Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays

To all our friends who have shared their laughter and tears with us,
To those who traveled distances near and far to share their time,
To those we broke bread with and exchanged stories,
To those we were fortunate enough to meet, and those we hope to meet one day,
To all those we call friends and consider family.

Whether you celebrate the Solstice with stories and sliced watermelons,
Eid with food and offerings,
or Christmas with gifts and music,
We hope your memories warm you all through the winter.

We hope 2008 is full of good health, good company and good fortune for you
and your loved ones,
With peace for the world, and peace of mind for all.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm a Bit Psychic

Let's just say that there is a bit of a trend lately, where I have insight into people's lives. My accuracy rate is questionable, my methods are sketchy and my contacts are non-existent. However, something must be going on for me to have predicted a pregnancy, two reunions and a few other minor life events in the lives of people I don't see on a regular basis.

It may be a fluke, it may be due to obvious signs that anyone could have picked up on. I don't know. Right now, I'm feeling a bit like Daphne Moon--'a bit psychic'.

Please feel free to step up; I'll try to peek into your future life and give you all kinds of good news*.


*Please do not ask me to disclose possible Christmas/Eid/other holiday gifts you may be receiving. Someone put a lot of thought into getting that gift for you and they want to see the look of joy when you open the package and see that Wii/Ps3 gizmo. Unless they didn't think much at all and just regifted the hideous singing bass they got from someone else last year. In that case, I don't want to ruin your friendship by telling you about future disappointments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This Is the Teapot...


Many, many years ago, my grandmother had a china teapot. It was beautiful, delicate and perfect--almost. A friend had brought it back for her from a pilgrimage, and such gifts are thought to be especially blessed. Most people of her generation would value it because it was a gift from a friend, bought from a holy city. My grandmother loved the beauty and delicacy of it--it's ornate floral pattern and gold trim. Every day, a few times a day, she would gingerly prepare tea and place the teapot on top of her samovar. She loved it so much, she did not notice the long thin crack in the back of the teapot, unless someone else came into the kitchen to help her prepare tea or chat. Then she would make sure it was placed on the samovar just so to hide its little imperfection. And so, for years, the teapot did its teapot duties despite the obvious crack that we carefully ignored; and for years, we teased my grandmother for not using one of her other teapots that didn't need such careful handling and arranging. But she didn't change her ways until a careless cousin accidentally broke it.

I am that little teapot.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Letters Lost Along the Way

So many cool people writing cool letters to their 13 year old selves--what is a girl do but follow their lead?


Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I sent you a letter a little earlier, but it got lost in the mail. Trust me, between time travel and the barely improved postal service in Iran, it was inevitable.

I can just see you curled up in an angry ball, glaring at the back of Brother #1's head. Take heart, you won't be sharing the hallway with your brothers and cousins for ever. In a couple of years, you will move into a giant house that will become The Family House, and you'll have more room than you bargained for (and you'll be doing most of the cleaning, but it is almost worth it). Until then, just try to remember to breathe and let go. I know you are scared out of your mind every time someone walks out of the house these days, but everyone will survive the war. Dad and uncles will be fine; Mom and aunts will not be hurt. Our homes will be damaged, but we will be fine. Bonus news: all your curses to Saddam will actually come to something--which is even worse than him getting away with all the shit he's getting away with now. But between now and then, just remember breathe and stay out of grown up battles that have nothing to do with you.

I know everyone has an opinion about what you should do and be, but you need start learning to say 'No!'. This is the most important bit of advice I could give you. Don't wait until you're 18, because it will be too late and everyone will think you're being cute--and promptly ignore you. Start saying 'no' even if you don't mind what happens. On a related note, stop caring what people say about you. You will get away from them (geographically, you will escape to sweet, sweet freedom), but if you don't stop seeing yourself through their eyes today you will never get away from them--and you will make my work MUCH HARDER.

(On a slightly lighter note, convince Mom to take you to Zartosht Street more often. There is an old man who sells books in the nook of the abandoned house who finds all kinds of English books. Be nice to him, he will be kind to you.)

Talk to people. You'll meet some great people in eighth grade and on through high school. Try to make an impression on them. Otherwise you will spend a good amount of time reintroducing yourself to people who sat next to you for years, because they never knew you existed--and that's just bad for your ego no matter how you look at it.

Make sure you spend time with Baba. Listen to his stories, hug him more, take him his tea in the afternoons and pick him some berries. He will look at you one day and not recognize you at all, but at least you will have your time with him and the happiness you brought him to comfort you.

Mom and Dad won't change--much. Try to accept them, but learn to say 'no' to them. Otherwise you will always be their Little Girl, and they will do to you at 23 what they do to you today--and you still won't appreciate it. That said, accept the crazy idea Dad comes up with after you graduate; it will get you to the US again and you will go to college (yay!). When you get to the US, think a little bit more about the stress and awkwardness that goes with your situation. It may not be ideal, but you're lucky to have the opportunity. Still, don't let gratitude stop you from speaking your mind (and occasionally saying 'No') and don't resist every little change--change is good.

College will be a roller-coaster. Don't stress so much! All freshman are as clueless as you are, just better at hiding it. Don't avoid the tall, lanky guy in your biology class. You won't get rid of him no matter how far you run, and he'll be a great friend anyway. The sooner the friendship starts, the better. Actually, despite your misgivings, don't avoid the Iranian students. You'll bump into a bunch of them years later and realize what great friendships you were missing.

You will get married, and to an Iranian (yes, you're right, you can't get away from them no matter how far you run)--enjoy the 'courtship'. You'll be glad he came to your life, despite all the bumps in the road.

I could keep telling you things--you know how we are with words and letters. But I've already mentioned the big things. You'll figure out the rest when the time comes. Just practice what I preached and we'll both be fine.

Good luck,

Future You

PS You have naturally curly hair. For the love of God start acting like a girl your age and start combing/styling your hair yourself. Otherwise you'll be sitting on the edge of a bathtub in a hotel in Chicago, hysterical that you look like Medusa.

PPS You're a horrible matchmaker. Don't even try. (Ok, try if you must, just be more subtle about it.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes


Well, President Bush can brag about his ability to get other world leaders to listen to him--and I won't say a thing.

It seems President Musharraf has finally listened to Bush's requests and taken off his uniform. Of course, President Bush didn't tell him what to do once the uniform was off, just to take off his uniform and hold elections. Since it seems Musharraf can't do much without being instructed by Bush (and isn't that a little scary?), he may very well be walking around naked, getting ready to hold elections.

That must be awkward.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Grinchess

As the Christmas Season is officially upon us and the hordes are frantically shopping, lest they miss out on this year's tacky gifts (Singing Salmon plaques, coffee mugs with Santa in compromising positions, etc), I realize that I am becoming more and more Grinchy about Christmas. Not the religious celebration of Christmas, and not the concept of giving. But the other parts:

  • When was the last time people actually thought about the birth of Christ and the spirit of giving? A few years ago, I was telling an American acquaintance that I wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen or hand out gifts at a shelter on Christmas day, since I don't really celebrate. She screamed at me, saying Christmas is about being with family and not about being with a bunch of drunk hobos. Am I missing something here?
  • In all of the shopping and buying that goes on, the spirit of giving seems to be missing. We buy expensive things off of wishlists and give each other (and ask of each other) things that have no real use or value. Why? It's not like we don't shop all year long. I feel like jewelers are practically drooling when they see people walking by. It's not like this is really their holiday. They have Valentine's Day and Mother's Day to guilt people into shopping. Why can't this holiday be about truly sharing? (Sidebar: As a sign of what a hypocrite I can be, I will admit to accepting jewelery should anyone wish to purchase me some. Please contact me for my direct mailing address).
  • In what is one of my more bizarre personality quirks, I am offended by non-Christians singing Christmas songs. It really bothers me when performers come out with annual Christmas albums, singing the Classics, spreading Christmas Cheer. I mean, does Barbara Streisand really celebrate the birth of Jesus? Or Neil Diamond? Aren't they just getting rich off of something they actively don't believe in? I realize they are performers and people like their singing (another mystery) but it still bothers me.
  • Perhaps due to the fact that I did not grow up celebrating Christmas, I'm not a big fan of Christmas music in general. The fact that I can barely get away from it after Thanksgiving Day makes me a little Grinchy. I mean, there are a handful of carols I look forward to (I love The Little Drummer Boy, What Child Is This and a few others) but hearing Bing Crosby sing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas is much like nails on a blackboard. (PS, I also hate the movie that song is from after having been forced to watch it EVERY Thanksgiving and Christmas for nine years--why why why?!).
  • I do not look forward to December 26th. It seems like the most anti-climactic day of the year, with people rushing to the stores (again) to return/exchange the things they received that wasn't up to their standards for whatever reason. Plus, all the gift wrapping paper, boxes and tinsel on the sidewalk trashcans is just so depressing to me--as if a holiday died a colorful, tragic death.

