Wednesday, August 31, 2011


My grandmother died on the morning of December 20th. I got the call at 8:36am from my sister, informing me of the news, through sobs. She had left behind 6 children, and a plethora of grand-children and great-grand children. Of those six children, three were women; sisters who themselves had 4 daughters: my two cousins, my sister, and myself.

There is something about the daughters of sisters that bonds you together. An unspoken truth that all understand. Hurtful things may be said but are easily forgotten. Minds are read, emotions felt, feelings expressed. Everything happens within the context of the tapestry that three women wove - patiently and deliberately.

The day she passed was a blur and before we knew it, all four of us were together in one home, left to plan the funeral and put into effect the logistics. We had, in the past, planned many events and activities together. We have the type of easy familiarity that allows hard tasks to get done within a matter of seconds. Sentences rarely need to be completed in order for us to be efficient and conscious of the work we are doing. One of us would already have taken the next step before anyone has told us what the next step even is.

But during this time, it seemed we had lost the capacity to think rationally. Everything moved slower. Much slower. What would have normally taken us minutes to do, would end up taking hours. The days leading up to the funeral were filled with tasks and decisions and to-do's. On Wednesday we needed to pick up an album from Target. Any other time and that would have been done in a matter of minutes. On this day however, all we wanted was to be together. We piled into the SUV - all 4 of us and the two babies (the newest members of our female bondage). We squeezed into the car, stuffed ourselves into the trunk and in between the car seats. We didn't care. All that mattered was that we were together, feeling one another's pain, understanding one another's heartache, anticipating one another's hurt. Nothing mattered but what was happening in that car, in those moments, in that circumstance.

She had done it again, that beautiful grandmother of ours. She had tied us together with yet another shared experience that moved straight through our mothers and into our cores, creating with it another layer to that bond, strengthening it in ways that we would not have seen possible.

The time Irene hit NYC.

Hurricane Irene visited and with that visit she brought a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and pure anxiety. There was so much hype around her arrival that all of New York was sent into a frenzy. The line at Walgreens was SO long (not that that is anything new) but there were 3 different cashiers (which IS something new). Water bottles were strewn across the aisle floors, batteries were sold out, and people were grabbing candles by the dozens.

Now I for one am extremely grateful to live in a place where things like this are anticipated and therefore precaution can be taken. But I also think that I may have taken it to an extreme. How am I to know? - I come from the desert. All I had heard were horror stories of what a storm like this could do. All I had known were images from when Katrina hit. So prepared I would be, even if it killed me. It was for this reason that 4 pounds of bananas were purchased and why I could convince myself to believe that I needed that bag of beef jerky.

I filled buckets and jars and tupperware and bathtubs full of water. I packed an emergency night bag and taped windows shut. I moved everything off the ground of my 3rd floor apartment building when we weren't even in a flood zone (you can never be too careful). And. Last but not least, I slept in a closet. Huddled together with someone else, in a closet.

And then she came. I barely even heard her. As my friend pointed out, she just farted and left. And all we were left with were bananas and a crap load of water.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Public Bathrooms

When I was 7 years old I first realized what a public bathroom was actually for. I walked in with my mom, used the facilities (as I had done many other time in the past) and met her out by the sinks to wash my hands. Just then a woman in her 50's, probably just over 4 feet in stature, with a wrinkled little face that showed much older than her actual years, walked in. She had short, short gray hair. Her long pointy nose curled just over her lips, which were firmly pressed together. She looked over at us with her tiny little eyes, shrugged her already elevated shoulders, and walked into the stall. I must have been frozen as she walked by, just taking in her appearance, because as soon as she disappeared behind the doors I saw my mother quickly motioning me to focus on the task at hand. I was just coming out of my mesmerized state before I heard it. The loudest flatulence that I had ever in my life heard.


By body must have jumped while my mind made sense of the fact that such a loud sound was coming from such a small lady.
But all I really remember was being horrified and then extremely worried that someone would do something like that in public. Wasn't she embarrassed? Couldn't she save that for when she was home? WHAT WAS SHE DOING?!?
I suppose the natural reaction for a child in a situation like that would be to fall into fits of laughter. But I didn't. I was so completely perplexed by the fact that I had heard something so private from someone else's body that I was paralyzed.
My mother ushered me out the door without a word.
"I can't believe she is using the bathroom for that, Mommy!!!!"
My mom, startled that THIS is what I had taken away from that whole scenario, sat me down and told me what public bathrooms are, why we use them, and how that was perfectly OK.

