I like…#9

finding lost childhood toys

fancy hats

visitors

homemade pizza

the way the morning sunlight looks on the Baha’i House of Worship

the look of glee when you play a prank on me

brunch on a Saturday morning with nothing else to do all day

having a dishwasher

brownies

my home. finally, my home.

(I Like: #1,#2,#3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8)

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I bought a condo.

What?! Yeah, well, I’m nearly as surprised as everyone else, trust me. 6 months ago I was all about leaving Chicago. Then, as time went on, I realized that I love Chicago, my job is amazing (almost as much fun as I had working in Israel!), and my family and friends are here.  This is home.

It is also a really great time to buy, especially with the homebuyer’s tax credit and the low housing prices. So I bought a one bedroom condo a few miles away from the Baha’i House of Worship and Lake Michigan.

It feels good to be an independent adult.  I am so happy that I have the freedom and ability to do something like this at such a young age.

I’m currently painting, and have already run into some minor problems, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t too bad.  Part of the process, right? When I have some more work done I’ll put up photos.  Right now it looks a little disastrous, and is a maze of ladders, paint cans, and random tools.  We managed to get the ceilings done, however, thanks to my amazing friends who came to help this weekend. (Y’all are the best.)

If anyone wants to come by in the evenings this week to help paint the walls, I’m happy to have assistance!  I’ll buy you dinner. Seriously.  🙂 There are even homemade cupcakes available.  (I’m totally ok with bribing people!)

It will be wonderful to finally have a place of my own, move in, and be home. And no, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

“Verily, I pray God to make thy home a center for the radiation of light and the glowing of His love in the hearts of His people. Know that in every home when God is praised and prayed to, and His Kingdom proclaimed, that home is a garden of God and a paradise of His happiness.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 68)

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The end of 2009

This Gregorian year was full of changes, travel, friends, family, and many good things. I’ve been avoiding most of the “end of the year” lists that take over our media at this time of the year, but of course I couldn’t help it…so I’m doing a kind of “year in review”. It is by no means comprehensive, as it would be ridiculous to get into too much detail

January & February were mostly cold and mostly uneventful. I celebrated New Year’s Eve Persian style.  I was working a part-time retail job, looking for work. I went sledding for the first time in years.

In March I celebrated Naw Ruz (the Baha’i New Year), traveled to New York City to stay with my cousin and attend an amazing wedding. Fell in love with NYC all over again.

April got more exciting, since I was asked to work at the Baha’i House of Worship as the assistant to the choir director, in order to organize the choir festival (with over 2,000 attendees).  I volunteered at the Baha’i National Convention, which is when the national governing body of the Baha’is in the United States is elected.  I’ve always loved attending Convention.

I spent a lot of time in May with my family, and of course most of my time was spent coordinating the choir festival. I was also sleeping on my friends’ couch, two lovely ladies who saved me from a horrendous commute from my parents’ house.

June was the celebration of a childhood friend’s wedding in Chicago and the start of a new job.  I moved down the street from the Baha’i House of Worship to the Baha’i National Center to my current job, and found an apartment near my office.

Then there was was the 3rd of July BNC staff picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan, going to the beach, and the start of something wonderful.  The middle of summer is always blissful for me!

I mostly remember August in a blur of travel, packing and unpacking.  I went to Nashville, LA, and Seattle for work trips and then to Greenlake Baha’i Conference in Wisconsin. I started off the month with another wedding, and missed a different wedding while I was out of town (count that, we’re up to 4 weddings!).  I also moved to my second apartment for the year.

I celebrated my birthday with a week-long spree in September, starting with a surprise trip to the Chicago Botanical Gardens, then to the Friends of the Persian Culture Conference with many friends and family, and finally with a party at a friend’s house that included delicious food and fire-spinning.

We went apple-picking in October, went to a college friend’s wedding, I dressed as Mary Poppins for Halloween, and attended an amazing seminar on Baha’i administration in Chicago.

