Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another New Beginning

I have been away, and I miss writing. While some lovely things have happened since my last post, I continue to censor myself for fear of the many bad things overwhelming what I write. I still like to think I am too private a person to expose myself that much here. Still, I hope that in the new year, I find a way to balance my need for privacy with a need to write and say something. Writing has always made me happy and I need all the happiness I can get my grubby little hands on these days.

When I woke up this morning, I realized that 18 years ago today, I was lying in bed at my uncle's house, praying and hoping that I would be able to change my life. My parents would call to wish us a happy new year and confirm my return flight information. I hadn't made any plans to return, despite my promise to do so a week earlier. I had no intention of going home. My first 18 years had not been very happy ones, and I knew if I returned, they would continue to be as they had been. The trip to the US was unexpected and (typical of my father) unplanned. His sudden and early return home had been a God send. I had spent the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve thinking of what I could say to convince my parents to let me stay and go to school. I had never disobeyed my parents before, hadn't said no to any of their demands until I was 17. This would be on a scale that would undo all of my daughterly goodness. I was scared, alone, clueless and on a high that must come from doing something completely insane. And I did it. With that one call my life changed. Eighteen years later, I'm reviewing my life again. I have fallen short of many of the things I have wanted to accomplish by this time in my life. I have failed in so many things and occasionally succeeded. The victories have been sweet, the failures unforgiving.

I did not enjoy the year that I am about to put behind me. While some of my friends had great joys and beautiful additions to their lives which they have generously shared with me, I have spent the better part of the year torn and in pain. Sadly, I haven't been alone. I lost a dear friend who may never have known how much she meant to me. I still think of her daily, grateful for the little time I had to know her. I was abandoned by a friend who meant the world to me; and while I got him back, I cannot see myself as I was before everything happened. I doubt myself more today than I did before--and I was always full of self-doubt. I have had a number of friends near and far go through separations and divorces. Watching them suffer, I felt utterly useless and could do nothing but share their sorrow. Back home, there is unrest and chaos as the government that once pretended to follow the will of the people turned against them so cruelly that we have all passed the point of no return. I spent most of the year holding on to myself for fear of falling apart completely, and while I still stand in some form, I know I am not the woman I was last year. My sense of self has changed and the drained person I see before me is not what I want to be. I am trying to see it as a blessing in disguise--perhaps the person I was couldn't improve because she had to be rebuilt. Through this, I tried to find the strength to help others in small ways; in return I discovered new friends that helped carry me through some of my darkest days. For that, I am eternally grateful--even though I wish we had met under happier circumstances.

So with few hours left of 2009, I say good riddance. I will not miss the year that passed at all. There were historical moments, glimmers of hope and joy--but I was too busy trying to keep my head above water to appreciate them properly.

Welcome 2010. May you be gentler and more joyous than your older sister.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

With a Flood of Pictures Come a Flood of Memories

I've been taking a lot of pictures lately and been in a lot more than I have been for almost all my life put together. It's a weird feeling. Actually, it's unsettling. Every time I look at the recent pictures, I feel the same tension I had when the picture was being taken--an uneasiness that the pictures won't turn out right; that my face will look wrong; my eyes will be closed or that I have the wrong smile. For the most part, the concerns are grounded in reality. I look inexplicably intoxicated in many of the pictures I 'pose' for, even though I don't drink. My favorite pictures are those that I'm hiding behind dark sunglasses, preferably a hat or a tall person--proof of my presence should an alibi be required, but none of the ugliness.

As I was looking through pictures from my most recent trips, there is one of me laughing as I cover my mouth. It may be one of my favorite pictures, because every time I look at it, I remember the exact moment I acquired the habit.

Since about the time I was five years old, my mother has been trying to 'fix' my nose. Learning from the Chinese tradition of foot binding, she would scotch-tape my nose and have me sit still for hours to correct the offending feature. After seeing no results, she was sure the problem was with the tools not the method, so she upgraded to duct tape. Sadly, this was the one problem duct tape couldn't fix. By the time I was in second grade, promises of rhinoplasty* were made in exchange for good behavior and grades. Until then, every time I came home with a school picture there would The Talk. I had been warned not to smile the way I smile (how does one change their smile?) in pictures, but it was hard to obey my mother when school photographers adamantly insisted that I smile and show my teeth. Soon my pictures became glaring reminders of the necessity of rhinoplasty--and I hated it. Logically, I stopped smiling in my pictures--which made me look either scared or baleful. Neither look is flattering.

