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Monday, December 17, 2012

and just like that...

A call came today telling us her cancer is back.  They had removed it in both breasts a few months ago and we had thought it was fine, it was gone.

But they didn't get it all.  They must have missed part of it.

And now she needs chemo.

We were just sitting on the couch resting, watching stupid TV, and the call came with this new information.

And the tears came with it.  And the sadness...because it's back.

"We will all say prayers, we will keep her in our prayers."

It's all we can do, really.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

unplugged

It's been two and a half years since I turned off my email.  Every day I check it.  I leave it on at all hours and wait for that little "ding" sound the phone makes to let you know that something has come - something urgent - something needing me, now!

I keep that little black phone near me all the time for fear that a big emergency will arise and I will not be the first to see it, respond to it, know about it.  If I go more than 5 minutes without checking my phone I frantically search for it, certain that there will be many, many notifications.  For what?  Of what?  I don't know.

But for two and half years I have not disabled my work email.  It's been attached to me wherever and whenever I go.  But last week, I turned it off.  I took it off my phone completely, if only for a little while...

And it was scary.

The moment I did it I wondered - what if someone needs me?  what if there is a question no one else can answer?  what if there is an emergency?  I thought through every scenario and in the end, just got too tired to think any more.

And you know what?  It's been a week and a half without my work email, and the world has not stopped turning.  Life has gone on just just just fine.  And I guess it all makes you realize how indispensable we all really are.  Not inconsequential, just indispensable.

Perhaps it's our egos that make us believe that we are that needed and that we are wanted.  Perhaps it's just our need to feel wanted.  Perhaps it's our belief that if we control things then we don't have anyone to blame but ourselves if they go awry.

I don't know, again - it's just too much thinking...

But this is the first time that I have been cut off from work completely and it's a strange, strange feeling...and I'll tell you one thing - it' gives a LOT of time for thinking about other things.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

hammock and juice


Dad put up the hammock yesterday.  The one they bought in Peru.  I'm pretty sure my sister, niece, and I wore the other one out on our last visit.  When I had energy - when I jumped and laughed and moved about. 

It's a little different now.  Slower.  I don't have the same energy.  I sleep a lot.  A lot. But that's what they say I need to do.  To get better.

Mom and Dad just got a juicer.  And Dad's especially excited about it.  I showed them a beet juice recipe that I like and yesterday morning they were both in the kitchen measuring things out, washing vegetables, and making that very same beet juice.  This morning Dad had made three different kinds of juice.  Three glass cups, filled to the rim, sat on the breakfast table when I came downstairs.  "Just have whichever one you feel like, I made them for you," dad says, resting a hand on my shoulder.  I drink the one he likes the best - I know this because he has been speaking of the frozen strawberries in the freezer since I arrived.  And it's delicious.  It gives me a bit of life.

Later Mom gently guides me to the hammock, "the sun is good for you," she says.  I lie down and my legs begin to burn from the sun so Mom brings over the sunscreen and puts in on my legs.  I am so tired I just lay my head back.  The sun starts to creep up, almost covering me completely.  Mom brings a sheets, drapes it over the hammock and blocks the intensity of the sun.  I'm so grateful but I don't have the energy to tell her how much.  

And then she tells me to close my eyes.  And she stands there and sways the hammock back and forth and says prayers for me.  She sings them - in Farsi - like she used to do when I was little.  

And I fall asleep.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

the new normal?

I'm sitting at an airport restaurant in Toronto between flights, eating tikka masala.

I don't think I even like tikka masala.  I enjoy it every once in while, but will only seek it out maybe once a year.  Weird cravings these days... No, not pregnant.

I say this not to insult the entire cuisine of a region, but to illustrate how out of place things feel.
It's the beginning of December, I'm supposed to be at work. 9-5. Or is it 7-7?  Either way.

But here I am.  At the airport.  At the restaurant dedicated to Grey Goose(?!) with extremely cheesy decor, inundated with announcements in French, sitting behind a guy that has "Death Racer" defined on the back of his shirt.

It's life dictating for you.  It's something else guiding you.  Outside of your control.

And somehow you are there.  Like you have arrived and not sure what else is to come.




I don't even remember the last time I opened this.
I read my last post and I have no idea who I am even talking about.

It's been that long.

Barely even recognize myself.

I have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

free

When he is free he is really free.  He writes, he calls, he uses kind words.
When he is free he lets himself be himself.  He watches attentively, speaks without error and always, almost always, smiles.
When he is free.
But that doesn't always happen.  He doesn't always let himself be free.  He sleeps less and works more.
When he is free he is open to change, open to seeing, open to smiling.
His heart feels happy.  You can see it on his face.  The creases above his eyebrows lessen, his mouth curls up, and his eyes shine.
When he is free.

bAlAnCe


Balance.

Ba     lance.

Balan      ce.

No matter how much I try for it, it always ends up looking something like:

B                 alance.

Or.

Balanc                                        e.

It doesn’t come with ease.  It’s one thing or it’s another. 
Push, push, push yourself. 
Or.
Totally collapse.

I guess it’s what we constantly strive for.  I know it’s what I am constantly striving for. 

Maybe it’s the striving that throws me off.  Maybe just the mere awareness of it makes it more attainable.  Who knows.  But something doesn’t feel quite right.

Monday, August 13, 2012

a sacrifice


He addressed the whole crowd.  As he glanced up, a piece of hair, once so neatly in place with the rest of the white hairs on his head, fell across his forehead. 

“You know, I have been married for 67 years and I have never once considered it a sacrifice.”  His thick German accent made it necessary to strain in order to understand what he was saying. 

He then turned his attention to his wife, sitting in the front row.  Her pearl necklace falling over her cardigan and her hands folded neatly on her lap.  “Never once.”

Pause.

“Unless you look at sacrifice like this: something that gives up what it is, to become a better form of itself.  Like the gold in the fire.  It becomes more pure, more full of light, more beautiful.  If you look at it like that, then yes.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

i miss her.

Sitting in front of me today was a young girl - maybe in her mid-twenties - situated next to her grandmother with her arm resting easily around her grandmother's shoulder.

My brain immediately flashed back to many, many similar and precious moments I had had with my own grandmother, sitting right next to her with my arm flung proudly around her tiny shoulders.  And as I went back to those memories, the feeling I would feel in those moments, washed over me.

I felt good.  Not just "good" in the generic sense of the word.  But I felt pure.  Like I was good, like things were good, like there was hope and kindness and goodness.  It's because she embodied all of those things.  She oozed goodness and kindness and love and humility.  It surrounded her.  And each time I was with her I felt it.

And I realized tonight how much I miss accessing that goodness.  How she was a regenerating force for me.  She replenished my humanity and made me remember the things that are important in life.  She wouldn't say much, other than wish me happiness and health and success, but there was something about her that helped me to recalibrate.

I miss her.  So much.

(In this picture she is with my niece.  This was taken only one month before she passed, on my last visit to see her.  She was an angel.)

the NYC metro


Why can't the metro in New York City be a little more like the trains in Madrid, or in Santiago.  Clean, air-conditioned, super easy to understand.


The little screen tells you when the next train is coming your way so you don't have to stand there wondering how long you'll have to brave the sauna-esque stench of the underground.