So, while you will find me in the malls trying to buy (hopefully meaningful) gifts just like everyone else, I want to say, I'm not happy about it. I have absolutely no solution for making things better--but that's what makes me a Grinch.

(Apologies to any Christmas fairies, elves and fans who may have been offended by these sentiments. I will understand if you're not besides yourself in March when the Persian New Year approaches).

Little Cassandra

"I'm not going to marry a poor man!", she said. It would have been considered a calculated comment, had it not come from a third grader.

It was one of those rare summer days, when nothing was being skinned, chopped and prepped for the winter. The women were sitting around the kitchen table, nestling their hot teacups in their hands or nibbling at the petit fours that were left over from the neighbor's wedding party. The topic of discussion was the wedding of course; analyzing the bride, groom, clothes, families, food, flowers, guests and music of the previous night. Most of the children were playing; running in and out of the kitchen, chasing each other and occasionally squealing.

Everyone stopped talking, words and pastries hanging in mid-air with the young girl's announcement. Had we not been shocked at the fact that she had declared that she thought of marriage in front of a group of adults, we would have been shocked by her cynicism. I'm pretty sure we all just stared at her. Which is probably why she continued, undeterred. "My husband is going to be rich and handsome; I won't accept him if he has sisters--they meddle too much; he has to be educated, but doesn't have to work in his field if he can make more money doing something else. He has to worship me and make me look good where ever we go. I refuse to worry about things like budgets and limitations." She was speaking in earnest.

One of the ladies at the table laughed and said, "Won't he have to be a little crazy to want to marry you? You're not that pretty, you're not rich and you have sisters. Why wouldn't he find someone better than you?"

She gave the woman a baleful look, "He won't find anyone better than me, and I don't care if he's crazy. I prefer it. That way, his family will be glad someone married their son. I'll be a hero."

There was an awkward silence at the table. Even if everyone thought of marriage and planned pairings and weddings from the time they had children, no one spoke of it in such a way. Especially not the girls, and never so young. Her mother's laughter broke the silence, almost proudly. "Well, I don't have to worry about this one!"

No one else laughed, though. This was as uncouth an exchange as this group of gossips had seen in a while. In the ensuing silence, everyone was making mental note to keep their sons away from this family and to warn their friends of their ways as well. Everyone in this group took credit for a good and happy match made, even if they had been casual by-standers. But no one wanted to be associated with a potentially bad match that could come back to haunt their own children's prospects.

We all finished our teas and pastries in silence, in a state of shock of sorts.

I heard she got married last week. They say her husband is indeed rich, handsome, doting and sisterless. I have yet to hear anything about his mental state, but if the past is any indication, it is not really a concern to any of the parties involved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gobble Gobble

Why would I volunteer to take not one, but two dishes to our office potluck? Because I'm just that kind of crazy. And technically, neither of the two side dishes I'm volunteering are difficult to prepare--I just had to go and buy all the ingredients and add the preparation process to what I was already committed to doing tonight.

Now, I have half of a Thanksgiving dinner menu on my clothes. I have the footprint of a stray mushroom running down my chest, cranberry sauce splashed all over me (how do you get cranberry sauce speckles on your shoulder?) and an unfortunate dab of apple sauce on my sleeve. Yes, I do own an apron, and no I wasn't wearing it--mostly because I only remember it when it's too late.

While I was sautée-ing, simmering and straining I was checking for alternate recipes online and planning the real Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. That's when I found some Thanksgiving day menus on the Food Network site. What has happened to them? Sandra Lee is not a chef. I do not know who she is or where she came from, but she has no business putting 'menus' together. (Yes, I know I sound judgmental and I don't care). This woman pops a can open in a pastel colored kitchen, mixes the contents with something out of another can and calls it 'semi-homemade'. As I was looking over her 'menu', one thing in particular just bugged me to no end: The Mayflower Martini. Why? Does she know that the people who came to this country on the Mayflower were Puritans? Did it occur to anyone that they looked down on such sinful activities as drinking? And how come no one mentioned the bar on the Mayflower before this? Why must she add some bizarrely named and decorated alcoholic concoction to every program and menu? Ahhh! Cranberry sauce almost runneth over.

And with that, I will end my rant against poorly timed cooking sessions and ridiculous food show hosts. I hope your Thanksgiving is a fun and happy one and you have the chance to share your meal with people you love and are grateful for. Make time to go for a short walk, it will help 'open your appetite'.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Imaginary Friends

It seems that since I discovered the Internet a decade or so ago, I also started gaining friends I have never met. It started with a young man who was generous with his time and responded to a questionnaire I was conducting. Unlike the numerous others I had contacted before him, he did not ask me my marital status (at least not until after the questionnaire was complete), nor did he ask me to marry him so he could come to the US. He did tell me about life for our contemporaries in Iran at the time. He shared stories of parties, work, happiness and tragedies. I enjoyed our conversations quite a bit. I'm proud to say that while I still haven't met him, we have maintained our friendship over the years.

Then for a few years, my online friends seemed to fade far in the background. I had a new marriage and life to get in order. Recently though, I have been finding new friends again and I must say they bring a smile every time I hear from them. Of course, even I think there is something strange about exchanging emails and comments with people you've never met. Perhaps if we met, you would dismiss me quickly or I would judge you unfairly. But distance can make the heart grow fond.

Sitting at my keyboard, I can exchange emails with my Stranger in Texas, wondering how he's doing and hoping our exchanges bring a smile. He can forgive my rambling, and possibly wonder how we got to this point (and he'll conclude it's because of my wit and distant charm).

I can chat with the Night Owl in Atlanta and smile in recognition, plotting and planning future sleep deprived visits. She can laugh at my madness and wonder how on Earth our paths crossed. But that how won't matter as much as where our paths will lead us.

And I can find you somehow, some way. My face will light up when I hear from you. I'll think of you when I'm planning a dinner, reading something you'd appreciate or hear something outrageous. I'll wonder how you're doing if I don't hear from you. I realize this friendship may seem imaginary to some, but it is real to me. It is real in its possibilities and potential. After all, I have met a couple of these distant, imaginary friends before. I kept one as a lifelong friend, and married another. See what a little imagination can do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Edumacation: Part II

I was reading the comments to my last post (My Edumacation), and was going to respond when something funny happened. I got distracted with using my random knowledge for something that mattered. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, I still want to respond to the comments since reading them helped me figure out why I was so frustrated:

Deep down, I know I have all of the formal education I need. Unless I one day decide to go to law school, which at this point I'm too tired to do, I think I have enough degrees. The problem isn't lack of knowledge, as much as it is lack of opportunity to apply this knowledge to something that has meaning. Or even applying it something that doesn't have meaning. I am bored out of my mind and not using my brain. While every job has a level of frustratingly mundane something or other, that is all my job has become--frustratingly mundane. I don't learn anything, I don't grow, I don't contribute anything of significance and I don't have the opportunity to shine. If there is anything I need, it is a place to shine. Deprive me of that and I will in turn be frustrated, pissed off and depressed about my very existence. At this point, I feel I have forgotten how to contribute anything of meaning even if the opportunity came along. That scares the crap out of me.

I don't know what I want to do with my life. I dream about writing a book, but don't feel I have anything significant to say. And even when I find something to say, I can't express it as I want. And I still need to support myself on daily basis (tragically, bills don't pay themselves). So what will my day job be? What will I do with myself now that I am all grown up, and aging quickly? I can't very well copy, paste and organize-lunch my way to retirement. I could, if I weren't so determined to do something Significant.

Which brings me to the topic of regrets. I don't regret passing on Pharmacy school. I put a lot of thought into rejecting that road. I may wish for the financial security it would bring, but I would be just as unhappy with the actual work. So, it's not a regret of not acting, it's the fear of not doing something meaningful. Egotistical little nut that I am, I want make a difference and matter in something of my own making.

So if you have any ideas what a person with my background can do to make a splash, let me know. Otherwise, I'll be the one banging my head on the keyboard hoping for greatness:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Edumacation

I was the first woman in my family to move away and live on my own; the first to 'see the sunlight and moonlight'*. I was the first woman in my family to go to college, and graduate. I am the first woman in my family to get a graduate degree. None of these are necessarily my accomplishments; I would be lying if I said my family didn't have something to do with it.