Just as I was getting the hang of not smiling at picture time, another problem presented itself: my habit of laughing and/or giggling and its subsequent effect on my face. Not good. The Talk was amended to include not laughing when I spoke, sticking to 'serious' topics, controlling my laugh and holding my head at certain angles if I had to laugh. Now, I'm sure models and other beautiful people go through training of how to stay beautiful at all times and that there are more flattering angles than others, but all of this was too much work and instruction. I broke out in giggles for no good reason, I was an unintentional joke waiting to happen and got a crick in my neck when I tried to maintain the 'flattering' angle. I really did try for a couple of years before I finally gave up. One day, when some neighbors were visiting, something or another was said and of course I started to laugh the uncontrollable laughter of a bored adolescent. As soon as I started laughing, I thought of the effect it would have on me. I immediately covered the lower half of my face and continued to laugh, even more at the sheer genius of my solution to the problem. Since that summer morning, I cover my face when I laugh--and love the picture that has captured the habit.

*To my mother's great sorrow (we literally discuss this every time she visits), I never had rhinoplasty. If God answers her prayers one day, I will get over my stubborn resistance and make her dream come true. I think God is on my side on this particular topic and will continue to cover my face to spare people the horrors of seeing my laughing face.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shameless Flirt


I looked at him, hoping he wouldn't notice my impatience. I was in no mood to chat with strangers, but didn't want to be rude.


That was all he needed. He extended his hand and said, "My name is Aidan. What's your name?"

Of course, nothing good would come of this. He wasn't the type to notice or care about my wedding ring; I wasn't interested in encouraging him, no matter how cute he was with his jeans and devil may care hair style.

I introduced myself, smiling against my will. He took my hand and didn't let go as he chatted and looked at me with excitement and hope. People were looking and smiling--mostly at him, I rarely get that many unsolicited smiles. I asked a couple of questions and maybe encouraged him. I finally asked him point blank, "Don't you think you're a little too young to be flirting with me? Do you have any idea how old I am?"

This made him laugh loudly. More people looked. He was having fun, I was feeling awkward.

"Shush. Seriously, I'm much too old for you. There are plenty of nice girls your own age around here."

He ignored my comment completely. He was in his own world. "Do you like firefighters? I'm going to be a firefighter for Halloween. What are you going to be?"

"An old lady."

"Ok, buddy. It's time to go. Wanna say goodbye?"

He looked over his shoulder at his companion and nodded 'no'. I was getting late for dinner and knew he had to go. It had been a fun little distraction, but all good things have to come to an end.

"Well, bye. It was very nice meeting you. I hope you have fun on Halloween."

He gave me a dimpled smile knowing he couldn't postpone the inevitable any longer, "Ok. Bye!" As they walked away, he looked over his shoulder and waved.


Beware ladies: there's a shameless flirt at Vons and no one is immune to his charms. And yes, little boys who have never met me will literally throw themselves at me and I love it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not Myself

I am the opposite of all you've ever known,
I'm everything that I've never been.
I'm the broken glass that can hold no more,
I am hiding in plain sight and hating every second of it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Things I've Learned

Since I had a couple of interesting things come up lately, I thought I'd share my new found wisdom with friends and strangers:

1. Don't change the water cooler jug right before a meeting, especially if you're wearing high heels: It's hard to look dignified in your meeting when you're wearing a white shirt that is too wet and slightly muddy. People will laugh at you. Or they'll pretend not to laugh at you as they stifle their laughter and ask how you got attacked by the water jug. Trust me nothing good will come of your well intentioned act. Just wait for someone else to come and change the damned thing.

2. American men overshare: Maybe I'm a prude. (actually, I am a prude, but that's besides the point), but I really have no interest in hearing how awkward it was when your 22 year old son walked in on your private moment. You will know I'm uncomfortable with your narration by the beet red color of my complexion and the look of horror on my face as I stare at the floor. Feel free to abruptly change the subject and talk about horticulture. Likewise, when I ask how your new girlfriend is doing, I don't mean in the Biblical sense. I'm either making small talk or referring to her overall health. Feel free to not pick up the pace as I run away from you.