I moved to my third apartment in November, got the sickest I’ve been in a long time, and had a lovely Thanksgiving.

December was cold. I started trying to figure out where I am going to live.  A trip to Pittsburgh over Christmas break started the holiday season (it was really nice to get out of town!), and a wonderful New Year’s Party finished off the year.  It has been 3 years since I left to serve in Haifa in December 2006. I can’t believe it has been that long.

It was a good year. I’m grateful and lucky to be surrounded by such beautiful family, friends, and coworkers. I am looking forward to 2010…who knows what is next!

I took ten photos with my camera on my tripod from a hillside overlooking the city of Pittsburgh. With the help of Photoshop, the photos were stitched together.  (view large)

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Apple Picking, Halloween

A small group of us drove up to Wisconsin a few weeks ago to go apple picking.  I spent more time taking photos than picking apples, but I still had a great time.

For Halloween I had a lot of fun dressing up as a classic character, who I identify greatly with…

I felt rather supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


Pumpkin, carved by my sister and me.

Poor Milo. I put wings on him for Halloween, and he hated it.

I love autumn. Or these parts of it, anyway.  I’m starting to settle into a routine, both in my personal and work life, and gearing up for winter (yikes).

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Trash the Dress

A few weeks ago, my friend Melissa Diep asked a few other ladies and myself to be models for a “Trash the Dress” photoshoot with about 20 photographers.  First we went to a location under the railroad tracks in downtown Chicago.  It is hard to tell in this picture, but I was clambering up onto concrete, walking barefoot on railroad tracks, and dragging the poor dress all over some very dirty ground.

(photo by Ny Brown)

After a few hours of shooting, it started to rain, so we drove up to Foster Beach to get some shots in and near Lake Michigan.  I was the first one in the water.

That’s right, I went into the lake.  With a wedding dress on. In September.

I had a great time, the other models and the photographers were really fun to work with.  I also learned a lot about photography, since the photographers were giving each other advice and directing the models.

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The Day of Ridiculous

Today can only be called the Day of Ridiculous.  It really started last night, when I was baking and cooking up a storm, and set off the smoke alarm at 9:30 pm. My neighbors must LOVE me.

This morning I slept through my alarm, but managed to wake up in time to get ready and out the door.  I even packed my breakfast & lunch in a large brown bag.

I grabbed the brown bag and the bag of trash by my back door and headed down to my car.  With the bags in my right hand and my keys in my left, I swung the garbage into the dumpster.

I had a fairly decent grip on my lunch in the brown bag, but the handle ripped and the bag toppled into the dumpster with the trash.  Unfortunately, the dumpster had been emptied yesterday, so everything went into the very bottom. Into dumpster juice and assorted nastiness.

Gross.  Luckily, it was all still in the brown bag, mostly protected.

I wasn’t going to abandon my lunch, however.  Anyone who has spent time with me knows my relationship with food.  I couldn’t reach the bottom of the dumpster.  I looked around, and saw a desktop printer that someone had put by the dumpster, dragged it over, and stood on it.  Still couldn’t reach.

I grabbed the picnic blanket out of the trunk of my car, draped it over the side of the dumpster, and stuck half my body into the dumpster to retrieve my bag.


(artist’s rendition of the morning’s events.)

After that debacle, I got to work, nearly fell on my face when I tripped going up the stairs, and realized that while I had my lunch, I’d forgotten my breakfast on the kitchen counter.

Can we just start today over please?

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Happenings

I haven’t really been home for 6 weeks.  I stop here to sleep, do laundry, refill my suitcase, and off I go again!  Travels are over for the time being, life continues to be busy but I’m glad it is slowing down a bit.

Lots of friends have come through town recently, and of course there is the usual revolving door of people moving into Chicago and leaving, visiting and stopping through, with the attached greetings and farewells.

Lauren did some fire spinning for my birthday on the roof of our friends’ apartment building.  It was amazing.

