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194 results found.
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.
It happens every few weeks, or months. A reminder of what I left behind. It comes with a sudden warm, coastal wind, or a flower that I saw every day, or a friend’s smiling face. It sometimes sneaks up, like feet sinking in the sand, and sometimes it is like tripping on uneven rock paths.
I am home, over 2 years and I am taken back to a place that is burned into my soul and heart.
Wishing I could dissolve in tears with my face pressed to the carpet, the silence and the smell of roses like a warm embrace…
“O thou cherished Fruit of the heart! Give ear to the melodies of this mystic Bird warbling in the loftiest heights of heaven. The Lord hath, in truth, inspired Me to proclaim: Verily, verily, I am God, He besides Whom there is none other God. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.
O My servants! Seek ye earnestly this highest reward, as I have indeed created for the Remembrance of God gardens which remain inscrutable to anyone save Myself, and naught therein hath been made lawful unto anyone except those whose lives have been sacrificed in His Path. Hence beseech ye God, the Most Exalted, that He may grant you this meritorious reward, and He is in truth the Most High, the Most Great.”
– the Báb
“When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. You should urge your fellow Bahá’ís to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and in His service.”
(Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 17)
“He feels that you should do your utmost to call the attention of the friends to these large things and real triumphs, and away from their personal differences and petty pre-occupations. Now is certainly not the time for any man to think of himself, or busy himself with the weaknesses of his brother; but, rather each and every Bahá’í must concentrate in the tasks ahead and be reborn in the service of Bahá’u’lláh.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the Area National Teaching Committee (USA), July 17, 1950: Bahá’í News, October 1970, p.3)
It looks a little strange in the photo (and I took it before adding the cheese on top), but this is a great meal to prep for the week. It’s also possible to make it vegetarian by removing the sausage/bacon.
-Package of frozen hash browns (I like Ore Ida because they’re gluten-free) OR grate 2 large, peeled potatoes.
-1 large tomato, diced
-1 small onion, diced
-5 eggs, beaten in a bowl
-Shredded cheese (any flavor you like!)
-Tube of sausage or package of bacon
-Optional: 1/4 cup gluten free flour
-Salt, pepper, hot sauce, ketchup, sour cream…whatever you use
Preheat oven to 375 F. On stove in a large pan, cook the sausage/bacon (or make the bacon in the oven until mostly cooked), ensuring that it’s broken up into small pieces.
While it is cooking, dice/chop the rest of your ingredients and combine in a large bowl and ensure it is thoroughly mixed. Spray a pyrex cooking dish (9×11 is a good size) with vegetable oil.
Once the meat is cooked, chop into small pieces and mix into the bowl with all ingredients. Then pour the whole mixture and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
When it is finished baking, top with your favorite toppings and eat. You can store in the fridge and warm it up as needed.
A while back I wanted to make carrot cake and found this awesome recipe from Williams Sonoma. However, I needed to make some changes to it and after a certain point it stopped being the same recipe. So I’m putting it here on my blog for those of you who have tried this delicious cake and wanted to replicate it at home. I made these in mini Bundt pans but you can really use any pan you like.
A few helpful notes:
-Use a food processor to chop up the raw carrots or apples after peeling them. It is WAY easier. With apples, be careful to do only a few slices at a time, as they can get mushy and make the cake too soft at the bottom.
-If you don’t have buttermilk, you can add a teaspoon of vinegar or just use regular milk. I’ve not seen a huge difference either way!
-I add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the carrot cake only.
-This recipe makes a pretty big cake. If you want, you can cut it in half pretty easily.
-You may not need frosting for this cake. When just making it for myself, I didn’t use it. Especially for the apple cake.
-Sometimes I’m too lazy to bring out my mixer. You don’t need one, but it does make it a little easier.
Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 2 round cake pans each 9 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep with vegetable oil. (Or any pan you want to use)
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar and buttermilk until blended.
Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combined. Fold in the carrots/apples. Add walnuts if using them. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks and let cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract until well blended.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting over the top. Place the second cake layer on top. Spread the remaining frosting decoratively over the top and sides of the cake.