However.

My motives to get an education were not that noble. I was filling a void that had consumed me most of my life. I started reading like a child possessed around the time I was six, because as I explained to the school librarian, I felt like an empty bowl that needed to be filled and only books could fill it. Unfortunately, I never read anything useful that would help me make money (an astute observation only a father can make). Nor did I read with the intent to put my knowledge to material or social use (there is little to brag about when your favorite genre is the history of the French Revolution--when you're 12). I just read, because it brought me joy and made me feel the tiniest bit less empty.

My college education was a bit of a fiasco, considering I stayed in the US promising to study pharmacy and get a respectable job in that field in Iran after graduating. I am not a pharmacist and I live in the US, so that's one of the promises I have made which I failed to keep. The majors I chose instead were a compromise (in my mind) that would please my parents (science is semi-respectable) and myself (I had to read British literature, how bad could it be?). Unfortunately, imaginary compromises fail to please anyone. My parents still remind me of the broken promise (and financial fall-out of not being a respectable pharmacist) and wonder why I wasted my time on an English degree that I can't do anything with. At this point, I had wasted years of my life, thousands of dollars and the opportunities life had granted me for for nothing. Yay me.

My graduate degree was another ill-planned compromise. I chose a field that virtually guaranteed me riches (at the time) and I was interested in because it would allow me to support myself and find outlets for my less lucrative interests. With the dotcom bubble bursting and my degree taking significantly longer to complete than I had originally planned, that didn't work out so well either.

Now, I am the proud owner of a B.S., a B.A., a M.Sc and a professional certificate. NONE of which can help me find a respectable job that requires me to do more than copy, paste and order lunch. All of this education, and I will barely be making more than a high school graduate doing the same thing I am doing. At this point, I don't even trust myself to make any decisions about anything.

I am not very proud of myself today.

*An old expression in Farsi, used to refer to women who were no longer innocent and often used their experience against men to get the upper hand. Generally not used as a compliment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Synchronicity

So a few things happened today, and they all seemed to be along the same lines: Religion.

First, I read about the Georgia State Governor holding a day of prayer, asking for rain. I know I'm not the only one who wondered if it would be just as effective to have a rain dance. Then, I met my new co-worker and as we were casually chatting, he mentioned that he likes watching science shows--not for the content, but because he wants to see what those evolution types and Big Bang theory people have to say now that the 'science' is being proven wrong and what has been said in the Bible is being accepted as the best explanation for the beginning of life and the universe. I tried to take solace online, and found that Alex was going through a similar thing across the pond. And the icing on the cake was reading a reaction to the seasonal "War on Christmas" and some of the responses to the post.

How can I not say something?

While I am not particularly religious, and don't adhere to all of the tenets of the religion I was raised with, I have a healthy respect for religion and its role in people's lives, as well as people's religious identity. I sincerely pray for people (and myself). However:

  • It bothers me when a day of prayer is announced, asking for rain to come or to stop coming. This is not an effective way to combat droughts; if it were, I'm sure the millions of people suffering from lack of rain in Africa and praying according to their respective religions would have solved their problems by now. They haven't. Our prayers are no more special and will not change the conditions on the ground any more effectively. Encouraging people to conserve as part of our lifestyles and rethinking our agricultural policies may help. Just a thought.
  • I think it is dangerous when religion and faith in that religion--any religion--are used to not think. Not because science is absolute and can replace religion, but because when we stop thinking and blindly accept a doctrine, we are starting on a road that will take us to dark, dark places. It will be easier to give into fear and act without thinking. We become self-righteous in our beliefs and reject alternatives as blasphemy. My Muslim and Christian co-workers may mutually reject the idea of evolution and think all of these 'theories' are plots to disprove God and disrupt His will, but none of these theories disprove God. They try explain beginnings. If any of these people actually read Darwin, they would understand it better and wouldn't try to disprove evolution through Biblical/Quranic quotes. Even worse is when they mix theories and ideas in an effort to prove their point. Lamarckian evolution is different from Darwin's theory; neither prove that God doesn't exist. It is perfectly acceptable to believe in God and consider the possibility that the universe was not created in six days, without compromising your faith. As far as I know, all Abrahamic religions encourage questioning and thinking. Despite common perceptions, Islam teaches its adherents to think and question and not follow the faith of their fathers blindly. Judaic tradition encourages the same thing. Then why is it that you cannot be 'faithful' if you don't cling to ideas that are long obsolete and disputed?
  • As someone who lived in a theocratic country, I am pretty sure Christians in this country are not being persecuted for their faith when someone says "Happy Holidays". As a matter of fact, on days when I'm thin skinned and paranoid, I think Muslims are being persecuted, what with the wars against Muslims, the profiling and the constantly suspicious looks every time I don't apologize for my religion. But at this point, this is still paranoia. Christians still enjoy a healthy majority, attend their houses of worship without fear (and broadcast it on television daily) and proselytize in public and private venues. Where I come from, none of that rings of persecution; it's the order of the day.
I realize this little rant won't change anyone's mind. I'm pretty sure someone will come and offer me salvation pretty soon, as long as I believe what they believe--otherwise, I will burn in the eternal flames of hell. But that's where my faith comes in, they're not in a position to judge me on this.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'M IT! (Slightly late in the game, but whatever)

TK tagged me, and I've been giddy to play this new fangled game. I realize I'm coming in a little late in the game, but I'm fashionable that way. Oddly enough, in my excitement, I didn't realize how hard it is to think of 7 random facts about myself. And if you think this hard about it, is it really random anymore? Crap.

Here are the rules, directly lifted from the tagger:

  • Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog...
  • Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...
  • Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog
  1. I eat my hamburgers in a circle/spiral. No matter how normally I start eating the burger, less than half way through, I'm biting in circles.
  2. I'm a starter. I get so excited about starting projects--any project--that no one can dampen my enthusiasm. I just hope someone is around to finish it, because if it takes 5 seconds longer than I think it should in my mind, it will join all of my other Enthusiastically Started Projects in that ugly heap in the corner. I will eventually finish it when I reach the level of self-loathing that comes with knowing your abandoned project is haunting you in your sleep.
  3. I have a mole above my left ankle that can distract me for hours. This is the main reason I didn't seriously entertain the idea of getting a tattoo in my younger years. If I can get this distracted by a monochromatic mole that has been on my leg since I was born, can you imagine the havoc a multi-colored tattoo would cause?
  4. I think I have intentionally killed two spiders since I read Charlotte's Web. The cobwebs in my house are only removed if they become overtly gaudy, as I believe in respecting the potential literary aspirations of my eight-legged friends.
  5. I pulled my brother's gastro-tube out of his stomach when he was four (I was sooo provoked, it was really self defense). As I sat stone-faced in the ambulance watching the paramedics attending my brother, I broke my silence to recite Humpty Dumpty.
  6. Because I don't eat pork, I thought it would be safe to request a Kosher breakfast on a flight from Tucson to Boston (at the time, they didn't offer vegetarian, but still served food on airlines). While everyone around me enjoyed their pancakes, eggs and syrup, I was staring at a marzipan pastry of some kind that came wrapped in a Hebrew travel blessing. I stopped observing Kosher about five minutes after our flight landed.
  7. In first grade, after a straight week of getting gold stars, Miss Hughs would give us tennis balls with a big smiley face on it. Being a little bit of a teacher's pet, I had a whole collection by the middle of the year. My mother thought I was begging for tennis lessons, and promptly signed me up with a bunch of kids who actually wanted to play tennis. I spent most of the summer hiding my smiley balls in my shirt so they wouldn't accidentally get mixed up with the plain balls. I was six years old with tennis balls under my shirt, running with my chest stuck out so they wouldn't fall and get lost.
Most of the people I would tag have already been tagged. Except Manny, I think. And Vermillion, too--if he's not too busy with his career as a reality TV star. Others are just too busy and important to be disturbed with internet tag...





Monday, October 22, 2007

Two Headed Witch



In case any of you are wondering ( I flatter myself), as of 12:13 pm, we're still ok and haven't been evacuated. If you know me at all, you know I'm practically hysterical and have done the only things I can do in times like these: packed up some bags, folded my rugs and cooked a Persian lunch in case it's the last meal we have in our home. I realize this sounds crazy, but today I don't think I care.

The reporters are covering every lick of this fire, and I'm not sure if it's good to be this informed or nerve wrecking. What started as two fires in the Harris area and in Witch Creek, have expanded to seven named fires in less than 24 hours. One reporter said, "The Witch Fire now has two heads..." They keep saying how this fire is much, much worse--worse than anything they have seen. They cannot even start combating the fires because of the weather conditions--it is 0% contained and spreading so quickly that the best they can do is evacuate neighborhoods and hope there aren't fatalities. Yippeee.

