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!)

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.

First Thanksgiving together

I love Thanksgiving. Everything about it. This year we got to have 2 Thanksgivings, on different days, and it was great. I can’t even look at ham or turkey anymore, though. I had my sister-in-law’s help with the first round, and we split the making of the side dishes so it wasn’t quite as much work. We were still cooking most of the day, though.

Thanksgiving 2013 #1: sister-in-law & brother-in-law’s home

The spread, minus the turkey. Mmm.

Sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, GF stuffing, regular stuffing, gravy, honey almond carrots, brussels sprouts with pecans,  wild rice stuffing, and cornbread.

The turkey, prepared, cooked, and carved by my husband (20 lbs!):
The turkey

Turkey carving. #firstthanksgiving

I made a lot of gluten free pie from scratch last week. GF Pie crust is super time-consuming but it was worth it. (I used this recipe, if you want to know, but with real butter.) I made pumpkin and blueberry.
Pie!! I have been cooking all day but everything is in containers for tomorrow.

 

 

Thanksgiving 2013 #2 – at our “Munion Palace” as I’ve named it on Instagram. 😉

2nd Thanksgiving meal

Ham, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, GF stuffing, gravy, and honey almond carrots. And pie, of course.

Naw-Rúz

MC at Greenlake Baha'i ConferenceI have been reflecting on the events of the last year, since March 21, 2012. It has been an absolute roller coaster. There have been challenges beyond my expectations, heartbreak, joy, travel, a beautiful summer, love, and a lot of laughter. I worked on one of the biggest events I’ve ever coordinated (the Centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the United States), was a MC at a Baha’i conference, attended several other conferences (including a session at Louhelen with Mr. Nakhjavani), attended weddings, celebrated the birth of so many babies I’ve lost count, grieved the loss of family members, facilitated a youth group, began learning how to be a member of a Local Spiritual Assembly, worked on a never-ending Wilmette Baha’i archives project…

I wandered my city in rain, wind, sun, and love. Mostly in love.

At Green Lake

It has been proven to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am surrounded by some of the most amazing family and friends that this earth has to offer.

I have learned that people can be exceptionally cruel and not even understand that what they have done is wrong.

I have been validated in my feelings and told that I am loved.

I know that I need to be in warm, sunny weather to keep my spirits up to my normal state of existence.

I have taken greater risks this year than I ever have before.

I will never, ever let people tell me that my joyful exuberance needs to be reined in. And I will do my best to make sure that my actions allow others to feel no judgement, and to feel welcomed in my circle.

In Monterey, by the aquarium

To everyone in my life, thank you for this beautiful existence that we share.
I love you very much, and I wish you a very happy Naw-Rúz (Baha’i New Year).

Thanksgiving: Part 2

Well, it took me more than a week after Thanksgiving to write this post, but my excuse is that I was recovering from the awesome food that I ate. 😉

I spent the evening before Thanksgiving cooking at my condo. By cooking, I mean “going crazy and using every stove burner, the oven, and all available counter space” to make everything at once. Ok, so I’m ambitious. I concentrated on side dishes and dessert, since mom was taking care of the meat. The result:

Prep night for Thanksgiving

 

There were: mashed potatoes, carrots, acorn squash, cranberry-apple sauce, gluten free stuffing & gravy, gluten free pumpkin pie, regular pumpkin and blueberry pies. The blueberry pie was very pretty, and since it was the first time I had made pie crusts from scratch (in recent memory, anyway), it was quite the endeavor to pull it all off.

Blueberry pie made from scratch

I then drove an hour out to my parents house on Thanksgiving morning and did the final prep work to get everything on the table by 1:00 pm. (Mom’s turkey was awesome, btw.) The final result of food was incredible, and the family had a lovely time eating for the rest of the weekend.

Thanksgiving at my parents house

I really loved helping take on so much more of the cooking. It helped me feel more ownership and enjoy the process a little more (as well as appreciate how exhausting it is). If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a lovely holiday.

Thanksgiving: Part 1

I am feeling ambitious this year. I offered to help my mother cook some things in advance to alleviate the burden of cooking the giant meal. Our family, despite having a Persian element to some of our cooking, does the “traditional” American Thanksgiving meal. As it should be. 🙂

I will be documenting my adventures this evening, culminating in photos of the table tomorrow at my parents house. I am trying a few things I have never done before…so it may get messy!