Serve immediately, or cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Five years ago I got married to this wonderful person. I arrived at the venue with traditional Persian cookies in hand, and dishes, and started setting up at my own wedding. My mother-in-law arrived and took that task over from me so that I could get dressed, and my parents surprised us with a wedding cake. The weather was perfect that day, although my meeting planner self had a hard time letting go of all the things. I remember the look on Shea’s face when he saw me before the ceremony. I remember Shea and I hiding from the guests in the back of the country club, talking and waiting. I remember him calming me down when I got worked up about all of the photos. I remember our hands going numb from holding hands during the ceremony and our chairs being too far apart, but I couldn’t let go. I remember him surprising me with a kiss after we said our Baha’i marriage vows. I remember my grandfather giving Shea advice (to always laugh) after the ceremony. I remember eating several plates of food because we had breakfast for dinner and it was so good. I remember dancing the entire evening until I broke the bustle on my dress.
The last five years have been amazing. I’m so lucky.
Finally decided to put together a Haft-Sin. This is a Persian cultural tradition (not a Baha’i one) and I always loved gathering the items and putting it together as a kid. I can’t tell you what most of it symbolizes but it reminds me of home. Happy new year! #persian
I am ending this series (Part 1, Part 2) with a few reference documents that I found very helpful over the years. There are many Baha’is that may not even know about these documents. I included the description from the Baha’i Bookstore because, quite frankly, I can’t write it better.
We each have the responsibility as individuals to understand our Faith and how the Administrative Order works. No one else can do it for us! And we have so many amazing resources in this Faith!
The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice
“This is a declaration of the trust and by-laws of the supreme governing and legislative body of the Baha’i Faith. It was officially adopted in 1972 and acclaimed by Shoghi Effendi as the “Most Great Law of Faith of Baha’u’llah.” It establishes the functions of the Universal House of Justice on the basis of powers and duties invested in it by Baha’u’llah. Every informed Baha’i should commit to reviewing this document.”
The Institution of the Counsellors: A Document Prepared by The Universal House of Justice
“This document prepared by the Universal House of Justice describes the operation of the Baha’i institution of the Continental Board of Counselors and its duties, and contains a digest of the guidance previously given on the subject. It includes a list of statements addressing specific aspects of the functioning of the Board, and should increase the friends understanding of not only the responsibilities of the Counselors and their auxiliaries but also the workings of the Administrative Order in general.”
National Spiritual Assembly: A Compilation Issued by The Universal House Of Justice
“A compilation of extracts from letters written by and on behalf of Shoghi Effendi intended to develop appreciation of the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly. This compilation discusses the membership, and its relationship to the national convention, the community, the functions of its officers, its meetings, committees, appeals, and more.”
The Ministry of the Custodians: 1957-1963
“These are the communications of the body of the Hands of the Cause of God residing in the Holy Land during the years 1957 to 1963. An introduction by Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum places in perspective the events of the critical years between the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 and the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963.”
I have always loved to read. I was blessed with parents who read to me a lot as a child, and who acted as though reading an entire adult-level book in one day was a totally normal activity. There are so many Baha’i books to read and obviously our first priority should be the Baha’i Writings themselves…but as a young person, I often connected more to stories, and by reading stories I found joy in the Writings.
Summon Up Remembrance and Arches of the Years by Marzieh Gail
-I honestly connected with these books first because it is the story of the first Persian-American Baha’i marriage, and since I am a product of one of those marriages, I found this story fascinating. Marzieh Gail is the daughter of Ali-Kuli Khan and Florence Breed, and she shares her family history with humor and reality.
Portals to Freedom by Howard Colby Ives
-This is a book that I recommend to a lot of people because it is an easy read and is a passionate, loving account of Howard Colby Ives’ interaction with Abdu’l-Baha, as well as his own reflections and struggles.
Memorials of the Faithful by Abdu’l-Baha
-This collection of short biographical sketches of early Baha’is is great to read because Abdu’l-Baha Himself wrote it, and because you can read it in shorter pieces. I remember my mother reading this book to me as a kid.
Lights of Fortitude by Barron Harper
-Like the above book, this is a short collection of the histories of the Hands of the Cause. I read this book when I served at the World Centre, and it helped me get an overall sense of who they were, which then took me to the individual biographies of several of them.
The Maxwells of Montreal (volumes 1 & 2) by Violette Nakhjavani
-“One family, bonded in their love for the Bahá’í Faith and for each other, committed through decades of uninterrupted service to the promotion and establishment of that Faith worldwide. They were born during the Heroic Age of the Faith – the parents during the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh, the child during the Ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – and they lived to serve the Guardian of the Cause during the early decades of the Formative Age at the most critical time of his ministry.” This series is sweet and contains so many stories that none of us ever knew, and helped me understand the sacrifices this amazing family made in their service to the Faith.