The opportunities for using my camera have been endless.  Especially since I’ve made a habit of carrying my camera with me everywhere.  More photos on flickr…

I have been unable to write very much…no time or inspiration.  I felt the slow stirrings of the writing bug today, though, so maybe it is coming back.

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oh, today

On sunset, there is a shadowed promise of the night
my favorite time
and I held my breath
we closed our eyes
there was everything surrounding in the stillness of the light.

Today is my birthday. It really feels more like a birthday week, what with the celebrating starting early with an evening at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and concluding on Monday with more celebration. Everything is wonderful.

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Discoveries of small importance

1.  Gluten-free sugar cookies dipped in chocolate pudding are heavenly.

2.  Aprons never fit me correctly.  I always have to adjust them, which makes me ignore them altogether.  But I really like the idea of an apron.

3.  Driving a car means fixing it when parts wear out.  Which means that my bank account complains to me of abuse.  It also means that I have to deal with mechanics, which is always a funny experience because I really don’t know anything about cars.

4.  An advantage to living in Chicago: there are always visitors coming through.  It helps alleviate the missing-of-friends that happens when you are part of a community that is always moving across the world.


5.  Really looking forward to the weekend.  Work picnic, family, home.  I desperately needed a 3 day break, and was kidding myself that I am not tired. I’m exhausted.

6.  I had a few friends over the other night to help me finish off a tray of lasagna that I made.  I highly recommend having a lasagna party, and close it out with ice cream or pudding if you can. 🙂

7.  I really missed seeing live music over the last few years.  It had been such a long time.  Going to Summerfest and seeing Stevie Wonder & John Legend in concert was absolutely fantastic, and I need to take advantage of these opportunities.

8.  I’m on my 6th wedding invitation of the year, and we’re only halfway through!  Whew…

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One year

It has been 8,760 hours since I came home.

Since I left home.

It is two places now, where I am and where I was.  It is pieces of memories that float to the surface with no warning and leave me gasping for breath.

It is silence in the Mother Temple when I close my eyes and pretend that I am in the Shrines, or standing on the sea wall, or walking down broken stone paths.  I am still near the water, but instead of a warm sea I swim in the cold lake, instead of gardens I am stand in concrete city landscapes.

One year.


So much and so little has changed.  There is a little more knowledge behind my eyes, a little more heaviness in my sighs, more smiles and more quiet.  There is less need to be here and there and everywhere at once.

Work happens every day from 8 am-5 pm, Monday through Friday, just like I prayed for.  Last night I signed a short lease for a place to rest my head at night, and a closet for my clothes.  Resigned and happy.

I miss you and you and you and you and you and most especially you.

In between places and time are the photographs, the Saturday morning brunches, the days upon days at Bahji, the Friday afternoon soccer matches, Thursday nights that were never-ending, Monday’s game night and dinner, Tuesday farewells to the pilgrims, and praying my way down the mountain.

Home is a jumbled mess of prairie grass, the call to prayer, the flat roads, the mountain stairs, a million flowers, snow, sand, sky and no starlight.  Haifa and Chicago.

My eyes have seen and

my heart has known and

my faith is this: I will never be alone.

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A few minutes in between

These last few weeks have really done a number on me.  I finished up my work helping organize the 3rd Annual Baha’i Choral Festival at the Baha’i House of Worship.  The Festival was wonderful, you can read about it here, and watch the hour-long performance here.  (There were readings as well, but had to be cut out of the DVD.)  Then I moved over into another job, which is quite fun and keeps me very busy.  I’m only 4 days into it, and already feeling a bit like I did a year ago, right before International Convention.

I live out of suitcases and my car, my friends’ couch and my parent’s home.  My work is so far from home that commuting is painful.  But I get to see my friends a lot more now, and being in the city is wonderful.