During the 2003 fires that came all the way to the I-15, I sat cross legged in our apartment and wrote the first draft of what would become my thesis. Today, I'm willing myself to sit still and write, because it is the only think that will stop me from losing my mind completely. When my brother called, I was close to tears and couldn't believe his calm (thank God for him and M). But then again, he isn't inhaling ashes and smoke, wondering if his happy little home will go up in smoke.

Strangely, all of this kind of reminds me of when we had returned to Iran during the bombings of Tehran. I can only imagine the anxiety my parents lived through as they tried to act normal and live life, never sure of when all they had worked for would be destroyed. I remember my mom calmly cooking with the emergency sirens screaming and the military's defenses rat-tat-tatting in the background; all of us huddled in the glassless hallway. She acted calm, but in hindsight, I know she was clinging onto the only ritual that would bring calm to all of us.

I guess no matter how hard I try, I'm still her daughter--just less calm (if that's even possible).

UPDATE: We have been evacuated and are staying with a friend. I have no idea what will happen, but we are safe.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's Not a Tumor


If you've read some of my previous posts, you may have gleaned that I I'm not a big fan of the medical community. Actually, I don't mind them in general, I just don't think they like me. Why else would they pull my nails, not give me prescriptions to medicines that could prevent later problems and yell at me after we got hit by an 18 wheeler? (Yes, I will tell those fun, fun stories soon)

But today, I kind of don't mind them so much.

I have had a headache for about a month now. Not most of the time, not after certain activities--non-stop headache that is just pissing me off and making me less angelic than I normally am. Sometimes it's worse, there is the straining/pinching feeling that comes and goes, but generally speaking, I have been in pain for a while. Which is why I finally went to see my doctor who listened, nodded and finally said I should get an MRI.

In light of some of my past experiences, I do not take well to the idea of getting an MRI, mostly because they're looking for things that do not belong in my head. Also, I'm ridiculously claustrophobic. So while I waited for the appointment setting lady to get back to me with time, date and instructions, I thought of all of the horrible things an MRI could find. Swelling? Runaway fluids? Inflammation? TUMORS?!? DEAR GOD WHAT IF THERE ARE TUMORS?!?! I know I'm hideous as a bald person, which is just adding insult to the TUMOR that may be growing in my head. I'm not old enough to have tumors, but then again young people get tumors in their brains all the time. I'm not ashamed to say I was close to tears before the nice lady asked me if I preferred a 5 o'clock or 7 o'clock appointment...

Since I didn't hear back from the doctor's office, I called today and they promised to call me back. The nurse (I'm assuming it was a nurse) called later in the afternoon, right after I got off a particularly unpleasant business call.

"Hello, GWCH? Yes, this is Mandy from Dr. W's office. I just wanted to give you the results from your MRI--it's clear, there's nothing in there."

"Excuse me? How can there not be anything in my head?"

"Oh! Ha ha ha! I didn't mean it like that. I meant there wasn't anything of concern in your head. Except for a thickness in your sinuses which is causing discomfort and pressure. I know a lot of people worry there are tumors when they go in for MRIs--but it's just your sinuses."

To recap: my head (still) hurts, I am having a very bad spell at work, and the Loud Tube of Horror (MRI) proved that there is nothing in my head (to worry about).

Now I can go back to my regularly scheduled neuroticism.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

On the Occasion of the Big Day

Happy Birthday, from the Girl With Curious Hair--to the Man with the Perfect Laugh.

This Message Brought to You by Ro-jelli-O

I was bored out of my mind today and went to hide in one of the 'secure' rooms, where Ro-Jelli-O (my co-worker) was already hiding. I looked at him and said, "I'm going nuts. Blahbitty blahbitty blah blah."

To which he responded by asking, "Are you going to put that on your bloggity blog?"

Yes I am. So HAH!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Said the Moth to the Flame



I'm still thinking of going to LA to tell a story. The theme is "Blunders", and I think this will be the story I will tell:


The second day of my freshman year, I went to class starting with my 8am Chemistry class. I had my pens, hi-liters, notebooks and text books--all of which I carried on my back like an overloaded snail. By three o'clock, I was feeling good about myself, cautiously optimistic as I walked into my biology lecture hall, along with about 200 other students. It was mostly an introduction session listing the professors, the TAs and the resources available to anal retentive pre-med freshmen. At the end of the lecture, Dr. H mentioned that the lecture notes would be available as tutorials at the brand new computer center down the hall.

I went to the brand new computer center, to find an empty room with rows of computers and a harried man untangling wires as he balanced some books on his lap. I went to him, introduced myself and whispered, "I've never used a computer before. Could you help me?"

I'm not sure why I started whispering, but it seemed to annoy him. "Just pick up the mouse and play around with it a little. You'll figure it out."

I stood there looking at him, and then looking around the room. I wasn't sure why I would have to play with a mouse.

"Ha ha, I guess they got away. Good thing, since I don't like mice! How do I get started on the computer again?"

I'm pretty sure if someone had this conversation with you, with an American accent and a perfectly straight face--you'd think they're being a smart ass. He did, and it seemed to annoy him more.

"Listen, I don't have time for your jokes. Just sit at a computer and click the mouse. You'll figure it out."

I sat in front of a computer at the end of one of the rows, pretty sure I'd break it and get expelled from university during the first week of classes. Then I'd have to move back to Iran, listen to all the jokes of how I couldn't even stay in a university in America--where any bum can get in...I was about to cry. I was timidly hitting random keys and NOT reading the recommended tutorials, when suddenly a page popped up asking my name.

I looked around, and saw Angry Guy paging through one of the books. He was right, it wouldn't let me do anything to break it, the computer was helping me!

"Excuse me, should I be answering the questions?"

"Yeah, you're fine."

So I carefully entered my full name. I also provided my detailed address, class schedule and student status when asked. But the next two questions practically made me jump out of my chair.

"Are you Iranian?"

"Yes."

"Haaleh shoma chetoreh?"

"OH MY GOD! The computer is speaking to me in FARSI!"

Angry Guy couldn't ignore me any more, "What are you talking about? Computers don't talk. Someone at another computer station is chatting with you."

"But it spoke to me in FARSI! No one around here speaks Farsi."

And that's when a couple of Iranian looking guys jumped up from behind a computer in the furthest corner of the room, "It's us! We're Iranian! Sallam!!"

I couldn't collect my things fast enough. I was grabbing my notebook and pens, trying to get away as fast as I could, when they came over and tried to talk. One was a short guy with overly gelled hair and clothes that didn't fit him well. The other was a tall, lanky guy, too easy in his skin and a huge smile on his face. He was mighty proud of himself.

"Want to grab dinner? Do you have any friends? How long have you been in the States?"

I didn't answer any of the questions, just called out, "I'm sorry, I have to go. Bye," as I tried to run far, far away. As I ran, I looked over my shoulder to make sure they weren't following me. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered, considering how I had given them my dorm name, address and room number. "They won't look for me. I'll never see them again. They'll forget about this. They're guys, they won't tell anyone."

I was wrong, again. I saw them twice a day, every other day in my biology and chemistry classes for two semesters. Had I not been running away from them so quickly, I would have recognized the short guy as the overly zealous guy in my chemistry lab. They were premed, always with a pack of competitive Iranian premed students who eventually learned about what had happened. They only strengthened my resolve to avoid the Iranians on campus like the plague.

That didn't happen either. The tall lanky guy was determined to befriend me. He was a patient fellow; he stopped trying to talk to me for almost two semesters, but eventually his niceness got me talk to him. We studied together, hung out, exchanged emails when he moved away and spent long hours talking about life, family and dreams.

I'm glad he didn't give up, because today he's one of my dearest friends.

Cooking The Night Away

I have so many thoughts going through my head right now. How could I not?

Ahmadinejad came by and caused a ruckus, and everyone is asking my opinion--so I'll eventually have to opine. Please note, I do not know him personally, but because I am from Iran and am interested in politics, I am asked my opinion ALL THE TIME. The same way our European friends ask me to explain George W. Bush. I'm not sure what I have done to have to explain two politicians, but it must have been awful. I'll provide you with some thoughts eventually.

I was stood up by a not one, not two--but THREE internet/email friends in one month. Do I offend? You can't all hate me yet, you barely know me. This is all enough to make a girl feel unpopular. Sigh.

My brothers were here, for less than 48 hours. And yet, I could write a novella about that fun, fun experience.

