Nineteen Months Poetry

Over at Nineteen Months (the site that I founded and now run with my friend Caitlin), we had 19 day project of words from various authors about the Baha’i Fast, and Caitlin organized it all. She put it together in a PDF for everyone to enjoy: A Fast Word: The Anthology.

The poem that I contributed:

My Mother’s Hands 

My hands do not yet look like my mother’s hands
but they are starting to move in the same ways
and express themselves on their own.
When I pour coffee early in the morning
my hands cradle the cup
and I view the skyline of my home.
Dawn comes in little pieces
the tests come in waves
each chasing the other.

Promotion (and some thoughts)

Rare sunny day in winter. #fromwhereIworkI got promoted yesterday. From Events Coordinator to Events Manager*

*does a happy dance*

It was a while in coming, but I was told in the morning and it was announced in the afternoon to our department (which is good, because it would have been so hard to keep that a secret!). I’ve had some very supportive supervisors and colleagues, and it meant a lot to have that support and guidance over the last few years. Nothing really changes for now (other than my title and my business cards), and I’m really already doing most of the work, so it is nice to be recognized. Thank goodness I don’t have to move! I love the view from my desk.

Women’s Work is Not What You Think

In the last few years especially I’ve been thinking a lot about women in the workplace and in leadership positions. I know that women generally don’t advocate for themselves, ask for raises or promotions, and are not taken as seriously when it comes to strategy and business decisions. I am grateful for the people in my life that have encouraged me to stand up for myself, to not accept the narrative that so many women are fed their whole lives. My parents started it, of course, and then a steady flow of other family, friends, and co-workers all taught me how to be strong and navigate the minefield. And the people who were not so nice taught me things too. I could move on from those situations with additional skills and knowledge.

I work in a female-dominated industry, but men are still in charge overall, and it became very evident to me last year when I read the PCMA 2015 Salary Survey. To sum up:

  1. Average salary for meeting professionals: $77,519 for women, $102,375 for men. Almost exactly 75 cents to the dollar. 
  2. Planners with a CMP certification make about $10,000 more than those without. So glad I got my CMP in 2014.
  3. Association meeting professionals tend to make more than corporate planners. I’m in association management, thank goodness.
  4. 72% of respondents who said that they had additional work added to their plate also were not compensated for the additional work. Find this to be true across the board.
  5. Also, in the Department of Labor categorizations, meeting professionals were generally lumped in with restaurateurs, lodging managers, etc, within the Hospitality and Tourism category, and only last year did they start to get their own sub-category that is beginning to recognize their expertise. This has been a huge frustration of mine for years. We are experts in a specialized field that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. 

The reason I want to talk about this stuff is because I feel a lack of it right now, and career growth and development is important to me. I work with a lot of young women, especially because we get a lot of college grads who are just starting out. When will they have these conversations? No one likes to talk about salary discrepancies, or the workload (please spare me the tired old spiel about working hard to prove ourselves), or the emotional labor we carry for our teams or our clients. We are martyrs in one of the most stressful (and fun!) jobs, but then don’t have enough open conversations about how to create more of a balance, or how to support each other. So I’ve been making an effort and I am hoping it helps some people along the way.

A couple of articles caught my eye this week:
Women in Company Leadership Tied to Stronger Profits, Study Says
Having It All Kinda Sucks
(*those are our external titles. internal titles are more complicated, but it works well enough for our purposes here.)

Recent Photo Publications

Over the last year I was asked if I could provide some of my photos for the Baha’i Publishing Trust’s upcoming publications.

The Baha’i Datebook is a physical pocket calendar for 2016-2017 for the year 173 B.E. and my photo of the new Welcome Center at dusk is the cover photo. It was a challenging shot to get, as I didn’t want people, construction equipment, or cars in the shot, so Shea patiently helped me drag around my tripod and take many shots.Baha'i Wall Calendar (173 BE)

The Baha’i Wall Calendar also features the same photo.

 

 

 

 

The Dawning Place is a book about the building of the House of Worship that was originally published in 1984 and was an integral part of my life growing up in the area near the House of Worship. When I was guiding at the House of Worship as a kid, my parents encouraged me to read this book to be able to answer questions about the House of Worship and tell stories that people may not know. I was so excited when I was told that my photos would be included in the new edition. It is a gorgeous, display-worthy book that has loads of very interesting information about the House of Worship.

The cover photo is not mine (actually taken by a friend, Bobby), but the below photo shows some of the photo pages inside the book with photos I had taken over the last few years.

Woman

my daughter, my daughter…
never let the conventional wisdom
of the masses fool you into complacency
when it comes to the sacredness of your body and your soul

my sister, my sister…
your experiences in life are yours
are real
they are true things and they created you
society will tell you that you imagined things
or that it is ok for you to be an object

my mother, my mother…
all of the mothers in the world are you
when there is some cruelty
your arms shield and hold and are battered and bruised
from fighting for your children

my friend, my friend…
raise your girls and boys to be without fear
and to love with every piece of their heart
raise them to recognize injustice
to scream when it rears its ugly head

my brother, my brother…
listen to your sister, your daughter, your mother
stand up to speak
when she is weary of speaking another word
because even the strongest child
breaks sometimes

Clouds took over the city today.

Our New Orleans trip

At the end of the July I had a conference in New Orleans for work, and since it was so close to our two year anniversary, we took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the city together. I had been to New Orleans a few times for work but hadn’t really had a chance to explore. I am so glad we did!

I stayed at the Marriott in the French Quarter for my conference but then moved to the Garden District to stay with some friends who graciously opened their home to us for four days. I wanted to take notes on some of the places we went and food we ate, partially so that I wouldn’t forget, but also as a reference for others who might wish to replicate some of the things we did. I have to say that exploring New Orleans on foot (for the most part) in July heat was a little painful, but we made it through.

