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.

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. 😉

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.

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!)

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!

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…

Snowfall Saturday

Woke up to snow falling softly and it has continued all day. We have all the blinds open, watching the silence deepen and people slide by, bundled to their eyes. We made crepes and bacon and coffee and juice, we are together and it is winter.

This is one of those days when it would be wonderful not to have to leave the house, when I wish I had a fireplace, but these are little wishes and I am content with this kind of coziness.

Happy Saturday!

Music nostalgia

Had some serious high school music nostalgia hit me when a Bush song came on the radio tonight.

I didn’t have access to a lot of stuff other than what was on the radio (and no truly cool friends to get me into new music) so I was left with what was usually on the radio (anyone from Chicago remember Q101?). Most of my friends were either as nerdy as myself, or they were part of the crowd that wore all black and had interesting makeup (these were the girls that taught me how to use an eyeliner pencil in our sewing class). I stuck out like a sore thumb in that group, for sure.

So I listened to a lot of Bush, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Orgy, Radiohead, 311, Collective Soul, Garbage, Incubus, Live, Our Lady Peace, Rage Against the Machine, Stabbing Westward, Silverchair, Audioslave, Metallica, Deftones, System of a Down, and Fuel. (I don’t think I even have most of the above on my iTunes anymore.)

I’ve switched to lighter and more current fare in the last decade, but I still get kicked back to my teens when any of the above come on.

Falling

The whirlwind hasn’t stopped. My brain is trying to rapidly absorb all of the information I need to learn at my new job. Coming in at a higher level means learning all the things very fast. When you add in a longer commute (I went from 10 minutes to over an hour each way) and a continuous to-do list…well, it means that I am still playing catch-up. But I love being an event coordinator and this is what I am meant to be doing.

Apples

We finally settled on Halloween costumes (of course I won’t tell you until AFTER Halloween) and some friends and I are throwing a little shindig on Halloween. I was looking for parties for adults that don’t involve alcohol, and it turns out that they are either really hard to find, or they don’t exist. So we’re doing our own last-minute party.

I am trying to take advantage of the fall food and festivities…did some pumpkin-carving and pumpkin pie baking with family last night, and am spending most of my Sundays preparing food for the week so we don’t have to cook lunches and dinners.

Happy October!

Summer

Dear Blog,

I haven’t written since July, which is very unlike me. Then again, this summer was pretty unprecedented with travel for the 114 Baha’i Youth Conferences and getting married in the middle of it all.  A few weeks ago I was offered a new job and yesterday was my last day at the Baha’i National Center, after 4 1/2 years of work there. I start on Monday and it will be a very different adventure. I can’t wait!

It is a lot of change, a lot of new things…so much travel, a new marriage, a new job, a new last name…but then I am reminded how good it is, how lucky I am, and it helps me manage the minor moments of chaos.
Lake Michigan, morning walk after camping.

Sometimes it is hard to write because I feel this immense pressure to write a comprehensive, cohesive post. Then I have to remind myself that this is only a blog, and I just need to keep writing. I can always add, always write another post.

This is a way for me to get started again, to jump over the barrier that comes up now and again. Now, I have a moment to breathe and I will continue on.

with love,

Sholeh Samadani Munion (Loehle)

10 years and my love

I had a plan to write all sorts of blog posts recently. And then…well, I had to dive into the 4 youth conferences I’m working on and then something else really big happened in my life and suddenly it was the end of July and I hadn’t written anything in nearly 2 months.

On June 28, 2003, I wrote my first post on the current incarnation of this blog. It was about me putting food in my purse. Somehow that is fitting. This June was 10 continuous years of writing here. A decade of thoughts. It is hard to believe. I’ve been blogging since 2001 but I have been consistently writing here for such a long time, I can’t imagine ever shutting this down. I have to thank my friend Paul (and his family) for hosting this blog for so many years. I couldn’t have done it myself.

But now for the really big news.

In a few short days, I will be getting married to Shea. 

me and Shea

me and Shea

I keep trying to find words to explain all of this and having a hard time doing so. We met last year and discovered this love between us through lots of conversations, prayer, walks in parks, and cooking together. Now I am getting married to a kind, patient, loving, funny man and am overjoyed to be doing so. I don’t like getting too personal on my blog most of the time, and as much as I want to write everything here, I am keeping some things off the internet. But this is just too much not to share. It is a little surreal sometimes!

Here we go, on our grand adventure!