But all of that will come a bit later. I have spent the last three hours cooking--which is always fun. We will spend the week feasting on two quiches (one Greek and another onion-mushroom), a big pot of Aash, a huge pot of biryani and a little hummus to snack on. I even managed to go jogging in the middle of all this prepping and cooking.

NOW will you come over?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Friend in Need

I was dazzled and impressed by the injuries listed by Boo and offered my own unimpressive highlights, when I remembered the best part of the story of getting my nails being pulled out. Perhaps a little background would help explain:

My sophomore year in college, I developed strange white spots under two of my fingernails. None of the doctors who saw me had any idea what was going on. In response to the mystery spots under my nails, I started washing my hands even more frequently (with harsher soaps and hotter water) and disinfecting them with whatever I could get my hands on. This overzealous approach may have resulted in the subsequent infections under my nails. No one knows for sure, because the infections couldn't be explained by any of the doctors either. Over time, my nails started developing small holes, which lead to more infections, and more washing. Wash, disinfect, repeat.

By the beginning of my junior year, when I was an RA and a newly minted Microbiology major, my index and pinky finger sported holey, twisty nails that oozed fluid. It got to the point that I rarely used my right hand for anything close to my face. In early October, I decided that if something wasn't done to fix the grotesqueness of my fingers, I'd have to chop them off in the kitchen sink. With that, I marched myself to the student health center where every doctor, nurse and administrator knew me and my fingers. I told them I needed to schedule an appointment to somehow resolve my nail issues. They promised me an hour on the following Tuesday when the residents and specialists from UMC would do rotations.

The following Tuesday afternoon, I walked to the health center, sat on the bed and obediently modeled my warped fingers to each student and resident in the room. After a brief break to discuss the situation, the whole lot of them came back and their Leader announced that the best course of action would be to remove my nails and allow my nails to rebuild and regrow. He also recommended a round of medications which would 'possibly effect my family planning decisions'. I wasn't planning a family at the time, but the idea that my fingernails would prevent my ability to bear children was more than I could take. As the tears flowed, I tried to muster as much dignity as I could and asked, "Could you just start with removing the nail?"

And good doctors that they were, they listened. As the nurse injected the anesthesia, she asked if I was planning to have children soon. "No, but I'd like to keep my options open."

As she stepped aside, the Leader told me to lay down and relax. Unfortunately, I did and they pulled the nail from my index finger. I'm not exaggerating when I said I practically hit the ceiling, screaming in pain. The Leader was shocked, and asked if I actually felt anything. WHAT THE F#$!#@ DO YOU THINK?

I don't remember anything about the removal of my second nail, because I passed out. When I came to, I had three fingernails on my right hand and was clenching my teeth so hard I felt light headed. They tried to keep me until I was a little more comfortable, but I had to get away from there. All the way from the health center back to the dorm, I was hyperventilating and doing my best not to scream.

As I walked into the dorm, one of my residents saw me and asked what was wrong.

"Noth-ing. Pain. Can't. Breathe."

And that's when she did what any caring, kind resident would do for their RA. She smacked me so hard that the shock and impact almost knocked me over.

"WHAT.THE.HELL.ARE.YOU.DOING?!?!?"

"Isn't that what you do to help people when they're hyperventilating? Or is it when they're having an anxiety attack? I heard it somewhere. Oh my God! I think you need to breathe into a paper bag. Are you ok?"

I almost started laughing at the sincerity of her effort and the ridiculousness of the situation.

Wednesday morning, I went to class with two bandaged, throbbing fingers and a bruised face--and offers of assistance from a very apologetic resident.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nothing to See Here

Back when I was on jury duty, I spent my time in between sessions reading, It's Not News, It's Fark. I would laugh out loud at the accuracy of the claims of how 'news' is presented on supposedly respectable news outlets--especially because it seems the pace of my reading matched the CNN news updates to a tee. The only thing I disagreed with, was the notion that there are slow news days that need to be filled with something, anything before the rabid masses turn off their televisions.

But then again, what do I know? I'm one of those crazy people that thinks there's never a dull moment in the world--what with us fighting not one, but two wars; the greater part of a continent starving; France acting all neoconny after the party (I love France, but seriously?!); the US economy and the impact of said economy on the world; any given moment of the Bush administration; the Jena Six; Iraq acting all grown up and sovereign-ish; anything related to the Middle East; Russia and its nail-biter politics; Pakistan and whatever the heck their President comes up with when he wakes up in the morning... I don't know, these are just the top few things I think about when I wonder what's going on in the world. Obviously, I'm a crazy lady who doesn't know what news is. All one has to do is turn on the television around 6 pm to learn that OJ Simpson 'allegedly' stealing his own worthless crap from alleged thieves who allegedly stole it from him earlier is what is really 'news'. CNN International had PrettyBoy Blue-Eyes bemoaning the style choices of Larry King's guest that night.

GAHHHHHHHHH!!

A couple of weeks ago, when our genius president was in Australia, he made a fool of himself (again) and embarrassed anyone with a two digit IQ when he thanked PM Howard for inviting him to the OPEC Summit (he wasn't invited to OPEC, he was actually attending APEC), and referred to the Austrian soldiers fighting in Iraq (if I were an Australian fighting in Iraq, I'd be really pissed). Then he almost fell off the stage for walking off in the wrong direction. All of this was sad and entertaining, but nothing of significance was actually mentioned about what happened during APEC. Most people didn't even hear about it, outside of what is mentioned on late night shows.

This is how we end up with George Bush as our president for two terms, how people don't recognize their own elected officials, but recognize has-been celebrities; this is how we will fall apart--following the lives of people who should not be getting any attention or recognition.

This is what drives me crazy every time I turn on the television.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lost--Again


I just realized that I am missing my copy of The Count of Monte Cristo--again. This is not due to my carelessness or indifference towards my books--but because I insist on sharing my books with people who forget to return them to me. I may have single-handedly made Karen Armstrong a best selling author, because I have purchased at least six copies of A History of God for myself--only the most recent one of which is in my possession. This does not include copies I bought with the intention of gifting to people.

I guess I have to stop by Barnes & Noble on the way home tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Traveler's Guide to Insanity

My mom called today to tell me that she was anxious about her upcoming trip. She's going back to Iran and is worried about weight limits, itineraries and visitors.

"A strange thing is happening--as I get older, I feel I'm getting anxious and forgetful about my trips. It's very difficult."

I responded to this with silence, because only my mother would think this is a new phenomenon. She is perhaps one of the most neurotic travelers I know. Actually, she's generally neurotic--freaking out about everything from dinner preparation to just getting ready to go to a dinner party. As she continued worrying about her 'new' anxiety, I had to interrupt and remind her of the first trip we took North to the Caspian Sea after we moved to Iran.

Almost every family in Tehran spends some part of summer up North. It is a ritual. Unfortunately, my parents were not part of this tradition--unless they were talked into it by their friends. On this particular Tuesday, my father casually mentioned that we would be spending the weekend (starting early Thursday morning) with Mr. and Mrs. P and their family. My mom started running around the house frantically trying to get everything ready for our family of five to spend less than 72 hours round-trip from Tehran to their orchard in Rasht. You would think that we were moving to another city for good. By Wednesday night, she had wrapped, packed and piled enough clothes, down mattresses, blankets, towels, food and dishes to support a village after a disaster. Of course, I was her helper--running around, folding linens, packing clothes and cleaning up behind her as she cooked. By Thursday morning when she woke us up at 3:45 sharp, I had decided that I hated going North, and hated Mr. and Mrs. P for dragging us out of bed to go to their stupid orchard. We took turns showering and loading the car. By the time we were done, my baby brother was sitting on my mom's lap up front (they didn't require car seats in Iran), my younger brother was sitting on my lap and the rest of the VW van was full of household goods and supplies. There are not enough words to describe how resentful I was before my dad even got in the car. We generally did not have the opportunity to travel for fun, and from what I was seeing, I did not much like it. I had resolved to spend the next six hours sleeping no matter how much my seven year old brother squirmed on my lap. And just before I closed my eyes and drifted off, less than 200 meters from our house, my mother turned around and whispered, "Did you remember to unplug the mosquito killer? Well, did you?"

I tried to remember, and decided to just say 'Yes'. After all, there was no way my dad would turn around for me to check without ruining everyone's already irritable mood. And there is nothing I tried to avoid more than putting my parents in a bad mood.