3. Music can be used for medicinal purposes: I have been consuming music as if my life depended on it. I have been known not to pay attention to the lyrics of songs I listen/sing along to, but lately, I've been hearing lyrics and almost every song somehow connects to my life. My musical mood swings from the serene to angry to heartbroken in a span of hours--and every one is the perfect salve for that moment. My co-worker (bless him) sent me a package full of CDs yesterday, including two Chris Isaak CDs to replace those I may have accidentally given away. How could I have forgotten the lyrics to Forever Blue?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

All Apologies

Lately, I've been apologizing a lot. I feel I've lost my footing and am so unsure of every word I say, that even after the most casual conversation, I want to go back and apologize. Apologize for interfering, imposing, judging, correcting, opining, being. I want to erase everything and go back in time to a past that I can't remember any more. Despite this, I can't stop saying the things I know I will want to take back. I can't stop comments I will want to explain, and explanations that I will want to put in context.

Just last night, I had a conversation with a friend which in hindsight was so inappropriate and judgmental--what was I thinking? I barely got one friend back due to my judgmental comments and now this. I spent the better part of my day wondering, do I apologize? Do I pretend it never happened and hope he didn't notice? Do I count of the fact that no one listens to anything I say most of the times?

Despite always being self-conscience, I was like this only one other time years ago--doubting every word and thought. I didn't like it then, I do not like it now. The worst part is, I can't stop any part of it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where I Foment Scandals From Afar

If you ever meet me, you'll notice a few things: I have a fondness for red shoes and red lipstick; I am vain and I love big earrings. My parents did their best to quash all of these characteristics when I was growing up. I remember my mom once asking, "Where do you get this from? I don't wear jewelery or make-up. But this?!"

I may have solved the mystery.

My grandmother was visiting me for a week. Knowing she is going back home to attend my cousin's wedding, shopping was on our itinerary. There was also a long list of family members who had asked for dresses/shoes/accessories for the same wedding, "if I came across anything". Honestly, we did our best. We visited just about every mall, outlet and store I could think of from Carlsbad to Downtown San Diego. We couldn't find anything that fit the styles, budget and tastes of the people involved. I incorporated shopping into our sight seeing, meal times and social calls. I had deep conversations with friends as I skimmed racks and racks of clothes that were entirely inappropriate for my purposes. I actually exhausted my grandmother on Saturday after whisking her from one mall to another.

The thing that bothered me most was that my grandmother had seen my various red shoes--and she commented on them. The shoe loving woman who wore high heels and corralled a gaggle of grandchildren on her long walks wearing a chador loved MY shoes. Every time I wore one, she'd start giggling with joy and say, "What pretty shoes!". I was determined to find her a pair she would wear.

Finally on Tuesday, on the way to the airport we stopped by Marshalls. I saw a pair of red sandals that she clearly liked. I grabbed them in her size and kept walking. Slightly behind me, she was trying to keep up, saying, "I can't get those. I can't take them home, it's not becoming. *giggle giggle giggle* Your mom will not approve. *giggle* Maybe if I wear them when I have company over." I was already at the register paying, if for no other reason than to hear her giggle like that all the way to the airport. And perhaps wait for the call from my mom, asking me what I was thinking buying my grandmother red shoes. We bonded over our love of red that has always been a mystery.

We stopped at the next store, where I moved on to phase two of my unintentional plan to upset the balance of proper dress amongst the women-folk in my family. My new sister-in-law will also be attending the wedding, and had hinted that she would like a dress. My parents are of the modest dress mentality. So much so that half the things I wear (shorts, sleeveless shirts, almost any formal wear) scandalizes them and results in a polite but firm request to 'see what else I have to wear'. My sister-in-law apparently is not so fond of these suggestions (and I don't blame her one bit). So imagine my glee when I saw a lovely green dress that may have lacked sleeves and may also have been low cut. The good news: 1. It will look great on her. 2. She loves green 3. She will practically be obligated to accept the dress because I got it for her. 4. It was almost 60% off! The bad news? I will be getting a number of scandalized calls, wondering "What I was thinking?! Had I forgotten who I was shopping for? WHAT WAS I THINKING!?!"

I blame it on the math. With two purchases, I made three people very happy--maybe more. I did some very good deeds. I may have thought of doing this on my own, but would never have gone through with it without encouragement from a slightly mischevious friend. Now excuse me as I adjust my halo. It may get knocked off soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chest Crushing Goodness

I had so much fun on my Torrey Pines run last Monday, that I decided to go back. So much is going on with me right now, that I need every drop of hope and relief I can get. I had a plan--run the trail, wet toes in ocean, clear head and go home. Of course, things didn't go according to my plan but they did get a little better. As I turned into the parking lot of the Torrey Pines golf course, I saw Anthony. I almost crashed my car into a tree.