A fragmented note

I normally don’t go so long without posting on my blog (over a month?!). I can’t even begin to summarize the last few weeks and months. Here are a few things that have been keeping me busy. In no particular order:

Work. This is taking up a lot of my brainspace/time these days. Yes, I am part of the team that is assisting the National Spiritual Assembly with the planning of the conferences.

Baha'i Youth Conferences

 

View from the pool. Ahhh.

I traveled to Florida for a week of vacation, staying with dear friends and trying to relax after a very hectic year. I took a lot of photos of animals, went to several lovely Baha’i events, and just generally relaxed. I also took some long bike rides with my friends, which reminded me how much I love biking and also how much Chicago winter saps all of my energy. sigh. I even saw a manatee and a crocodile in the wild (as well as a ton of awesome birds).

 

I went to a farm for a North Shore networking event. The animals were stinky and cute and I loved them.

This little guy was pretty shy. #sheepish #latergram

Spent some time with my friends in the sun on a rare spring day that felt like summer in Chicago.

The view yesterday. I love Chicago in the summer. #latergram

Went to the park with my Ruhi youth group, and it made me appreciate them even more. They are such great people!

And this past weekend I worked at Baha’i National Convention, where the delegates gather to elect the National Spiritual Assembly. I also stopped by the Choral Festival and saw lots of people that I love.

Nothing is slowing down right now. Everything is top speed and it probably won’t stop until after the summer is over. This is not a complaint, merely a fact. And so, here I go!

The last few weeks in photos

Squishy!Work is not all about serious things. My coworkers and I get up to various (mostly harmless) antics sometimes. Laughter helps with so many things, since it can be very demanding around here. We merely took advantage of an opportunity (in this case, a stuffed Aflac promotional duck that was hanging out in the lobby for a day).

Sailboats and the House of Worship One day last week was mostly bearable, so we walked down to the Wilmette Harbor and watched the sailboats whisk around the harbor. There were young people being trained to sail, and you could hear the shouts as they nearly knocked into each other several times.

After a day with very few victories, this shines brightly. I found this chair out by the dumpster and now it is in my home. I love it. During a week when nothing seemed to be going right, I found this chair in the alley next to where I park my car. I deliberated on taking it for 24 hours, but when I saw it was still there on the second day, I dragged it upstairs, hoping I wouldn’t discover a hidden flaw. It is in very good condition and matches the decor in my home perfectly.

Outside of the grocery store near my place. Just a pig roasting in the parking lot. Smelled good though.Outside of the grocery store near my place. Just a pig roasting in the parking lot. It was an amusing surprise for my quiet little village.

Flowers near work

We are anticipating spring, but it has been slow to come to Chicago. Finally the flowers are blooming and I am starting to look at the summer festival schedule.

Nineteen Months - GloryFinally, Nineteen Months (the photoblog that I am an editor for) relaunched at Naw-Ruz and has a gorgeous new design. Check it out!

Flooded – a mix of good and bad

This morning I woke up to the sounds of a thunderstorm raging against my windows. I woke up before my alarm, so I lay in bed, trying to wake up by checking emails. Unfortunately my coordination is not the best in the morning, so I dropped the phone on my face and the corner of it left a welt under my eye. Ouch.

The streets were flooded today, so I was lucky to make it to work without stalling my car. There were four cars stalled in a road that I usually take to work. It also took twice as long to drive to work (20 minutes instead of 10), and some people just never made it in to the office. I had to climb into my car from the passenger side from my parking spot at home.

I was going to take photos of all of the standing water to illustrate the extent of the situation, but by the time I left work a lot of the water had receded in this area. Just Google it. Parts of the Chicago area are badly flooded.

I had to cancel my haircut in Schaumburg (about 40 minutes away) because I had no interest in driving in storms/flooded streets, and found a salon in Wilmette that looked promising. After having a very nice chat with the stylist and after she gave me a fantastic haircut, we discovered that the scheduler had messed up the pricing. So I got a $60 haircut for $45.

Realizing that one of the few places that is open in Wilmette at 8 pm is the library, I headed over to get some books. Discovered that 3 of my favorite authors have come out with new books and I was able to snag them to read. It may be that a lot of my frustration recently has been because of a lack of immersion in books. It is a peaceful time for me when I can spend hours reading a book that I enjoy. So if you don’t hear from me for a while…it may be because my nose is buried in a book.

Aggression

Most of the time I don’t write about unpleasant things here. But something happened just now that left me shaking so badly that I had to pull into a parking lot and write it down.