I think this is going to be a longer and more thoroughly researched post at some point, but I’ve been wanting to record these quotations somewhere for a while, because I spend a lot of time thinking about Feast, how we can improve it, and what it may evolve to be in the future. Sometimes we approach Baha’i Feasts as a boring, every 19 days obligation, rather than as a source of community, of joy, and strength. And sometimes that is because we get guilted about not attending very often, or because our Feast is boring/frustrating to attend, or we are tired and the idea of going somewhere in the cold after working all day is exhausting. But we are still in the infant stages of what the Feast will be someday. Maybe we can take ownership of changing our attitudes around Feast. As much as I love Feast, I still struggle with my own frustrations around it at times. I found the following quotations helpful as I wrestled with some of these thoughts.
What is the purpose of Feast?
O thou who art steadfast in the Covenant!
Your detailed letter hath been received, but because of the press of work a brief answer must suffice. You have asked as to the Feast in every Bahá’í month. This Feast is held to foster comradeship and love, to call God to mind and supplicate Him with contrite hearts, and to encourage benevolent pursuits. That is, the friends should there dwell upon God and glorify Him, read the prayers and holy verses, and treat one another with the utmost affection and love. Should trouble arise between two of the friends, let both be invited in, and efforts be made to compose their differences. Let all discussion centre on the doing of charitable acts and holy deeds, that laudable results may be the fruit thereof.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to an individual, translated from the Persian)
Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may turn their faces toward the Kingdom, chant the communes, beseech God’s help, become joyfully enamoured each of the other, and grow in purity and holiness, and in the fear of God, and in resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardours of the spirit.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to the local Spiritual Assembly of Spokane, Washington, translated from the Persian)
So there is obviously a spiritual component, but what about the food?
O ye loyal servants of the Ancient Beauty! In every cycle and dispensation, the feast hath been favoured and loved, and the spreading of a table for the lovers of God hath been considered a praiseworthy act. This is especially the case today, in this dispensation beyond compare, this most generous of ages, when it is highly acclaimed, for it is truly accounted among such gatherings as are held to worship and glorify God. Here the holy verses, the heavenly odes and laudations are intoned, and the heart is quickened, and carried from itself.
The primary intent is to kindle these stirrings of the spirit, but at the same time it follows quite naturally that those present should partake of food, so that the world of the body may mirror the spirit’s world, and flesh take on the qualities of soul; and just as the spiritual delights are here in profusion, so too the material delights.
Happy are ye, to be observing this rule, with all its mystic meanings, thus keeping the friends of God alert and heedful, and bringing them peace of mind, and joy.
(Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá)
I also really like the last sentence in the above selection. “…bringing them peace of mind, and joy.” If we turn Feast into a place where people feel this way, imagine the things our communities could accomplish in that environment! Also, we still don’t fully understand how important the various components of Feast are in combination…there are “mystic meanings” involved here.
Are we required to attend Feast? Why is it so important?
“Attendance at Nineteen Day Feasts is not obligatory but very important, and every believer should consider it a duty and a privilege to be present on such occasions.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)
“…The main purpose of the Nineteen Day Feasts is to enable individual believers to offer any suggestion to the Local Assembly which in its turn will pass it to the National Spiritual Assembly. The Local Assembly is, therefore, the proper medium through which local Bahá’í communities can communicate with the body of the national representatives….”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada)
“In reply to your letter of November 8th we feel that all friends, whatever their circumstances, should be encouraged to observe the Nineteen Day Feast.
Obviously it can only be an official administrative occasion where there is a Local Spiritual Assembly to take charge of it, present reports to the friends, and receive their recommendations. But groups, spontaneous gatherings of friends, and even isolated believers should certainly remember the day and say prayers together. In the case of a group it may well hold the Feast in the manner in which a Local Spiritual Assembly would do so, recognizing of course that it has no official administrative standing.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles)
Alright, so we know that the Nineteen Day Feast is one of the important patterns of our community life, and it seems pretty clear that we can observe Feasts even if there are no other Baha’is nearby. In my next post I will highlight the different portions of Feast and the guidelines surrounding them.
Go here for Part 2!
I live about one mile from the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last free zoos in America. On a summer evening, we may ride our bikes there, stroll in the gardens, or look at the animals. It is a magical place to me in many ways. I remember coming across this photo years ago and being struck by it. Abdu’l-Baha leaning over the railing of the enclosure, looking at the animals in 1912 on His visit to America. Having mostly seen posed photos over the years, it was a revelation to see Him doing such a relatable thing in my hometown.