It's brightly lit.  It feels like broad day-light under there.  Like a pleasant underground world, not home to 8 million rats and the pee of the drunk.

And, best of all, there are escalators.  A lot of them.  Unlike the 5 minute climbs from the pits of hell.

I'm just wondering.  Why?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Luigi the Magician from Italy

Today I met Luigi from Italy who just happens to be a magician.  He barely speaks English and I know no Italian, and surprisingly, we could manage some semblance of a conversation.

Luigi from Italy is quiet.  He won't say much unless he is asked a question.  He will smile politely and maybe look up from his meal every once in a while, but for the most part, he just listens and sits contently.

He traveled here with two sisters from his town of Torino, they help to translate for him when they can, and when he wishes to speak.

Today, over lunch, Luigi from Italy decided to tell me something.  That he is a magician.  A real one.

Less than 30 seconds later he had pulled a Euro coin out of thin air and was placing it back somewhere in the air a few minutes later.  I was in shock.  A real magician.

The last few days I have realized that we all have a different story to tell.  Like Laura, who I met at the bus-stop in Madrid who moved to Spain from Mexico to study and has now made it her home, although she doesn't know for how long.  Or Susaan who grew up in Iran and now lives in Portugal with her family.  Or Nicholas, a French-man who was just transferred to Dublin to start a job that he has no idea how to do, or so he claims.  Each a different story, each a different perspective, each bringing something new to the table.  And sitting and listening to these stories, it makes you more human.  It makes you humble and it makes you realize that we all are in this great big world just trying to make it and trying to be grateful and trying to be good.

It's been a really humbling few days.  Kind.  And humbling.  And I feel more human.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

this life style.

I seem to quite like this Spanish European lifestyle.
Dinner is after 8pm, unequivocally.  Things start at 9pm and go well into midnight.  Well.
Kids are up, grandparents are up, and everyone is still smiling.
Time and energy is given to relaxation.  Don't forget the pool.  Make sure you have a coffee.  Just go take a nap.
It's all OK.
You're given permission to enjoy life.  You're not guilted when you do.  It's just norm.
I seem to quite like this lifestyle.

Magical Madrid


The last time I was in Spain, or Europe for that matter, was when I was on holiday while living in Haifa, Israel.  All of that was pre-New York City. 

I planned a last minute trip to Portugal, via an hour connection in Madrid.  As all JFK travelers know, no flight is truly ever on time, due to “weather conditions”.  With 40 minutes between flights, I sprinted across the Madrid airport trying to get to a gate that literally took an hour to get to…down the long, long corridors, through security (with weird plastic socks on my feet – don’t ask), waiting for a bus to the terminal which only comes every 20 minutes, watching the screen as my flight totally disappears….it’s gone.

I will not get into the details of the next few hours because it was a lot of waiting, walking between terminals, waiting, waiting, walking, walking…and finally I decided to have Delta airlines put me up in a hotel for the night and on the same flight the following morning.  To me, this beat waiting in the airport all day for an evening flight and I could, instead, actually enjoy Madrid. 

I was now on Delta’s dollar – they gave me a (really nice) hotel to stay in, all my meals paid for (which included 3 course meals as penne carbonara as an appetizer), and a shuttle to and from the airport.  Well the least I could do is spend 3 Euros and go into the city to explore.  After a good nap that lasted until 7pm (darn jet-lag!) I found myself in this magical city of Madrid.  I had received a good ‘ol map from the hotel receptionist of places I should see, and I set out from my Metro stop – wandering. 


The last time I was in Spain, it was pre-New York City life.  This was a totally different experience.  The simple nuances of urban life weren’t a challenge, but a norm.  It took away the stumbling blocks of trains and buses and crowds and noise and waiting and walking.  And it gave way to just simply enjoying.  Not having a single expectation, I would turn corners and completely gasp in awe at the beauty before me.  I can’t wait to upload the photos from the SLR on to www.sahbarohani.tumblr.com because it was a true joy to take those shots.  Everything about Madrid surprised me.  The kindness of the people, the easiness of the commuting, the intricacies of the architecture, the openness of the plazas, and the classy and laid-back nature of everyone I saw.  

The last location circled on my map was the Catedral.  I walked up and was literally blown away.  I stood in the immense courtyard at dusk, when the sky was blue blue, and the air had a perfect combination of dew and crisp.  I took a really slow breath in and released.  It was an arrival of sorts.  A right of passage.  I stood there just overwhelmed with gratitude.  How lucky.  I say that a lot, but I also tend to forget it a lot, unfortunately.  But how lucky.  If you had asked me in June if I would be breathing in Spanish air on a cool summer night, I’d have declared a definite no.  But, you know, things happen all the time that we don’t expect.  We have just to believe and to take that first step.

Friday, July 27, 2012

fighting routine.

We live in a City that is constantly demanding of us.  Ride the subway, walk to work, work, lunch break (if you're lucky), walk back from work, ride the subway, get home, make dinner, meet friends for dinner, eat dinner, evening routine, sleep, start again.  Evening routine...  Routine.

It's a funny thing this routine because, although we desperately need it in order to stay organized, sane, and "accomplished," it can often take away our appreciation for life.

In his book Aleph, Paulo Coehlo wrote:
I had been allowing myself to be slowly poisoned by routine; showers were merely a matter of washing my skin clean, meals were for feeding my body, and the sole purpose of walks was to avoid heart problems in the future.
Now things are changing, imperceptibly, but they are changing.  Meals are times when I can venerate the presence and the teachings of friends, walks are once again meditations on the present moment, and the sound of water in my ears silences my thoughts, calms me, and makes me relearn that it is these small daily gestures that brings us closer to God, as long as I am able to give each gesture the value it deserves.

Do we value, even in the small things, that which makes us grateful?
Do we take the time to perceive things that seem so mundane to the untrained eye?
What do we have to do to start changing our routine?

Those small things make us alive.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

an amazing mom.

Words are tears that have been written down.  Tears are words that need to be shed.  Without them, joy loses all its brilliance and sadness has no end.  Thank you, then, for your tears. - Paulo Coehlo

Of the tears I shed this summer, the most meaningful were those shared with my sister, as I bid her farewell.

She carefully maneuvered herself out of the car so as not to hit her 8 month pregnant belly on the steering wheel.  She left the door ajar so that my sleeping niece wouldn't be awakened by the sound of the slamming door.  She came around to the back to "help" me with my luggage, but really just to say good-bye.

"She's a good girl, you know?" I said, as I peered into her car seat through the back window. Her sleeping face angelic.  

"Yah, I know."

I didn't know how to say the next few words without the tears eating my words.  But I knew I had to.

"It's because of you.  You're...you're a good mom."

She looks away, trying not to meet my eyes with hers.  Knowing that if she does, the tears will not hold back and will stay sitting neatly on her eyelids.

"You're an amazing mom.  She has amazing parents.  It's because of you two."

I pulled my little sister into my arms and we both cried.



I wish we said these things more often.

Thank you, then, for your tears.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

my own space

When I used to dream of living alone I had these romanticized pictures of me, coming home to my very clean apartment, hanging my key up in the right place, placing my shoes where they belong, listening to classical music and reading a book for hours.  I knew my place would be where I did the things that made me feel calm, at peace, and happy.