Happy Father’s Day!

Dad and I caught a toad each!Dad, you always taught me to be independent, to do all the things guys are expected to do, but to do them in my own way. You encouraged me to climb trees, taught me how to paint and which kinds of tools to use, patiently waited when I couldn’t decide which outfit to wear, and signed me up for business classes in high school…which sent me on a path that I couldn’t even forsee then.

You still catch frogs with me, you still listen when I’m having a bad day, and you still tell me what kinds of trees we are passing when we take a walk. You’re the only father I know that dares his kids to jump into a freezing river in the Appalachians, or who knows how to explain a complex scientific paper in terms that his 12 year old daughter will understand.

me and dad

Thank you for letting me be your little girl but helping me to grow up, for being an example of what good men should be like. Thank you for working so hard to make sure I got an education, for putting food on the table and for taking care of our family. I know that I am lucky to have you as a father.

 

My response to Ahmadinejad

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times interviewed the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and one of the questions he asked was about the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran (which I haven’t seen much from other recent interviews, so thank you, Nicholas). Ahmadinejad’s answer, as with most of his interviews, was to slide around the question by asking more questions and being very vague.

Ahmadinejad implied that Baha’is are possibly a political or intelligence security group, that they break the law, and then brought the American hikers into it at the end. The entire answer was ridiculous, and shows how little logic enters the equation when it comes to human rights in Iran.

Ahmadinejad: Do you even know the group that you name? Do you know their makeup? Are they a religious group? A truly faithful group? Or a political group? Or an intelligence security group? Let’s make sure they are all named? Let’s make sure they all come forward. Let’s see their true makeup.

Sir, the Baha’is of the world have never tried to hide. We have always been exactly what we claim to be: followers of a peaceful religion that abide by the laws of the countries in which we live, who are endeavoring to foster community life and bring about peace. In every part of the world, you will find Baha’is doing all of these things openly, with love for their fellow human beings.

Since the very beginning of our Faith, the Baha’is have been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, killed, banned from education, removed from their homes, and had property confiscated and destroyed. Our holy places in Iran have been razed to the ground, and our graves desecrated.

My great-uncle and his son were put to death because of their faith. I have never been to the country of my mother’s birth, it is my lost home. I love Iran, and I have never been there. Think of how great Iran could be if you let all of these innocents live freely, if you let children be educated whose only aim in life is to serve humankind.

There are Baha’is in prison at this moment whose only transgression is to try to help their fellow human beings, for believing in the same God that you believe in. There are many minorities in Iran who suffer, for no purpose except fanatical hatred and fear on the part of the government and clerics.

This is the true crime.

The flight home

In my last post I told the story of my adventures in mud on the way to my grandfather’s funeral in March. Well, my grandmother gave my sister and I some of Granddaddy’s tennis racquets. The one I was given had a wood frame around it to keep it from twisting from the force of the strings, and it is probably around 40 or 50 years old.

Granddaddy's tennis racquetI arrived at the airport about an hour before my flight, but when I went to the counter to get my boarding pass I was informed that my flight is delayed. Also, since I only had a carry on, I couldn’t fit the racquet into the suitcase, so the racquet had to be my carry-on and I had to pay $25 to check my suitcase. The gate agent felt sorry for me and upgraded me to economy plus.

As I had several hours to kill, I wandered around the Atlanta airport with my gigantic purse slung over my shoulder and an odd-looking tennis racquet in my hand. Now, I find it a bit strange that I can’t take water or a miniature Swiss army knife on a plane, but a tennis racquet with a solid wood frame bolted onto it doesn’t get a second glance from security…

Anyway, I had so many random conversations with people because of that racquet. Most of them were older folks who remembered playing tennis with a racquet like that when they were kids. I know I must have looked rather strange with that thing, riding the transit system and placing it carefully on the seat next to me where ever I was.

I am lucky to have a lot of paintings that my grandparents created, but I don’t have a lot of personal items from them, and it felt nice to have that racquet with me, almost a companion in my travels.

Goodbye, Granddaddy

On Monday night I received a call at 10 pm that my paternal grandfather, Richard Loehle, had passed away. He was 87 years old and was a successful artist and writer from Georgia. My home is full of his paintings and those of my grandmother Betty. They met in art school in the 1940s in Tennessee, lived in Chicago and Georgia, and supported their family of 4 children through their art.