I wonder what the conversation amongst the local Baha’is was like when planning His visit and trying to figure out where to take Him. I may try to find out if any of the original structures shown in these photos still exist.
When I was a child, I remember curling up under a blanket or even pulling a rug over myself during long meetings, or Feast, or any activity in which adults were talking and I stayed in the room. I remember being small, but assertive. (Nothing has changed about the assertive part.) I remember my parents telling me that I needed to have a voice, even if my voice was small and my thoughts not fully formed. That this was my Baha’i community and that participation from individual community members is one of the things that made the Baha’i Faith different from other religions.
I remember having a voice. I remember that sometimes people struggle with that voice, that nothing has changed since then, that we still fight against the influences of a failing society, with its flaws and racism and misogyny. But that I had a voice, and a community, and that was more than a lot of people I knew. And now I am more aware, and I can speak up, and bring up the tough conversations.
We are learning, as a community, how to give others a voice, and what consultation truly looks like. We are human, and therefore flawed, but we are learning. And I promise that I will always try to hear everyone’s voice.
Some of my Baha’i internet friends started this initiative to blog each day in November and I thought it was a great way to get back into something that I used to do quite regularly. I’ve made lifelong friendships through my blog and learned to express myself creatively in ways that I never would have without an audience.
I started blogging in 2001, in my senior year of high school, before most people knew what blogging was. My first post on this blog was in June 2003, which seems like a lifetime ago. And it really is, in internet terms. Back then, it was considered strange and dangerous to meet up in real life with people that you met on the internet. Sharing personal information about oneself online was such a new concept and I remember so many people being very concerned about it…and then this little pocket of the internet where we were all sharing all the things. It was surreal to be able to connect to so many other people online, particularly Baha’is, that I could then meet at conferences or when traveling.
I think in some ways it helped me develop my Baha’i identity even further. I could learn about how Baha’is lived in other countries, and in the days before Facebook, I got a glimpse of personal connection that seems deeper than what I have now with most social media. Sometimes we didn’t even know what we looked like, all we had was a screen name and the written word, and it was somehow more intimate for all of that.
There is a certain amount of nostalgia in this blog, and I’m glad that I have not deleted it and that I’ve tried to keep it going. It helped shape who I am now in some pretty important ways, and I am grateful for that.
I post about Nineteen Months quite a bit on my social media channels, but rarely do I actually explain my involvement in it and the amount of time it takes in my life. It is something that I never expected to keep going as long as it has!
A friend and I originally started the site based on a now-defunct yearly Fast blog called Nineteen Days, with the goal of generating Baha’i-inspired art and content based on the cycles of the Badi Calendar. The first post was March 19, 2010 with photos only. As time went on we added articles and various forms of the written word. Four years ago when he stepped down, my friend Caitlin Castelaz came on board to be my co-editor. Since she has a writing and editing background, she had the training to take on or start a lot of the projects, like Vahid, that I would never have been able to do.
There are background logistics that are required for such an endeavor. Recruiting photographers and writers to provide content at no cost is, of course, a challenge. We have been lucky to have a large number of talented people assist us over the years, and I’m grateful for the time and energy they have given to this project.
Every 19 days I send an email to all the photographers on my current roster and remind them that their photos are due. They send me a photo and quote, and I arrange it and format it for posting in WordPress (our publishing platform). It takes about an hour each Baha’i month to arrange everything. I have to upload the photos (sometimes resizing), then ensure that the photographers are credited and the location, quotation, and any notes are included. If the quotation is from the Baha’i Writings I check the source to make sure it is noted correctly. Then I publish the post, share the link on the Nineteen Months Facebook page, and on my own Facebook page.
Of course there is basic maintenance and upkeep of the site. We have to pay for hosting, renew it each year, update the WordPress template and do a site redesign every so often to keep things fresh. We recruit new contributors, respond to emails, and have phone consultations. We recently collaborated with Baha’i Publishing to put out a calendar. All of these things take time, and this is not a site that generates revenue.
As the editors, we are fairly open with who we are and who contributes to the site, because I think it is important to know the faces behind the posts and who we are. I hope to continue working on Nineteen Months as long as it is useful and people want to contribute to it. If you know anyone that wants to be a contributor (photographer or writing, no requirement to actually be a Baha’i!), please send them our way.