On the continuing theme of my clumsiness, I knocked over a glass last weekend, and promptly sliced my finger open as I tried to rescue it.  Luckily it wasn’t too bad, and thank God for medication.

I went to a lovely wedding this past weekend.  That, combined with several friends visiting from out of town and the usual weekend festivities, created the deadly combination of no sleep, crazy meal schedules, and getting nothing done on my to-do list.  My poor to-do list is feeling quite neglected.

Twitter was sending me into a spiral of distraction, so 9 days ago I took a break.  I don’t really miss it, and I’ve stopped thinking in terms of tweets.  Maybe when things settle back down I’ll get into it again, but right now I’m enjoying the silence.

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This past week

I worked.  Did chores.

Planted things in the garden.  Crossing my fingers that they won’t die or get eaten by rabbits.

Made chocolate covered strawberries and apricots.

Another article that I wrote went up on Soulpancake.

Enjoyed the tulips in the gardens at the Baha’i House of Worship.

Saw Star Trek and LOVED IT.  The nerd in me was so, so happy.

Performed my poetry onstage in Chicago for the first time in years.

Had strange/wonderful dreams: riots, friends, Haifa, happy, sad, beautiful.

Went to a meeting with the youth and some special visitors from Haifa.

Said goodbye to some friends moving across the world (as usual).

Filled out applications.  Tried to make plans.

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Salsa!

Last night I went salsa dancing for the first time in nearly 3 years.  I couldn’t believe it has been that long.

And then I stepped out on the dance floor, and it was painfully obvious that not only was I very rusty, but woefully untutored.  Thankfully, the majority of the people that I danced with were very good, gave me lots of tips, and were quite patient.  I learned more last night than I have in years.

However, one individual was particularly self-involved.  Sporting a suit and greased-back hair, he thought that he was an exceptional dancer.  No interest in being a good dance partner, he really just wanted to show off.  Unfortunately, he got a little enthusiastic, and ended up kicking my leg.  Very, very painful.

As I hobbled away, I found my friends, who are regulars on the salsa scene.  When I told them what had happened, they started laughing.  Apparently this guy is rather…infamous.   haha.  Well, I’ve been initiated, I guess!

Outside of that rather amusing incident, it was fun and I’m glad I went.  Even though I’m limping today.  🙂

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Something that has never happened before

I read books like they are the last pieces of driftwood and I am drowning.  They are my lifeline, inspiration, education, and friends.  I learned to read before I went to school, my parents forming letters and words, using the Baha’i Writings and endless books to teach me.  I learned to write much more sloppily.  But this is not about writing, it is about reading.

I have read so many books that I forget if I’ve read something before, sometimes.  Half of my high school library collection was devoured in the four years that I was there.  I think I was voted “Most likely to become a librarian” in an informal class poll.

One of my favorite passages from a fictional book comes from The History of Love:

“Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist.  There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination.  From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world.  And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.”

Everyone needs to read beautiful things.

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Something new

I decided to change a few minor things on my blog, the most noticeable of which is the addition of a second sidebar, where I have linked to a number of blogs of friends of mine.  I cleaned up a lot of old links, and if you haven’t updated your blog in 3 or 4 months, I probably took it off of the list.  Blogging is about interacting and posting!  If you’re blogging…keep up the good work!  If you think I might not know about your blog, please send me an email or comment to let me know.  I like to keep up with everyone.

I also updated the “Links” and “About me” pages…

NYLON PARLA, the photoblogging project that I am a part of, has started up again after a short hiatus. Link to it and spread the word!

During the Baha’i Fast (which starts today), the photoblog nineteen days will be featuring a guest photographer each day, with a contribution from all of us on Naw Ruz.  I’m so excited about being a part of it, and can’t wait to see what everyone contributes.

Speaking of the Fast, this is the first time that I’ve fasted at home since I was in high school (except for the occasional weekend home from university), and I’m really looking forward to it.  As usual, I am awake at a very late hour and hope that waking up at 5:45 am won’t hurt too much.