I was driving in Lincoln Park, relying on google maps to get me to my destination (which was a bit confusing from where I was). A guy driving a very expensive little vintage sports car was driving quite fast behind me, and there were a lot of cars on the road. So I was being careful and going slower than I normally do (maybe 20 mph?) He started honking at me and flicking me off. At that moment, someone tried to back out in front of me, so I hit my brakes. He was trying to go around me so he ended up stuck behind me still.

When we stopped at the light he got out of his car and came over to my open window yelling. “You f*****g c***, what the f*** is wrong with you?” And he kept repeating that and gesturing like he wanted to reach into my partially open window and strangle me. I told him that I was going to call the cops and he said that I should. I rolled up my window and he went back to his car.

The light changed and I turned onto another street. I saw that he followed me for about a block and then turned and disappeared.

I was terrified he might have a gun. I was terrified that he would do something on a crowded street, even with a dozen people watching. He was older, bigger, and more intimidating, and he was a man. I don’t intimidate easily, but I also live in a gun-crazy country, in a city that is passing a law allowing concealed carry. I can handle a lot, and could have driven away, except there are some things you can’t outrun.

Where does a person learn to explode in such hateful violence against people they don’t know? What makes a man say such things to someone? I can’t remember the last time someone called me those things, but it was so shocking I didn’t even know how to respond. If he had come up to my window and been pleasant, or asked if I needed help finding something, we could have had a pleasant interaction.

His assumption that he was allowed to speak to me in that manner was unacceptable, but I could do nothing about it. And there is nothing unique in the experience I just had. A lot worse happens every day.

Waiting

Morning sunSome days are a waiting game.

Some weeks are.

The feeling of helplessness is never good for me.

I want to take action, solve problems, help people! The roadblocks sometimes seem insurmountable.

Taking deep breaths and just…waiting. For everything.

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).

How to be happy

sunset from the roomIt still feels like winter here…the gray and cold have seeped into my body, I crave sunshine, heat, and friendly faces. I was reminded this weekend that I can bring joy to myself and others simply by choosing to be happy. There will always be people who are not pleasant, so how does one counter that with joy and radiance?

“Believers, he added, must show their belief in their daily lives, so that the world might see the light shining in their faces. A bright and happy face cheers people on their way. If you are sad, and pass a child who is laughing, the child, seeing your sad face, will cease to laugh, not knowing why. If the day be dark, how much a gleam of sunshine is prized; so let believers wear smiling happy faces, gleaming like sunshine in the darkness. Let the Light of Truth and Honesty shine from them, so that all who behold them may know that their word in business or pleasure will be a word to trust and depend upon.”
-‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London

“If we are not happy and joyous at this season, for what other season shall we wait and for what other time shall we look?

This is the time for growing; the season for joyous gathering! Take the cup of the Testament in thy hand; leap and dance with ecstasy in the triumphal procession of the Covenant! Lay your confidence in the everlasting bounty, turn to the presence of the generous God; ask assistance from the Kingdom of Abha; seek confirmation from the Supreme World; turn thy vision to the horizon of eternal wealth; and pray for help from the Source of Mercy!
-Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas

“Happy the soul that shall forget his own good, and like the chosen ones of God, vie with his fellows in service to the good of all; until, strengthened by the blessings and perpetual confirmations of God, he shall be empowered to raise this mighty nation up to its ancient pinnacles of glory, and restore this withered land to sweet new life, and as a spiritual springtime, array those trees which are the lives of men with the fresh leaves, the blossoms and fruits of consecrated joy.”
-‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization

The story of everything

Beautiful things end up on my desk at work sometimes.

I wanted to write a story about everything
the pieces of days taking over
the peaceful nights where your voice keeps me going
how quickly time passes
and how very little time has passed.
We are building up moments to hide away for later
for sleepless nights or long days.
I want to write the story
about the things we cannot guess…

Be

Flowers from an office party cheer things up a bit“Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression.”
-(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

Trying to remember the above as I fight some battles, try to rest (managed to fight off a cold last week!), and keep moving along with everything. I am so lucky, and sometimes the reminders come all at once. This past week has been full of reinforcements from various people around me, some of whom have absolutely no idea what has been happening in my life…they just seemed to be inspired to encourage and show love to me. That, in turn, makes me want to do the same.

Sometimes we expect people to be fair, just, loving, kind, etc, and when our expectations are not met, we are sad/disappointed/angry. The feelings we have are valid, but what we do with those feelings is what matters. How do we encourage justice while showing detachment? How do we support the individuals and analyze/improve the process?

