there to quiet my childhood fears in the middle of the night – as when I thought there was a ghost in my closet and you’d tuck me back into bed and gently tell me those who’ve passed on aren’t anything to be afraid of – now live people – those are the people you have to be afraid of – those are the ones that can hurt you. O.k. - that may not be the best example because after saying that I was still wide awake and even more terrified. But I know you meant well.

You can do everything and fix anything – and not only can you but you always do – and without being asked. [I used to think when you said I needed a handy man that that was code for husband – now I realize you probably really mean a handy man so you can stop having to fix stuff for me. You never made me feel like a weak girl – or that there was anything I couldn’t do.

You were never afraid to stand up to anyone on our behalf. You were never afraid to “go against the norm” so to speak and stand up for what you believed in. You were always there. Always. Always there. Right there. There. Tried to sneak around – turn –there. Always there. You were always there to scare the hell out of my boyfriends (which could have something to do with why I’m 38 and still single because you are still pretty scary) – heck you even managed to do it when you weren’t physically there.

You may not always have used a traditional method of teaching us lessons but when you taught us a lesson – it was taught for life. This is where the trigrams and that sense of “balance” come into play - thank God for mom or we may not have survived childhood.

You may not be a hero in the traditional sense of say – saving babies from burning buildings – but you are my hero because you’ve come to my rescue more times than I can count. And, by the standards of today’s fathers, you should be considered heroic because your job was most often a thankless one. As kids, you take for granted that your own childhood is the norm. You think however your parents are is how everyone’s parents are. It isn’t until you are older that you find out some other fathers are alcoholics or abusive, uninvolved and don’t spend any time with their children, etc.

Some fathers are none of these things either but I’ve to this day never met anyone who can ever come close to beating me at the “my dad is better than your dad” game – or the my dad can kick your dad’s butt game either come to think of it.

My dad is the only dad who set himself on fire (repeatedly), had a bed of nails, broke things with his head, can still to this day run a marathon, owned a clown suit and shriner cars (unless of course their dad was an actual shriner), or put on a demonstration to queen music lit with black lights and fluorescent paint, built a giant mechanical smoke breathing dragon, never needed to call a repairman to the house, cut one of our names in the grass because it was neat (though that made it twice as much work in the sun on a Saturday), liked twisted sister and judas priest, made his own Elvis suite and owns a pair of leather chaps, need I go on?

Something else I had come across when I was thinking about what to put on this design is the  – is the 5 tenets of tae kwon do:

1. Courtesy – polite behavior and manners
2. Integrity – rigid loyalty to a code of behavior
3. Perserverance – the ability to hold to a course of action without giving way
4. Indomitable spirit – incapable of being overcome or subdues, ability to persevere
5. Self – control – ability to control your emotions and actions by strength of will

You’ve told me that you hope people appreciate having a master such as Grandmaster Choi here so close - to have the privilege of being able to train under him – an opportunity that most who study tae kwon do will never be fortunate enough to experience – well I hope your students appreciate what they have in you and I believe your students would do well to try to emulate their teacher because you’ve succeeded in living each of these tenets to their fullest.

I know your dad didn’t live to see you grow up, have a family etc., but I know there is no way possible that he would not be proud of the man you’ve become.

You always told me no matter how old I get – I’d always be your little girl (which after my last birthday we may need to work on a rephrase of the “old” part).

Well, no matter how old you get – you will always be my hero and the man I most admire.

I love you dad.

Grandmaster Jong J. Choi - 9th Dan

This mandala was inspired by two remarkable individuals. One, my father (the most remarkable individual I have ever met) and the actual subject of this manadal – Grandmaster Jong J. Choi.

This piece is worked in rounds in cotton sport weight thread. In lion brand's gold lame thread surrounding the inner and outer blocks are the 9 trigrams representing balance and harmony.

The lettering designs are done in a red long stitch. The interior blocks are the Poomse patterns of each of the 9 dans. The outer blocks are each of the Poomse patterns written in Hangul (Korean).

Grandmaster Choi has placed my mandala in his school, next to the Korean and the American flags facing the entrance. All entering must bow in respect to the flags. This is truly a place of honor. Thank you again Grandmaster Choi.

Shiny - royal red material backs the piece. 

Why I chose GrandMaster Choi as a subject for my mandala series:

Grandmaster Choi is a man who has reached goals not even dreamed of by most of us. Originally from Korea, Grandmaster Choi’s life reflects that of many immigrants, coming to America and through hard work and determination, achieving the American Dream of prosperity and success. However, Grandmaster Choi is a man who did not need our dream to be successful. He is the type of person who would have achieved success anywhere in the world.Grandmaster Choi has also achieved the goal of becoming a ninth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. This is an achievement not reached by many.

Through the years since my father has been training under Grandmaster Choi, he has commented to me on several occasions how people here (Louisiana) do not realize how lucky they are to have a man like Grandmaster Choi living right here so close. Grandmaster’s are not around every corner therefore most training in Tae Kwon Do never have the honor of training under a Grandmaster such as Grandmaster Choi.My father is one of the most important people in the world to me. I am in awe of his many talents and outstanding personal character traits. Thus, anyone my father stands in awe of must certainly be a truly remarkable individual.

My father counts himself among the very lucky. He has been fortunate enough to have been able to train under two remarkable Tae Kwon Do figures. Master Jung Kim, another very impressive Tae Kwon do Master whose life ended much too early, was my father’s first Master. Though I was a child at the time, I still clearly remember Master Kim’s funeral. I believe that was the first time I had ever seen my father cry.  I know after Master Kim’s death my father felt blessed to then encounter and have the privilege of being able to train under Grandmaster Choi. Thank you Grandmaster Choi. Thank you for the kindness and attention you’ve shown my father. Thank you for living a life worthy or respect and admiration. And, thank you for the inspiration for this, the second Mandala in my series to honor truly remarkable individuals. 

Soothing Mandal for the Militant Buddhist

This was the first installment in my mandala series. This piece was made for my friend and dentist - the militant Buddhist - in appreciation for his kindness and skill. Om Mani Padme Hum is the most widely used Buddhist mantra. It was stitched on the crocheted mandala - a representation of the universe, Sanskrit for 'whole world' or 'healing circle'. Yin Yang in the center of the mandala for balance and harmony. The piece was then backed in a shiny gold fabric, then rolled and tied, hopefully to be unrolled and meditated upon - bringing the militant Buddhist peace and happiness - something he seems to give freely to others.

This piece is worked in rounds in cotton sport weight thread. The lettered areas are stitched in tapestry crochet, carrying the orange color under the yellow while stitching - allowing the orange to show through a bit for an interesting color blend effect.

The lettering and the border designs are done in a red long stitch.

Shiny - royal gold material backs the piece. Piece measures 18" around.

Rolled and tied for storing or transporting. 

Thank you Dr. Bert Bode for being an excellent dentist and a kind friend.