Meals during the conference
We don’t get to eat out much while we’re working a conference, but we took advantage of a few free evenings to enjoy some great places.

My top recommendation is Coop’s Place. The place is a tiny local’s bar on the edge of the French Quarter, and the Supreme Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya is the best dish in the place, and is gluten free. I ate there several times during my trip. Go there.

GW Fins was a great location for our staff dinner. Close to the hotel and with a large enough dining room to accommodate our group, the food and service were excellent. Nearly all of their food could be made gluten-free and there was no reduction in the quality of the food.

Luke New Orleans seems to be busy on all nights of the week. There were five of us and while the staff were very helpful and the food was delicious, I got pretty sick from a food mixup in the kitchen and the food took over an hour to get to our table. Apparently their kitchen gets overwhelmed when the dining room is full.

Palace Cafe was right next to my hotel and had a dedicated gluten free menu. I told my server I was in a bit of a rush and she brought my Shrimp Tchefuncte (Gulf shrimp, Creole meunière sauce, roasted mushrooms, green onions, popcorn rice) out in less than five minutes. It was very good.

Daisy Duke’s is a surprisingly delicious, low-cost diner that is open 24-7 with several locations. The staff gave it good ratings and I ate there several times (mostly just the breakfast is gluten free though).

Saturday:
Lunch at SoBu in the French Quarter with Shea, was fantastic. They had a separate gluten free menu and a dedicated fryer for their fries. I had the Churrasco Steak a la Plancha with fries and Shea had the two course lunch. The bartender made me a delicious mocktail a few nights earlier when the staff stopped by for drinks. We met up with our friends who would be hosting us the next few days and ended up at their friend’s farewell party for the evening.

Best breakfast. The Floridian omelette (stuffed with cream cheese and topped with crab meat) with potatoes and a side of gf pancakes. New Orleans is trying to kill me.Sunday: Our hosts recommended a place around the corner from their house in the Garden District called Another Broken Egg Cafe. And if it was located in Chicago I might eat there every day. I got The Floridian: Cream cheese filled omelette topped with garlic sautéed crabmeat, Monterey Jack & green onions. They came with breakfast potatoes and a side of gluten free pancakes. Incredible. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Got a tour from the cemetery custodian and learned about how they bury people.After breakfast, we walked down the street to Lafayette Cemetery #1 and were lucky to get a little impromptu tour from an older gentleman who explained various parts of the cemetery and how burials are carried out. Fascinating!

That afternoon we took a bus to catch the ferry across the river (a very short ride) to Algiers Point. There isn’t a whole lot to do per se (or even much open on a Sunday), but we found a great little cafe that was doing a brisk business, as well as a garage sale where we bought a hat for Shea. The houses there are just beautiful, though, so if you like wandering through lovely neighborhoods, it is nice. Just be sure to bring cash because the Algier’s Ferry only accepts cash. Touristing the French Quarter When we got back from Algiers Point we wandered the French Quarter and went to my favorite place for jambalaya (Coop’s Place) again, so that Shea could try it, as well as the Jean Lafitte Visitor Center, a lovely free resource if you want to learn a little about the history of New Orleans and the national park system. That night we went to Mais Arepas with our hosts. I had been wanting to go there since I first read about their gluten free options over a year ago. It turns out that they’re not always great about the gluten free things and had to bring my food out a second time because they put the fried plantains in my dish. It was tasty but I’m not sure I’d go back.    This is where we spent our day today. Worth it.

Monday:
We basically spent the day at the National World War II museum. Worth it. Spend the whole day there if you like history. Trust me, you will be glad you did. The museum is well organized with displays that tell the stories in engaging and respectful ways. I especially enjoyed the Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II exhibit.

At lunchtime we decided that we were hungry and I found a place with good reviews just down the street called Cochon. Turns out that it has won a bunch of awards for being delicious. I got the Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins & pickled peaches with a side of creamy grits, and Shea got the Rabbit & Dumplings. So, so good.

Almost 2 years. #vacationThat evening, our hosts took us to a park on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where we had a BBQ picnic and watched the sun set over the lake.

Tuesday:

We wandered down Magazine Street to District Donuts to get coffee, and then to HiVolt for me to get a gluten free donut (it was pretty good). We spent time looking at various shops along Magazine Street (which is a must-see), and had lunch at Ignatius Eatery, where I had alligator sausage and Shea got an alligator po’boy. We waddled to the airport and got on a flight back to Chicago. I’m glad we saw most of the city on foot and am grateful to our friends for the time we spent together there.

One thing I would like to add. New Orleans still has the scars of Hurricane Katrina. 10 years later, the visible and not so visible scars of destruction, death, displacement, and gentrification are all there. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people, and I love every opportunity to visit…just know that it is a place beyond the tourist attractions and hotels, beyond the news stories that get so much wrong. Learn about this city because it has a rich culture and life to it, and recognize what was washed away in the storm. 

TSA pre-check

Time for a site visit to New Orleans! Anyone else hanging at O'Hare this morning? I have an hour to kill thanks to TSA pre-check. 😎I traveled for work via an airplane 7 times last year, which means 14 TSA lines. I traveled for fun too. And for the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t apply for TSA pre-check earlier. It was only $85 and about 1 hour of my time, including filling out the application online and the office visit. For those of us in the US who travel by plane more than a few times per year, it is something that should just be done.

I have to say, there have been glitches here and there, like in New Orleans last week when we were told that since they didn’t have enough personnel working, we had to go through the line with the same restrictions, but overall it has saved me an average of 20-30 minutes on each trip.