Just like that, my mother had planted a seed or horror and paranoia in my mind, that blossomed into the most hellish travel experience of my life. For 72 hours, I had visions of our building burnt to the ground as a result of the little felt pad on the mosquito killer overheating. I could just see all of our neighbors standing around the remains of what used to be our building, wondering how this could have happened. I would be branded as an arsonist for my forgetfulness, when in reality it was my brother who was always playing with matches and burning things. They may even file a complaint against me and hand me over to the police and force my father to pay for all of their houses. By the time we made our first stop, I was on the cusp of a nervous breakdown, my eyes wide open in horror--causing our would be hosts to laughingly point out I was the most intense looking 12 year old they knew. That just added anger to my fear of being hauled to jail and disowned by my parents.

When we returned home, I was still wide-eyed and full of fear. I had not slept, I had barely eaten anything and all I wanted was to see our building still standing. As we pulled into our street, I stuck my head out the window and tried to see our house in the dark. There it was--four stories high, three units wide and covered in gray stone--just as we had left it. As I lay my sleepy brother in his bed, I looked around for the mosquito killer. I finally found it--with its cord wrapped around it, in the drawer in our bedroom--just where it was supposed to be when it wasn't in use.

I literally don't remember anything from that trip, and have no idea what Rasht (or any other part of the Caspian coast) looks like. When people talk about the beauties of the Caspian coast, I just nod and smile, assuming they know what they're talking about. But more than anything, I have to bite my tongue when my mom worries that her age is effecting her anxiety level and causing her to worry when she travels. The poor woman has always driven herself (and others) crazy when she travels--she's only noticing it more now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Freshman Year: Nice, Not Cool

One afternoon, towards the end of my first semester freshman year, I was doing the same thing I did almost every afternoon--studying on my bed. This was not due to my studiousness, rather to the fact that I was scared of two things: failing (and subsequently being sent back home) and making a fool of myself. While I have still managed to avoid the first, I failed at the second endeavor no matter what I did--even if I spent almost all of my freshman year hiding in my dorm room.

On this particular afternoon, the girl at the front desk called and told me Mike was there to see my roommate. My roommate wasn't there, but I knew Mike and went to bring him to our room to wait for her. When I went to get him from the front desk, I saw a thin, tired looking man dripping wet from having walked in the rain. He followed me silently and sat on the floor by the door. I would have gone back to studying, but there was an awkward silence and a very wet man on my dorm room floor. I offered him a towel, which he silently accepted; I still couldn't focus.

"Are you ok?" I didn't know what else to say.

"Yes. I'm fine--for a guy who has just been cut off from his family and hasn't eaten in two days. My father just threatened me, claimed that I wasn't getting another penny out of him and not to even think of contacting my mom or grandparents for help. I would rather starve than ask them for help. She's can't help herself--how the hell is she going to help me... "

He was rambling, angry words bursting to the surface--apparently he had just been waiting for someone to ask him. Meanwhile, from about the time he had finished saying he hadn't eaten in two days, I was keeping myself busy by making him a stack of turkey sandwiches.

I was shocked at his anger. Every time I had seen Mike during his visits, he had been funny and carefree. He was nice to me, if a little confused by my lifestyle. He was one of the rare people I had met who had never seemed stressed or overwhelmed by college life and the realities of growing up. This wet man named Mike was a stranger, I was meeting him for the first time.

By the time I handed him his turkey sandwiches, he was looking at me with more than his usual confusion. "What's this?"

"Turkey sandwiches. The bottom two have mayo and mustard. But I didn't know if you like them or not, so the others are without sauce. What? You just said you hadn't eaten in two days."

He sat in the same spot and ate the first sandwich in silence. Of course, it would have probably been impossible for him to talk as he stuffed his mouth with food--but he may have run out of angry words about his family life.

"I'll go to DC. I have a couple of friends out there. You can get places if you play your cards right over there. You need to look at people and make them feel like they're smart. Learn a few things, shake a few hands, act confident and you'll make it. Have you ever been to DC?"

I shook my head no. He continued to talk to himself.

"Well, I'll send you a postcard when I get there. I'll probably crash with Jess or Amy. They'll take me in. I swear, flatter a girl a little bit, give her a good sob story and she will take you in and treat you like a king. I bet you anything, in two weeks, I'll have a bunch of new clothes a comfortable couch to sleep on and a date to all the interesting events. I'll be eating three meals a day again. For some reason, girls really feel good about themselves when they feed a 'poor guy'." He stopped here, sandwich mid-air and looked at me in the eyes for the first time. I had just taken him in and fed him, and he sat on my floor mocking me. I said nothing.

"I didn't mean it like that. Really I didn't."

For the first time that entire semester, I made eye contact with him and did not avert my eyes. That was not how I was raised. In my old world, only shameless girls looked men in the eyes like that. Even then, I blushed out of shame, because I was unaccustomed to the directness of the exchange. I was becoming something different from the daughter my mother had raised and sent away. I was no longer only focusing on my studies, but slowly talking to boys. It occurred to me for the first time, that not only had I ignored my mother's advice and stayed in the room when my roommate had brought her friends over, I had talked to them over time. Indeed, they were almost the only people I talked to outside my lab partners and study group members. And now, without thinking I had brought this man into my room, fed him and looked him in the eyes as he mocked me.

"Listen. I'm sorry--really. You're different. You're not cool, you don't look like the other girls, you don't act like the other girls. You're nice. You didn't even ask me if I wanted something, you just helped me. No one around here does things like that." He was back pedaling, confusing the color that had rushed to my face for an emotion other than what I felt. He felt bad for being caught.

"I fed you because you said you hadn't eaten and it was the right thing to do. I know you--or men like you. I didn't feed you to impress you or make you like me, because your kind does not like my kind. You think I'm stupid and funny--but nice enough to help you if I can."

And from there, we returned to the awkward silence. He ate, and I read--or pretended to as I stared at my book. My roommate eventually came back, and looked completely baffled by the semi-wet man on the floor and the silent girl on the bed.

I learned two things that day, 1) the reputation you develop early on in college seems to follow you around for a while. 2) in the minds of many people, 'nice' and 'cool' are mutually exclusive qualities. That day, in the awkward silence of my room, I established a reputation as a 'nice' girl; the girl guys were honest with, the one that listened but didn't play games. It was safe to tell me what you really thought, because I wouldn't use it against you on a date. I was the little/big sister, at once teased and protected. I don't know how but for years after, people I met on campus knew me through that exchange with Mike--one that he didn't forget for a while. How do I know? The following year, I got a postcard from Washington DC in an envelop, with a $20 paper clipped to it.

On the postcard, there was a short message, "Thanks for lunch. It's nice here."

The Science of Hair


I love French Scientists--I married one of them--because they ask interesting questions. Questions about the connection between dementia and HIV; stroke and Alzheimer's disease; and the ever important tangle in hair.

It seems some very important scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique have scientifically proven the superiority of curly hair. Based on complex physics formulas that are too difficult for the average person to understand, straight hair tangles more than curly hair--causing pain and anguish to straight haired people everywhere. Thank goodness that mystery has been solved. And before you dismiss the Ecole Polytechnique as some obscure institution, it is a very reputable university that asks the hard questions.

So on the mornings I spend hours pulling my hair straight, layering anti-frizz stuff onto it before ironing it to obedience--and then it all curls up again; I can take heart in the fact that science has proven my hair to be less tangle prone than that of my straight hair sisters.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Plan: Weekend Getaway (Part II)

While our weekend didn't work out quite as I had planned it, it was a pretty nice weekend. If you ignored the searing heat, the brown out, the traffic and the searing heat. It is bad when being outside is actually cooler than being inside your home. Our poor upstairs neighbors had to resort to coffee shops and bookstores for most of the weekend. We stayed home for most of the first two days, then took a drive to other parts of SoCal, which seemed cooler to us. Either that or the heat had made us lose our senses...