Anthony is one of my teammates this season. While he's technically not my mentee, he had been running with me and listening to my stories on Saturdays. Two months ago, he casually mentioned that he would miss seeing me (yes, I was flattered, sue me) for a while. He was scheduled for chemo--4-6 weeks of it. It broke my heart that I had run with him for weeks, and he took his last run to tell me. I offered to help with whatever he needed during his treatments--food, reading materials, whatever. He asked me to email and keep him up to date on the team's progress. This was familiar. I had done this before, I could do it again.

So for the next few weeks, I would send him team updates and stories. Crazy, random stories. He'd respond days later with a charming comment and a promise to try to make it to the next week's session and visit. He never could because apparently chemo is a life draining form of liquid torture.

And that's why I almost crashed my car tonight as I drove up and saw him standing there with the group for a weekly run. It was his first time back and he wanted to see how far he could make it. I jumped out of my running car and wanted to welcome him to the group. He hugged me so hard I could barely breathe. I wasn't expecting the kiss either, but apparently I was missed. Once I found my feet and greeted everyone else, I became the butt of the car handling jokes which have followed me from last season. I wasn't bothered. I have gone too long this season without being openly mocked. Plus, my teammate is back and he looked great. He couldn't run at all tonight; his muscles weak from almost two months of chemo and his lungs out of practice. But he's back with the team. His mentor and I walked the trail with him; I never made it to the ocean and I didn't clear my very muddled head. But I saw a friend who is on his way back to health and that was lovely.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Meeting the Kings

I got back from the Kings of Leon concert. Apparently good music played really loudly coursing through every fiber of your body can be theraputic. I screamed till I lost my voice, danced till my legs were sore and generally surrendered my body and mind to the music. I was so quiet after the concert, M asked me why we went if I was going to hate it so much. Amazingly, he missed most of the action mentioned above so he mistook the joyous trance for apathy.

The thing that caught me off guard? My reaction to one of their songs which I don't actually like much. This one made me cry.

I don't know the first thing about music, but I like this band and they were amazing live. If you have the chance to see them, go for it. If you need a spaztic partner to go with you, call me.

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: Bad Influence

Just when I thought I had run out of places to ache, I have found a couple of new ones. Right before a concert I have been looking forward to for months. If only this were a body slamming kind of event, it would all balance out and possibly make me feel better.

Also, it seems that during our time together today, I have taught my grandmother a new word in English.

"What is that word you keep saying?"
"Which one?"

It seems I'm a bad influence on the elderly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: Reality Bites

Looking back at my previous posts, I've noticed two things: less and less frequent postings and a distance from my original plans for blogging. The frequency, I blame on a few things, mostly Facebook and keeping up with/harassing unsuspecting people that way. As stabby as FB makes me sometimes with its disconnections and finicky chats, I can't help but appreciate its role in my life recently.

The tone change in the blog is due to my lack of creativity and general mood. Turns out, I haven't got a creative or funny cell in my body when my mind is where it has been for the past nine months or so. I have been battle the need to say something--anything--to lighten this load that is on my chest and of self-censoring before I say too much. Being a private exhibitionist is not as easy as it seems.

I've been up for the past two hours (after 'sleeping' for less than two), staring in the dark and willing calmness upon my mind. Nothing is working. Yoga breathing might help if I didn't catch myself holding my breath for what seems an eternity sometimes. All of the baseless medical symptoms that have bothered me for the past month or so are still bothering me, now with the added bonus of feeling the acid in my stomach spill over and course through my body. The fire and knots from my stomach are taking over and officially robbing me of what few hours of restless sleep I was getting a few weeks ago.

I had a brief moment of reprieve on Monday: I went running at Torrey Pines and felt an almost out of body sense of joy, despite the physical pains. It reminded me why I loved running and what I love about living in San Diego. I was forced to breathe the ocean air, feel the evening chill crawling on my skin, battling the fire just beneath the surface. For a brief moment I felt so light I thought I would evaporate. During the run, I felt something that had been missing for so long I had almost forgotten it existed in me. And I want it back, even if it breaks me in the process.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: My Confused Ego

Two seemingly unrelated stories before Wednesday, during which I have promised not to whine. Or at least promised to try not to whine (this is so not going to work, Lainey).