I was about 1 month old in this photo with my grandparents. Since I was the first grandchild, I received a lot of attention from them.
1 month old, with my grandparents

When I was little, we lived 3 hours away, so I had many opportunities to spend time with them. In this photo, I am with my grandfather in the family room of their home.
having a conversation

Granddaddy taught me how to build things, and he loved explaining how things worked. I remember when he and my dad built a swingset for us in our backyard, taking walks in the forest behind their house, and catching turtles and crawfish in the creek.
teaching me how to build

Granddaddy was a tough man who lived through the Depression and World War 2, a descendant of German immigrants. He played the trombone in high school, which I then played for a year because I wanted to play the same instrument. We would get into lively discussions about all sorts of topics, from art to books to religion.
Rest in peace, Granddaddy.

Rest in peace, Granddaddy.

(all photos taken by my mother, Neda)

Joy and sadness

A gathering of souls, meeting to discuss the future, full of excitement. You can see what the world might look like one day, if we strive hard enough.

lens flare

News of my great-aunt’s passing at the age of 94. Maryam Saniei Firouzi, wife and mother of martyrs, servant of the Faith, loved by her entire family. I was able to visit her a few weeks ago, and I know she is now reunited with her family, so my sense of sadness is overtaken with joy that she has been released from this life.

2011-02-08 17.29.32

The sun is finally shining today. Accomplishment in my tasks, the week isn’t over yet but I know that it is all perfect, no matter what.

white sand

A little late for Ayyam-i-Ha…

I was talking to my hilarious, beautiful cousin Sahar J on the phone a few nights ago (she lives in New York City), and as we talked about how we celebrated Ayyam-i-Ha this year and how the fast is going so far, she mentioned that she has this amazing photo from an Ayyam-i-Ha party in Cardiff by the Sea.

Of course, she is the little girl holding the bat, waiting to hit the pinata.  I love so many things about this photo…the “One Planet, One People…Please” t-shirt, the kid in the glasses who looks like he is going to throw something, the little boy in the checked hat, the guitar-playing guy in the background.  Most of all, I love the look on my cousin’s face as she waits to attack that pinata.

Her smile is a bit more mischievous now, but it isn’t any less adorable!  Thanks for sharing this, Sahar.

Thank you, mom

we were always on an adventure
there were forests to explore, caverns deep underground
the swimming pool every day in the summer
the country back-roads, boiled peanuts on the way to Charleston
the city streets of Chicago and fireworks at night
every single road trip that took us to 40 states
homemade dinners and giving me a love for cooking
middle of the night conversations by the fireplace
and middle of the day conversations by phone
we are always on an adventure
and for that, I am so grateful.

I love you.

Here I go!

There is something about traveling…airports, the unknown, the things that my eyes see that are different from everyday life.  And for the life of me, I can’t seem to pack in advance…so I find myself trying to consolidate everything into a suitcase at midnight.  I might have managed, and will have to be content with what I’ve done.

I am going to attend a wedding that I am ecstatic about.  I am going to see friends, both from my service at the Baha’i World Centre and from closer to home.  I am going to stay with my cousin, who is eerily similar to me and who I am very excited to spend time with.  Most of all, I will get out of Chicago for a few days, which is exactly what I need.

memory boxes: 3

Georgia in the springtime
Magnolia trees
Bell the hound dog
Southern charm and art galleries
Tennis and the swimming pool

Bell was a bad-tempered dog.  I mean, we grew up together, in some ways, so she wasn’t too mean to me, or maybe she sensed that in my innocence, I would pamper her.  She always ran ahead when Granddaddy took us for walks, and would loops back around, nearly knocking me over and scaring me half to death in the dark woods.

My southern accent disappeared, but it struggles to come out from hiding when I am with these relatives.  Natives of Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, half of the family still has the Southern roots strongly grounded in the soil…atheistic roots, for the most part, which made things interesting at times.

Granddaddy and Grandmommy met in art school after World War II, and they made a living on their art throughout their lives.  Granddaddy did illustrations and portraits, Grandmommy painted landscapes.  Our home is filled with their paintings and drawings.

The creek and trees behind their house used to be a dark, cool place full of mystery, but housing developers turned that magical place into a sad stand of pine trees as I grew older.  We caught crawfish and threw them back, and I will never forget my awe at a tire wrapped around a big old tree.