Again and again…

My heart has been so heavy these last few days. These last few months and years. I don’t have words. But I am watching, and reading everything that I can, praying, and standing witness. I can’t pretend to know, but I can be aware, I can educate, I can listen, I can disagree with those who say things that are not ok…

It’s not just Baltimore. Or Ferguson. Or any one place anymore. Chicago has these problems, everywhere does. We are all…struggling. Regarding the problem of racial prejudice in the United States, Shoghi Effendi wrote in 1938:

“Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved. Let neither think that they can wait confidently for the solution of this problem until the initiative has been taken, and the favorable circumstances created, by agencies that stand outside the orbit of their Faith. Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country. Let them rather believe, and be firmly convinced, that on their mutual understanding, their amity, and sustained cooperation, must depend, more than on any other force or organization operating outside the circle of their Faith, the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the materialization of the hopes He cherished for their joint contribution to the fulfillment of that country’s glorious destiny.”
-Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice

There is no safety.

grassesI’ve been thinking a lot about safety recently. About insurance, vaccines, outbreaks, and all of these scary things in the world. In my line of work, I have to. I spend my time planning giant meetings where hundreds of people are interacting with each other, and it is basically a germ factory. I have to purchase insurance in case there is an outbreak or an emergency at one of my conferences. I have to plan for what we would do if there was a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. We have to submit floor plans for fire marshal approval. This is what I think about.

I was raised by a scientist and a math teacher. I live firmly in the world of logistics and planning. God and faith are a part of my belief in science. I know too many scientists, doctors, and people who are trying to fix the world to think that they are hiding the truth about vaccines. Or whatever is the current conspiracy theory. This does not make me naive. There are a lot of bad things in the world. There is a lot of negligence, and death, and lack of planning for the future of our planet. We do not need to invent more bad things because some already exist.

On the topic of vaccines I will be clear: they save lives. The world is a better place because of their existence. I have studied history enough to know the alternative is truly terrifying. The world before vaccines was a place where babies dying was just accepted because there was nothing to be done. I thought this battle was fought long ago, and it saddens me deeply that our privilege in this country is causing a situation that could bring unnecessary death and suffering to thousands of people.

We have to be able to talk about controversial topics without hating each other. We have to be able to acknowledge that there is something that we may not know about the world. There needs to be a place where we can learn from each other. I promise to try to understand, to listen. And I ask that you do the same.

2014’s Travel & Events

January 2014: Hosted Feast with Shea in Wilmette for the first time. Tried not to freeze to death in the coldest 4 months on record. Ever.

February 2014: Saw Queenie Pie at the Harris Theater in Chicago, had a wedding client, and got stuck on a CTA train when it derailed (with my husband, which made it much better).

Leaving New Orleans. Thanks for the delicious food and the painful blisters! #untilnextsummerMarch 2014: First visit to New Orleans, for a client conference. Ate amazing food at Tableau, realized what a bad idea it is to be in New Orleans during Spring Break season, got caught in a rainstorm, solved several minor crises for the client, walked at least 4-6 miles per day at the conference, and was the event lead for the first time by myself at SB, which felt amazing.

April 2014: Met my niece Faye for the first time, saw my first Bulls game in person at the United Center (from a suite), and saw Shen Yun at the Civic Opera House.
Even though entry is free, I wasn't going to stand in a long line to do the tour. It's too hot and I can appreciate the founding of our country from a nice bench in the shade. ;)
May 2014: Traveled to Philadelphia for a client conference. 5 days as the only event staff on site, saw my gorgeous cousin who announced her pregnancy, got caught in a rainstorm (again), saw the Liberty Bell, located several delicious restaurants, walked less than I did in New Orleans, and worked with some pretty great volunteers.

I passed my CMP test and became a certified meeting planner. whew.

After dinner, Mallory introduced me to Halo-Halo. "Halo-halo (Tagalog language for "mix-mix") is a popular Filipino dessert with mixtures of shaved ice and evaporated milk to which are added various boiled sweet beans, jello and fruits, and served in a taJune 2014: My second visit to Las Vegas in the span of 1 year for a client. Dealt with some drama, took a taxi to In-N-Out and then to try Halo-Halo for the first time, which is my new favorite dessert. I saw the Beatles LOVE show and tried to bake in the sun when I wasn’t walking 10 miles a day at the show.

We had a mini family reunion in Chicago with most of Shea’s family and I attended my first gala for work at Navy Pier.

July 2014: We spent the 4th of July at my parent’s house and watched the fireworks with Shea’s parents and mine. We visited Green Acre Baha’i School with the Munion family (and extended relatives) for nearly a week. Starved Rock Camping with Shea was an amazing experience, even though the thunderstorm in a tent was not something I ever thought I would experience.

I visited Las Vegas for the 3rd time in a year for a client, where I saw amazing sunrises and sunsets, found a pasta place that had delicious gluten-free bread and pasta, had a successful conference and probably only walked 8 miles per day, experienced bedbugs for the first time, saw Weezer in concert, and ate gelato as much as possible.

Vegas panorama

Las Vegas Panorama

August 2014: Celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary, spent a week in Minnesota for the Minnesota State Fair and family time, stopped by Persian Conference, and chopped off many inches of hair.

September 2014: Stepped firmly into my 30s (no going back now!) and visited Nashville for work.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountains

October 2014: Traveled to Denver, visited Rocky Mountain State Park and the top of Pike’s Peak, and then took a plane to Salt Lake City, where we hung out in some amazing cabins in the mountains and watched Shea’s sister get married.