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Recently

I now have a giant bruise on my leg that hurts every time I walk.  I didn’t get this bruise from hitting the ground too hard after skydiving, or from fending off a vicious bear.  I didn’t get it from a sword fight while saving the kingdom from evil, or from rescuing a child from a burning building.

I walked into a table.  Again.  With eyewitnesses, who winced at my pain but also laughed at me.  Thanks, guys.

There are times when I am graceful, and times when I am decidedly not.

Also, the other day I poured milk into my bowl of rice and stew, instead of into my coffee where it belonged.

I made a flan for my mother’s birthday the night before…and of course, forgot to put it out for her birthday.

I went to the pool, and forgot to take a towel.

I am young, and I am losing my mind.  🙂

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One of those days

Today was one of those days.  I was woken by a call from a dear friend who I haven’t spoken to in years.  She and I laughed and talked and agreed to meet this week for lunch.   While we talked I made rice, pot roast, and coffee.

Mom came home and insisted on going for a walk, since it was 61 degrees F outside (16 degrees C).  For February in Chicago, this is unheard of.  So of course we enjoyed the sunlight and I felt my spirits pick up.  Winter really does number on me.

I hung paintings around the house this afternoon, which is a bit of an ongoing project for me for several reasons.  First, we have lots of wall space.  Second, we have a lot of paintings, as my paternal grandparents were artists.  Finally, I tend to have a short attention span when it comes to decorating.  Sometimes I rotate paintings in the house for fun.  There is something satisfying about hammering nails into the framing boards of the paintings.

I spent the rest of the evening in the library, which is pretty much like heaven for me.  I think that the only thing that would make it better would be to attach an ice cream shop, and perhaps add a swimming pool…haha, well, in any case, I was very productive and that made me happy.

Finally, I want to share with you this quotation:

If a small number of people gather lovingly together, with absolute purity and sanctity, with their hearts free of the world, experiencing the emotions of the Kingdom and the powerful magnetic forces of the Divine, and being at one in their happy fellowship, that gathering will exert its influence over all the earth. The nature of that band of people, the words they speak, the deeds they do, will unleash the bestowals of Heaven, and provide a foretaste of eternal bliss. The hosts of the Company on high will defend them, and the angels of the Abha Paradise, in continuous succession, will come down to their aid.

-Abdu’l-Bahá

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Things to read, listen to, and look at.

The illustrious Sarah Lonning has a presence on the web. Be impressed.

Navid shares music, often with commentary. Brilliant. I’ve been enjoying it very much.

That odd fellow known as David Precht launched his site a while ago, and it is as lovely and strange as he is.

Genius Dog is now The Doghouse Diaries, so adjust your links. And they’re doing a fantastic job. Keep it up, guys.

There is a carousel at the mall that reminds me of this gorgeous photo by Shahriar. As the children go around, their faces light up and they live completely in that moment. I love that.

Lauren uploaded these photos from her trip to Nepal a while back but I forgot to blog about how much I loved them.

The streets of Chicago are still snow-covered, and we are trying to stay warm. Do me a favor…if you live in a warm climate, please go outside for a moment and enjoy it for me. 🙂 It is horrible to admit that I am getting acclimated…yesterday I traipsed around in the snow in our yard for a while, just because I had snow boots on and I could. And last weekend I went sledding with my sister. I had some bruises and aches afterward, but it was totally worth it.

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The Baha’is in Iran

It has been 9 months since leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran were arrested on 14 May 2008. They are still in prison, along with other Baha’is who have been arrested merely because of their beliefs.

From a Baha’i World News Service story: “We deny in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that Baha’is in Iran have engaged in any subversive activity,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “The Baha’i community is not involved in political affairs. Their only ‘crime’ is the practice of their religion.”

“The seriousness of the allegations makes us fear for the lives of these seven individuals,” she said.