I have lived in Chicago for the majority of my life. We moved here when I was 8 years ago because my parents wanted to live near the House of Worship and my dad was offered a job in the area. Recently someone reminded me about this specific passage from Tablets of the Divine Plan: “Up to the present time, every movement initiated in Chicago, its effect was spread to all parts and to all directions, just as everything that appears in and manifests from the heart influences all the organs and limbs of the body.”
I included the full text of the Tablet, as I feel you need context when reading these quotations to get the true impact. There is a great article from Baha’i Blog that discusses the history and significance of the Tablets of the Divine Plan…written during World War I, they were the blueprint for the Baha’is to teach the Faith and build the administrative functions of the Faith. There is also a site with some additional information about these Tablets…including some photos of the original postcards that they were written on!
As a child I recited the prayer at the bottom of this post all the time, memorizing it shortly after we moved to Chicago. It is a blessing to live in the shadow of the Baha’i House of Worship.
Revealed on February 8, 1917, in Bahá’u’lláh’s room at the house of Abbúd in ‘Akká, and addressed to the Bahá’ís of the twelve Central States of the United States: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
He is God!
O ye old believers and intimate friends:
GOD says in the great Qur’án: “He specializes for His Mercy whomsoever He willeth.”
These twelve Central States of the United States are like unto the heart of America, and the heart is connected with all the organs and parts of man. If the heart is strengthened, all the organs of the body are reinforced, and if the heart is weak all the physical elements are subjected to feebleness.
Now praise be to God that Chicago and its environs from the beginning of the diffusion of the fragrances of God have been a strong heart. Therefore, through divine bounty and providence it has become confirmed in certain great matters.
First: The call of the Kingdom was in the very beginning raised from Chicago. This is indeed a great privilege, for in future centuries and cycles, it will be as an axis around which the honor of Chicago will revolve.
Second: A number of souls with the utmost firmness and steadfastness arose in that blessed spot in the promotion of the Word of God and even to the present moment, having purified and sanctified the heart from every thought, they are occupied with the promulgation of the teachings of God. Hence the call of praise is raised uninterruptedly from the Supreme Concourse.
Third: During the American journey ‘Abdu’l-Bahá several times passed through Chicago and associated with the friends of God. For some time he sojourned in that city. Day and night he was occupied with the mention of the True One and summoned the people to the Kingdom of God.
Fourth: Up to the present time, every movement initiated in Chicago, its effect was spread to all parts and to all directions, just as everything that appears in and manifests from the heart influences all the organs and limbs of the body.
Fifth: The first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in America was instituted in Chicago, and this honor and distinction is infinite in value. Out of this Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, without doubt, thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs will be born.
Likewise (were instituted in Chicago) the general Annual Conventions, the foundation of the Star of the West, the Publishing Society for the publication of books and Tablets and their circulation in all parts of America, and the preparations now under way for the celebration of the Golden Centenary Anniversary of the Kingdom of God. I hope that this Jubilee and this Exhibition may be celebrated in the utmost perfection so that the call to the world of unity, “There is no God but One God, and all the Messengers, from the beginning to the Seal of the Prophets (Muḥammad) were sent on the part of the True One!” may be raised; the flag of the oneness of the world of humanity be unfurled, the melody of universal peace may reach the ears of the East and the West, all the paths may be cleared and straightened, all the hearts may be attracted to the Kingdom of God, the tabernacle of unity be pitched on the apex of America, the song of the love of God may exhilarate and rejoice all the nations and peoples, the surface of the earth may become the eternal paradise, the dark clouds may be dispelled and the Sun of Truth may shine forth with the utmost intensity.
O ye friends of God! Exert ye with heart and soul, so that association, love, unity and agreement be obtained between the hearts, all the aims may be merged into one aim, all the songs become one song and the power of the Holy Spirit may become so overwhelmingly victorious as to overcome all the forces of the world of nature. Exert yourselves; your mission is unspeakably glorious. Should success crown your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plentitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established.
This phenomenal world will not remain in an unchanging condition even for a short while. Second after second it undergoes change and transformation. Every foundation will finally become collapsed; every glory and splendor will at last vanish and disappear, but the Kingdom of God is eternal and the heavenly sovereignty and majesty will stand firm, everlasting. Hence in the estimation of a wise man the mat in the Kingdom of God is preferable to the throne of the government of the world.
Continually my ear and eye are turned toward the Central States; perchance a melody from some blessed souls may reach my ears—souls who are the dawning-places of the love of God, the stars of the horizon of sanctification and holiness—souls who will illumine this dark universe and quicken to life this dead world. The joy of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá depends upon this! I hope that you may become confirmed therein.