View from my room this morning. Goodbye Pittsburgh!November 2014: I stopped for a few hours in Minneapolis for a client, and spent a few days in Pittsburgh for work, where I realized how very cool the city is and that everyone thinks that it is still covered in pollution, but it isn’t. Thanksgiving at my parents house, a Thanksgiving Interfaith event at the House of Worship, and Thanksgiving in Chinatown made it a very thankful November.

 

December 2014: Saw Justin Timberlake in concert, went to Second City for the first time, attended my work holiday party, Shea’s work party, saw Cinderella at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and worked through most of the holidays. Oh and spent 3 weeks with a very bad cold.

And that, my friends, was my 2014.

Being Mortal

Through some source I can no longer remember, I added “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande to my Goodreads list, and snagged it from the library right after they purchased it. I’ve been telling a lot of people about it and thought that I’d share it with a wider audience.

I’m not fantastic with book reviews, but mostly this is an opportunity to encourage people to at least have conversations with their loved ones about how to handle end of life care. In many cultures, discussions of anything related to death and even illness can be very challenging for people.

As my generation has been losing grandparents for a few years now, and some of us are starting to be concerned about our parents aging, I feel that the conversations really need to happen. Even for husband and wife this topic can almost be taboo…and then, in the height of grief, we and those closest to us must make decisions about whether to continue care, go home for hospice, etc. The process of creating a will and having an advanced directive can be great conversation starters for this, and you may be surprised about what you discover about the wishes of your spouse and family members.

The thing is, we don’t know what our end will be, and human nature hopes for the best outcome, especially when there is terminal illness. We hold onto the miracle treatment and put ourselves and our loved ones through surgeries, treatments, and other painful operations. Some work, some don’t. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t try to dictate what we should do. It is an observation from a doctor who has been working with patients for decades and had to confront family illness before writing a book to address it. The stories can be heartbreaking, but the information in this book about options and current trends could save your family a lot of pain and heartache.

5 Things I wish I had known earlier in my career

Perspective. #trump #amaplaza

5 Things I wish I had known earlier in my career

(or: things no one talks about but I really wish they would! All of the below items sound like common sense…but it truly isn’t so common.)

1. Always thank people. Whether it is something small or large, acknowledge the work that was done.
It is truly incredible to me how many times I have seen people demand that something be done and show no appreciation for the work. I don’t care if it is a light bulb being changed or an entire project or event…acknowledge it! Make gratitude a part of the culture.

2. Insist on the use of a formalized system of performance reviews that are captured in writing.
This is especially important at non-profits and smaller companies where people are afraid of “hurting feelings” or where people fear losing their jobs because they think that this is what performance reviews are for. Performance reviews are also a method of determining career growth, assisting people with improving areas of weakness (we ALL have areas of weakness!), and having a record of your time at a company.

3. Make a habit of written praise for employees who go above and beyond.
Even if it is just a quick email to them, it is something that they can keep to put in their files to show in the future, especially when they are going for a promotion or need support when a situation might not be so pleasant. Even if you aren’t someone’s manager, that praise can mean a lot.

4. Confront conflict right away, clear the air, and ensure that the individuals can move past it.
Do not allow situations to fester. Recognize that just because you wish people would just get along, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. It isn’t easy to do this! Most people do not enjoy this part of the working world. But learning how to do work through conflict will actually make things easier in the long term, and employees will appreciate your ability to deal with the hard things.

5. Learn to balance the art of consultation with the science of standing up for what is right.
Your professional opinion could enure the success of an event/project, and you may not get credit for standing up for the right thing until years later. It’s worth it. People won’t always like it, especially if it challenges their sense of authority/ego/power. I have learned from experience that if you are a young woman with knowledge and confidence, there are people who will not be able to handle that, and who will try to undermine you. (This has not happened in my current job but I have experienced it in the last 15 years in the workforce.) Recognize it for what it is, and learn methods for moving around it without jeopardizing your job.

How grievous it is…

Plane sunset earlier this evening.“God’s greatest gift to man is that of intellect, or understanding…

…How grievous it is to see how man has used his God-given gift to frame instruments of war, for breaking the Commandment of God “Thou shalt not kill,” and for defying Christ’s injunction to “Love one another.”

God gave this power to man that it might be used for the advancement of civilization, for the good of humanity, to increase love and concord and peace. But man prefers to use this gift to destroy instead of to build, for injustice and oppression, for hatred and discord and devastation, for the destruction of his fellow-creatures, whom Christ has commanded that he should love as himself!

I hope that you will use your understanding to promote the unity and tranquillity of mankind, to give enlightenment and civilization to the people, to produce love in all around you, and to bring about the universal peace.”

-Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks

Gluten free Persian kotlet

Last night I looked in my fridge to see what I could make with the ingredients I had. I whipped up some mashed potatoes and carrots, then realized I had some ground turkey meat defrosted in the fridge. So, using the recipe from New Food of Life (my Persian cooking resource), I changed it a bit to make it gluten free and easier to make.

I wish I had taken photos, but it is so easy, you should be able to make it with no problem. The best thing about this: you don’t have to form any meat patties with your hands. Yay!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
1 lb ground turkey or beef
2 eggs
1/2 small onion
1 tablespoon tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
3 tablespoons flour (I used 2 tablespoons of potato starch and 1 tablespoon of sorghum, but you could use anything)

1. Put all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth and there are no large lumps. Mixture will be slightly liquid.
2. Heat coconut oil or vegetable oil in a large, non-stick pan.
3. Use spatula to scoop out the mixture and put it in the pan, spreading it so that it is about the size and thickness of your hand, or a little smaller. You should be able to fit several at a time.
4. Flip over when the kotlet is fully cooked and starting to brown, make sure both sides are browned evenly. Place on plate covered in paper towels to drain the oil.

Can be served with yogurt, hot or cold. This is great for picnics, especially!

Fall is here?

