What are you doing these days?

parole side to side click My friends have been busy. I’m sure I have forgotten someone, but y’all gotta let me know when you’re starting things. 😉

spectacle knee deep My supremely talented friend Andrew Johnson has come out with some gorgeous, limited edition prints of a few airport layouts. Buy one. Or two. You won’t regret it.

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hintere boxen ansteuern a6 4b blaupunkt view Dan Jones, over at Doberman Pizza, has relaunched his blog. He has been blogging for nearly two decades and has always been a great resource and friend in the Baha’i blogging world. After over a decade of internet interaction, I finally met him and his lovely wife Quynh in Montreal this summer.

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améliorer filtration filtre externe there Speaking of great blogs, a fantastic sisterly duo consisting of Bre Vader and Jaleh Darling recently launched a blog called The Superettes. It is fun, creative, and accessible, and I enjoy it thoroughly.

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sinner comin out fighting download  

felix j förster I am not going to even go into all of the engagements, pregnancies, graduations, and life changes of everyone…but congratulations if you have something going on that merits celebration!

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there is no winning this one

oberhausen hbf hotels Winter. :(this is the result of years of battle, the scars run deep. the tears flow free.

billet finale coupe du monde see if writing down a record of how you feel at this exact moment helps you remember…i am not sure that i want to.

welches ventil ist größer ein oder auslass link there is a certain responsibility in holding onto things. i am tired of fighting this war, of the wounds reopening every few months. “if you don’t fight, who will?” (i am told) but fighting a one woman battle against the forces of inertia is an exercise in ulcers and frustration.

http://damncute.live/2019/05 ciel rue monge where do you draw the line, though? i need you (all) to fight with me, but there shouldn’t even be conflict here. i am hungry for something new to challenge me, for the excitement to come back. i love this place, but not enough to sacrifice my joy.

http://nobodydance.live parent hospitalisé garde des enfants it is time to move on, and it is terrifying sometimes. But I am ready.

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Ducks

bergen an see here “When the Master was in the city Mrs. Goodall would drive Him and some of the friends (often including my father) to Lloyd Lake, a small lake surrounded by trees and flowering shrubs, in Golden Gate Park.  On the edge of the lake was placed a marble arch, which is all that remains of the Towne family mansion after the fire of 1906.  This arch is called ‘Portals of the Past’ and is on the shore across the lake from where the Master would stand on the path and watch the ducks.  The little ducks swam toward Him as if drawn by His presence.  Once He said, The ducks and flowers are more conscious of My presence than are the people of the city.  He spoke of many things and said that He hoped the Faith would progress in the West.”

http://couldnpicture.live slogan generator gratis [Source: Ramona Brown, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp.47- 48.]

Thanks to Christina M. for sending this to me. 
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2 years, dear friend

http://nameknew.live/2019 dimanche dans le tarn me and Gavin

ziele weiße rose “In His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that were we able to comprehend the facilities that await us in the world to come, death would lose its sting; nay rather we would welcome it as a gate-way to a realm immeasurably higher and nobler than this home of suffering we call our earth. You should therefore think of their blessings and comfort yourself for your momentary separation. In time all of us will join our departed ones and share their joys.”

coteaux du giennois michel langlois (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 13, 1932)

ramana song download click “The Master has told us that gifts and good deeds done in memory of those who have passed on, are most helpful to the development of their souls in the realms beyond…”

färbt rote bete saft den stuhlgang rot (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1952)

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Last year, remembering. And 2 years ago. Last night, as I drove past the House of Worship on my way home, I was able to share a prayer with a friend on the phone in Gavin’s memory. Thinking of you today, dear one! We love you so much.

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Timely utterance

Trying to remind myself of using wisdom in speech, and in all things…

“Know assuredly that just as thou firmly believest that the Word of God, exalted be His glory, endureth for ever, thou must, likewise, believe with undoubting faith that its meaning can never be exhausted. They who are its appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its secrets, are, however, the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom. Whoso, while reading the Sacred Scriptures, is tempted to choose therefrom whatever may suit him with which to challenge the authority of the Representative of God among men, is, indeed, as one dead, though to outward seeming he may walk and converse with his neighbors, and share with them their food and their drink.

White flowersOh, would that the world could believe Me! Were all the things that lie enshrined within the heart of Bahá, and which the Lord, His God, the Lord of all names, hath taught Him, to be unveiled to mankind, every man on earth would be dumbfounded.