And then I moved.

It was a whirlwind of attempting to build furniture, spending hours trying to get my wireless hooked up before caving and calling in for help, dusty shelves, clothes on the floor, setting up my AC, setting up my AC again, figuring out how to make my AC quieter, fitting all my things into small nooks and crannies so they fit, lamenting the end of natural sunlight, and realizing that my kitchen will be where I indeed apply my make up because the bathroom is just too small.

But then tonight, was magical.  I came home exhausted and in a grouchy mood.  I'll get a massage (always my "go-to"), I thought.  It's right in my neighborhood, a block away - so I did.
I came home, ate some left overs, glanced at my arts and crafts box, and decided tonight was going to be the night I would make my dreams come true.

I cleared everything away, put on really calming music (as opposed to GLEEK on TV as background noise), and sat down on my rug with a bunch of materials. I worked away, enjoying my space, filling it with positivity and kindness.  I picked up a watercolor brush and then noticed the ever terrifyingly goofy smile that had spread across my face.  A content smile.  A smile that made me laugh.

I finished my piece, cleaned up, crawled into bed, and began to blog.  This very blog right here in fact.  And all of a sudden I have realized - this is all I ever wanted when I dreamed of living alone.  A space that I can fill with my things, in my way, to do the things that I want to do...

Until I am ready to share again, I'm going to enjoy this teeny box I have carved out of New York City.

When?

How do people make choices in their lives?
Do circumstances usually lead you somewhere or do you pick up and move and make a bold, bold choice because your heart feels like it's the right thing to do.
I moved for school, for a job, for a boy, to volunteer, to be involved.  I moved because something drew me there.  Not because I realized what it is I want, what it is that makes me happy, and moved to make that reality.
How do you know when you are just done with a place?  When it is just time to move on because you have outgrown it and you know that the things that make you happy are no longer there?  How do you know when the risk is enough?  How do you know when what your losing is worth it?  How do you know?

forgiving.

Forgiveness is a salve, they say.  Forgiveness helps to heal the pain and allows you to grow and mature and move forward.  But what if you feel like you are the one that needs the apology?  What if you feel like, in order to move forward, you need not be the one to make the first move?
You can't control another person's movement.  You can't force someone to feel remorse, to come to you, to apologize, to try and mend.  It's not your place.  So then how do you forgive?
How do you move past when every memory forces anger and pain?
How do you stop yourself from being stuck.  Because the only one hurting is you.  In the end, it is your well-being that is compromised.  In the end it is you who suffers.
But yet you have to forgive.  You have to do whatever you need to do to forgive and move past.  Because holding on only hurts you and no one else.  Remembering only makes you the victim.  And being the victim stifles your movement forward.
Somehow you must get to a place where you can truly forgive.  Mainly it's forgiving your own self.  And healing from the emotions that haunt.

silence and nobility

Talking and talking.  Too much talking.  
Sometimes it just leads to nowhere.  You re-hash and re-think and re-consider every move.
And sometimes, when you don't want it to, it leads to talking about things that you really should not be talking about.  It brings up old memories, old feelings, unkind words, and a lot of pain.  
Rumi, the ultimate mystic and poet, wrote: 
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”


Maybe that's TOO poetic, too deep.  Maybe it's just about being more aware and conscious of the words that you utter.  It's the words that effect and play on your soul.  They can uplift or bring down.  
And it is one thing to talk about your own experiences and your own thoughts and ideas but it is a little different when those words become about others, which can so often be the case.

Paulo Coehlo: If you spend too much time trying to find out what is good or bad about someone else, you'll forget your own soul and end up exhausted and defeated by the energy you have wasted in judging others.

True.  Hard to control, but true.  It's a constant, constant reminder to oneself.  Awareness.  Silence.  Thinking before speaking.  Comfortable in silence and in maintaining it.  

Being noble.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aleph

I just recently began reading the book Aleph, by Paulo Coelho - author of The Alchemist and one of my most favorite writers.  He inspires in me the desire to do my own writing.  He inspires me to dream of my house on the beach where I will one day sit and write - stopping only when my kids come home from school.  One day...

This book is about his spiritual journey - the longing of his soul.  The journey that soul undertakes in search for something greater.  And most probably I'll quote him a lot in the coming months.  Blue pen marks have covered the chapters of the book that I have read so far.  Marks from the pen borrowed from the girl in the yellow shirt sitting next to me in a small cafe in Park Slope.

Reading, sipping coffee, biting into a chocolate croissant, heart soaring, thoughts racing.  The world disappeared for only a split seconds at a time.  Moments of 'Aleph' - the point at which everything is in the same place at the same time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mona G

I spent 5 straight days with my lovely cousin Mona G.  Her and I grew up together.  We fought when we were little, we pinched each others cheeks until somehow the red marks we left decided who needed to share which toy.

We grew apart and then back together and ended up being roommates in college.  Then I moved away from Tucson and stayed away for many many years.  Then she got married and moved away.  And although we always always stayed in touch and love each other even when we aren't in touch - it had been a long time since we spent time together.

Mona G and I are as different as two people come.  In her words: I'm wings and a beer and you're a salad and a martini.  We disagree on almost everything to the point of it being comical.  We are shocked by what the other really loves and enjoys.  But at the core, we love each other.

So the summer of 2012 Mona G and I got to have 5 whole days together.  Road tripping across the coast of California from one tip to another.  We laughed, we talked, we shared memories (well I shared the memories and she listened - she can't remember anything for the life of her), and we filled each other in.  We shared stories from the last few years, slowly drawing one another into the details of the others life.  I remembered how generous and hilarious and genuinely kind-hearted my cousin is.  I witnessed what a wonderful wife she has become and understood how very deeply she cares for the students she teaches.

For as different as we are, the core remains the same.  The love at the core.

I feel grateful for our reunion.  For being able to once again remember how very lucky I am for the people in my life who allow me to grow and encourage me to be who I am.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

enjoying

For the majority of this trip I have been around other people.  My cousin joined me for a portion of it - which I am ever grateful for - and I stayed with friends, visited with friends, and just hung out.  But the last 4 days of my trip have been all about me.  Flying solo.  Thinking, living in the moment, being true to whatever I want to do.  I eat whatever and whenever I want.  I stop the car off the side of the road to snap a picture, I sit for hours at a time - sometimes doing nothing at all.

There is this incredibly freeing feeling that has become norm.  There are moments I am scared.  A split second when I stop and say - I'm alone.  And then that passes.  Because I know it's momentary and I should enjoy it while I have it.

I wake in a hotel room by myself.  I use the hotel gym! - I don't know WHEN the last time was that I had the time nor desire to use a hotel gym.  I go for a swim.  I sit outside on the patio just 30 minutes until check out because I can.  I have no one telling me I have to go get ready.  I have no one to feel accountable to but myself.  It's purely and refreshingly me.  And I kinda like me.

I know this won't last long.  I know that this is a slice, a small sliver of time where I live in this moment and live alone.  But instead of worrying if it'll be my constant state, I have make a conscious decision to relish it.  These are the moments that make up our big beautiful lives.  And we have a choice to make in each of those moments.  Enjoy it?  Or constantly anticipate something bigger and better?

Today, I'm choosing to enjoy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

this moment.

