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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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…

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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.

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

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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…

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The day of labor

This coming holiday weekend has special significance, since my birthday is one week from today. That is, September 4th.

This weekend also promises to be very busy. Friends in from out of town, family, and several events, some of which may be happening concurrently. I’m beginning to get overwhelmed.

hmm…haven’t changed much. Check out the rockin’ sunglasses. hah!

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Mama bird

I like bird nests. My sister and I used to collect them as children, along with any eggshell pieces we would find discarded.

I like birds, too. But when a bird interferes with my everyday life, I get a little annoyed.

Exhibit A: The American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

(Look at those beady, devilish eyes…)

We have a nest in the roof of our back porch with several baby robins. During our 4th of July BBQ, Andrew was attacked as he attempted to set up the grill. Once Jinous, Maysoon, Lauren, and I came outside she was less aggressive…too many people to fight, I guess.

A few days ago I was weeding the patio and the mother bird was swooping down so close that her wings were touching my hair. I abandoned the effort with half of my task completed. Yesterday I tried to hang lights on the back porch for the party and she dive-bombed me with such ferocity that I retreated back into the house, shaking with terror.

This is just ridiculous.

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Girodet

Last Tuesday I went with my father and sister to the Girodet exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (1767�1824) was a French painter, and the exhibit is overwhelming. I must say that he is my favorite artist…the vibrancy of color and attention to detail is amazing, and the way he used light is simply astonishing.

The Burial of Atala is definitely my favorite painting in the exhibit, but I was impressed by the attention to detail in Hippocrates Refusing the Gifts of Artaxerxes.

If you see Pygmalion and Galatea, note how Girodet manages to transition from marble to human flesh in Galatea’s body as he shows her transformation from statue to a live being.

The exhibit is at the Art Institute until April 30th, so I suggest you check it out ASAP. And give yourself a few hours…you’ll need it.

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Lost Cassete tapes

Yesterday
I heard the voice of myself
at age 4
I spoke with a Persian inflection
as I said prayers into the microphone
age 5
I read from a children’s book
not recognizing myself as I realized
the strength of my southern accent
(South Carolina public schools)
But when I spoke to my parents
I had no accent at all.

“Maman joon, Baba joon, Allah’u’abha.
This is Sholeh, and I am going to say
some prayers for you.”
The messages that we sent my grandparents
17 years ago
brought tears to my eyes,
the slight lisp of my 4 year old sister
as she said her ABCs
and talked about riding the elephant at the circus
and sang prayers and children’s songs.
“Maman joon, Baba joon, can you come visit us?
We will play with you, and we miss you.”

I heard the patient voice of my mother
“Ahfarin, Sholeh joon.” (Good job, Sholeh dear)
As my 3 year old self
pointed out objects: duck! moo! ob!

Why do we forget the things
that should never be left behind?
I cried today…
I wish I could go back sometimes
to that innocent child of my past
to let her know that I love her.

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Do you realize?

That we’re floating in space…

10 EASY points to whoever guesses the song first. And no cheating by using Google.

Anyways, I am out in the middle of nowhere and loving it. I love the mountains, the sun, the stars (I can see STARS!), the fresh air (even though my cold is making it hard to breathe). Love love love.

Going back to Chicago is going to be tough. My heart longs to be there always, yet I find myself being pulled in different directions. I miss the ocean, I miss mountains, I miss being around different people all of the time. We shall see what the world has in store for me.

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In more sad news, a dear friend of my family passed away Wednesday, December 21st. Caswell Ellis, my friend Jonathan’s father, left this world. I’ve known the Ellis family since I was 4 years old, and Caswell had a huge influence on me throughout my life. I love that family so much, it is impossible to describe. I wish I had adequate words for such an amazing man, but this will have to do.

I saw him in November when I went to visit Carmen in LA, and she and I somehow both realized that this would be the last time that we would see him. We didn’t know why we felt that, we just did. All of us kids grew up together, and now we take care of each other as the older generation is no longer able to in some ways.

Love,
Sholeh (on vacation)

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Atlanta

I loved the Botanical Gardens in Atlanta. I went with my grandma, uncle, and cousin, and it was just fantastic.

There was a whole section in the greenhouse devoted to orchids of all varieties. There were also birds flying around, completely fearless, and would walk right up next to you. (click to enlarge pictures).

There was this train exhibit called “Locomotion in the Garden” that was like a little world with a bunch of different trains and buildings and tracks made from branches. There was a waterfall, and a little island. Amazing.

Sorry, the quality of these isn’t great. 🙂

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summer flowers

The first flower is the Baha plant I put in the back yard years ago. I planted it, and it has survived Chicago winters, summers, too much & too little watering. And I don’t have to do a thing.

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The Best Thing About Summer (Guest Entry)

The following was dictated by my sister Gloria while I typed (the only way I knew I’d get a guest entry). Thanks, G!

The Best Thing About Summer:

When I was younger, I used to think it was the ice cream truck, because hearing it in the street made me run to mom, thinking I could weasle some money out of her.

As I grew up, I believed it was because I could skip out of dreaded homework assignments.

Now I’ve gotten older and wiser, and I’ve realized the deeper meaning of what makes summer so great.

It’s movies.

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