Everything in their house has been in the same place for the last 40 years.  I can still remember where the phone books are, the cereal, the board games, and the cookie drawer.  The furniture is in mostly the same configuration in their ranch home on the top of the hill.

We would play with the neighbor’s kids, and in the summers go to the neighborhood pool, where Grandmommy swam and Granddaddy played tennis.  They did this into their 80s.  They had their 50th Anniversary in the clubhouse there.

Dinner table discussions could almost be guaranteed to turn into a minor debate or intellectual discussion of some kind.  I mostly learned to hold my own, but have never gotten over my dislike of contention, and so did not enjoy them as much as others may have.

I can’t draw.  A cousin recently told me, “This monkey does NOT look like a monkey.”  Hey, best I could do, kid.  I didn’t inherit the ability to capture life on canvas.  My uncle taught me to whistle through my teeth and quack like a duck…thanks for passing on those skills, they’ve been quite handy.

Great-uncle and great-aunt had a wonderful house near a swamp, with a small barn and horses.  Great-aunt would let us ride the horses around the field, and I always felt so loved in their home.  When they passed away, I mourned them in quiet silence.

Grandmommy painted in the basement, and sometimes I would sneak down the long stairs to sneak looks at unfinished paintings, the bright oil paints smeared on painting boards and brushes, and the pile of animal skulls in the corner that my uncle collected in college.

We always came into the house through the kitchen door.  The front door hadn’t been used in so long that there were giant cobwebs around it.  Everything was always casual…I don’t remember any sort of formality in all the years we visited.

memory boxes: 2

Minnesota

I was born in a hospital on the Mississippi River…but I don’t remember that part of my Minnesota story.  When I was one year old, we left this state, but it has always been a second home, on account of my Persian family members living here.

There was a thunderstorm one night that shook the walls of my grandparent’s apartment.  We all gathered in the hallway, and I remember being scared but strangely exhilarated.

Persian food.  Always a table nearly bending under the weight of platters of rice, khoresht (stew), and the dozen or so side items that go along with such a feast.  The women of my family really know how to cook.  Food is the central activity that makes a family go round.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all in a friendly chaotic shuffle around the extended tables, taking turns in different homes.

We are a mixed family…at least 4 different countries are represented in the 24 individuals that comprise this group.  I love it.  The half-English, half-Persian language that is created in the stories and translations is so normal and comforting.   The generations of the Baha’i Faith within our family go back to the mid-1800s, and also began in the present day.  The extended family has more than 200 members.

Babajoon has a lot of random sayings and advice, and most of my enduring memories of him are of him sitting in a corner with a thick book and his glasses low on his nose.  He would make up songs about putting our seatbelts on in the car, and he is the person from whom I have inherited my social personality.  He knows everyone.

We picked fresh grape leaves in the park, and Mamanjoon taught us to make dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), her hands deftly wrapping the edges around and neatly placing them in the pot.  Mine still don’t look like hers.  Maybe I will be able to do it in 50 years…I just need practice.  She taught us how to sew, starting with sewing buttons on pieces of scrap cloth.

I learned how to dance (Persian style) in the living rooms of my aunts’ homes.  I learned how to cook in my mother’s kitchen, and how to make kabob koobideh (ground meat on a skewer) from a few different relatives over the years.

My cousins and I were bundled into coats so thick that we could barely move, and told to play in the snow by the swing set.  The swing set is gone now…it was a hazard even when I was young.  In the summers we would be pushed around in the go-cart my cousins built, or take walks around the neighborhood.

memory boxes: 1

my childhood is split into memories of many places

early: South Carolina
wrapped in memories of the ocean
trees and hills
playing in the red clay with lizards and toads
Baha’i Feast with just two families (homefront pioneers)
wrapped in Persian rugs
“Mommy, look, we did our makeup!”
Black and white and color was not something I knew

Billy Joe fell in love with me in kindergarten. He was a small, skinny boy with a mullet, and I was a fastiduous little girl with dark brown hair and big eyes. He said that he and his brother lived in a tree house. He always had fantastic stories, but I did not like him back. He insisted that we should get married. I told him that we should bury the symbol of his love at the base of the pine tree on the playground so that no one would know. (I still feel a little bad about that.)

There was a girl in my class with long nails, painted red. I did not know of any other first-grader who had such long nails. And she chewed on them ferociously, the paint flaking off and so the nail color was never unbroken and complete.