#latergram Chicago at sunset is the most beautiful place at the end of summer.

Chicago on Monday

3:30 pm. Chicago is throwing a little tantrum.

Chicago on Friday (last week)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago has been angry and confused recently. Thunderstorms, dark skies, rain, cold weather, mixed with warmth and sun. I had to wear my wool winter coat today and I was not very pleased about that in mid-September. It just feels wrong. I want to wear a lightweight coat and cute boots and a funky scarf! There should be leaves turning different colors, not this dreary miserable mist. Everyone in the office has blankets on their laps and coats on throughout the day because our AC unit is confused. College students don’t know if they should actually put pants on, or just continue wearing leggings. Women stand shivering at the L stop in only a pencil skirt and blouse. It’s chaos!

————-

My youth group started up again last week. We have 8 young women now, and they are making their way through Ruhi Book 4. In addition, they are teaching children’s classes, learning how to guide at the House of Worship, and hosting Feast once in a while. All this while balancing crazy school loads and extracurricular activities. I continue to be so proud of them.

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Over the last few weeks an experienced Treasurer from another Baha’i community was kind enough to spend time with me, teaching me some Treasurer skills. A few members of our community have also spent a lot of time helping me with the transition. (I’d call their names out here but they know who they are.) This experienced Treasurer went through the trouble of making an entire chart of accounts for me to use. Funny enough, I am in budget season at work right now and a lot of what I’ve been learning through work can be applied to being the Treasurer in a Baha’i community.

It has not been a particularly easy thing to learn, but I am finding that as long as I get some decent tools and make a checklist for myself, it isn’t as hard as I thought. Granted, we have a small community in Wilmette so that helps a lot.

I finally made it to the Minnesota State Fair!

Chocolate milk and hot fudge sundae.

Chocolate milk and hot fudge sundae.

I was born in Minnesota. I’ve been coming to the land of 10,000 lakes for my entire life but I have never made it to the Minnesota State Fair. This year I decided that it was our opportunity, since my in-laws now live in St. Paul (fairly close to the fairgrounds) and I managed to plan ahead enough to make it happen. It did mean that we missed Green Lake Baha’i Conference this year but there is always next year!

So…things I ate at the Fair: 1 hot coffee, a smoked turkey leg, chipotle risotto poppers, cotton candy, a hot fudge sundae, chocolate milk, mini taco salad, and nachos. I did not eat as much as I thought I would. Shea had most of the same stuff (often tasting my food), but he also tried some corn dogs and a deep fried monte cristo. I really do miss fried foods sometimes. Sigh.Such a great day.

As you can see, the crowds really weren’t too bad. It is a great experience for families, because they have things for even the littlest kid to enjoy. Since we were with my in-laws, my nieces and nephew, etc, we went along at a leisurely pace, but it was actually quite nice. I didn’t do any rides, though I would have liked to…it just wasn’t the experience I wanted this time.

One of my favorite parts of the fair was the horse barn (I mean, really, what girl didn’t have an obsession with horses at some point in her life??) It was almost unfair because you can’t ride them, and I miss riding horses. After about 6 hours we decided that we were done for the day and headed out. Amazingly, we all ate dinner that night.

Other highlights of our MN trip: going out to Shea’s uncle’s cabin for the day and kayaking for the first time (in a river), watching the kids fight over frogs (even the girls!), getting a ride in Uncle David’s boat, seeing dear friends (two brunches nearly did me in), and spending time with my family and Shea’s (so much amazing food and love). We are both “from” Minnesota in some ways, and it is always like coming home to spend time there. The last two years we went in winter, which is just flat-out crazy. Summer is the best in the Cities.

Our turn around the sun

Somehow we are compelled to share, express…it makes us human. I am not sure how I can find words for this last year. I am sitting on a plane, arriving back home just in time for my one year wedding anniversary today.

Two and a half years ago I met this man who was just passing through Chicago, who was holding his nephew at a Baha’i meeting and who I immediately thought was pretty darn handsome. It took me a little while to get to know him, and thank God he stuck around long enough for us and took a chance on this Midwestern half-Persian girl who can’t stop planning. anything. ever. Shea Munion, you are a brave man.

It took me a long time to go through wedding photos, reconcile a few things, and to find ways to settle into the life we have now. When I think about what was going on in my life last summer and fall, and how quickly everything happened (a wedding, new jobs, planning four conferences while planning a wedding in three months while traveling, adjusting to sharing my space) I am actually a little impressed that I’m actually functional.  (There have been times that it has been a little questionable, however!)

One year anniversary posts can get a little…saccharine at times, and I find it challenging to find the right balance of sweet and honest. Marriage is amazing, and it is also a lot of work. (Sorry for the clichés!) I want to say that because we are not being fair to those who look up to us as examples when we pretend that it isn’t. Shea and I had a lot of honest, heartfelt, loving, searching conversations while we were getting to know each other, and thank God and our families that we had been learning about this process for years before we even met each other. It was deliberate, but it was also a sweet time that I look back on with a bit of wistfulness and also a knowing smile when I think about the things we were worried about then. I am lucky to be married to a man who brings out a playful side in me, who laughs with me and makes me a little crazy with his exuberance while I am also in awe of it.

Sometimes I laugh when I realize that I’m still figuring out what his favorite dessert is (he doesn’t have just one, I think?), or when we are having a conversation in which I realize we’re trying to say the same thing but have different words or concepts for it. Nothing is perfect and we certainly aren’t. I recognize my immediate need to just get things done and that marrying Shea has given me the gift of a man who helps me slow down a little bit, take a breath, and maybe just relax or go on a bike ride.