I have not had time to blog.
But have had plenty of time to think.

A trip that leads me no where and yet everywhere all at the same time.
Pure freedom.  Deciding in the moment.

Letting realties and stresses slip away.
Vacation.

Needing space and needing time.
Sleeping.  Living in the moment.  Being.

It's been a while.

Monday, July 2, 2012

my teeny tiny little one

The day after my niece was released from the hospital, she had to be taken back.  They had to place her under a blue lamp to counter the small bit of jaundice she had.  She was teeny tiny - just a little over 6 pounds and her small frame was lost in the incubator type bed they placed her in.  She only had her diapers on and even those were too big for her.  Having only had been released from the womb a mere 24 hours prior, she was still used to the tight fetal position she has grown in for the past 9 months so any sudden movements from her flailing limbs only woke her up and ignited bouts of tears and a small cry that back then seemed so loud but now only pales in comparison to what her lungs can produce.

That night I stood vigil over her bed.  I held her tiny arms and legs in place so that she would not be awoken and so that her tiny frame could rest easy.  I stood for hours, positioning myself perfectly so that my hands held her body in place giving the illusion of the world she had just escaped.  And I studied her tiny little perfect face, where her nose points and the corners of her eyes meet.  And that pensive look she had, even back then - even when she was sleeping.

Tonight as we drove home, her in her car seat and me sitting next to her in the back, I watched her side profile and was immediately reminded of that night.  Her features are still the same.  I placed my hand on the side of her car seat in order to have a closer look.  Her eyes still as intent, her mouth still as dainty and fragile, her eyes now wide with excitement.  Without flinching she picked up her hand and wrapper her palm and tiny fingers around my thumb.  And she just held on, tight.

I can't believe how big she has gotten.  But she will always be that teeny tiny thing to me.

zentangle

We had brunch this morning at the home of a lovely, lovely couple - Jim and Deb.  They moved out to Arizona about 8 years ago and being in their home now you would think they have lived in the Southwest for years and years.  Intricate wooden cabinets line their kitchen shelves and their Arizona sunroom houses mosaic tiles and a wooden rocking chair that tells you you're someplace special each time it glides back and forth.


They made fresh banana pancakes, like the ones that Jack Johnson speaks of, and had an array of homemade jams to accompany the meal.  The smell of hazelnut coffee is in the air as their blue eyed cat Miso lounges on the floor.  Their home envelopes you and you get the feeling like you are about to learn something new.  


Today I learned about Zentangle.  Apparently Zentangle is "a way of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is fun and relaxing. Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being."  Deb told me it is one of the best things she has ever done - all you need is a small scrap piece of paper, a pencil, and a fine-point black marker.  You start small and create a pattern and then continue adding on from there.  She said that it creates such calm and you feel incredibly focused and serene.  Shown here is one of her creations.  


Day 4 of my summer travels and I stumbled upon this.  Something new to try in my crazy, crazy City back home.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

meeting Joe


On the flight from Chicago to Tucson I met Joe – a forester of 38 years whose tag-line on his current business card reads “working at retirement”.  Joe comes from a place called Traverse City, Michigan, which he spent the good part of an hour describing to me.  Everything from the house and car that Bruce Willis used to rent when he and Demi would bring the kids there…to the cherry picking festival that takes place each year where you can literally pick pounds and pounds of huge cherries for virtually nothing.  Even just thinking about that now makes my mouth water. 

Joe taught me all about the wild fires taking place in the West these days.  He explained about the laws to protect trees and the ways to prevent fires from spreading.  He told me about the most beautiful places in all of America that he had seen when having to travel for forestry. 

Then I asked about his family.  And he got quiet.  “Did your kids grow up in Traverse City too?”

“Yes, yes my son did.”

“Oh, nice!  Where is he now?”

Quiet.

His eyes began to swell with tears.  “He was living in LA.  My son died two years ago.”

There was a pang in my heart.  I was lifted thousands and thousands of miles above the ground, and I was connecting with this other human being who I didn’t even know existed 2 hours prior.  Crazy world.

He continued.

“I’d say LA did it to him…”

“What do you mean? Was he in an accident?”

“He was a very successful engineer.  He owned his own company and had many employees and many assets.  Then the economy tanked.  And it was too much.  He couldn’t stand letting that many people down.  Failing.  He took his own life.”  His eyes met mine when he said those final words. 

“I’m so sorry…”
***
I bet Joe didn’t know he’d be sharing that story with a stranger on a plane.  I bet neither of us realized when we positioned ourselves in row 16 that this would be our conversation today.  But that’s the thing about opening up.  You learn things and hear things and see things that you otherwise would not have.  I’m grateful to Joe for feeling vulnerable enough to tell me his story.  I’m grateful to myself for putting down my book and getting to know the person sitting next to me.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

P.S.


And for those of you who think I’m crazy – and there may be many of you who may think so – this validates it.  Straight from Life & Style magazine, my horoscope for this week. 
Yes, I just quoted Life and Style as a way to validate myself to my “more logical” friends.  If that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.

The “summer of one-way tickets” begins…


I thought my idea was a novel one.  Buy a ticket and see where it leads you.  Buy the next one as you go – and just let yourself live in the moment. 

The day before my journey began I sat in the park with my friend.  “Advice?” she said, “Look up.  Don’t always be on your phone.  Make eye contact and smile.  It’s good for you and it makes you more open.”

I settled into my teeny tiny seat on the teeny tiny airplane on the first leg of my flight to Tucson.  That is my first destination on this journey because I have a desperate need to see my family and to squish my niece with love.  I figure it’ll offer some stability before I head off into more unknown terrain.  I have a 2 hour gap in Chicago on my way home.  I was talking on the phone when I boarded and then quickly put my things away to settle in for a nap. 

“You live in Chicago?” I looked over to make sure she was really talking to me.  I had been so consumed in my own thoughts I hadn’t even noticed the 60 something woman sitting next to me.   Her eyes were wide behind her thick oval glasses and she clutched a book in her hands.

“Nope, in New York, but headed to Arizona.”  Remember to smile, and look up – my friends words resonated.

“What part?  What part of Arizona?” I fought the thoughts creeping up that said – if you continue to talk you’ll be stuck in conversation for the next hour and 45 minutes to O’Hare. 

“Tucson.”  I smiled, turned away.  

“What?  I live there!” Her crooked smile created wrinkles all around her eyes.  I gave in.

“Really?  What part?  And…do you live in New York?”

She gave me her cross-streets – right near the hospital we stayed at the day after my niece was born and sent back for jaundice.  “…But I haven’t been there for a month.  I have been in Virginia, and North Carolina, then Massachusetts and upstate New York…it’s been wonderful!”

“Really?  That sounds great!”

“Yes, it’s been just a month of one-way tickets, I guess you’d say.”  I guess you would.  Here I was, sitting right next to this woman who was ending a journey I was about to begin.  I stared at her for a moment and the genuine peace she exuded became more clear.

“Wow, that’s what I’m about to do…” 

And I decided right then and there that these small moments only come to me when I’m open to them coming.  That the universe puts in front of me what I tell it I want.  That if I stopped looking at my phone every minute, checking updates on Instagram, looking at emails, taking pictures, and talking on the phone – I’d bump into, meet, and encounter just exactly what I need to. 