A few years ago, we went to a picnic for one of M's co-workers. The usual group was there and I enjoyed all of them, although honestly it is hard to not feel stupid when you're sitting with a bunch of scientists and have nothing to contribute to the conversation. So we unpack our contributions to the picnic, and I kept trying to keep the topics away from neurodegenerative diseases and contaminated cell cultures. At some point, we're all sitting on the blanket, looking out at the ocean and I was telling a story of how difficult it was for us while M was finishing his doctoral thesis. After all, we were two graduate students in a relatively new relationship, on two different continents, separated by time zones, low budgets, family obligations and demanding schedules. I get to the part where I would feel guilty calling him before I went to bed (morning his time), afraid that I'd be distracting him as he reviewed notes and transcripts.

This is when the only other non-scientists in the group (who really is a nice guy) jumps in and says, "YOU?! Distract HIM?! You couldn't distract him if you tried!"

To his credit, he was trying to compliment M's dedication and focus. To my credit, I just gasped for air and didn't punch him. It's one thing to know your shortcomings, it's another thing for a stranger to point at them and laugh.

I remember this story tonight because we were going to a concert at the beach with most of the same group of people. For the past couple of days I was in a twisty knot, reminding myself to ignore his poorly executed jokes and compliments--thinking that if it came down to it, I could distract someone, somehow.

AARP Hotness

I was trying to put the AARP membership card debacle behind me. I really was. Until I went to Costco, I was doing fine. There I was thinking of ways to use a two gallon jar of artichokes and putting my items on the belt, when I noticed the very old, feeble man behind me. He was almost falling into his cart reaching for a giant box of something or another. He was short, the box was big and heavy. I had an opportunity to get my good deed of the day out of the way. So I offered to help him place his items on the conveyor belt behind my own. He looked at me for a minute and accepted the offer. As I was moving his things out of the cart, he looked at me and said, "I'm not as young as I used to be."

I laughed at his understatement and said, "None of us are. I just got an invitation to join AARP."

He looked at me again and nodded, "You still look pretty decent. You have a good..."

I cannot repeat what he said. I was so shocked I turned beet red and dropped his tuna cans. When I saw the optimistic look on his face, I turned even redder. I'm amazed there was any blood left in my body that hadn't shot to my head.

I could not pay for my stuff and get out of there fast enough.

I think the moral of these two stories are, while I may not be able to get the attention of young, intelligent men; almost blind, dirty old men will still give me a look if I wave a membership card in their face. Burn the AARP card.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Card Carrying Member of AARP

I was going through my mountain of mail this afternoon. I don't like doing this because nothing good is ever found in this mountain. Today, I got insult added to my weekly injury. I got an invitation to join AARP, also known as the American Association of Retired Persons which accepts member 50 and older. I am not 50 or older. As a matter of fact, I still have a few years before I can blame my bad attitude on a mid-life crisis. Yet, I have been invited to join. They must have heard of my sparkling personality and just couldn't wait to get me.

After fuming for a while--a long,long while--I forced myself to think positively about what this could mean. Think of the discounts. In this economy, I need all the help I can get. Avis, retail, legal services, pharacies...The possibilities are endless.

Also, with proof of membership, I can demand respect. FINALLY! I will shake my fist in the air and yell, "Respect your elders!" and "Don't speak until you're spoken to!" This will be especially handy in some of my meetings. I look forward to this particular perk. I especially look forward to my Tuesday meetings.

I did a little research and discovered there is a Ms. Senior America competition. I bet I could enter as an AARP member. It's not like they mail out membership cards to just anybody. No, sir. It's a very exclusive group. Armed with my membership, I can compete and say I have maintained my youthful glow without exaggerating one bit. Not to brag or anything, but I think I might have a chance at winning. That would be a nice change of pace for me.

Finally, for once I will be a part of a much larger, growing group. I will be able to bond with my peers over our mutual experiences and past adventures. Talk about the crazy kids and their loud music. Lobby our government for a better benefits. It could work.

So now I'm a little less depressed. Until I remember the fact that someone thinks I'm a senior citizen. Then I want to cry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: Opting Out

As I drove home from work today, I changed the radio station just as Trent Reznor's 'Hurt' started. By the time I heard, "Everyone I know goes away in the end" I was crying. It was the wrong song to be listening to at the wrong time.

There has been a steady flow of people leaving my life lately and it is killing me. I have walked away from friendships in the past, and it was never easy. Even when I did the walking, it hurt and I hated it. What kind of a person walks away from a friendship? What kind of a person builds and nurtures something and finally gives up when maintaining it becomes too exhausting?