Theresa had a wonderful back yard. There was a seesaw, a forest, and best of all, a rope swing hidden in the trees. We spent hours balanced on the board, pushing each other, telling stories and whispering of the future.

My sister and I had our own language. We made up names for the parts of the “forest” (our back yard). There was the “Haunted” section, which is where squirrels went to die. We found out later that the neighbor was poisoning them. There was the Toad Cemetery, where toads were buried in the jewelry boxes that my mother donated to our cause. And then we had our House, which was only created when we took sheets or pieces of cloth to the saplings there and draped them, making a secret fort in the leaves.

When I would get angry, my small legs would carry me to my swingset, where I would fly in the air until slowed by gravity, and incrementally come to a stop. I needed to be alone for a few moments.

My sister and I caught toads for our birthday party. Ten little girls in party dresses ran screaming when we proudly pulled them out for display. I remember my father and uncle bent over double, laughing uncontrollably. That may have been when I decided that boys were more fun to play with than girls.

Fire ants. As a barefoot child, fire ants are the bane of any intrepid little explorer, and I don’t remember how many times I ran screaming to my parents. They had an impressive collection of first aid gear, with good reason.

I stepped on nails, fell from trees, fell everywhere, bruises and cuts a constant companion. Sliced open my forehead on a kitchen cabinet. I can’t forget the terror in my mother’s eyes as she placed me on the bathroom counter and held a towel to my head while she called my father.

More pages will be devoted to other places, soon.

Recent events

The weekend before last I drove to Kansas City with some friends for the wedding that we now call “Lovefest 2008”, otherwise known as Andrew & Erin’s wedding.  Here are some things that I learned:

– You can’t rent a car without a credit card, and the person with the credit card has to be the main driver.  This was discovered on the morning that we were to leave.  Luckily we were saved by a friend and made it to the wedding.

– It was confirmed that Iowa is still full of corn.  Hasn’t changed since the last time I drove through it.

– We got a lot of attention at a gas station in Missouri.  Apparently the attendents were extremely bored.  We also bought Amish-made goods from a very sweet Amish family.

– Cracker Barrel has nearly nothing for gluten-intolerant or vegetarian individuals.  You should have seen our faces when we looked at the menu.

– My friends are amazing, rare individuals and it is very sad that we all live so far away from each other. 🙁

– Even though I am allergic to cats, and don’t like them very much anyway (more of a dog person), cats LOVE me.  I’m like the cat whisperer.  It is really weird.

– I love, love, love weddings. Having the opportunity to read at this wedding was such a blessing, and I was honored to be a small part of it. They are such a beautiful couple and I’m so happy for them!

This past weekend I had a lot of family in town from my mother’s side, and it was also the Conference of the Association of Friends of Persian Culture. Here are a few tidbits from that time:

– My family is great, and every time I hang out with them I see more of where I come from. It is so strange and wonderful to find out things about myself and my history, and I know these opportunities are rare.

– I actually enjoyed going to most of the sessions, there were some highly academic talks and I really missed being in that atmosphere.

– I got very little sleep, as is normal for a conference, and stayed up late with friends, talking about the good old days and laughing. Much needed.

Grandparents

My Persian grandparents are visiting right now.  They left Iran after the 1979 Revolution, and have lived in the United States since then.  My grandfather (Baba) is in his 90s, and my grandmother (Maman) is in her 70s.  They are hilarious and adorable, and I’m so glad I get to spend so much time with them.

Today my mother went with them to the grocery store.  They came home, and as I was putting shoes on to get the groceries from the car, Baba insisted that he wanted to come help get the groceries.

90 years old, and wants to help me, a 24 year old, carry groceries.  Needless to say, I did not let him help me.

I had techno music playing while I cleaned the house.  When they got home, I turned off the music.  Maman says to me, in Farsi, “No, the music is nice!  We are American now, we like it!”

Mom and I went outside and died laughing.

Golden

My mother makes a fresh pot of Persian tea every morning.  Glass cups only, steam rising and at least 3 sugar cubes for me.

The house is always surrounded by the sun, and around our kitchen table there are shafts of light that warm our feet.  Well, not in winter, but Chicago is not known for its mildness…both in weather and personality.

—-

Every morning I walk up a mountain, every night I walk down.  I know the dips and turns of the path, the gardeners are working and the rocks slip away under the heels of my shoes.  There are spiderweb cracks in the stairwell of my apartment building, and six different kinds of flowers blooming in my doorway.  (I counted one day.)