So here is an overview of what we did:

  • The Self-Realization Fellowship and Meditation Gardens: I heard about this place on PBS, and considering how many times we have driven past it, you would think we'd check it out. But prior to our visit, I thought it was strictly a religious retreat. The gardens, open to visitors, are lovely. We didn't take a camera--again because we weren't sure if it would be disrespectful to anyone worshipping or meditating. We enjoyed the garden (the views from the top of the garden were one of the best in San Diego, I think), watched the fish in the pond for a while and then went to a nearby park for a homemade picnic lunch. The lunch was nice, watching kids running around the park with reckless abandon made it even better. It was still crazy hot outside though.
  • Shahrzad: Having lived close to LA for a while, I can honestly say I don't miss it. However, there are a few places I like to visit and miss from time to time. Shahrzad, a Persian restaurant in Westwood (Eye-ranian central) is one of them. They make fresh, Persian flatbread which can be a lovely meal in itself. Of course, we had to stuff ourselves silly with all kinds of rice dishes and appetizers--but only after eating a basket of fresh, hot bread. Mmmm...bread.
  • Girl at The Getty: On the way to Santa Barbara after lunch, I pointed out The Getty to M. I'm pretty sure it is the first time he was impressed with a museum in California. Having lived in Paris, he does not consider The San Diego Museum of Art a 'Real Museum'. I can't argue. But The Getty did get his attention. If you have a chance to go, you should. It is free (there is an $8 parking fee) and beautiful. Actually, I must say, I get pretty excited about visiting museums; I'm almost speechless--as if in a shrine of some kind. We returned on Tuesday (driving back from San Diego, NOT Santa Barbara) and spent some time there, basking in natural and man made beauty in the sun. We just happened to catch Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergere during its last week. Oh, and here are some pictures of me, in case you're wondering what I look like.


And my personal favorite, me under the bouganville trees:

  • Santa Barbara: SB was nice, even though the visit was quite short. Due to the traffic and distractions along the way, we arrived later in the afternoon than I had originally planned. Actually, I had planned to be there in the morning--but that's ok. We drove around town, saw some of the sights, and almost got run over by drunk tourists on bikes. Next time we go, we're planning on staying longer. Actually, the thing worst part of the trip was getting on the road on Monday night. It took us almost five hours to get from SB to San Diego, with much of the time spent on the freeway between SB and LA. This is one of the many reasons, I hated living there.
  • The Moth: I have been reading and hearing about The Moth for years. I emailed and asked the people who organize the events if they could do something on the West Coast (this is before I even lived in San Diego). They politely said there were no plans, but I should stop by and attend one of the events next time I'm in NYC. Unfortunately, I rarely happen upon NYC. So imagine my joy when I found out that they finally have events in LA. They started recently, and we went last night. For some reason, they didn't get as high a turnout as they usually do. I almost got up and participated. I guess that will have to wait for another evening. Perhaps October, when the theme of the stories are "Blunders". If you know anything about me, you know how far I must stretch my imagination to find "Blunders" in my past...



The Plan: Weekend Getaway (Part I)

In a rare move of foresight and planning (as opposed to my charming habit of procrastinating), I had planned this past Labor Day weekend full of all kinds of fun activities. I was giddy. I was excited. I was a woman with a plan. I planned it so far in advance, that I gave more than the requisite two weeks notice to my boss when I requested to have Tuesday off. What were my big, fancy plans?

I had planned it so we would stay home and relax for a couple of days when all those crazy Americans got on the road and started driving places. I got things to cook, sunblock and a list of undiscovered gems in our lovely city. We were to spend the Saturday and Sunday in San Diego, hosting possible visiting friends (who sadly did not visit), cooking, beach bumming, writing, etc. and then drive up to Santa Barbara early Monday morning. According to The Plan, we'd spend the night in SB, drive to Los Angeles on Tuesday, explore a few places and attend The Moth event in the evening.

Cool plan, huh?

Sunday morning, I was on the phone, casually telling my friend about what I had planned, how we'd drive up the coast, maybe visit a winery or two, find a little place to stay and hang out in ...

"What's that look for?"

I had to ask, because M was looking at me with a blank expression. It seems, in addition to having a plan, I also have a husband who is more forgetful than I am.

"Why are you telling her we're going this weekend?"

"Because we are. Remember? The Gmail calendar I created so we could both check schedules and plan things? Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, The Moth...The time I took off of work..."

Blank look continues. I apologized to my friend and told her I had to go.

So it seems there was a slight miscommunication, misunderstanding or some other kind of mystery involved. He was pretty sure I had never mentioned all of this for this weekend, and I had all kinds of stuff to show that I had. It seems while I envisioned a nice little getaway in quaint SB, my husband had planned to train someone on a scientific something or another.

C'est la vie.

We still had a lovely weekend, we saw Santa Barbara (briefly) and attended The Moth--just not as I had planned.

I'll write more about what we did in a different post. But before I end this post, I did want to say, I have VERY good reason for not planning trips and events. It is not because of my unfortunate and undeserving reputation as a procrastinator. It is because even when I plan, nothing works the way I envisioned it.

Sometimes, that is a good thing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Are You Willing to Participate in a Survey?

Yesterday afternoon, I was doing the same thing I do most Sunday afternoons--procrastinating doing anything of meaning as quietly as possible since M was napping. Of course, the laws of the Universe dictate that the phone will ring only when someone lays down to take a nap. On this particular occasion, I jumped over part of the couch, almost broke my wrist and tried to find the phone before the second ring. It rang a second time by the time I got to it.

In my rush to shut it off, I didn't look to see who was actually calling us. Big mistake.

"Allo?"

"Yes, good afternoon ma'am. My name is Old Man Blah, and I'm calling from the University of California, Berkeley to conduct a survey of Iranian-Americans. Would you like to participate?"

By this time I was in the closet of our spare bedroom--which is as isolated and private as you can get in our tiny home.

"I'm sorry, who is this? And how did you get my phone number?"

Call me paranoid, but having lived in places where governments have no problems with violating personal rights, I kind of freak out when someone calls me specifically to ask my opinion based on my nationality/ethnicity.

"My name is Old Man Blah, and I'm calling from the University of California, Berkeley to conduct a survey of Iranian-Americans and their opinions. I will provide you with the name and phone number of the professor sponsoring the survey at the end of my questions. My first question is, Do you think the United States is headed in the right direction?"

And much like waving a giant red flag in front of a pissed off bull, without thinking I blurted, "No this country is not headed in the right direction!" I then realized that the man hadn't responded to my question about obtaining my phone number.

"Why do you not think the country is moving in the right direction?"

Again, I opened my mouth and responded, because I am not the kind of person who can contain myself or my opinions. "Well the so called foreign policy would be a good place to start. Wait, you never told me how you got my phone number. I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable participating in a survey that has specifically identified me by my ethnic background."

You may wonder why I would worry about a survey conducted by someone at UC Berkeley, perhaps one of the country's most liberal universities. It's because while some people hear Berkeley and think of hippies, I hear Berkeley and think John Yoo. Yes, the same John Yoo who helped explain why torture isn't really torture and why it is acceptable for the President to use the afore mentioned non-torture when he deems it necessary. I'm not saying he's developing some kind of project to round up Iranian Americans before the US attacks Iran, I'm just saying it was weird to be called up on a lazy Sunday afternoon specifically because I am Iranian American.

Oh, and then things got a little strange.

Old Man Blah started yelling at me! "I said, this survey is being conducted for a professor at Berkeley. I will give you the professors name and contact information when you answer all of my questions. There is nothing suspicious about this!"

See, when a stranger calls your house, knows your ethnicity and wants to ask you questions--yelling that there is nothing strange going on, it kind of makes you think something strange may be going on.

"Could I at least have the name of the professor before I respond to the rest of your questions?"

"YOU CAN HAVE THE PROFESSORS NAME AND PHONE NUMBER WHEN WE'RE DONE!"

I thought a few seconds before I responded, "I'm very sorry for wasting your time, but I don't feel comfortable talking to you right now. Thank you for your time."

I hung up and sat in the closet, with what must have been an expression of complete confusion. That is how M found me a couple of minutes later. I told him what had happened and he was so confused. "Why didn't you just hang up on him?"

Leave it to the scientist to over simplify complex socio-political issues.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Lyrics in This Post Do Not Reflect the Beliefs of the Poster


One of my more endearing characteristics (and by endearing, I mean entertaining to people in close proximity to me) is the fact that I sing along with songs oblivious to the lyrics and surroundings.

I don't know how I manage to sing along with songs for years and not actually pay attention to the lyrics, but I do this often--and they are usually songs that I should really pay attention to. When I was in college, I used to go jogging around the mall every night. I always listened to the same tape on my Walkman--Best of Police--and would try to sing along to Message in a Bottle, Every Breath You Take...One night, about three months into my running ritual, I was listening/singing to Don't Stand So Close to Me (which I loved), when I stopped dead in my tracks, started laughing uncontrollably and turned to run back towards my dorm. I ran into the building, up the stairs, burst into my room, where my roommate was curled on the bed reading, and announced, "You know that Police song? They're referencing Lolita! He's singing about a teacher who has a crush on his student!!"

My roommate barely looked up from her book to give me a deadpan look and asked, "How long have you been listening to that song?"

"Three or four months. Why?"

"You should pay attention to songs you sing along to. It's very entertaining, but you'll get yourself in trouble one day."