And yet, people are walking away from me slowly and surely. People who have known me best and longest are leaving me, without a word or goodbye. It seems I don't even deserve that. I don't know what that says about me.

It started in February with Tall Lanky Guy. One day he was here celebrating my brother's birthday with us and introducing us to his boyfriend, asking me what I thought--insisting I tell him. Next day he was gone, not responding to my emails or phone calls. At first I thought he was busy catching up after his trip or getting ready for Persian New Year. But then my birthday/New Year rolled around and for the first time 16 years, he didn't call to wish me a happy birthday or a Happy New Year. At the time, it was icing on my unhappy birthday cake. I figured I must have said something--been too direct with my opinion when we last saw each other--so I called. And called and called. I left funny messages, sad messages and apologetic messages--I finally realized he really didn't want to talk to me. I couldn't tell one of my oldest friends that one of my newest friends had passed away. I couldn't joke about New Year parties and visits. I couldn't listen to his stories or make stupid jokes that he'd laugh at.

I didn't have my friend.

Since then at least two more have left me. People I loved have walked away; more are on their way out. I can't stop them. The hole in my chest is growing to the point it's making me numb. Sometimes at work I'll daydream of a different life that I tried to build for so long--a life shared with friends who had become my adoptive family; those in my life by choice and not by accident of birth. Then I'd be faced with the unpleasant reality that the only people left standing will be those who can't change me (fast) enough. Either way, the only thing I am left to believe is that I am unacceptable as I am.

And I couldn't censor myself for another day because of a song I was listening to during rush hour.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Only Stupid People Are Breeding

Below is an excerpt from a recent conversation:

'Hi GWCH! Look what I brought you!'

'Oh, what a pretty wedding invitation. Who is it for?'

'A Pakistanian guy. Do you know him?'

'I don't know. I have a few Pakistani friends, but don't think I know this groom.'

'Can you read the invitation?'

'No, I can't read Urdu. I know Farsi and a little bit of Arabic.'

'That's too bad that your parents didn't teach you Pakistanian.'

(Confused look on my face.)

'It's just that I thought you'd be proud of your Pakistanian heritage and all. You know, because you were talking about stuff that is going on over there for the last couple of weeks.'

(Trying to bite my tongue and not call her an idiot): 'Oh, no. I'm from Iran. I'm Iranian--some people say Persian. It's the same thing. We speak Farsi (also known as Persian). Pakistanis speak Urdu which has a similar alphabet and some shared words, but they're actually different languages.'

'Oh. So, you're not Pakistanian?'

(Me calmly nodding no, trying not to scream that there is no such thing as Pakistanian.)

'Huh. Maybe that's why I was confused and thought you were Indian. Do you know Indian?'

And that is the story of why I have welts in my mouth. And why I'm considering quitting my job and becoming a History and Geography teacher. God knows I can't make the kids any dumber.

Oh--and this lady has four kids, the first two of which she home schooled for a few years.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Zombie Warrior In Training

I have been avoiding writing this post for almost 12 weeks.

That was when I agreed to jo
in Team In Training again to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Most of you remember the story of how I joined TNT last year, going from a well-rounded couch potato to a half marathon runner. The moment I walked into my hotel room before the Nike Women's Marathon, I called her and promised I would do it again next year, if she promised to come to San Francisco. She promised she would and we had a date. Her promise carried me up the hills and through the streets that day. Crossing the finish line was one of the happiest moments in my life--blown out knee, aching ankle, blisters and all. The only thing that clouded the euphoria was knowing that Manda didn't make it to San Francisco because her treatments weren't working. When I posted pictures of the event, she saw what I had written on my arm (Zombie Warrior) and wrote two words that brought tears, "My Hero!" She was gracious like that.

I haven't written about her since she passed, even though I think of her almost daily. I thought of her as I agreed to join as a mentor, knowing that my original motivation for running was gone; and I think of her every Saturday morning as I try to motivate my team members with a heavy heart.

This year, I know my fund raising can't help her any more, nor can my misadventures make her laugh (or wonder who the heck I am). I'm getting ready for a date that I know will break my heart. That's why everything I am doing (my running, my fund raising, my planning) is behind. Somewhere around the sixth or seventh attempt to write this in April, I had to stop.