—-

I love black and white family photos from the 1940s: flaws are hidden, and lips, eyes, and hair are defined and perfect.  I wish that I could discover their stories just by flipping through the photo album.  The stories need to be gathered, collected, treasured.  We have lost so many stories…

—-

I want to read, have conversations, and see things that make my mind go in strange tangents and causes spontaneous laughter.  There are a million ways to reach that point, but sometimes it takes concious effort.

—-

I have had two desserts today.  They were healthy because I put fruit in them.  🙂

—-

The advent of the prophets and the revelation of the Holy Books is intended to create love between souls and friendship between the inhabitants of the earth. Real love is impossible unless one turn his face towards God and be attracted to His Beauty.

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 363)

a letter to the future

sometimes I wish you could see me
my subtle moments, my tired eyes, my smiles and my gestures.
my million ways of laughing and the way I wash dishes,
the way I stare up at the stars and off into the distance,
or how I get totally immersed in a book or chopping vegetables.
you don’t know how I act when I am taking charge of a room,
how my tone of voice changes when I call home,
how my mother and I spent evenings in front of the fireplace
with chocolate and tea and laughter.
do you know that I love cobblestone streets, grand old homes,
and perfect climbing trees?
or that my little sister means everything to me,
and my Faith encompasses my life?

sometimes I wish you could see me dancing, I am joyful,
the whole room disappears and I am complete.
my fascination with little details and museums,
my love of road trips and forests and conversations over coffee.
I still love to play dress-up…just a more grown-up version…
did you know that my kitchen is my sanctuary?

sometimes I wish that you could know me, that you continue trying,
and that the things that I want you to know about me…
someday I will know about you.

Dusty old books

There were boxes of old books in the parking garage today, marked “FREE!”, with that musty smell and slick dust feeling. We dug through them, hugging the discoveries to our chests. The tip of my nose starting twitching, the usual reaction to things that have been sitting forgotten on a shelf for too long.

One of my most treasured memories is standing in Uncle C.E.’s office about 2 months before he passed away in 2005. He had a fantastic library of books, especially first editions of Baha’i books that I’d never seen before. He showed me pictures of his family from 50 years ago, told me about his childhood, and watched me as I carefully pulled one book off a shelf, then another.

I just remember looking around at him, sitting in his leather chair, smiling at me. His health at that point was not good, but we did not know that he would die of cancer so soon after. No one did. As Carmen and I drove away from the house, we started crying…something told me I would not see him in this world again.

We were family, even though there was no blood relation. He took a few pictures of Carmen and I in the garden: “Stand there…smile!” I got those pictures later from Aunt G., and cried when I saw them. He loved us so much…asking questions: “What are you doing next? Are you looking for jobs? Ten years from now?”; and telling us that he was proud of us. Telling us kids to take care of each other…sometimes I feel like I’ve failed at that one. The 5 of us are scattered across the globe.

Every time I stopped by his office while I was in school, he would ask me how my schooling was going, if I was studying enough (probably not!), and he would just look at me and I would want to try harder, do better.

I miss him. If this was a piece of paper, the ink would be running off the page right now.

Recollection

I miss watching Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes with my dad.

My mother used to encourage us to set traps and build fortresses in the basement on cold Chicago days…or any other day.

1/3 of the times I climbed trees I would get stuck and ladder would have to be brought. I still climb trees at the age of 24. It’s just that there are few trees in Israel.

The backseat of the minivan was my territory on family road trips. I could lay there for hours daydreaming while the colors of whatever state we were driving through ran past the windows.

I used to fall asleep in the grass underneath the maple trees.

It is hard to remember how many toads and lizards we captured with our bare hands. We must have buried at least 3 or 4. My mother provided boxes from jewelry as coffins.

Daddy and Granddaddy put up a swingset in our backyard…the concept of concrete was fascinating.

Every time Mamanjoon would visit she would bring a container of baklava just for me, and sneak it to me and say “This is for you, no one else.”

Today

I was born on a Sunday.

One of my favorite stories is about when my parents brought me home from the hospital. My parents put me in my crib, and they say (here my dad always jumps in and states that I was very aware of my surroundings, even though I was only a few days old) that I stared at them with my “big brown eyes” and looked so sad that they couldn’t bear to leave me by myself that night.