Two days ago in Barnes&Noble, I had a similar experience and I was immediately brought back to my 7th year and my conversation with my mom. Funny the things you remember.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

awkward silence.

i talk.
sometimes, i'd like to think most of the time, i stay on topic. i listen to what is being said, i respond accordingly with much thought put into my response. i enjoy conversation. so when an instance like today occurs it jumps out to me.

i talked. i started making a point. i made the point. and then something else came. this verbal diarrhea that would not let up. i began by telling a story of my recent bout with road rage (which is unnecessary to ever recount again) and the next thing i know i am talking about my educational philosophy and then jumped right into another story of the time i ended up talking to a Ralph Macchio-esque detective at the 88th precinct in Brooklyn (which i will choose to share at another time).

it was at this point that i stopped. horrified that i had just spoken, only stopping to inhale air quickly so as not to suffocate, for the last 4 minutes straight. i had no idea what the original point even was.

awkward silence.

perhaps the next introductory sentence to a blog entry of this sort should begin: i listen. that's a safer way to go.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

so much space.

I remember being on a flight from Tel Aviv to the US and having a lay over in London. I was in the airport a few hours and, naturally, had to use the facilities. I remember being completely taken aback by how incredibly small those bathrooms were. I could barely fit myself into the stall, let alone my small carry-on bag. I maneuvered for well over a minute - opening and closing the door, moving the suitcase and myself in and out of the stall as if doing a little dance - all the while cursing the makers of European bathrooms and developing a deep appreciation for space in the United States.
Last weekend I was in New Mexico and at the airport waiting for a flight. I walked into the bathroom and was taken aback. SO.MUCH.ROOM. There was enough space in the sink area for an interpretive dance or a well choreographed ice skating routine. Geez! This is bigger than MOST apartments in New York City. I could probably fit a small family of 5 into this stall! Amazed at the difference. Takes me back to my Kindergarten days where we teach - we are all different, we are all the same. We all have bathrooms but they are all so different. Kinda like us.

Friday, August 12, 2011


There is a Walgreens right below my apartment in New York City and it is BY FAR the most disorganized, poorly managed, chaotic store I have ever been in. The lines at the register are BEYOND ridiculous for how long it takes to get one single item. There are at least 10 people in line each and every time you go and it always ends up that the person in front of you needs to search through their pockets for 5 minutes for a coupon to buy their carton of milk. It just takes entirely too long.
Now since I have an intense (and probably unhealthy) love for pharmacies, I have never REALLY let all this bother me. I smile and breathe deeply, convincing myself that just living above a pharmacy is luxury enough - who needs the other conveniences. I brag about my Walgreens, proud to shop there. I don't mind that the people behind the counters barely look up at me as they ring up my things and that a grunt from them makes me certain that I live on the happiest block in the City.
But then I experienced the Walgreens here, in the suburban desert. I then realized how low my standards had become. It was not just that the aisles were clear of clutter and that each item was actually in its rightly marked was the customer service. At first I didn't even know quite how to respond to it. I asked the woman for help (I mean that's a big deal in and of itself - there was a WOMAN waiting to be asked for help!) and she literally walked around with me, found everything I needed, answered all my questions, gave me additional advice - all with a HUGE smile on her face.
For the first 3 minutes of our interaction I barely spoke, like a child at the zoo for the first time - amazed that the giraffe I had read about in my books actually did exist. She helped me through my list and then began to check me out at the counter. Being the New Yorker I am, I quickly swiped my debit card before she had even rung up the last item. "Whoopsie daise! You did that too fast - I didn't have a chance to give you your dollar rebate from this item!...Ok, let me just look in here and see what I can find that equals a dollar."
She then proceeded to pull out a basket full of items and dumped everything from travel bottles of shampoo to recyclable bags into my bag of purchases. "OK, there you go, you think that all adds up to a dollar?"
I left that Walgreens changed. Don't know if I can ever go back to the Walgreens below my apartment again without loosing patience. This is why it's never good to know what you are missing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My family moved out to Tucson, Arizona, when I was 6 years old. My little sister was just born and we packed up the small U-Haul with the contents of our humble abode in Reno, Nevada (the biggest little city in the world and the birthplace of yours truly) and we drove over the desert lands to get to Arizona.

Before the move, my Dad (who had come out earlier to secure a home) called. I remember even to this day talking to him over the telephone. "I got a house," he said, "a real house." I'm sure my mouth dropped open. That sounded so official. "And you know what else? They have something called cactus here and we have them in our backyard. And you know what else...?" My already big eyes, widened. Could there be more? It was more excitement than my little 6 year old body could handle. "There are colored lights out back. They light up and color the cactus."
Ask me now and I'd call that tacky. But back then, at that moment, with my father telling me stories of our new magical backyard, my imagination wandered in anticipation.