How great the multitude of truths which the garment of words can never contain! How vast the number of such verities as no expression can adequately describe, whose significance can never be unfolded, and to which not even the remotest allusions can be made! How manifold are the truths which must remain unuttered until the appointed time is come! Even as it hath been said: “Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.””

– Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

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Travel

The last few weeks have been marked by suitcases, last minute travel, sunsets, children, friends, sleep-deprivation, laughter, learning, and family.

First ice cream cone I have had in 9 years. For the 4th of July weekend, I drove to Minnesota for 6 days to visit my mother’s family and some friends. It was extremely warm, so I spent as much time as possible out of the house. I went swimming once, in a small lake, which made me really appreciate the warmth, since Lake Michigan is almost never warm. I also ran into my cousin at the beach, who I thought wasn’t even living in MN anymore. Minnesota is my home state, as I was born there, and I love visiting when I have the opportunity.

 

perspective In June and July I went to Starved Rock State Park on two different occasions. There are “18 canyons formed by glacial meltwater and stream erosion. They slice dramatically through tree-covered, sandstone bluffs for four miles at Starved Rock State Park, which is located along the south side of the Illinois River.” Highly recommended day-trip activity for Chicagoans, since it is only 2 hours outside the city. We took picnic lunches and enjoyed the greenery and canyons.

 

Perfect day at Louhelen.
Louhelen

I was at Louhelen Baha’i School for 5 days, August 3-8. I have been going there for years, but it had been a long time since I had attended a session and it was wonderful to be back. It is incredibly peaceful there, and I needed a break. Mr. Nakhjavani and Kathy Jewett-Hogenson gave such great presentations, I’m still trying to process what I learned.

I also got eaten alive by mosquitoes, which hasn’t happened in years, and made for a very uncomfortable few days. But it was totally worth it.

 

Another view from the room.
The view from our hotel room!

I flew to Montreal on Wednesday, after the session at Louhelen, for the Association for Baha’i Studies Conference. I have never been to this particular conference, and enjoyed it thoroughly. On Wednesday night my sister and I went to the Baha’i Shrine, which is the only shrine in the Western Hemisphere. It was beautiful and peaceful. The conference was great and I saw a lot of wonderful people (and made some new friends). I’ll have more photos soon, I just haven’t had time to process them!

 

The next few weeks will be just as busy, and I’ll try to keep up with updates as much as I can.

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Alive

Tonight I felt alive for a moment, a rush of adrenaline as one of my closest friends and I drove down 94 with the windows down, singing along to the radio at the top of our lungs. It is a warm, sticky summer, a thunderstorm loomed overhead tonight, and everything is going to be ok.

As I neared home, this song by Real McCoy came on the radio. It reminded me of awkward school dances, of the 90s, and of things that are good. I remember when Chicago had a techno station, and my friend and I would crank it up in the summer and sit in her front yard. I remember driving hours to see friends, listening to music and dancing just because we could.

August is going to be a very busy, intense month for me, both for work and travel. I can’t wait.

Take joy in the small things, in the biggest thing of all…that we are here and full of life.

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Too quiet

These days, sunset is the best and worst time. The way the light wraps around everything, creating the best moments to capture photos…this is the most wonderful thing, the only redeeming time. But the gloam can hold onto me if there is silence and I am alone, the almost-dark suffocating me with reminders and memories. I fill the space with music, with television, with cooking or baking or making…

I’m waiting, slightly paralyzed, but moving in some kind of direction. Making decisions.

I would like my sunsets back.

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The death of a fish

RIP VincentI am sad to report the death of my betta fish, Vincent van Fish. He jumped out of his bowl sometime today, and I discovered his cold, lifeless body on the floor of my living room tonight when I got home from work.

I tried to buy a fish for Naw-Ruz that would last longer than a few weeks, but apparently Vincent decided that it was all too much. I am very disappointed, as I was growing quite fond of the little guy and even remembered to feed him every day.

Part of the reason I’m upset is because I now have food and other supplies for a fish that I just flushed down the toilet, and it feels like the whole experience was a waste of money. I know, I’m strange. But really, fish are the most useless pets. And I’m not convinced I would do much better with a different kind of animal.

RIP, Vincent.