Consequently, those souls who are in a condition of the utmost severance, purified from the defects of the world of nature, sanctified from attachment to this earth, vivified with the breaths of eternal life—with luminous hearts, with heavenly spirit, with attraction of consciousness, with celestial magnanimity, with eloquent tongues and with clear explanations—such souls must hasten and travel through all parts of the Central States. In every city and village they must occupy themselves with the diffusion of the divine exhortations and advices, guide the souls and promote the oneness of the world of humanity. They must play the melody of international conciliation with such power that every deaf one may attain hearing, every extinct person may be set aglow, every dead one may obtain new life and every indifferent soul may find ecstasy. It is certain that such will be the consummation.
Let the spreaders of the fragrances of God recite this prayer every morning:
O LORD, my God! Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for Thou hast guided me to the highway of the kingdom, suffered me to walk in this straight and far-stretching path, illumined my eye by beholding the splendors of Thy light, inclined my ear to the melodies of the birds of holiness from the kingdom of mysteries and attracted my heart with Thy love among the righteous.
O Lord! Confirm me with the Holy Spirit, so that I may call in Thy Name amongst the nations, and give the glad tidings of the manifestation of Thy kingdom amongst mankind.
O Lord! I am weak, strengthen me with Thy power and potency. My tongue falters, suffer me to utter Thy commemoration and praise. I am lowly, honor me through admitting me into Thy kingdom. I am remote, cause me to approach the threshold of Thy mercifulness. O Lord! Make me a brilliant lamp, a shining star and a blessed tree, adorned with fruit, its branches overshadowing all these regions. Verily, Thou art the Mighty, the Powerful and Unconstrained.
-‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan
At the end of the July I had a conference in New Orleans for work, and since it was so close to our two year anniversary, we took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the city together. I had been to New Orleans a few times for work but hadn’t really had a chance to explore. I am so glad we did!
I stayed at the Marriott in the French Quarter for my conference but then moved to the Garden District to stay with some friends who graciously opened their home to us for four days. I wanted to take notes on some of the places we went and food we ate, partially so that I wouldn’t forget, but also as a reference for others who might wish to replicate some of the things we did. I have to say that exploring New Orleans on foot (for the most part) in July heat was a little painful, but we made it through.
Meals during the conference
We don’t get to eat out much while we’re working a conference, but we took advantage of a few free evenings to enjoy some great places.
My top recommendation is Coop’s Place. The place is a tiny local’s bar on the edge of the French Quarter, and the Supreme Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya is the best dish in the place, and is gluten free. I ate there several times during my trip. Go there.
GW Fins was a great location for our staff dinner. Close to the hotel and with a large enough dining room to accommodate our group, the food and service were excellent. Nearly all of their food could be made gluten-free and there was no reduction in the quality of the food.
Luke New Orleans seems to be busy on all nights of the week. There were five of us and while the staff were very helpful and the food was delicious, I got pretty sick from a food mixup in the kitchen and the food took over an hour to get to our table. Apparently their kitchen gets overwhelmed when the dining room is full.
Palace Cafe was right next to my hotel and had a dedicated gluten free menu. I told my server I was in a bit of a rush and she brought my Shrimp Tchefuncte (Gulf shrimp, Creole meunière sauce, roasted mushrooms, green onions, popcorn rice) out in less than five minutes. It was very good.
Daisy Duke’s is a surprisingly delicious, low-cost diner that is open 24-7 with several locations. The staff gave it good ratings and I ate there several times (mostly just the breakfast is gluten free though).
Lunch at SoBu in the French Quarter with Shea, was fantastic. They had a separate gluten free menu and a dedicated fryer for their fries. I had the Churrasco Steak a la Plancha with fries and Shea had the two course lunch. The bartender made me a delicious mocktail a few nights earlier when the staff stopped by for drinks. We met up with our friends who would be hosting us the next few days and ended up at their friend’s farewell party for the evening.
Sunday: Our hosts recommended a place around the corner from their house in the Garden District called Another Broken Egg Cafe. And if it was located in Chicago I might eat there every day. I got The Floridian: Cream cheese filled omelette topped with garlic sautéed crabmeat, Monterey Jack & green onions. They came with breakfast potatoes and a side of gluten free pancakes. Incredible. After breakfast, we walked down the street to Lafayette Cemetery #1 and were lucky to get a little impromptu tour from an older gentleman who explained various parts of the cemetery and how burials are carried out. Fascinating!