Of course, I still haven't lived down this incident. When we visit, she asks if I have discovered any hidden messages in old songs...

She was right. Years later, I was working at an Italian deli/market where I usually did everything that wasn't directly in contact with customers. I was helping with the bookkeeping, marketing, inventory, web design and menu designs. I shared the tiny office with the owner and was watched carefully by the almost all male staff who couldn't make heads or tails of what I was doing. They were all nice to me, but generally kept their distance. I mean, what would you think of a spiky haired young woman who works in the back room of a restaurant, wearing 'fancy pants'; one who eats her pizza with a fork and knife and who doesn't talk about her personal life?

All of this changed one day when I was doing inventory. I had my headphones on and was listening to the local Alternative Rock station. At the time there were two songs in heavy rotation, Limp Bizkit's Nookie and Korn's A.D.I.D.A.S. On this particular afternoon, they had played the two songs back to back--and I was singing along, pretty close to the top of my lungs, blissfully oblivious of the audience that was gathering at the doorway to listen. I have no idea how long they were there (ALL of them), but I'm assuming they got an earful--why else would they start applauding and whistling at the end of the song? I would like to say I handled the situation as gracefully as could be expected. I jumped out of my skin when I saw there was a crowd at the door (more applause and laughs), looked at them with a little confusion and asked if they needed to get anything from the storage room. To their credit, they just laughed and walked away, with one of them saying I should sing more often (of course I was flattered). It took me about a month of being asked questions about what I like to do after work by the guy behind the deli for me to figure out something had changed that afternoon. I finally asked the only other woman at the store what was going on and why the guys were always looking at me funny.

"Oh, they all think you're a nympho."

"What?!? Why?! Me?!? What??!?!"

She looked at me like I was mentally challenged. "I think it is because you were screaming, 'All day I dream about sex.' in the storage room last month."

"What? I did not!" Pause. Think. Panic!! When I realized for the FIRST TIME what I had been singing.

It is so sad that my school schedule no longer allowed me to work regular hours soon after that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Beauty Tip of the Day


Body Shimmer is best applied with time, experience and a steady hand.

If you have made it to the ripe old age of whatever your age is without experiencing body shimmer, it's a good idea to practice when you have more than three minutes to leave the house, pick up your co-worker and lead a company-wide meeting. Otherwise you will look like you got into fisticuffs with Tinkerbell and lost.

After carefully applying moisturizer, foundation, mascara and lipstick, slowly walk away from the mysterious glittery cube that you recently discovered in the bottom of your drawer. Considering that as recently as a couple of weeks ago, your co-workers had to find subtle ways of telling you that you had forgotten to apply make-up to your whole face, or the mascara had smudged and given you a black eye, this is a good time to celebrate the small victory of not looking beat up.

Walk away from the glitter cube! Remember, not all free gifts with purchase are compatible with your lifestyle. If you did not spend hours looking for an item and practicing its application, it's a good idea not to experiment with it minutes before trying to impress people.

According to knowledgeable sources such as Benefit, such products offer 'subtle pink and gold highlights' giving a 'natural afterglow to the complexion'. Of course, they also instruct to use 'a dot' and a 'smidgen'. No where do they mention dunking your giant makeup brush firmly into the cube and liberally applying to your face. If you take matters into your own hand and apply generously, please know that you will be spending the next half hour washing your face, reapplying your makeup and inadvertently getting the damned Shimmer all over your face again because it is stuck to the brush that also applies your makeup and blush.

Lather, rinse and accept the fact that some days, the 'natural' look works best for you.

Bonus tip: If your colleagues look at you funny and ask why you have an interesting glow, tell them you may be pregnant. It's easier to explain and also justifies the slight delay in attending your own meeting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mothers and Daughters




Welcome to the world, my child, for we are one. From this day forward, your suffering is mine, and mine is yours. You will live a life that I wanted to live--I promise to give you each and every one of my dreams. You can walk down the path I was forbidden, you can achieve the ambitions that were out of my reach.

I will live my dreams through you, my perfect child. I know you will understand me, my pain and my sacrifices, for we are one. You will be my friend and savior, I will be yours. You will have what I never had, enjoying all the moments we will share together. I will see your imperfections and help you perfect them. You will see my imperfections, and understand them.

It will be you and I against the world now, my child, for we are one. Everyone will see how good I am, through your goodness. Your success, is my success; your happiness is mine. Your name above doors, will echo with everything I have given you. I will be there as you rise, encouraging you along the way. My strength is your strength, you missteps mine.

I know you will try to differ, but we are one. You will follow in my footsteps; for we are bound. Your path is chosen, you have no worries. I see your future when I look in your eyes, and promise to deliver you. You will never be lost, for I will always be by your side.

Remember no matter how far you go, we are one. Change your dress (not too short), color your hair (not too light), speak a new tongue (not too crass); but luckily we are still one. Your eyes can never deceive us. I know you and your destiny--it was once mine, no matter how much you try to escape it. I will set myself aside to help you get there, and share your joy when you arrive.

You will not understand this love, until your daughter arrives. She will pick up where you left off, and you will pick up my burden, as I picked up my mother's the day you arrived. You will continue your dreams through her; you will become one.

For that is our destiny, us mothers and daughters. We are one.

Just a Few Things Off the Top of My Head

So much has happened since my last real post, and thoughts and moments have come and gone. Rather than backtrack, I'm going to write about a whole bunch of stuff that may in no way be connected or related to each other:

  • I love writing. Desperately and passionately. I realize I may be a trite and unoriginal writer (if you think so, please don't tell me because I will have to hate you for the rest of our lives), but I truly derive joy from it. I have missed writing so much, that all this time I haven't been posting here (yes, the whole month or so), I have been thinking of things that I will write as soon as I have access to a non-work computer. I'm thinking of compiling an anthology of short stories by Iranian women who have immigrated. I'm also thinking of writing a collection of stories with the help of Anonymous Prankster about some of the more entertaining personalities who have crossed our paths (if I have had to endure their company, I think I should at least have a shot at financial gain for my pain and suffering).
  • Turd Blossom is leaving. Yay!! Of course, we will be left with the stench of said Turd for many years to come; but for now, I rejoice in the fact that the steaming heap is being removed.
  • We saw Bourne Ultimatum and we loved it--love love love. I was excited after reading the review on Pajiba--but the movie was brilliant. Especially if you take into account that I don't like action movies. I am looking for a good opportunity to beat someone up with a book. Perhaps someone who attacks my family/friends and my lifestyle while enjoying my hospitality?
  • How does one smoothly mention that one doesn't drink? Especially if a date has been set to share drinks and exchange stories with some charming people? I'm sure there are a number of dignified and intelligent ways of mentioning it, or just allowing it to be a non-issue. I personally like to blurt it out in the middle of completely unrelated conversations in hopes it will be out there, but largely unnoticed.
  • In a sudden burst of insanity, I'm thinking of cutting my hair very short again. The current bob is nice, but slightly boring-- at least when it is behaving. Left to its own nature, it's all kinds of kinky. The problem is, I have a wedding coming up and I don't want to have a questionable haircut for my good friend's special day. I have been waiting for this event since we were in college and I would prefer not to look like I was going through my annual mid-life crisis the day before the wedding. What to do, what to do?
  • What am I missing when it comes to men and cars?
  • Hug a scientist--chances are they're not only brilliant, but they are hilariously funny, loving and supportive as well.
  • I have a brain crush on Reza Aslan and Joshua Rushing. I have a brain crush on a lot of people, but I'm reading their books right now and am quite happy.
  • A little while ago, I read about Condi Rice going on a tour of the Middle East touting the 'aid package' that would help unite allies, etc. etc. My ears perked up just a little, until I realized that it was a MILITARY AID PACKAGE, meant to unite allies against Iran. Now, is it just me, or is it just a little crazy to arm the Saudi/Gulf and Egyptian governments--all of whom are distinctly anti-democratic human rights violators and encouragers of terrorists everywhere. I mean, of the people who attacked us on Sept. 11, none were Iranians; but quite a few were Saudis and Egyptians. Osama Bin Laden is/was a Saudi; his sidekick is Egyptian. And aside from the most recent official beneficiaries of our generosity, don't we have a pretty crappy track record of distributing arms to people in the Middle East? I mean, we did somehow manage to lose tons of money and hundreds of thousands of arms in Iraq, a country allegedly crawling with terrorists, didn't we? If we seriously worried about people from these countries attacking us, should we be giving them the money and equipment to attack us with more efficiently?
So, that's about it about the random stuff. Yay! I'm back.