Mom & Dad, thank you for not leaving me alone that night and every night after, thank you for being the most amazing parents in the world. I miss you guys so much, especially today. To my sister Niki…you are wonderful, and I am so proud of you. To my sister Gloria…I miss our shared birthdays when we were little, and having a “partner in crime”. 🙂

My coordinator suggested that I eat Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate ice cream with raspberry sauce for breakfast today…so I did. It was delicious. I enjoyed a wonderful (slightly off-key) rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the sherut this morning on the way to work. I will spend the evening at my flat with friends, it will be a “quieter” birthday than usual, and I am so very, very happy.

Starting tomorrow

I start my Baha’i pilgrimage tomorrow. The last time we went was in 1997, so I was 14 at the time. A lot has changed in Haifa since then…the Terraces were finished, the Arc project was completed, etc. It is wonderful to be able to go while serving here, and to go with my family.

I got to spend time with my family (and some extended family) tonight, and it really makes me feel more centered to be around them. There is something about the family interaction that makes me feel like all is right with the world.

For 9 days I will spend time in the places Baha’is consider the holiest on earth. I really needed this right now.

Love and prayers to you all.

Chores, Family, and Pilgrimage

It has been a busy week. Friends & family in town on pilgrimage, a consultant in the office, and social engagements. Whew! Today started another work week (remember, we work Sunday-Friday noon here), and I must say it was one of the busiest days I can remember in our office.

Now I am home, looking longingly at a little art project I’d been wanting to finish, and a Harry Potter movie I bought for $4. Also, bed is looking really great (it is only 6:45 pm!). But the flat needs to be deep-cleaned, I need to cook food…

My mom and little sister get to Haifa tonight, they’ve already landed in Israel. It has been 6 months since I’ve seen them, so I am pretty excited. Dad gets here Thursday, and we are all on pilgrimage starting June 25th, through July 4th. It has been 10 years since our last pilgrimage, and I’m not sure I’m even ready for it. But is anyone ever really ready?

So now I start this week with a new focus on work, family, friends, and my relationship with the Baha’i Faith. I couldn’t be happier.

home is good.

Part of the wonderful thing about being home at my parent’s house is access to a really great kitchen. It is so clean, so wonderful, so well stocked! I was able to make gluten-free brownies, my famous spaghetti (which is made from scratch), and snack on stuff while I cooked today. Any herbs, spices, or random ingredients that I might need are always in the pantry.

This makes me happy.

I wrenched my knee this afternoon while hanging a mirror over the sink, so I’m icing it (mmm frosting. haha) and hoping it gets better…will probably end up putting a brace on it.

Packing for Haifa is coming along slowly. I am fighting a cold that has pretty much put me out of commission except for keeping the house clean and cooking, so I’m struggling to get everything done around here.

Exciting life, no?

The places I’ve been and will be.

Its funny. I’ve known since September 4th (my birthday) that I would be moving, but actually putting it into words and posting about it was another matter entirely.

I guess I can talk about it now, since I recently stopped working and I have a better idea of my plan from now on.

Sometime in the first week of December I will go to Haifa, Israel to serve at the Baha’i World Centre. EDIT: FOR 18 MONTHS!

My job can best be described as a project assistant, and I will be doing what I tend to fall into naturally: event planning and project management. It is going to be a lot of work, of course, but I can’t even put into words how excited I am.

And I just found out yesterday that Mojan and her husband will be coming! There are so many amazing people I know that are already serving in Haifa, and more coming soon…happiness abounds.

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Coming to Minnesota is mostly about family & food. My grandparents, two aunts (and their families), and my uncle (and his family) all live in the same neighborhood. So when guests are in town, it turns into an extravaganza of Persian cooking & music, mehmooni (dinner parties), and a jabber of people speaking a mix of Persian and English. Quite fabulous, really. I’m taking pictures and will post them as soon as I get back.

In the last 36 hours I have eaten:
-Chicken & rice.
-Cereal.
-Rice snacks from Japan that are now my newest obsession.
-An amazing kabob dinner that consisted of ground beef kabobs, chicken kabobs, grilled tomatoes, yogurt & cucumber salad, doogh (yogurt & club soda drink), pickles, rice, and cake.
-A ridiculous amount of Persian tea.
-Eggs w/cheese, ham, and rice (breakfast).
-Ice cream and truffles for breakfast.
-Dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves) with homemade yogurt.

whew. And it isn’t over yet…