That afternoon we took a bus to catch the ferry across the river (a very short ride) to Algiers Point. There isn’t a whole lot to do per se (or even much open on a Sunday), but we found a great little cafe that was doing a brisk business, as well as a garage sale where we bought a hat for Shea. The houses there are just beautiful, though, so if you like wandering through lovely neighborhoods, it is nice. Just be sure to bring cash because the Algier’s Ferry only accepts cash. When we got back from Algiers Point we wandered the French Quarter and went to my favorite place for jambalaya (Coop’s Place) again, so that Shea could try it, as well as the Jean Lafitte Visitor Center, a lovely free resource if you want to learn a little about the history of New Orleans and the national park system. That night we went to Mais Arepas with our hosts. I had been wanting to go there since I first read about their gluten free options over a year ago. It turns out that they’re not always great about the gluten free things and had to bring my food out a second time because they put the fried plantains in my dish. It was tasty but I’m not sure I’d go back.
We basically spent the day at the National World War II museum. Worth it. Spend the whole day there if you like history. Trust me, you will be glad you did. The museum is well organized with displays that tell the stories in engaging and respectful ways. I especially enjoyed the Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II exhibit.
At lunchtime we decided that we were hungry and I found a place with good reviews just down the street called Cochon. Turns out that it has won a bunch of awards for being delicious. I got the Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins & pickled peaches with a side of creamy grits, and Shea got the Rabbit & Dumplings. So, so good.
We wandered down Magazine Street to District Donuts to get coffee, and then to HiVolt for me to get a gluten free donut (it was pretty good). We spent time looking at various shops along Magazine Street (which is a must-see), and had lunch at Ignatius Eatery, where I had alligator sausage and Shea got an alligator po’boy. We waddled to the airport and got on a flight back to Chicago. I’m glad we saw most of the city on foot and am grateful to our friends for the time we spent together there.
One thing I would like to add. New Orleans still has the scars of Hurricane Katrina. 10 years later, the visible and not so visible scars of destruction, death, displacement, and gentrification are all there. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people, and I love every opportunity to visit…just know that it is a place beyond the tourist attractions and hotels, beyond the news stories that get so much wrong. Learn about this city because it has a rich culture and life to it, and recognize what was washed away in the storm.
My heart has been so heavy these last few days. These last few months and years. I don’t have words. But I am watching, and reading everything that I can, praying, and standing witness. I can’t pretend to know, but I can be aware, I can educate, I can listen, I can disagree with those who say things that are not ok…
It’s not just Baltimore. Or Ferguson. Or any one place anymore. Chicago has these problems, everywhere does. We are all…struggling. Regarding the problem of racial prejudice in the United States, Shoghi Effendi wrote in 1938:
“Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved. Let neither think that they can wait confidently for the solution of this problem until the initiative has been taken, and the favorable circumstances created, by agencies that stand outside the orbit of their Faith. Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country. Let them rather believe, and be firmly convinced, that on their mutual understanding, their amity, and sustained cooperation, must depend, more than on any other force or organization operating outside the circle of their Faith, the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the materialization of the hopes He cherished for their joint contribution to the fulfillment of that country’s glorious destiny.”
-Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice
Through some source I can no longer remember, I added “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande to my Goodreads list, and snagged it from the library right after they purchased it. I’ve been telling a lot of people about it and thought that I’d share it with a wider audience.
I’m not fantastic with book reviews, but mostly this is an opportunity to encourage people to at least have conversations with their loved ones about how to handle end of life care. In many cultures, discussions of anything related to death and even illness can be very challenging for people.
As my generation has been losing grandparents for a few years now, and some of us are starting to be concerned about our parents aging, I feel that the conversations really need to happen. Even for husband and wife this topic can almost be taboo…and then, in the height of grief, we and those closest to us must make decisions about whether to continue care, go home for hospice, etc. The process of creating a will and having an advanced directive can be great conversation starters for this, and you may be surprised about what you discover about the wishes of your spouse and family members.
The thing is, we don’t know what our end will be, and human nature hopes for the best outcome, especially when there is terminal illness. We hold onto the miracle treatment and put ourselves and our loved ones through surgeries, treatments, and other painful operations. Some work, some don’t. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t try to dictate what we should do. It is an observation from a doctor who has been working with patients for decades and had to confront family illness before writing a book to address it. The stories can be heartbreaking, but the information in this book about options and current trends could save your family a lot of pain and heartache.
Last night I looked in my fridge to see what I could make with the ingredients I had. I whipped up some mashed potatoes and carrots, then realized I had some ground turkey meat defrosted in the fridge. So, using the recipe from New Food of Life (my Persian cooking resource), I changed it a bit to make it gluten free and easier to make.
