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 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


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.

Monday, January 2, 2012


i love driving. i never get to do it in New York City - well, rarely. and when i do, it's a luxury. so when i was to make the drive down from Vancouver to Seattle over winter break, i was a little more than ecstatic.
and i decided Adele would be the perfect companion. and boy was she! i had never heard all her songs - only a few here and there on the radio or re-done on Glee. she is spectacular.
there are only a few CD's that i have been able to enjoy cover to cover. lauryn hill was another good one. it has been a while since an entire CD has awed me.
it was pitch black out, but i knew there were trees around. the road wasn't windy, per se, but nor was it a straight shot. the CD played her, loud and clear. and i sang my heart out. and, i'm not gonna lie, even cried a little. some of those lyrics hit home.
it was perfect.

what i wouldn't do for Taco Bell.

It's New Years Eve 2011, about to turn into 2012. I am staying at a hotel in Seattle because I have an early flight the next morning out of SeaTac.
Some may think that spending New Years Eve alone in a hotel room in a random city seems sad and depressing. But, to be honest, I was looking forward to it for weeks. I have this thing about hotels. I love the crisp white linen, the fact that I can spread my things all over the place, and the TV straight in front of my bed...I love everything about it. So I was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the last evening of 2011. My excitement was increased when I saw a Taco Bell (my all time favorite) across the street from the hotel.
Taco Bell, crap TV, and a big fluffy bed? Sounds like a dream come true to me.
I left the hotel lobby to make my way across the street. Just then I noticed a guy, maybe in his mid to late twenties, making his way across the parking lot too. He seemed to be going the same route I was going so for fear of him thinking he had a stalker, I walked a little slower so he wouldn't notice. Sure enough we were headed through the parked cars, across the curb, through the shrubbery and on to the street. I tried to keep my distance, but it was cold out so I had to hustle. We got to the light and I was a few steps behind him, so he was able to run across. I stayed at the light. I watched him approach the Taco Bell and try the door - locked. WHAT?!? I thought, can't be!
I watched him walk around to the other door and then come back, defeated, to the light on the corner.
So it's at this point where I become a little crazy.
"Wait - it's closed? Are you serious?"
I begin yelling across the street as if I KNOW the guy. He, clearly (or intentionally) cannot hear me. I'd like to think it was the 6 lanes of traffic I was screaming over.
"Are you freaking kidding me? How could it not be open?!"
Again, nothing from him.
The light finally turns and I cross the street.
As I get closer to him, I say, "Hey, is it closed or something? Are you serious?"
He nods, says it is closed, and crosses the street the other way.
I go to the door and see the sign that says it should be open for another 45 minutes. I jiggle the door and the lady behind the counter looks up and tells me it is closed. I do something, who knows what, but something that encourages he to come to the door. I have a feeling she knew I wasn't going to let this go. I wanted Taco Bell tonight and I was going to get Taco Bell.
She comes to the door and tells me that only the drive thru is open right now.
"Is there any way I can just walk through? I just returned my car. I am so sad. All I wanted was Taco Bell. I only want 3 small things. Can I walk through?"
My mouth is running and I am WELL aware of how crazy I sound but I can't seem to stop the words. She is looking at me in half shock/half pity.
"OK - come in, quick, and order."
I run in after her and place my order in such a rush that I forget to order a drink. Hmmm..."Can I just get a cup for water, Ma'am?"
I pay, get my food, get my small clear plastic cup for water, and head to the fountain drinks, fill up that cup with diet soda (I don't know what got into me, I mean really? I wasn't thinking straight!) and turn towards the door.
Blocking the food and stolen soft drink with my body, I make a run for the door. "Thank you, thank you!" I yell, as I open the door and make my escape.
Except - there he is. The guy I was "stalking" earlier.
I look down to avoid eye contact, afraid of the look he will give me knowing I not only was just an enormous brat for getting myself into Taco Bell and getting food, but also that I was walking out with a cup clearly made for water but filled with soda.
Thankfully right then, the light turned and he started walking. I, of course, followed. Same path back, through the shrubs, over the curb, across the parking lot and into the hotel lobby. I tried slowing way way down, but was still pretty close behind him.
I waited a few minutes before going into the lobby to give him time to disappear. I went in and turned left - there he was. Ugh! Behind him again!
He walked straight, I followed. He turned left, I followed. He turned right onto the 6th wing, and, again - I followed. Down, down, down the l-o-n-g corridor, I was right behind him, the smell of Taco Bell in the halls and the slushing of my soda echoing up and down the hallway. Finally, he got to his room - ONE DOOR AWAY FROM MINE. He looked up at me, quickly looked down again, unlocked his room door, and disappeared.
I let out a deep breath, walked into my room, and fell into fits of laughter at the image of how incredibly creepy I just looked for the last 20 minutes.
Then I enjoyed my Taco Bell, sat on my fluffy bed, and rang in the new year.