The Baha’is in Iran, in addition to being imprisoned, are also harassed, denied the right to education, dismissed from jobs or refused hire, cemeteries destroyed…the list goes on. They are not the only minority in Iran to suffer, but are certainly targeted heavily.

Although I am half Persian, I was born in the USA and have never been able to visit Iran. I would love to go there someday, but the situation is not to be taken lightly, especially being a Baha’i. It is sad to me, because my entire life I have been exposed to aspects of the culture, heard stories, and seen pictures of Iran. It is a strange feeling having such a strong connection to a place that I have never been. As a Baha’i, I know that the entire world is my home, and every country and person united (even thought it is sometimes difficult to see with the situation of the world being what it is).

Perhaps today you can say a prayer for them, and for the sufferers of injustice anywhere in the world.

He is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful! O God, my God! Thou seest me, Thou knowest me; Thou art my Haven and my Refuge.  None have I sought nor any will I seek save Thee; no path have I trodden nor any will I tread but the path of Thy love. In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor and at the hour of dawn my drooping soul is refreshed and strengthened in remembrance of Thy beauty and perfection. He whom the grace of Thy mercy aideth, though he be but a drop, shall become the boundless ocean, and the merest atom which the outpouring of Thy loving-kindness assisteth, shall shine even as the radiant star.

Shelter under Thy protection, O Thou Spirit of purity, Thou Whom art the All-Bountiful Provider, this enthralled, enkindled servant of Thine. Aid him in this world of being to remain steadfast and firm in Thy love and grant that this broken-winged bird attain a refuge and shelter in Thy divine nest that abideth upon the celestial tree.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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Midnight musings

It is quieter when the world around is blanketed with snow. The house is silent, my family asleep, and I am considering the pros and cons of going to bed in the next half hour.

This morning, as I stepped outside into a world turned white by frozen precipitation, I realized that getting my car out of the driveway was going to be so much fun. My car has a few things to equip me for the winter months:
1. A ice scraper/snow brush (mine looks like this, mostly).
2. A blanket/extra coat in case your car runs out of gas or gets stuck somewhere.
3. A few pieces of cardboard (I learned this trick a few weeks ago when my car got stuck in snow…put them under the tires, and voila!).
4. Bottled water
5. After doing some mental inventory, I realize that I also have a tripod, a mouse for a computer, sunglasses, cds, a book, and two extra pairs of shoes. Those items, however, have nothing to do with winter, and everything to do with the random nature of my life these days.

I got stuck at the bottom of the driveway, of course, and did not have time to shovel myself out. As I got out of the car to get the cardboard from the back, my neighbor came over and offered to push the car into the street. Whew! I had to repeat the process of getting the snow off of my car again tonight, but luckily did not get stuck again.

These are the mundane details of my life.

I went to a proper musical the other night, at a proper theatre. I think that the last time I did something like that was when my roommate in college got us tickets to the Lyric Opera House as my birthday gift.

We had two devotionals last week in our home. It was wonderful to spend time with so many lovely people…and of course there was a potluck dinner, which just makes everything better. My childhood memories are filled with evenings at our home with many people crowded into our living room, the chaotic and joyful dinners, prayers and Baha’i gatherings.

Goodnight, snow.

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learning

I have discovered that my heart holds too much love, my mind holds too many memories, and my feet have not traveled enough roads. Too many of my secrets are no longer mine. There have been years of letting life happen, and moments of joy in between.

There are a few things I know to be true: my bare feet on marble and carpet, the scent of roses and jasmine, old stones and white-washed walls, the smiles of long-lost new friends, the pen in my hand, a child in my arms, serving tea in glass cups, sunlight, hands through hair, soft words of prayer, a purple sky with white clouds, honesty with you, and my sometimes healed, sometimes broken heart. I have invisible bruises and visible scars, and yet my words have become patience, detachment, and balance.