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the stranger

When we met, she was sitting on the curb in a parking lot, surrounded by bags of groceries. Her lined face was a story of decades, her hands curled up. The unrelieved black of her dress framed eyes that had stories in them, and the barrier between us of few common words prevents me from saying too much more about her.

She made the noises of machine guns to indicate her home country, and said that she cleaned homes, that her sister was trying to teach her to speak English but it was hard. She laughed a lot, and so did I. She reminded me of the women I would see sitting on park benches in Israel, staring into the past or talking to each other.

The Mississippi

I don’t know her name. But I think about her several months later, after I delivered her and her groceries to a small apartment where she invited me in for tea but I couldn’t stay. I think about how we don’t interact in any meaningful way with strangers, that I have begun craving that connection with people I barely know, if only for a few moments.

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Home Improvement

I’ve lived in my condo for nearly 2 years, and have slowly been making changes. Limitations of time and money have prevented me from doing some of the major things I would like to do, but I have started with little projects. My most recent project was the cabinets in the kitchen. This is what they looked like when I bought my condo:

They were the original cabinets from 1968. I had to take the cabinet doors off to paint behind them and to paint each side. It took me about 2 weekends to finish everything. I used paint deglosser, then one coat of primer, and then semi-gloss paint to finish.

 

Finally, this weekend, Brendan helped me to do the final installation of the doors!

The kitchen is so much more cheerful now. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen, cooking and baking, so it feels good to have a space that I want to be in.

Brendan also installed new blinds that I bought a few months ago, cut to measurements of the bay windows in my kitchen and bedroom. Having blinds that work is fantastic.

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Five years

5 years At the airport in Tel Avivago today at 1:00 pm, my plane landed in Haifa, Israel. I was starting 18 months of service at the Baha’i World Center. I waited for 2 hours at the airport because the person who was picking me up got a flat tire. I had some time to kill, so I took a photo of the screen that showed my flight.

It was December but it was warm, and I slept in the car, but when we came around the side of the mountain, the city was spread out in front of me, and it felt like coming home. View from the living roomOverwhelmed, everything felt a little bit surreal. My aunt and uncle were in the same apartment building, a childhood friend turned out to be one of my roommates, and I had the best views from my apartment: the Shrine of the Bab, the city of Haifa, and the Mediterranean.

Everything seems better in hindsight, of course. I remember being incredibly lonely, but also really happy. Very few of us had internet at home, and every day things felt a little more distant everywhere else. One of the advantages of not having internet or tv for the first 10 months was the sheer amount of books that I read. I was 23 years old, in a new life.

Even 3 1/2 years after returning to the United States, I still miss it. I miss the Shrines, the year-round flowers, the history and age of Israel, exploring (wish I had done more of that!), the people, the warmth…(I may have been one of the few people that LOVE hot weather). Everything.

I miss it every day.

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A few of my favorite things

I share links here and there of things I like (mostly on Twitter), but I rarely put them in one place. I’ve collected a few favorite places on the internet recently, so I thought I would share them with you.

Things Could Be Worse – I love the sheer ridiculousness of this series of tragedies, mostly because they make me smile every time I see a new one. Also, it reminds me not to be boring or feel sorry for myself. Things could always be worse.

Colossal – This is an art and design blog that I enjoy because there is always stuff there that I haven’t seen elsewhere online. I’m trying to hone my artistic sensibilities, so I follow several different blogs that talk about these subjects.

F*** Yeah The Universe – Ok so the title is a bit off-putting for some, but the reason I love this blog is because seeing photos of the amazing universe that we live in (at least, our tiny corner of it) makes me really happy. It makes the existence of God more real, somehow.

Dear Photograph – This site can sometimes be a bit depressing, but it is also a good reminder to enjoy the moments that I live in.

The Monkeys You Ordered – Literal New Yorker captions. That is all you need to know.

Finally, I gave in to peer pressure and joined Pinterest. You can find me there, collecting the things that intrigue me.

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The month of Halloween

As much as I don’t like the weather getting colder, I must admit that I love October. Mainly because it contains all things Halloween. I love having an excuse to dress up. Some years I put my costume together at the last minute, but this year I decided to be ahead of the game. My living room is currently covered in scraps of muslin and batting:

Of course I won’t say what I’m making, the costume is a surprise, but it is going to be fun. I have just enough sewing skills to put together a pillow, hem pants, or alter an already existing dress. I was worried that I didn’t have a pattern, but then I realized I could project it up onto my tv screen and trace it onto the muslin. It was cheaper to buy 10 yards of batting (that giant roll in the photo), so now I have about 7 yards of the stuff. I’m going to have to take up quilting or something (riiight).