So here we go – the summer of one-way tickets – dedicated to being open to all and everything the universe brings my way. 

I’m back…from the whirlwind that was my life…


To say that the month straddling the end of May and the beginning of June was intense, would be a total and complete understatement.  It was jam-packed with travel, apartment searching, apartment finding, packing boxes, anxiety over living alone, excitement about total independence, weddings, presenting on a panel, moving, relying on friends, trusting other people, being relied on, graduation of my first group of Kindergartners, dinners and parties and out-of-town guests…the list goes on and on and on…I stop here mainly not to bore you and mostly not to talk myself into a flurry of anxious feelings.

I sat in an interview for a middle school science candidate.  I tuned in and out of her answers while to-do lists danced around in my head.  I just want to go home, I thought.  I just need to get out of here, if even just for a little bit.  That was May 29.  It was sandwiched between a flight back from San Francisco the day before and a 6am train to DC the day after.  My eyes were blurry and I barely knew what I was wearing that day.  The interviewee continued talking about ecology and classroom management and right there, in the midst of her trying to convince us that 3 months of student teaching has qualified her as the perfect candidate for our school, I made a big decision:  I was getting out of here on a one-way ticket.  I knew that if I booked a ticket out of NYC very soon after school let out, it would force me to finish everything in high intensity while at the same time allowing me to re-claim a well-deserved summer. 

And so I did. 

Today is June 27th, 5 days after school was let out for the summer of 2012, and I have left on my journey…my “summer of one-way tickets”.  It’s a journey whose details are vague and limitedly sketched.  But one that already has inspired hope in my gut and spreads a smile across my face.

Monday, April 23, 2012

some weekends

There are some weekends that just make you happy. You look back on them and think - that was good. It was a great combination of all things that make me happy.

 Weekends like this may include, but are not limited to:

* Good iced coffe.
* A "massage crawl" in China Town - yah, you read right. A back massage here, a scalp massage there, work on my feet in this place...
* Spring dresses and happy people.
* A cute neighborhood cafe, parachute blossoms, and a meeting of the hearts.
* Kale salad with good friends.
* Candlelight dinners.
* Reading in bed while it heavily rains outside.
* A screening room, candy, and great company.
* Brunch and catch-up with an old and dear friend.
* Tortilla soup.

I have to remember small and big moments like these that make my weekends something so special to look forward to.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

home.

I spent the last week and a half with my family at my parents' new home in Santiago, Chile. It was my first visit there. I didn't know what to expect and, quite frankly, didn't have MUCH expectation. I just wanted to see my family. I missed my family. And the moment I steeped foot into my parents' new place, I was home. It's a silly, silly expression. Well - not silly, but cliche: home is where the heart is. But really. It is.
Within a few moments I was saying, "I'm so happy to be home." Because there is where the people who love me stay. There it is where I am taken care of. I'm a grown-up now but still, being in the home of my mother and father, makes me a kid once again. My functionality lessens in a way that feels good momentarily. I let other people make decisions. And allow myself to relax. I was home. And I couldn't even look at my mom and dad without crying. I wanted to tell them how much I loved being home. I wanted to tell them how much I had missed them. But if I opened my mouth, I knew I'd loose it. But I'm sure they knew. I'm sure we all felt it. We all loved "being home".

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Memoir

I remember the room being pretty dark, especially for a Kindergarten classroom…

I looked around trying to find something on the walls that looked familiar, but it was hard to see. There were a few large posters with lots of words on them that were placed neatly around the walls, unlike the frames of our many family members that hung haphazardly around our home. The walls were painted the same yellow that I noticed in the long hallway on the way to the classroom. There were accents of that yellow in the Persian rugs that lay on the floor of our apartment and the calligraphy that joined the family photographs up on our walls.

I heard the teacher say something and then everyone began to make their way to the middle of the room and create a circle. I could make out only part of what she was saying but from watching the other kids, I understood that she was telling us to sit down. My face scrunched up slightly as my body made contact with the cold and hard ceramic floor. We were all sitting in a circle, our tiny legs folded perfectly, knee to knee, almost touching the person next to us. It was a big circle of tiny bodies sitting and waiting, nervously anticipating the first day of school. My teacher sat on the big wooden chair right across the circle from me, her hands folded on her lap. I folded mine on my lap, too.

I looked around at all my classmates searching for which one had big brown eyes like my cousins and I had. I watched curiously to see if anyone else had wild curly black hair (now tied back in pig-tails) just like me. My hair was starting to hurt but I didn’t want to remove my hands from my lap to touch it. I had watched my mother comb and pull at it earlier that morning. I wished she hadn’t pulled so hard. I sat with my legs criss-crossed in the beautiful dress that my mother had sewn for me. She sewed all my dresses, and I proudly wore each one. My little hands outlined the purple and yellow flowers that made up the pattern. I kept my eyes on the flowers. I remembered them making their way through the sewing machine. The rhythmic pounding kept me company while I colored. My mother had bought me a Cinderella coloring book, just like the girl next door had. I loved it so much. I would always color as she sewed.

And then it was time to introduce ourselves. Right next to the teacher, also directly across from me, were a few boys that I noticed right away. I saw their wide, crooked smiles. One had messy brown hair and was wearing a bright shirt. The other had a face covered in freckles and big blue eyes. The boy with the freckles caught me staring and I immediately looked down again.

I listened as we went around the circle and everyone introduced themselves.
"I'm Sarah."
“Hi Sarah.” The teacher led everyone all together, as my eyes widened.
"My name is Alex."
“Hi Alex.” I slightly shook in surprise as again the whole class joined together to repeat Alex’s name.
"John."
“Hi John.” I listened.
"I'm Elizabeth."
“Hi Elizabeth.” This time I joined in a hushed whisper under my breath.

My heart began to pound in my little chest. I waited nervously, whispering everyone’s names, not wanting to say my own.

"I'm Laura." That was the girl sitting right next to me.
“Hi Laura.”

It was my turn now. It was quiet for a moment and I heard the boys across the circle begin to move a little bit. I opened my mouth to speak. My heart was now beating so loudly in my ears I was afraid they could hear it.
"Sahba." I whispered.

The word had barely left my lips when I heard the laughter from across the circle. The boys began pointing and laughing.
"What did you say?" My teacher said.
I repeated my name. Again. Again, more laughing.
"Ok, next."
And then we moved on to Aaron.

My face got really hot and I started rubbing the pattern of the flowers even harder. I kept swallowing, over and over, to try and get rid of the big bump in my throat. My hair was really hurting now. I didn’t talk for the rest of the day in class. I kept my eyes on the flowers and my hands on my lap.

As soon as I saw our blue VW Bug pull up at the end of the day, I ran out to the car before my parents could even get out. I slammed the door shut and sunk low into the backseat until my feet hit the floor. I saw them looking at each other and they started to whisper. I let one tear fall down my cheek. Finally. From between the two seats I could see that my mom was holding a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for me, rather than last nights leftovers. They asked me in Farsi how it was.

I sat in the backseat for a minute and then moved my body up to fit right in between the two seats in the front, thankful they had both come to pick me up today. I stayed quiet at first, thinking about how much I should tell them. My mother turned to face me. I looked at the lines on her forehead, all bunched together and her eyes wide with concern. My dad started to drive. I let out a long, long breath.