We aren’t exactly opposites, though it can seem that way. And it is truly amazing to be able to have a spouse who wants to serve the Faith with such dedication, and who I can make plans with to be able to serve in my own way (and sometimes that overlaps). Ten months into our marriage, Shea joined me as a member of our Local Spiritual Assembly, and we are learning what it means to serve in that way together.

Two independent people make the choice to get married and spend eternity together (that’s right, the choice. He didn’t fall out of the sky into my life and suddenly we magically got married. Ok well there was a little bit of magic involved but that might be a story for another post). I am thankful for family members who welcomed each of us into the other’s family life, for friends who were supportive or nudged us in each others direction or listened to me when I was losing my mind a little, for our little Baha’i community in Wilmette who have loved us so much and welcomed Shea with open arms.

There are days when I look around in awe of the fact that this is my life, that I have a husband that I try not to embarrass by writing about (but really, come on, it’s hard to resist). He is kind, patient, funny in a way most people never get to see, talented at drawing people out and eliciting trust, loving with all people and especially with children, pure-hearted, and mischievous. He is not afraid to travel and try new things (which sometimes scares me). He takes care of our little baby marriage and of me.

Let’s go on some more adventures, my love. I can’t wait.

Priorities

Tulips around town.It has just been a lot recently. A lot of things, a never-ending stream of scheduling and travel and mostly fun things and a few not-so-fun things, and it was getting to the point that I was resenting my calendar. Which is sad, because I love my calendar and to-do list…

But it is summer and I want to enjoy it! In fact, I am staring out at the 85 F weather right now wishing I was outside with the sun baking into me and my toes in the water.

It is perhaps a combination of the nature of the work that I do all day and the service in the Baha’i community, along with my desire to stay connected to all the friends that creates untenable situations in which my brain starts misfiring. My true nature is a mixture of completely social extrovert who only thrives when she has adequate social interaction and a person who needs alone time to recharge on a regular basis. As I get older this is just exacerbated.

Of course this is a life-long process and struggle, but being newly-married (to an amazing man who is really good at having conversations about this stuff with me) is helping me figure out how to balance things and be more deliberate about how I spend my time. This may mean choosing to go only to meetings in the Baha’i community that I know will bring me joy or that I have chosen as a priority, or it may mean spending time with people that I truly feel connected with, instead of doing something out of a sense of obligation.

It also means letting people go from my life who I have trouble keeping in touch with or who never reach out to me. It means holding people accountable when they waste my time or do not respect the service that I am offering. These are not easy things to do, of course!  But the alternative is feelings of pain, resentment, or frustration whenever certain things happen. Here are some things that I have been doing to help manage this process.

Step 1: Make a list of current priorities. This is not a to-do list, but rather a list of the larger things that are important to me this summer. Things like: spending time with good friends/family, being outside, wrapping my head around being Treasurer for my local community, working with my youth group, etc.

Step 2: Create boundaries/the ability to say no. This may mean having someone to talk to about the decision, or telling people that I will get back to them after considering the request.

Step 3: Revisit priority list whenever a request comes up or I feel overwhelmed.

It is working so far and I will just have to continue this process. 😉

I passed my CMP Exam!

CMPlogo

Last Wednesday was a bit nerve-wracking for me. I took my CMP (Certified Meeting Planner) exam and found out right away that I passed! Within a few hours, something that I had been trying to do for years was over.

I started the process of preparing to take the exam in January of 2012 by registering for a class at Harper College from March-May 2012, which I passed. Then life took over and I was far too busy to think about studying for the EXAM.

There are at least 2 things that you must have to qualify for the CMP test (there are other options but this is what I qualified for):
-At least 36 months of working in the event industry & current or recent work in events.
-Completion of 25 clock hours of industry-related continuing education within the past five years.

From the Convention Industry Council website:
“…the CMP credential is recognized globally as the badge of excellence in the meeting, convention, exhibition, and event industry. The qualifications for certification are based on professional experience, education, and a rigorous exam.”

I studied the official materials for a few months this spring, and that, combined with the last 7 years of working in events, enabled me to pass the test. Just the things that I have learned in the last 8 months at my current job have been enormously valuable. When you are surrounded by 60 other event planners on a daily basis, you have no choice but to learn!

All the news, in one little post

House of Worship at sunset yesterday. Perfect. #latergramThere are some amazing things happening at Nineteen Months, since my friend Caitlin took over as Writing Editor and we changed up a lot of stuff, including the site design. I’m so happy with the direction that it is going and the talented contributors that we have.

I have a new niece in my husband’s family, and I’m pretty much wanting to see her all the time but my current life schedule doesn’t really allow it. Newborns are just so delicious!

A year ago, Shea and I were in the process of getting consent from our parents to be married, and I cannot believe time has gone by so quickly.

I was recently elected Treasurer of our local community and am still trying to figure out all the details. Online banking makes a lot of things easier, but it is still a tough job!

My youth group of young ladies started Ruhi Book 4 a few weeks ago, and I am so impressed with their abilities, their mature questions, their bravery to take on projects even when they don’t know how to do everything. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time with them!

There are the usual friends leaving Chicago (waah!), the friends getting married, having babies, traveling, etc. The winter has left us acting like hermits and I think we’re all still trying to crawl out from under the rocks we were buried under.

I have been spending a lot of time reading about the event industry, for various reasons, and of course am immersed in it every day at work, so I’m always in “event mode”, which is a bit of a shift for me in some ways. I love the networking events, learning about the best new way to set a room, or what hotels are being built in cities. I want to write more about this subject here (without pulling work into it too much), because I feel that so much of what we do is hidden. Most attendees don’t have any idea what it takes to put a meeting together, so it seems that educating at least the small audience of this blog may assist with some of the misconceptions or lack of knowledge about the meetings world.