When I left work last night, the air smelled like leaves and rain. It was raining on one side of the building, but not on the other! And then there was a hailstorm as soon as I passed into Wilmette from Evanston, but luckily the hailstones were small. Oh, Chicago. You’re so strange. But the sunset was amazing! (Taken with a cameraphone, so this doesn’t adequately represent how beautiful it was.)

  

I bought a pumpkin last year for Halloween. Didn’t carve it, just put it in the corner of my dining room. I threw it out 6 months later, it looked as perfect as the day I bought it. I think it was possessed or something. Creepy pumpkin.

The other thing I can’t wait to do is take photos of the fall leaves. We’re still pretty green here, but southern Wisconsin has started changing and I hope to go there soon with my camera. Last year was lovely at Starved Rock, but it was raining so it was hard to get some of the shots I wanted. We’ll see how it goes this year!

Please excuse the randomness of my thought process in this post. I seem to have had too much coffee this morning and not balanced it with enough food. I shall remedy that problem now.

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My response to Ahmadinejad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the true crime.

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1 year ago

On September 14, 2010, I received a phone call in the middle of the night from a friend with a voice full of tears. She told me that our friend Gavin Welch had passed away in a car accident in Houston, Texas that afternoon. Gavin was the first friend in my life that died young. He was 32 years old. We were in college at the same time, and so many of my best memories of my Chicago years include him. His joy for life, honesty, and pure heart were powerful, and we all miss him very much.

Gavin: 1978-2010Tonight his friends and some family will gather at the Baha’i Home in Wilmette to remember him, laugh together, and pray for the progress of his soul in the next world. Bahhaj recorded his version of a song in Gavin’s memory. Below is a video that his friends put together for the first memorial last year.

Gavin Badi Welch Memorial Video from Jennifer Brandel on Vimeo.

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new path

Starting this, I am walking down a new path
we once dreamed of this freedom
this chance to begin again.
To step outside ourselves
look down to where our feet touch the ground
keep them moving and remember the stories.
We whispered in our blanket forts and beneath the trees,
ice cream Sundays (and Mondays and Tuesdays)
and childhood dreams
If the photographs captured perfectly
the sight would be of every day,
when you look at me in this perfect way.

I stopped writing because it is so difficult to describe happiness with words. It just is. I will wander through an entire forest and the memory I am left with is just a snapshot of when we ran from mosquitos. I will climb a sand dune and am remembering standing on top of the world with you as I gasp from a lack of exercise and oxygen. I will walk through a city and I see brick walls with numbers on them. I will hold onto every quiet moment because that is where the foundation lives. I can’t remember not knowing you.

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warmth

beachtime

Unlike the vast majority of the people I know, I actually love hot weather. I would spend all day outside if I could, wearing a large floppy hat, giant sunglasses, and a killer swimsuit, reading a book by the Lake.

There is something drowsy and wonderful in the sunsets of summer, the golden light and iced coffee, toes in the sand…I am never more alive than right now.

The trunk of my car is always full in the summer. There are picnic blankets, a frisbee, a large hat, swimsuit, towel, and sandals. The necessary accoutrements for impromptu afternoons that bring a smile to my face and a cool breeze off the lake.

The simple things.

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An Ode To Finals

I found this old post from December 10, 2003, and it made me smile, remembering the college days and how very horrible I was at test-taking (and apparently at writing odes). I don’t know why I put it in the drafts, because obviously it was published at some point, so I’m putting it back out there.

Accounting was atrocious
as it had the right to be
a horrible subject
it enjoyed torturing me
History was turned in
with absolutely no fuss
I quite enjoyed the class
I felt like such a genius
Management was tedious
but open-note tests do help
someone wanted me to sit with them
so they let out a yelp
All that is left is now Mathematics
statistics just kill me
probability gives me headaches
in this class there is no mercy
So wish me luck
my dear friends
as I study insanely
and pray for the end.

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The flight home

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

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

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

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

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

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Stuck in the mud

I forgot to write about an incident that happened on March 4, 2011. Well, maybe it isn’t so much that I forgot. It was slightly embarrassing and hard to convey without photographic proof, so I let it slip out of my mind for a while.