"I hate my name. I'm changing it."

There was silence. It felt like a long time. I watched the yellow lines in the middle of the street. They reminded me of the walls of my classroom. My hair started to hurt again and I pulled at my pig-tails, releasing the hair that was so tightly bound. It was quiet in the car for a long time.

"Ok,” my dad said gently, “what do you want to be called?"

I didn’t know he was going to ask me that.
Again, silence. The yellow lines kept whizzing by. The lump in my throat began to go away.

"Sandy. Or Sally.”

There was a long pause as they passed glances back and forth. At one point my mother shrugged and handed me my sandwich. When she turned to face me, I saw a tear inching its way out of the corner of her eye. She quickly wiped it away.

She looked at my father and shrugged again and gave him a side nod.
"How about Amy?" he offered.
Amy. I liked the sound of that.

That was the moment that my name changed. I became Amy for the rest of elementary school and well into high-school.

And every year on the first day of school, I relived that Kindergarten moment, as my new teachers would read through the roster and then pause when they got to my name trying to decide which one to say first. “Um…Amy?”

“Here.”

Fear

Fear holds us back from taking a risk, making a move, forming an apology.
We let fear hinder us from growing, from changing, from being free.
It often takes hold slowly, methodically.
It creeps in. And then it just sits there, allowing you to believe that functioning with it is your only choice.

Fear.

It doesn't let you function at your full capacity.
We learn to accept it as normal.
Feed it.
Engage it.
Let it manipulate us.

Because facing it is far too hard. Somehow facing it requires admitting failure.

Although, when released - as painful as that immediately may be - the freedom creates a happiness and a peace that the soul only feels when it has come home.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

the stranger

the wooden bench felt really hard beneath me.
i slipped my sandals off my feet and crossed my legs on that wood.
music spilled into my ears and filled my soul.
i looked up, only a cardigan on today - that's all i needed.
the bare trees, glimpses of green emerging, stretched across, designing the blue sky.

i breathe.

"you look like a care-giver. is that what you are?"

he disturbs my peace only momentarily.
"an educator, so ya."

"i can tell. there is something about you. some sort of calm presence you have. something that tells me that you are fulfilling your calling - you are doing what you need to be doing."

stranger. on the bench.

"ya, i am. i really feel like i am."

strange how comfortable i am. with this stranger on the bench.

"in this City - it's hard to do that. it's hard to stay calm and focused and feel good about what you do. it's hard. but i just can tell. i can see in you that you are where you are supposed to be."

"ya. thank you. thank you for saying that."

i look straight ahead. deep breathes. how does he know? who he is?

i notice he is picking up his things. getting ready to leave.
introductions.

"well, congratulations on being so angelic."

humbled.
confused.

he's gone.

fresh air surrounds me and a tinge of emotion creeps into my heart. it releases.
moments when the universe is telling you something. trying to make you understand. giving you what you need. my letter from God: received.

sometimes the strangest things happen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

stopping

i woke up today - on the first day of my Baha'i new year in 2012 - i was filled with an overwhelming sense of calm. a strange calm and reassurance that i have not had in a long time. that the tests and trials that the Fast ushered in, have rested. and my heart feels full.

i read something today from one of my friends, amy: Some days we wake up, confident in our ability to face our tests and fail in spectacularly beautiful ways. God willing, there is always tomorrow.

and this resonated on this day. the hopefulness that tomorrow is there to help us conquer and help us forgive. to be kinder to ourselves in our struggle to perfect our already complicated lives.

it's ok to stop sometimes and be proud of where we are.

Monday, March 19, 2012

only a few

it's hard to believe that a month so rich in revelations and moments of clarity has only lent itself to 2 blog posts thus far. seems a disgrace?
or maybe it is the mere reflection of the purpose of these days...more inward thinking. more solid and consistent movement not to be shared. to be cherished privately.

19

tomorrow marks the last day of my 19-day fast. i look back on these days with total gratitude. it was a hard fast. it tested me in so many ways.
things happened during these 19 days that have struck a cord in my soul.
reflection, gratitude, love.
something happens at 3pm when i have no more energy left in me. i am exhausted and feel as though i have nothing left in me to give. so i submit. little things that bothered me, just don't. i move slower, think slower, am not phased by heightened stress.
and then big news came.
life altering news.
needing to sort through the emotions. allowing myself to feel what comes. and just feel it. to sit with it. to let it wash over me.
my distractions become less and less and my awareness more acute.
i sit here on the eve of the 18th day - as the night is about to roll over into the last sunrise i will awaken before - and i read through the thoughts, inspirations, and words of wisdom that my friends around the world share about their own experiences during this time (http://nineteendays.wordpress.com/) and i am completely humbled. each word they say resonates with me and creates a bond and connections even though worlds are between us. their experience feels like my own. their insights feel engrained in me.
i am thankful for these 19 days, carved out of time, for me to focus. on me. on my own spiritual development. on my longing desire to be a better person.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

no salmon on myrtle

Today was the 3rd day of my 19 day fast and ALL I wanted for dinner was salmon and salad.
I contemplated going out to dinner and then thought about the money I could save if I just stayed at home. Plus, not to toot my own horn, but my salmon is pretty great (learned from mom and dad).
So I set out to buy salmon and get back in time to cook and be ready for sunset (5:56).

I tried Greenville, the store right near by - no salmon. But I kind of figured as much, they don't carry fish, but I thought I'd try.

Off to Associated, they always have everything. Always.

Nothing. No salmon.

Are you SERIOUS?!?

Ok, the new fancy grocery store two blocks down. They have GOT to have it.

Nope, sorry. Ah!!!!!!

Mr. Coco's. Mr. Coco doesn't carry frozen meat, but maybe - just maybe they will have it.

Nope.

Nothing.

So you know what I did? I bought a smoked salmon fillet. And I cooked it.

Couldn't decide if I liked it or if it was just making me nauseous.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

my brother-in-law

I have this amazing brother-in-law and I don't think I tell him often enough how much I love and appreciate him.

Having someone come into your family can sometimes be hard. As much as you may love the person your sibling has chosen, it ultimately changes the nature of the family dynamic that you have come to know so well. Many times, it can feel like you have lost that member of your family as they go off to create their own.

But I knew from the beginning that not only was my brother-in-law ok with me preserving my relationship with my sister, he encouraged it. A few months before their wedding, my sister and I talked about taking a road trip from Arizona to New Mexico to visit our cousin. My sister said - let me just check with Nate, maybe he wants to come or maybe this isn't a good time.
So she did.
And I waited to see, to see how this new impending marriage would change my life.
What did he say?
He said - of course you should go. This is probably one of the last times before you get married where it's just you and your sister doing something together. You need this time together.
And I knew then - I knew then that I wasn't loosing my sister, but I was gaining a brother, truly.
The way he responded to that has been the way he has welcomed me whole heartedly and with wide open arms into the new family he and my sister have created. He allows me to maintain the relationships I had, while fostering the new ones that have been born. And for that I am forever grateful.