A friend and I were talking about this and he made me think of why I'm running again. Amanda inspired me, but now I've met so many others who went through what she did. This week, I learned that one of my mentees will miss the next few weeks of training because he is scheduled for chemo. I have friends who were recently diagnosed with various blood cancers (two in the last year) and those who fight chronic forms of it; I have learned of friends who have overcome their battles and are living healthy lives. When I think about it, I realize my participation and fund raising were inspired by Amanda, but now includes many more friends who I'd like to think are benefiting from my feeble efforts.

And with this, my fund raising officially begins. I know a lot has changed since last year and donations might be smaller. I'll shamelessly accept donations big and small with gratitude. I am looking for sponsors, so if you know of any businesses that want their name raced through the streets of San Francisco, I can provide you with more details. I would also appreciate it if you could each pass on my fund raising site to at least 5 of your most generous friends.

Where is the link for you to donate? Right here!

I'll continue to post stories, updates and possibly pictures. Once my training jersey is personalized I'll start modeling it. Until then, I appreciate your support in any form and amount.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Country In Flames

As I write this, I'm watching HBO's Letters to the President. We have been glued to our computers and the TV for the past couple of days, following the aftermath of the elections in Iran. Chances are, if you have been watching the news or cable channels, you don't know what's going on. CNN had an interview with motorcycle repairmen yesterday. MSNBC had something about Ted Kazinski.

The Revolution is not being broadcast.

Chances are you don't know much about my country. I don't blame you. You don't know about my people's generosity or their frustrations, you don't know of their dashed hopes and dreams. You don't know what is like to have lost your family to war; to have gathered in a house with your extended family praying that you survive the nightly bombings. You don't know what it is like to bury your sons who fought for the survival of a government they didn't believe in. You don't know what it is like to be seen as ignorant and repressed; international pariahs.

What you probably know is the caricature of a president that is made even more ridiculous in translations. You don't know that he was elected last time because the majority of the electorate boycotted the elections to make a point to the Reformers. You don't know that the he was elected by people who can barely see past their own day to day survival and are willing to vote for anyone who promises to build a road to their villiage, or give them a loan to buy a home. That is not to say those who voted for him were ignorant or stupid. It is to say they are just like us, responding to their basic needs as a people.

Two days ago, elections were held and something did not go according to plans. I tried to block out thoughts of the elections, I did not vote. I no longer live there and don't feel I am entitled a voice in a system that doesn't impact me directly. I was wrong. That system impacts my family who mostly live there, my friends and their families, my people and my culture. I was wrong to not vote, even if my vote would be lost and the loser would be hailed as the president. I was wrong not to vote, even if I didn't have much faith in any of the candidates because there was a lesser evil and even a window of hope. I was wrong to think that the rallies of people in green were just an excuse to get out and mingle. I was wrong to be so cynical about something that hurts my people.

If you look, you can see what is happening in the aftermath of those elections. There are cries of protest, there is violence and there is bloodshed. Those are my people. The pictures you see are of my sisters and brothers, my cousins and friends using the songs and calls of the last revolution against the government. Those cries of Allah-o-Akbar coming from the rooftop are the same cries that brought down the Shah 30 years ago. The cries of 'Azadi, Azadi' (Freedom, Freedom) are being used by a younger generation and thrown back in the faces of the people who are repeating the mistakes of the past. If Khamenei and his ilk have any memory of the past, they should be more than a little worried.

I am sad that they are suffering, I worry about the people I love. But I am proud that they did not accept this in silence. I am proud that they are braver than I ever could be. I am proud and hopeful.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: Feel the Burn

Wednesday night, I had my hair trimmed and colored. I was generally displeased, because my usual stylist had shown me her new 'enhancements', wondered why she looked so 'exposed' and handed me off to her assistant before she went to dance class. Now, as you may know from my blog title, I have a thing about my hair. And I like how this particular lady does my hair, which is why I have followed her through three different salons and drive much further to get to her than my own logic dictates. So I did not like being handed off to her assistant--at all. Nor did I like an update on Brittney's concert, someone someone's wardrobe malfunction, celebrities dumped and others picked up. I don't really care. Yet, I got an earful as I was being worked on and my request for my hair to be styled was translated to the top layer of my hair being straightened with a flat iron and the layers beneath being neglected to a puffy semi-curl. Considering how many times she left to save her new puppy and come back to me, I thought it wise to pay and be on my way--with my curiously styled hair. To add insult to injury, she charged me as much as my regular stylist.