I wish I had taken photos, but it is so easy, you should be able to make it with no problem. The best thing about this: you don’t have to form any meat patties with your hands. Yay!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 lb ground turkey or beef
1/2 small onion
1 tablespoon tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
3 tablespoons flour (I used 2 tablespoons of potato starch and 1 tablespoon of sorghum, but you could use anything)
1. Put all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth and there are no large lumps. Mixture will be slightly liquid.
2. Heat coconut oil or vegetable oil in a large, non-stick pan.
3. Use spatula to scoop out the mixture and put it in the pan, spreading it so that it is about the size and thickness of your hand, or a little smaller. You should be able to fit several at a time.
4. Flip over when the kotlet is fully cooked and starting to brown, make sure both sides are browned evenly. Place on plate covered in paper towels to drain the oil.
Can be served with yogurt, hot or cold. This is great for picnics, especially!
There 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.
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.
there is a perfect moment of silent bliss
when my head falls to your shoulder
and the train shudders on the track
and the world stands still for us
when you surprise me with the tiniest thing
tell me to close my eyes
and I know you remember.
we made it this far
(I have no idea where the time went)
half a trip around the sun.
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.
As I continue working with young women within our Ruhi Book 2 study circle, I am reminded of this quotation that encourages women to elevate their level of conversation. How do we do this among ourselves?
“Confirmations from the kingdom of God will assuredly be received, enabling some radiant leaves to appear resplendent in the assemblage of this world with clear proofs and convincing reasons, which will adorn the cause of womanhood. They will prove that in this cycle women are equal to men, nay, in certain respects they will excel. Ponder ye: in this wonderful Cause numerous were the men who scaled the heights of knowledge; they had a brilliant utterance, a convincing proof, an eloquent tongue and magnificent speech, but the blessed leaf, Jináb-i-Táhirih, because she was a woman, emerged with immense splendour and dumbfounded all the people. If she were a man, this would not have been so at all. Therefore, ye should know that the greatness of the Cause hath penetrated the nerves and veins of the world in such wise that if one of the leaves is attracted and gains mastery in demonstrating reasons and proofs and in uttering convincing evidences, she will shine resplendently. O radiant leaves, I swear by the Beauty of the Desired One and the Mystery of Existence that if ye work actively in this realm, the outpourings of the Blessed Beauty will reflect as the sun in the mirrors of the hearts. Your progress will astonish all.
The attracted leaves should not, when associating with each other, talk merely about the temperature of the weather, the coldness of the water, the beauty of the flowers and gardens, the freshness of the grass and the flowing water. They should rather restrict their discussions to glorification and praise and the uttering of proofs and reasons, to quoting verses and traditions and putting forth clear testimonies, so that all the homes of the loved ones will be converted into gathering places for lessons on teaching the Cause.
If ye do so, in a short while the outpourings of the Kingdom will be so manifested that each one of the handmaidens of the Merciful will become a perspicuous book revealing the mysteries of the Lord of Mercy.
Upon you be the glory of glories.”
‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ, A Compilation on Women
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.
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.
Sholeh Samadani Munion (Loehle)
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.
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.
Spent some time with my friends in the sun on a rare spring day that felt like summer in Chicago.
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!
“O thou maidservant of God! Every woman who becometh the maidservant of God outshineth in glory the empresses of the world, for she is related to God, and her sovereignty is everlasting, whereas a handful of dust will obliterate the name and fame of those empresses. In other words, as soon as they go down to the grave they are reduced to naught. The maidservants of God’s Kingdom, on the other hand, enjoy eternal sovereignty unaffected by the passing of ages and generations.
Consider how many empresses have come and gone since the time of Christ. Each was the ruler of a country but now all trace and name of them is lost, while Mary Magdalene, who was only a peasant and a maidservant of God, still shineth from the horizon of everlasting glory. Strive thou, therefore, to remain the maidservant of God.
Thou hast praised the Convention. This Convention shall acquire great importance in future, for it is serving the divine Kingdom and the world of mankind. It promulgateth universal peace and layeth the basis of the oneness of mankind; it freeth the souls from religious, racial and worldly prejudices and gathereth them under the shade of the one-coloured pavilion of God. Praise thou God, therefore, that thou hast attended such a Convention and hast listened to the divine Teachings.”
-Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
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.
It 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
“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
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.
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.
We 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.
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.
I 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.