I always thought that the most peaceful moment would be to dance barefoot on deep green grass in a long summer dress. I could look up to the sky in any moment of doubt, and the universe would anchor me. There are too many stars out there, and too much beauty here, for God not to exist.

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I mean, really…

As a departure from the last few rather serious posts, I’m going to write a bit about my recent adventures.

I stopped in Madison, Wisconsin on my way home from Minnesota a few days ago to visit a childhood friend.  She was kind enough to let me stay at her apartment, and we had a lovely time exploring the town (I got to pretend like I was in college again!) and catching up on life.

We were preparing breakfast that morning, and I may have been a little bit sleep-deprived (and had not had caffeine yet).  As I reached for the eggs, I slammed my forehead directly onto the refrigerator handle.

At the same time, I was having an allergy attack and was sneezing uncontrollably.  Holding my aching head in my hands, I went to the living room to get a tissue…and walked right into the sharp edge of the coffee table, scratching and bruising my leg at the same time.

I sat quietly for a while after that.  🙂

Today, I spilled half a container of vanilla on the counter while making gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.  sigh.

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the dreams that hold onto me

I dreamed we were all standing on the shore
staring across the bay
and our feet felt the rocks beneath our shoes.
There were clouds above and below
in between our silent stares.
We all gathered in an empty stone house
elbows touching, feet shuffling
and our spirits were lifted by a Hand.

I dreamed that your eyes stabbed into mine
made me realize that in some ways
it is better that I am gone.

I dreamed that my suitcases
were being packed one last time
(for the fourth time)
and I know I haven’t left yet.

I dreamed that you were so happy
dressed in white.
and so confused.

I dreamed that we were in a forest,
and you came to me smiling
there were never words said
and I am left wondering.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Check out this photoblog!

My friend Ronnie recently asked me to join a project that he started with Baha’i friends from several different countries. There are 6 of us, from London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Singapore, and Chicago (me).

Every week we each post a picture that corresponds to a theme. This week’s theme was “Urban Jungle”. I am in awe at the talent and different perspectives that come from these individuals. It has been really great to have a project to work on while I’m looking for a job…being a part of something, you know?

http://nylon.my-expressions.com

Check it out, and spread the word.

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I still have blisters on my feet.

There was this man that we saw every day.  He was neither young nor old, tall or short.  Slightly balding, with a mustache, the kind of man that would blend into the background.

He walked up the four steps to his elderly mother’s house, sometimes with bags of groceries, unfailingly polite and slightly shy.  The five women of our house knew who he was, but only one or two of us ever found out his name.  He brought his mother outside, gently unfolding her wheelchair on the sidewalk and guiding her into it.

The old Italian neighborhood still looks the same.  There is fresh paint on some of the houses, including ours (it is still “our” house, even though none of the original roommates are there).  The prices have gone up at the old hot dog stand and there are new buildings over by the hospital, but the streets end in the same places and the sidewalk still leads to the train.

Wandering with a purpose.  Even when I have nowhere in particular to go, I have a hard time sitting still.  The idea of park benches and peaceful afternoons is appealing in theory, but in the five years of residence there seemed to be little opportunity.

Going back to the old haunts is too painful, still.  There is too much attached to those places, little moments that eat away at me if I let them stay too long.  Unwelcome guests, they settle in the corners of my brain.

I remember the clack clack of boots on city sidewalks, it is comforting to hear when there are hundreds of people swarming to get home or drown their sorrows or listen to the latest podcast or watch the football game or eat dinner or hug their three children.

Chicago in the rain and fog is a heartbreaking place, the buildings are stark and bright against the glow of sky.  Invest in a warm coat and a strong heart, and a comfortable pair of shoes.

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Quarter century

Well hey, look at that.  My birthday kind of surprised me this year (that might be a first).

This is me at 9 days old.  I still have that blanket.  It is, of course, in perfect condition.

I was born at 8:19 pm on the Mississippi River (in a hospital, not actually on the riverbank or something).

I am 25 years old today.  Hello, world.

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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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