Decor for the Ridvan celebration in Wilmette. It was wonderful.
The Wilmette Baha’i community recently put on a Ridvan Holy Day celebration and we had a lot of people from surrounding communities show up. It had been a while since we hosted something like this and it was so sweet. The children captained little “boats” they made out of cardboard, ferrying people across the “river” that they drew in chalk on the sidewalk outside, and the inside of the Baha’i Home was made to be a “tent” with roses everywhere. Such creative and talented people in our community! It was fun to be a part of the process, but it reminded me why I do event logistics and not event decor! The decor part seems more challenging to me than logistics for some reason.

Remember

Tulips in springWe saw a red-winged blackbird attacking a hawk, protecting its territory. It seemed to be winning.

We played golf with pine cones and sticks, and stood on a stage with no audience but our own words and thoughts.

We are remembering what it means to be warm again, to leave the windows open and smile in the sun.

We are remembering what it means to breathe the air with no restrictions.

We put bare feet to the ground and eat frozen yogurt while standing on the sidewalk because it just feels so good.

(this is exactly what we needed)

We’ve been in the prison of Chicago winter, and it has broken us down into fearful creatures that whisper in the corner about the weather, as though it will hear us and maliciously dump another foot of snow on top of our frozen, soggy little heads.

First Bulls game

Good view! Bulls game.As a kid, I watched Bulls games with my family, mostly because Michael Jordan was playing and the Bulls were the hottest team out there. We are not a sports-watching family (thank God) so that was the extent of it. I was offered tickets to attend Bulls vs Bucks (Milwaukee) through work and they had an executive suite with food and drinks, and of course the Bulls won (we left before the game ended to avoid being in a crowd of 21,000 people leaving a game at once). It was a good time, though I’ll be honest and say I probably didn’t watch the game as much as other people…the food was pretty distracting!

Happy Naw-Ruz!

Happy Naw-Ruz!This is our first Naw-Ruz (Baha’i New Year) together as a married couple. Around this time last year we were talking to our families about getting married, so it is doubly wonderful to celebrate it with friends, family, and the Baha’i community. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people, to live in a community where we can serve the Faith, and to work in jobs where we are valued and treated well.

I often wish that my blog could be a better record of what our life is like, and as I was writing the above, Shea started singing “Do your ears hang low?” from the kitchen as he made us tea, in a very 1950s-Christmas-carol voice. This is the kind of thing that he does on a daily basis that makes me laugh, and I hope that I do the same for him.

(I asked his permission to share the above, obviously. God bless him for knowing what he was getting into by marrying a blogger!)

The Word of God hath set the heart of the world afire…

New Orleans“The Most Great Name beareth Me witness! How sad if any man were, in this Day, to rest his heart on the transitory things of this world! Arise, and cling firmly to the Cause of God. Be most loving one to another. Burn away, wholly for the sake of the Well-Beloved, the veil of self with the flame of the undying Fire, and with faces joyous and beaming with light, associate with your neighbor…

The Word of God hath set the heart of the world afire; how regrettable if ye fail to be enkindled with its flame! Please God, ye will regard this blessed night as the night of unity, will knit your souls together, and resolve to adorn yourselves with the ornament of a goodly and praiseworthy character. Let your principal concern be to rescue the fallen from the slough of impending extinction, and to help him embrace the ancient Faith of God. Your behavior towards your neighbor should be such as to manifest clearly the signs of the one true God, for ye are the first among men to be re-created by His Spirit, the first to adore and bow the knee before Him, the first to circle round His throne of glory. I swear by Him Who hath caused Me to reveal whatever hath pleased Him! Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see—things that attest the excellence of your rank, that bear witness to the greatness of your worth, that proclaim the sublimity of your station! God grant that your desires and unmortified passions may not hinder you from that which hath been ordained for you.”

-Baha’u’llah, Selections from the Writings of Baha’u’llah

Shea pointed out this quotation to me a few weeks ago, and I had never seen it before. It is so encouraging!

Lemon butter vegetable pasta

On Friday night we had one of those moments where we had no interest in going to the grocery store after work, so we considered the options in the fridge and decided to make do with what we had. I threw this together in about 20 minutes and it was delicious. Please excuse the terrible cell phone picture, I was too hungry to bother with fancy photography.

Kale, sweet potato, zucchini, onions, penne rice pasta, and Parmesan in a lemon butter garlic sauce.

You will need at least 2 pots, a pan, and a small saucepan. Be prepared to use all four burners at the same time!

1. Peel & cube a sweet potato, boil until soft.
2. Boil penne pasta (ours was Schar’s gluten free pasta) and drain, set aside in large bowl.
3. Simultaneously, chop up an onion and a zucchini and fry it with the kale, add a little water, put the lid on, and steam.
4. In a small saucepan, fry chopped garlic for a few minutes, then add 6 tablespoons of butter and the juice of one lemon. Sprinkle some salt and pepper in as well. Cook long enough for the flavors to mix but don’t let it burn.
5. As each ingredient is done, put it in the large bowl with the pasta.
6. Toss everything together, pour the butter lemon sauce on top, and sprinkle Parmesan on top. Sriracha sauce optional.

do not dwell

Drama.

do not dwell on this darkness
this depth of winter in the heart
there is such wonder on the other side of it
do not hold on with shaking hands and screaming heart
there is no redemption there.
the chilling grief that held you in place
the betrayal of your work was only one thing
yet you can be now.

trust in the certainty that this was right.

What a week

There have been happenings. It has been a little chaotic, a little overwhelming, and a little hilarious.

A week ago we were parked outside on the street in Chicago and a U-Haul cargo van backed into the front right side of my car and drove away. I saw it happen but didn’t get a plate number. This meant filing a police report (nothing to do about it unfortunately) and taking my car in for an estimate this past weekend. Now my car will be in the shop for 2 days, at least we have Shea’s.