At 10:00 am I left my house to go to my grandfather’s funeral in Atlanta, Georgia. My flight was at noon and my friend had offered to let me park at her hotel near the airport and catch the free shuttle.

Instead of exiting at Mannheim road, I nearly missed the exit and quickly pulled over to the area that is designated “Mud Trap” on the map below, thinking I could just cut across that little triangle of dirt and continue on my merry way.

Unfortunately, days of rain had created a mud pit that immediately sunk my car 4 inches deep. I tried using pieces of cardboard under the wheels, used a snow shovel, turned my wheel in every direction…nothing worked. I called AAA for roadside assistance…30 minute wait, minimum. I was getting worried that I was going to miss my flight.

After a while, a gentleman stopped to assist. He was wearing a very nice suit. He told me to turn the wheel a certain way and hit the gas…and promptly splattered him with goopy, side-of-the-road mud. I apologized profusely. of course. Finally a couple of taxi drivers stopped, and the three guys pushed my car onto drier land.

All I had to offer as thanks was some banana bread. The gentlemen refused my offer. One of the rough looking taxi drivers said with his thick Chicago accent:  “Honey, I’m on Jenny Craig!”

I zoomed to my friend’s hotel and told the story to the employees while I waited for the shuttle, covered up to my knees in mud and with mud all over my hands. I made it through airport security (they were baffled at my appearance) and had to wash my boots off in the bathroom by my gate. I made my flight (just barely).

The inside and outside of my car were mud-infused, and I had to get my car detailed twice before all of the mud was removed from the seats. I am still trying to get my boots clean. I truly wish I had photos, but all I could think was that I could not miss my flight.

Next installment: the flight home.

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Goodbye, Granddaddy

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in peace, Granddaddy.

(all photos taken by my mother, Neda)
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11 am Wednesday – blizzard is mostly over!

And now the cleanup begins. This is what I woke up to today at 9 am:

9 am Wednesday

By 11 am, I ventured downstairs to do laundry, opened the back door to see this snowpile AS TALL AS ME. Our snow removal service was working in the middle of the night and is still out front trying to get us out.

Piled up snow by the back door.

The front door is completely blocked, there is a snowdrift at least 3 ft tall. Had to take this through a window, you can’t really open the doors. The mailbox across the street is nearly buried.

3 1/2 ft snowdrift by front doors

I’ll venture out later when the wind dies down and I can actually take my DSLR out. These were all taken with my cameraphone, and I’d like to give you some perspective on what it really looks like. Some places are reporting 17-20 in of snow, the airports are pretty much shut down, and 1,000 cars were stranded on Lake Shore Drive last night. So glad I had no reason to be out last night and today. Hoping everyone stays warm and safe!

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keeping busy

I’ve been trapped at home for the last week and a half with a nasty cold that is now subsiding after powerful antibiotics and enforced rest. As a result, my couch has a Sholeh-sized indentation in the middle, my back is killing me from lack of exercise, I ran out of Internet, and I started talking to the walls. I really have to thank the wonderful people in my life who have done such an amazing job taking care of me, making sure I eat, and making me laugh even when I’m coughing my lungs out. Thank you. Really.

For those of you who are curious, I spent New Years Eve watching all three Back to the Future movies and eating terrible Thai food. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Here are some things that are not insanity-inducing that I thought you might like.

-Free download of some awesome music from Made in Heights (my friends Kelsey and Saba). Go. Now.

-Photos for the month of Speech, Questions, and Honor are up on Nineteen Months, in case you missed them.

-New photos up on Flickr from the last month or so.

-Thanks to Lacey for the heads up about this awesome story from WTTW about a Chicago street photographer, Vivian Maier. A free exhibition of her work is at the Chicago Cultural Center until April 3.

-Sometimes, when I get caught up in my own problems, I look at a picture of the Milky Way, and I chill out.

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lucky stars

chicago lights through bars

There are a few ways to count lucky stars. In the quiet way, 1 2 3 in a row, listed in order, in a way that makes you think of libraries, lace doilies, and trying too hard. Then there are the shouting, the in-your-face counters, in a desperate plea for attention, with too much cologne or comments on walls (graffiti or otherwise). The entire spectrum isn’t important, just stay away from the extremes.