I’ve been thinking a lot about building capacity these days. About how to encourage people to develop their natural talents and strive beyond what they thought they could do. What kind of person do I want to be?

“The work advancing in every corner of the globe today represents the latest stage of the ongoing Bahá’í endeavour to create the nucleus of the glorious civilization enshrined in His teachings, the building of which is an enterprise of infinite complexity and scale, one that will demand centuries of exertion by humanity to bring to fruition. There are no shortcuts, no formulas. Only as effort is made to draw on insights from His Revelation, to tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race, to apply His teachings intelligently to the life of humanity, and to consult on the questions that arise will the necessary learning occur and capacity be developed.” -Universal House of Justice, Riḍván 2010

Football?

I hear there was this big football game last night or something. I watched a few minutes of halftime, which just made me sad that those beautiful ladies couldn’t find something classier to wear. I then got bored and turned everything off to read a book and drink tea. I ended up finishing the book (at least 300 pages) by the time I was tired enough to go to bed, and felt that it was a perfect way to spend my Sunday evening.

I have to say though, the commentary on Twitter made me laugh. Good job, everyone. You managed to keep me updated on the talking points and dissuade me from watching nearly all of the commercials (heard they were awful!).

And now Monday is here and, as always, I wish the weekend was longer.

these days

I still look at people like this when they don't make sense. #littlemeI have to say that this year started off with a lot of things…none of which I’ll talk about here for now, except in a very general way. I will say that a lot was thrown at me at once, in a way that was validating, scary, joyful, destructive, and just plain overwhelming, all in different ways.

But then, somehow, everything resolves itself. Just within a few weeks, I found some paths to clarity, and it is amazing. I am not there yet, but it is a good feeling to start.

I am looking forward to this year.

Good things

I have been thinking about some of the difficult things going on in my life right now, and while I should not dismiss them as small or insignificant, I can choose to focus on better things, on the good things, at least in this space. I have been spending a lot of time in my condo this last week, sick with a nasty cold, and someone told me today to think about the things that make me happy.

The world is white.We had our first snow in Chicago this week. While normally this would make me sad, as I am not a fan of winter, I have actually been loving the beauty of this particular snowfall, and the drifting flurries throughout the week. I went out to snap some photos the other day, mostly for Nineteen Months, and it reminded me of how much I love traipsing around with my camera, hopefully with a few friends in tow. I miss that.

 

sushi nightWe made sushi last weekend, experimenting with different ideas to create so many rolls that we ate it over the course of two evenings. We laughed and worked together. It was lovely. I am loving the conversations, the diving into the joy of everything. It is good to remember these moments.

 

Starting to make a dent in the Wilmette Bahai Archives cleanup.I have been working on cleaning up the Wilmette Baha’i Archives for months now, but recently have had more incentive because we’re losing our storage space and have to move everything. As Archivist for our local community, I thought it would be helpful to go through over 70 years worth of papers before moving it. For every box that I go through, I trash about 1/3 of it. Mostly duplicate copies of things, or stuff we never should have kept in the first place. While it is a stressful thing sometimes, I also find really cool stuff sometimes.

 
love this little mooshI know entirely too many cute babies and kids. I’ve had the benefit of hanging out with a lot of them recently. Sometimes when things are rough, I just need a hug from a baby. Seriously, it fixes everything. I have also started hosting monthly dinner parties, which is the perfect thing in a Chicago winter, and I love having people over to my place. Sometimes it is a bit exhausting to be the one to initiate social contact with people on a regular basis, but this helps me feel a bit more connected.

Recent Things

1. Discovered the Skokie Lagoons a few weeks ago. The animals there are a bit odd…a heron that dove underwater and never seemed to come up, a squirrel that seemed rather fearless and acted a bit too human…but it is beautiful! Of course, now it is getting cold and isn’t nearly as much fun.

The famous entertainment center that I fit in my car.2. Found an entertainment center in an alley the other day. Managed to get it into my Honda Fit…after many contortions, laughter, and sore muscles. Emily had the back end and I had the top, and I am proud of us for wedging it into my car. I had been looking for something for our local Baha’i community’s  sound equipment, since the old setup had wires and all sorts of stuff sticking out and it looked messy. Re-wiring everything took some time (I have never claimed to understand this system), but now it looks a lot cleaner, and it was free. Double points!