The big event, however, was on Friday night. Shea and I met up at his train stop and went together from work, a little after 5 pm. For those of you who don’t know, our commute is at least 1 hr 15 minutes, on a good day, door to door. Some days it takes longer. We were cheerfully headed home when, just past the Howard stop, the train shook, shrieked, and ground to a halt.

As bad as riding the CTA is sometimes, it usually doesn’t do that. Pretty immediately we figured out that one of the cars on the train had derailed. They ushered us onto the first 2 cars of the train while they tried to figure out what to do…which meant that we were all packed like sardines…for 1 hour and 45 minutes. One young lady was telling someone that her date was waiting at the train platform behind us…and the whole car started asking her questions about how they met and where they were going for dinner. It was pretty great.

We got our information about what was happening from Twitter, friends/family outside the train, & news sites, but we had no real idea of when we’d be able to leave. At around 8:00 pm they finally informed us that they had pulled another train alongside ours and had set up planks to allow us to walk across. The firefighters assisted and everyone transferred cars. By the time we pulled back into Howard Station it was around 8:20 and we decided to take Uber home. I didn’t walk in the front door until 8:45.

All told, it took us nearly 4 hours to get home on Friday night. Whew!

halfway

there is a perfect moment of silent bliss
when my head falls to your shoulder
and the train shudders on the track
and the world stands still for us

or

when you surprise me with the tiniest thing
tell me to close my eyes
and I know you remember.

and

we made it this far
(I have no idea where the time went)
half a trip around the sun.

My view from work

When I started my new job last fall, I was assigned to a (very nice, shiny new) cubicle on the southeast corner of my building, right next to the Chicago river and facing Lake Michigan. I know, really lucky. Somehow I haven’t managed to bring my DSLR to work to take photos with a real camera, but you never know when the light will be perfect. Sometimes when I need to think, I turn my head and look out over the water. It does wonders for my thought process (and sanity).

Came into the office at 7:30 am and the lake was giving off fog. Beautiful.

The clouds looked like mountains hovering over the lake today.

This was the view a few minutes ago. It has cleared up a bit but we definitely have snow.

Recent Books that you may want to read

Since I started riding the train 2 hours a day, I have had a lot more time to read. Sometimes I read fiction but I also love history (I even considered studying history for my degree at one point but then realized I wanted to have a steady income). If you really want to see books of substance that I read or am interested in reading, check out my Goodreads page.

One of my biggest problems has been finding the books that I want to read in the eLibrary has been difficult. Sometimes I get lucky, but many of the books that I want to read are simply unavailable through my Kindle. I rarely buy books because I read so quickly (exceptions are Baha’i books, references guides, and cookbooks). I’ll have to get hard copies through the local library, I guess!

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President – This book broke my heart a little. By all accounts, James A. Garfield was an incredible man and President, and I wish he had lived longer. The historical richness of the book, especially the descriptions of how early Presidents dealt with the daily work of the White House, kept me engaged.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – by the author of Seabiscuit, this book kept me up until 1:30 am on a work night, and I was astounded by the amount of research and detail that went into it. Some of the book is hard to read because of the descriptions of the mistreatment of POWs during WWII, so if you’re sensitive, keep that in mind.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – One of my favorite books is “The Devil in the White City”, and Erik Larson does it again with this meticulous, scary book about the years leading up to WWII. I’ve read a lot of books about the war, but very few about what pre-war Germany was like, and it was terrifying to see parallels in current events with the lack of empathy that people had for their fellow human beings.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Clearly written, especially helpful if you’re an extrovert like myself who wants to better understand the introverts in their lives. Lots of data combined with storytelling.

2013

This was a chaotic year. A very good one, but I feel like I haven’t really stopped moving.

InSpanish Moss at the Baha'i Center January 2013, Shea and I took our first trip together, driving to Minnesota to visit family and friends in sub-zero temperatures. In February I celebrated 3 years of condo ownership, and starting facilitating a Ruhi group of junior youth/youth at my home every week, which I am still doing. The letter announcing the Baha’i youth conferences came out February 8 and I started working on their coordination in the United States. In March we celebrated Naw-Ruz (Baha’i New Year) and in April I took a much-needed week-long vacation in Florida with dear friends.

In May, Shea and I received consent to marry, and in June we announced our engagement. The planning for the conferences kicked into high gear and I spent 30 days traveling from June to August: Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. While planning a wedding with my fiancé. Let’s just say that a great many spreadsheets and emails were involved.

Shea and I got married on August 3 and had our honeymoon in San Diego. We also attended Green Lake Baha’i Conference in Wisconsin in August.

Wedding dayWe celebrated my 30th birthday in September and went apple picking with family. I received a job offer from my new employer in September and started work on September 30. It is my dream job and I love what I do. It is fulfilling and being an event coordinator is fun, though it is an incredible amount of work.

In October we threw a Halloween party, in November I traveled to Las Vegas for the first time (for work) and wasn’t too impressed by anything except the food. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving together with family. In December I traveled to Colorado for the first time (for work) and then Shea and I made a quick trip to Minnesota to see family (sub-zero temperatures again!).

Hiking near DenverThere were births, weddings, and passings, too many to go into here. Many friends visited Chicago, there were countless dinner parties and evenings with friends and family. Friday marks 5 months of marriage and we are enjoying married life (but still haven’t figured out a good answer to the question “How’s married life?”). I miss writing here and am trying to get back to it more, now that I am figuring out my schedule and crazy commute. Riding the train for 2 hours a day is a bit draining but I am reading a lot of books.

Here we go, another year…