I was recently on my flight over to Arizona and I thought - I should tell Nate how much I love him...I don't know if I do that enough.
I got off the flight in a hurry to catch my shuttle to Tucson. I got off so fast that I left my book in the pocket of the seat in front of me.
"Crap!" I texted my sister and Nate, "I left my book on the plane. Oh well. :("
"What book was it?" - Nate.
"The House on Mango Street." The book had been gifted to me and I was devastated to have lost it.
"Oh, sorry." - Nate.
"That sucks." - my sister.

I rode the two hours to the shuttle stop in Tucson. Got out and there was my brother-in-law to pick me up. Huge hug. "I'm so glad you're here."

Warm desert sunshine on my face, content smile. He takes my luggage - never let's me carry anything unless I want to. Always takes care of things.

He opens the side door for me, pushes the seat up, places the suitcase in the back, and then pushes the seat back again so I can sit. And there sitting on the front passenger seat of the car - The House on Mango Street.

I love my brother-in-law.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

business adds to craziness.

weekends become a time to catch up on life and a time to catch up with friends and family.
and when you have many friends and family who live overseas, weekends become skype times which can only happen at odd hours of the day.
so trying to get ready to meet friends in real time while having a conversation with someone in time zone time, makes it really hard to have your entire brain present.
add to that the paraphernalia of gathering up winter items before you leave the house, and you're a goner.
grabbed my coat, my hat, my purse. add the camera, sunnies!, gloves, scarf. birthday gift!
out the door.
running...
so...
late...
catch a cab.
still talking on the phone.
"13th and 3rd please."

almost there, a block away...
fish for my wallet.
can't
find
it
take the entire contents of my purse out and dump it on the backseat of the cab.
no, nnnoooo, NNOOO!!!
"um, um, sir?"
no response.
"um, sir...i, i, i forgot my wallet."
Scrreeeeccchhhhh. He hit the brakes.
"What?"
"i'm so so sorry. honestly, i have no idea how this even happened. um, ok, i will pay you. i just can't pay you now."
looks at me over the rim of his glasses, he's not buying it.
"listen, i promise. i swear. give me your address, i'll send you money. i'm so sorry - i have no idea how this even happened." the tears start to form.
he releases the brake, begins driving.
"ok, just give me your address - i'll send you the money - i PROMISE i will."
"ok, ok, i know, ok."

gets me, safe and sound, to my destination.
writes down his address and says - $12.50.
"i'll send you $20, thank you sir, thank you."

jump out the car. relieved that what they say about New Yorkers isn't true.
walk towards the restaurant trying to figure out HOW i'm going to make it through the rest of the day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

jumbled

heart racing, body numb.
thoughts circling in and out and all around.
the crevices of my mind.

too much to process that eventually spills into not being able to control.
overcome with emotion, rage, hurt, anger, injustice.
that swells and subsides all too quickly.

trying to make sense, to talk myself out of, to explain.
but it all jumbles.
and time.
doesn't exist.

time just sits there being occupied by other things.
trying to cry to release the pain.
but it doesn't come.
it's stubborn. it wants to stay.

underlying current of sadness dictates.
trying to come to peace.
to love.
to see again the way i used to.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Food Inc.

I've been sick in bed all weekend. It's hit me bad. And I've become addicted to one thing. Well, one and a half.

The show that currently makes me happy, wanting to stay up late and over-dose, is - How I Met Your Mother. It's great - well written, funny, a touch of reality with a dose of over the top, and most of all - with a hint of Friends nostalgia. It's good - watch it.

Then, somewhere in my sea of sickness and HIMYM, I decided to watch Food, Inc. If you haven't heard of it - it's a documentary that takes a really close look at our food industry - where it all comes from, how it's "farmed" and how it's "treated" and touches upon the people who get screwed in the process. It's horrifying.

I'm so not one of those people who watches a movie and has a change of heart but I literally cannot get those images out of my mind. It is disgusting what we are actually eating. It's brought whole new meaning to "grass-fed" and "locally grown". You should watch it, I won't waste your time here by telling you all about it. But bottom line is that we have a choice each day of what we put into our bodies in this one and only life we have.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

FB and I are on a break...

I decided a few weeks ago to take a little bit of a break from my old friend FaceBook. It's for no reason in particular - nothing major happened, no incident pushed me over the edge, a dramatic moment never occurred - I just decided it was time for me to just step away a little. Perhaps too much information and too many moments were being shared with just too many people. So I just need a break.

Tonight I decided to look back on my profile and view some of my albums and it was like a HUGE TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE.

When I was younger, I used to keep albums. In fact, back in Arizona, there is a room with boxes and at least 3 of those boxes are filled with albums documenting my life. High school, youth retreats, South Carolina, Eritrea, Haifa, family gatherings, times with my grandmother, Ethiopia, the time my grandparents visited America for the first time. All of those things are in there...

Tonight, these albums on FaceBook helped me relive the last few years, the years since FB has entered my life. And it was all there - the good, the bad, and the ugly...all the moments that have made up my life.

And I'm so grateful for that. So grateful that it forces me to remember the sometimes small things that may have slipped. So even though FB and I are on a break, I still owe it for keeping my memories safe and secure, for me to look back on and enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

new years resolutions

New Years resolutions are funny things. It's the turn of the year, the anticipation of new beginnings and hopefulness in the year to come, that makes us sit, re-evaluate, and makes promises to ourselves. Obviously this is originally rooted in religious traditions and ancient rituals and is now presented to us along with streamers, a song, and a kiss at midnight.

Apparently, research shows that the most popular goals include resolutions to:
- Improve well-being: lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails
- Improve finances: get out of debt, save money
- Improve career: get a better job
- Improve education: improve grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music), study often
- Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent, perhaps watch less television, play less sitting-down video games
- Take a trip
- Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity

I don't know about you, but I can mark 3 of those off as resolutions I made this very 2012 year. Unfortunately, though, "A 2007 study by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning." Yikes! However if you set your goals with a partner, friend, ANYONE who can hold you accountable - you're much better off in achieving them. Interesting, right? So it's not too late - find someone, tell them what you are planning to get done this year, and do it. Be the 12%.

It's almost a necessary thing, these New Years resolutions - to help us either heal from the year that passed or celebrate the joy that came in those 12 months leading up to it. At the end of the day, it's about reflecting, being honest with yourself, and making promises that you can (hopefully) keep.

2012. It'll be a good year. I can feel it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

crap TV and the internets.

I don't know what it is about plain old cheesy TV that makes me so happy. It's almost like the more ridiculous it is, the better. It runs the gamut from Revenge to The Bachelor (it took me 5 minutes to even come to terms with publicly admitting that information).

But it's just SO good. It is the ridiculousness that makes it amazing. Something about becoming involved in someone else's life for that hour (or 2, respectively) is completely relaxing and totally enjoyable. Then the fear creeps into my mind that I am wasting hours upon hours enjoying nonsense. Is that OK? Is it acceptable? Is it necessary?

The other day I left work at a reasonable hour and actually had the time to cook, go to the gym, do laundry, write, and THEN watch an hour of crap. And, that crap actually felt healthy. But when we are asked to survive and function in a highly stressful, extremely demanding, and utterly exhausting City with work responsibilities that exceed the energy we have, it forces us to find refuge in meaningless and time-sucking things like crap TV and social media overload. It's almost as though the entertainment industry and advances in technology capitalize on our need to zone out and become captive to its influence. We stop doing things that are actually healthy for us because it is easier to just veg out in front of the TV. We stop being creative and breathing and reading and thinking, because our fuses are just burnt. Is it just this City? Is it just our generation? Is it just our Nation? I wonder...