3. My FB newsfeed is an odd mixture of lonely political posts (which I ignore, or that give me a reason to finally hide a person from my feed), photos of some friend’s amazing vacation to some island (which I also try to ignore because it makes me hate the coming winter even more), and links to articles that I sometimes read because a lot of the people I’m friends with have good taste in cool stuff.

Every other photo is of babies. Babies everywhere. Excuse me while I go find a baby to squeeze. There are plenty around, I just have to go pick one.

4. Saw a documentary a few weeks ago at the Wilmette Theatre (which is now a non-profit), and the director was on hand to answer questions. It was a beautiful, thoughtful look at Burma, a country which the director obviously loves. They Call It Myanmar…see it if you can.

Scary, at the Oriental Theatre5. Explored Open House Chicago on Saturday, which is “a free public event that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago.” It was awesome. The trick is to start out early in the day, because as it got later the lines got longer to get into some places. Even though it was rainy and dreary outside, I had a fantastic time. Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited and has fascinating architecture. It was fun to interact with the tour guides at various locations and learn about the history of some of these locations. I’ve decided that Art Deco is one of my favorite design styles.

6. I recently joined a Ruhi Book 8 Baha’i study circle (The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh), even though I’ve done part of this book before, it feels good to get back into organized study. I read Baha’i books all the time, but this kind of thing is different. It is a good group of people and it is in Wilmette…local is so good.

7. Can you tell that I like lists? I’ve never been a storyteller, I am more of an…information-sharer. Because I want to share my life with my audience (within certain parameters, or course), I have to find the easiest way for me. This is what works right now. I’ll share other stories in a more subtle way.

Coat shopping with @elimyp on Sunday. "It's perfect for you. You look like an astronaut." That is all the encouragement I needed. #latergram #winteriscoming8. Winter is coming. And I am not pleased about it. But I am prepared. Bring it on, cold miserableness. I’m ready for you.

listen

The skies look ominous. #houseboundI can’t stop thinking that this is something I should pay attention to. I haven’t written in what seems like years…thought it was because I was happy but happiness doesn’t stop the flow of words that spill out of me in a roaring cacophony.

I was silent for far too long.

I have been dreaming the strangest things, some are far too dark to share and some are far too sweet to bare to the world…

and so.

I will just tease you with the promise of things to come and the fact that I am dreaming again after far too long and that my silence right now only means that there are moments to be shared with the ones I love.

Standing on stages was something I did when I was 19 and fearless. 22 and alive in a city that was far too big for me and now it is far too small. Now I am 29 and standing on stages is something that seems normal, but the stages are different and the people are more jaded and the city is too small and cold to contain me.

Let us escape together, we will build things and explore, sleep in the sun and leap across mountains. Words will leap off our tongues and we can laugh again, and we won’t wait for life to happen to us.

Officially Autumn

not many left

I am trying to accept that cold weather is coming. I am shopping for a winter coat, switching my wardrobe, and throwing myself into fall cooking (pumpkin pancakes, anyone?). I went apple-picking with some friends last weekend, which is more about the experience of wandering in an orchard than actually picking apples.

Changing leaves.

I love the outfits in autumn (hellooo, hats, scarves, & boots!), but I get very cold very easily. Living in Chicago for 20 years has been a bit of a test, needless to say. The summers make me forget how truly miserable I feel in the winter. I know that not everyone feels this way, but this is my blog, so I’ll be open about my hatred of the gray, dreary winters.

My next fall venture is figuring out what to do for Halloween (my favorite holiday).

Strange warehouse in the suburbs. It's where estate sales go to die.

A few weeks ago I was doing errands in the suburbs and saw a sign for an estate sale that was pointing toward a giant warehouse building.  I was curious and had time on my hands, so I pulled over and wandered around inside for a while. It was organized into sections…chairs, dressers, dishes, suitcases, etc. I don’t run across stuff like this very often. As I mentioned to a number of people, it felt like the place that estate sales go to die.

The only thing I ended up buying was a brand new 80s-era Kodak drink cooler for picnics for $5 (now that I’ve looked at similar items on Ebay, I’m pretty sure I got a good bargain). Part of the reason was that my condo just can’t fit much stuff, and part of it was that I don’t tend to carry much cash on me. It looked like it was a family-run operation, and while it felt a bit strange, it was a fun experience. There were prices on most of the big items, but I think you could probably easily negotiate.

As winter comes and as I get older, I find myself retreating into smaller groups of friends at a time, trying to have deeper relationships with people. I’m also cooking and baking a lot more, but that is par for the course.