As usual, moderation is key but there are elements of the extremes that can be included without being that person. We all know those people. No need to discuss it further.  Moving on:

Telling stories. I have never been a storyteller. How I have kept this going for nearly 10 years is completely baffling. But storytellers are the best counters, the best givers of the gift of understanding luck/mercy/fate while acknowledging the hard work involved. I know some great storytellers, and most of them have lived enough life that their stories are actually worth the time it takes to listen and understand.

My stories are little pieces, dancing for the chance to get out but to tell them in the way they need to be told is so difficult. Counting lucky stars is even harder. You have to know your audience, and here I write to blank faces. I write to the people that still read this, the people that haunt, the former friends and new ones, the stranger that found this little corner of my claimed piece of the cloud…there are no eyes to look into. Sometimes it traps me, and my stories drown under the weight.

I saw a child tonight whose perfection made my heart stop. I literally became dizzy. My dear friend reached into the incubation unit to comfort her son, this innocent soul and I loved him immediately and without reservation or thought. This is a story.

Spending quiet moments with you, the perfect times when I look up to match eyes and the wrinkles we all get when we smile at each other. This is an ongoing story.

I’ll sing my children to sleep some day with the stories of my family, my Faith, my love. I’ll sing them to sleep with the stories of the world, the stories of things that are good. I’ll have to learn the songs, first, but I’ll count my lucky stars and I’ll show them how to count theirs too. We’ll be the counters that dance in green grass with bare feet, the ones who stare up at the heavens at a never-ending universe and laugh to be alive.

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at sunset, construction

One day a few weeks ago, there was a need for prayers. A long day, friends and family who needed love, everything about that day sent me to the House of Worship. When saying farewell, I turned to see this:
sunset construction

As I drove away, the sun was turning the sky into a perfect sunset.

sunset on Linden

“O ye who have turned your faces toward the Exalted Beauty! By night, by day, at morningtide and sunset, when darkness draweth on, and at early light I remember, and ever have remembered, in the realms of my mind and heart, the loved ones of the Lord. I beg of Him to bestow His confirmations upon those loved ones, dwellers in that pure and holy land, and to grant them successful outcomes in all things: that in their character, their behaviour, their words, their way of life, in all they are and do, He will make them to achieve distinction among men; that He will gather them into the world community, their hearts filled with ecstasy and fervour and yearning love, with knowledge and certitude, with steadfastness and unity, their faces beauteous and bright.” -Abdu’l-Baha

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unwisdom

“Let us also remember that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views. If certain instructions of the Master are today particularly emphasized and scrupulously adhered to, let us be sure that they are but provisional measures designed to guard and protect the Cause in its present state of infancy and growth until the day when this tender and precious plant shall have sufficiently grown to be able to withstand the unwisdom of its friends and the attacks of its enemies.”

(Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 63)

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For Gavin

O my God! O my God! Verily, Thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon Thee, hath turned his face unto Thee, hath offered his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favor of meeting Thee.

O Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.

Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower.
—‘Abdu’l-Bahá

May your soul always have the same laughter that you had on this earth. We love you.


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Saying prayers

For the Yaran. For the flood-stricken in Pakistan. For the women of Congo. For everyone.

Lauded be Thy name, O my God! Thou beholdest how the tempestuous winds of tests have caused the steadfast in faith to tremble, and how the breath of trials hath stirred up those whose hearts had been firmly established, except such as have partaken of the Wine that is life indeed from the hands of the Manifestation of Thy name, the Most Merciful. These are the ones whom no word except Thy most exalted word can move, whom nothing whatever save the sweet smelling fragrance of the robe of Thy remembrance can enrapture, O Thou Who art the Possessor of all names and the Maker of earth and heaven!

I implore Thee, O Thou Who art the beloved Companion of Baha, by Thy name, the All-Glorious, to keep safe these Thy servants under the shadow of the wings of Thine all-encompassing mercy, that the darts of the evil suggestions of the wicked doers among Thy creatures, who have disbelieved in Thy signs, may be kept back from them. No one on earth, O my Lord, can withstand Thy power, and none in all the kingdom of Thy names is able to frustrate Thy purpose. Show forth, then, the power of Thy sovereignty and of Thy dominion, and teach Thy loved ones what beseemeth them in Thy days.

Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the Most Great.

-Baha’u’llah


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