Now I have to go catch up on Gossip Girl.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

family means more than...

I spent 3 years in my 20's doing volunteer work for the Baha'i world community in Haifa, Israel. It was, by far, one of the most meaningful, uplifting, and connected experiences I have had thus far, and I'd like to think I've lived a pretty full life. It was the joy of knowing that everything I did was for the service of humanity and I reaped no physical benefit from it. There is just something so simple and so pure about that.

But one thing I was not expecting but am so incredibly humbled by, is the bonds of friendship that formed during those three years with all sorts of different people from all over the world. I got to know people who not only became my friends, but became my family. Those who, to this very day, would drop everything to help me, to listen, to care, to comfort. I come from a very tight-knit family and I have always relied on my family for most things. If I ever have needed anything, it is my family to whom I turn. But when I was in Haifa, those relationships taught me that I had other people that I could also rely on.

It all came to head one November when I was in the hospital. I had over-exhausted myself and was dehydrated and one thing lead to another and I was all of a sudden on an Israeli hospital bed for 2 nights - the first night I had to sleep in a bed rolled out to the lobby with my head next to the water fountain because there were not enough rooms, but that is a different story entirely. I had no choice but to rely on these people. I had visitors around the clock - stopping by before work, after work, on lunch breaks. People bringing me food, messages from friends, flowers, and so much love. They helped me advocate for my health, and carried my suitcases, and laid their weary heads on my bed, just to keep me company. It was during those 2 days that I realized that I had formed bonds of family with these special people. That the people that crossed my path in those 3 years became more than just friends.

They all know who they are. Now, days and months and years can go by without much speaking, but once re-united, it's as if not a single day has passed. We shared the bond of service. We relied on each other in a foreign land, we learned each others ins and outs, goods and bads, and love each other regardless. It is a bond I feel so extremely grateful for. They are people I will always feel close to, people who will always and forever hold a special place in my heart. I am so thankful for that time in my life - for showing me that family means more than just what connects you by blood.

attempt at poetry. we'll call this 'sick'.

sick, sick, sick.
pressure in the head, pressure on the eyes.
can barely eat, can barely sleep.

breathing. oh, breathing. something i once took for granted. now SO hard.

water, vitamin C, humidifier, neti pot, advil, tylenol, sudafed - whatever gets you through it.

everything hurts, body aches, ears ring. tired tired tired.

sick, sick, sick.

don't appreciate a minute of good health until it is gone gone gone.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

South Carolina

The year was 1996 and I had decided to take a year off of college to do some volunteer work. After months and months of searching, I ended up in the rural, rural, deep backroads of South Carolina. Hemingway, to be exact. It was green. Really green - with tall trees all around and a humidity that sucked the life out of you. And I had the lightest complexion of anyone for miles and miles.

I worked with the kids in the town. I would tutor them after school. I listened to them tell me stories of getting hit by teachers in school. Outraged. I got distracted by the injustice while trying to focus on fractions. And there was a radio station that I often DJed at - yes, DJ'ed - songs, weather report, and talking - lots of talking. The station manager would call and tell me to stop talking and start playing some songs.

Culturally, it was a huge, enormous shift for me. The language was different, the accents took getting used to, the lifestyle was laid back, the food was fried and delicious, and the people..oh the people - filled everything with melodies and smiles.

I had no idea what to expect when I stepped off that plane and drove those 2 hours inland. I had no concept of the ways that my life would forever be changed. During that year I learned so much about people, so much about myself. During that year that I also decided I wanted to work in the field of Education...before that year I had no idea. It changed me.

The culture is one that has left a mark on my heart. And for some reason as I write this I am reminded of Mr. Pratt - the man who started and worked on the local garden...an experiment in the area - to grow vegetables without any pesticides. He died while I was there and I haven't thought of him for years. Somehow while conjuring up the memories of that year, his smile is recalled. He was one of many who touched my soul. Little Shamar is another one, who - every morning as I made my way to the radio station, would ask: Ms. Sahba - where your baby at?...trying to make sense of the fact that I didn't have any children with me.

It is a time of my life that I don't talk about very often, but one that has had a profound effect on me. I don't even think any of those people know how much their influence shaped my thinking. It is an experience I carry with me to this day and reflect on with gratitude and humility.

first crushes.

Your first crush is always remembered. Just take a minute and think back...see if you can remember him/her.

Tonight my roommate was asking how young I see kids at school begin to form crushes.
"Kindergarten - I mean some of my Kindergartners had crushes, even though they don't really know what it means..."

And then I remembered him, my first crush. Kindergarten. Brandon Callister.
What a dream. Straight brown messy hair, light brown eyes, freckles across the top of his nose and cheeks.
That was the moment I knew what it meant to "like" someone. Brandon Callister.

Years upon years have passed, obviously, and yet still, I remember clearly that face, that smile, the way his feet didn't touch the floor when he sat at the desk, and that first feeling...that amazing feeling of liking someone for the very first time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SAD

I am a girl of the desert. My ancestors came from the deep deep villages of Iran where there was lots of sun and lots of dry weather. I spent the majority of my life in the dry heat of the Arizona desert, with a few sprinkled years in Israel - also desert (although a little more on the humid side due to the lovely Mediterranean.) Wasn't until I moved to New York City that I became privy to the winter - the cold bitter months that start (sometimes) in November and last all the way until (sometimes) April. That's almost 6 months of the year where it is just cold. But the brunt of it usually falls during January and February, spilling into March. For me, I've come to call January 1 to March 21 - the dark time. That's when it's just SAD. Everyone is just SAD.

Wikipedia describes it as: "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summer blues, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer, spring or autumn year after year."

Now whoever is SAD in the summer, when the sun shines, has a few other things to think about, if you ask me. But SAD is real, and SAD creeps up on you when you least expect it. Apparently: "Although experts were initially skeptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder, with its prevalence in the U.S. ranging from 1.4 percent in Florida to 9.7 percent in New Hampshire."

I think this proves my point. Winter sucks. Anyone who tries to convince you that "we need it" and that "everything is re-born and given fresh beginnings" is just kidding themselves. I don't buy it. SAD, it's just SAD.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

clean air

When I lived in Haifa it was told to me that there the pollution is the worst it is in the entire world. I don't know if that is necessarily all true, but definitely no more than a slight exaggeration. You could see the muck in the air. Like a dark cloud, it encircled the otherwise beautiful jewel of a Mediterranean town.
Then I came to New York City where I don't even have time to think about the air I'm breathing because there is way too much other stimulus that gets in the way. Laundry up and down the stairs, lines at the store, lines at a restaurant, lines on my forehead.
Then last week I went to Seattle, Washington. Early Monday morning we left the house. The dew was still in the air. He turned to me and said - "smell that."
I took a deep, deep breath. The deepest breath I had taken in years. And it was so clean it almost tasted sweet. The colors around me became even more vivid as my lungs filled with good, old fashioned, clean air.
I've gotta get me more of that good stuff.