The day of our move, I still can hear the crunch of the gravel as the truck turned onto our very own driveway of our very first house. I jumped out of the car. Dad opened the door and we had entered our new home.

Many of the details after that are a blur to me. The only thing that I remember really really well now, looking back, is the lime green shag carpet, covering the entire living room. That's all that sticks out. That and loads of memories from our time on that street. That was 27 years ago, when my parents first made Tucson their home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

will i ever know?

My religion makes it hard for me to travel to my home country. My parents come from a place that doesn't accept our beliefs as acceptable. I've spoken about this before on my blog in: The Reunion back in August 2007. During that summer I was probably the most in touch with that part of my life. With the upbringing of my parents. With my background. With the root of my Faith.

I took a class at TC a few years back about non-formal education and how memories are passed on. I sat and listened to everyone in the class talk about where they grew up and how they would frequently visit their grandparents' home and would learn from the places their parents lived. I listened with envy, knowing I may never be able to see those things and experience and learn in the way they did. In the way that they probably took for granted.

My mother tells me stories of these delicious donut-like desserts she used to buy hot and fresh on her way home from school. My dad talks about the bike shop and the kababi (kabab shop) right outside his home where he would get lunch and then rent a bike to ride around for the day. He tells me about the cotton factories my grandfather managed and the swimming hole they would all play in. And then mom tells me of the day they met - where they were and what happened. I imagine it all in my mind but feel a certain emptiness knowing I may never see those places (some of which don't even exist because the government has overtaken them and turned them into new condos). I wish so much that I can go there, tread the paths they tread, see the things that made them who they are, learn more about a part of me that I know is there. I wonder what I will learn when I have the chance to see and do as those before me did.

Hopefully, God willing (as my mom used to put it), it will happen in my lifetime.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

just nothing.

I have been so incredibly slow with my blogging as of late. Which strikes me as odd because I am technically on summer vacation and one would think that loads of time would be made available for writing and enjoying and being creative.

This is partially true - that is, time is much more available. But the 'thoughts inspired' have been coming in by the hundreds. I guess having time to think and process and enjoy and experience also does allow for the creative forces at play to go into over-drive. Therefore, billions of potential blog post ideas, thoughts, and stories come in and out of my brain on a daily basis. Some have even been skillfully written out in the crevices of my mind. Then, 10pm rolls around, I pick up the old computer, pull up my blog to write and enter the most recent thing that has popped into my head and it's only then that I realize that none of the great blog post ideas I had during that day ever actually made it live. It is only then that I realize how many things I have left to write and create and put out there. And it is here that I get overwhelmed. Too many ideas, too many things I want to write about. So I end up writing about nothing at all. Like this. Nothing. Nothing but the process described.

Hoping the drawl of summer doesn't decapitate me for long.

And PS - those reading Thoughts Inspired, come on over and check out my new blog: It's all photos, barely any words. The exact flip flop of this blog. Provides for a nice balance I'd say? Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

they laugh together

the other day i had a picnic in the park with my parents and a few friends. i wanted my friends to meet my parents and, even though the time was short, everyone got to talk just a little bit.
as i was saying my goodbyes, one of my friends turned to me and said - they still laugh together.
your parents, i love that they make each other laugh - they still laugh together.
i hadn't thought of that before. had never really registered. but since she said it i see it all the time. they laugh so much. 37 years of marriage and they laugh.
last night they came home from their day and my dad says, "wait until we tell you the story of what happened to us today - i am going to act it all out for you."
my mom burst into laughter.
hours later when my sister and brother-in-law came home, mom and dad re-enacted their day for us - each laughing and giggling along the way. it was one of the best things i have ever seen.
i realized how important that is for any relationship. for me. the ability to find joy and humor in the things that happen. and to be able to be enjoy life's tiny pleasures. because if you aren't laughing and enjoying along the way - what's the point really?

Monday, August 1, 2011

sitting in a coffee shop doing work

i have always wanted to say "i sit in a coffee shop and i work all day". because something about that is exciting to me. because i love that i can get my cup of coffee, set myself up at a table, and just do work. my brain thinks better. i am more alert. the energy of the people around me - working, talking, reading - makes me feel part of a community of thinkers. each doing our own thing and each aware enough of one another as to not be too disruptive.
this summer, time has allowed me to sit in a coffee shop and work all day (well, half a day). and i get to think and create and do things i usually just dream of doing.
usually when you want to do something so badly, when you actually end up doing it, you think "eh, that was OK." but with this dream, it just keeps getting better.
i love it even more and continue to feel excited to do it.
hopefully this addiction is one i'll be able to support, even amidst the chaos of my New York City life.