Thursday morning, I started styling my hair and trying to spritz, blow dry and curl it into order. I was feeling particularly clumsy as I burned the back of my fingers with the curling iron. I decided to prevent further disaster by taking of my robe so the wire wouldn't get entangled with the robe. I finally finished half my head and realized I'm running late for work. Really late. On a day that I'm scheduled to interview candidates for our Atlanta team. Then, as I tried to avoid burning my neck I dropped the stupid curling iron all together and burned myself again as it fell. On my general chestal area. As I digested what had just happened to me, I started yelling profanities in pain and sheer anger. I don't typically use bad language, which means I am not well versed and tongue tied when I legitimately need to be expressive in that way. I immediately got under cold water to prevent blistering, causing the finished side of my hair to unfinish again, but in a different way from the previously unfinished side. As I got out of the shower, still sputtering what few profanities I could string together, I started looking for my bottle of aloe. The giant, Costco bottle of aloe that I look at every single day, that was not in its regular spot, because I had removed everything for the plumbers while they tore my bathrooms apart. I stopped looking in drawers and cabinets long enough to try and remember where I had last seen it. As I walked towards M's closet where I stuffed a bunch of things, I slipped on the now wet bathroom tile and banged my already bruised knee. Normally, such a thing wouldn't happen because I have a carpet lying on the bathroom floor, but that too, had been folded and stuffed some place safe while the plumbers were doing their work earlier in the week.

I finally sat down with my half-flat, half frizzy hair; sore knee and burned flesh on the cusp of tears because I couldn't find my stupid bottle of aloe. For some reason I thought it would cheer me up to quote Richard III. "ALOE! Aloe! My nation of some f!@#! aloe!" As soon as the words were out, I realized I had misquoted Shakespeare. It wasn't a nation, it was a kingdom. I couldn't even quote Shakespeare. What was happening to me? As the tears started running down my face, I tried to think of calling someone who would understand. Someone accident prone and knowledgeable. But there was something just so ridiculous about my situation that I couldn't call anyone. Questions would be asked, laughter would have to be stifled and I couldn't handle mockery for at least an hour or two.

I finally got up, pulled my hair into submission, covered my burned flesh with a high collared shirt and left for work.

I sucked at the interview and wanted to apologize to the poor candidate for my tone. I wanted to explain why I sounded so distracted and in pain, but was pretty sure that would be considered TMI and possibly sexual harassment.

Somehow, I made it to the end of the day. M couldn't make sense of what had happened or how I had managed to hurt myself as much as I did in such a short time.

I need to learn to some new words. I'm sure it would have been much better if I had a stronger vocabulary. I also need to buy some more f@#! #$@aloe.

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts

I have been wanting to write lately, but frankly have found it difficult with the many things that have been going on in my life and around me. Many of them are just daily annoyances; insignificant, absurd and tedious--perfectly forgettable, were it not for the larger things that have been looming. For a while, I was self-censoring, not able to talk about everything that was going on. Then, I was too emotional to write about what was happening coherently. Now, as somethings are resolving themselves and falling into place, I am beginning to see what the problem was: death by paper cuts (and occasionally cardboard). The reason that it freaked me out as much as it has (in addition to the frequency), is that Spring is the beginning for me. Things are supposed to recalibrate and renew. The only things that have been renewing this Spring are things that don't bode well for the future or set a good tone for the rest of the year. That has overwhelmed me and dragged me down more than the events themselves.

And so a new theme is born. Each time I want to write about my misadventures or whine about things that I know are insignificant--even by my melodramatic standards--I'll post them under the title above. At least you'll know what's coming.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Am I Evil? Perhaps

My parents have been visiting us over two trips; a few days at a time. The first trip provided some interesting moments and revelations, including the very real possibility that I'm a slightly wicked child after all.

M started running around the same time that I would trot over to the park by our house. By the time I joined TNT last year, he had joined the Tri(athlon) Club and was occasionally participating in local runs and bike rides. He has often said that he started running because I started, which flatters me to no end. Today, he runs and bikes much more regularly than I have since last October.

When he came home a couple of weeks ago (the first time my parents were here) he was still in his running clothes, sweaty and flushed from his 6 mile run. My parents started oohing and ahhing over how much more fit he looked and how impressive that it was that he was becoming so active. My dad couldn't stop admiring his will power and committment. My mom kept whispering to me how much better he looked. I kept smiling, because I know my parents and knew exactly what would be coming after all this admiration. I almost had a little countdown going.

To their credit, they both held out much longer than I thought they would. On the afternoon of their second day here (less than 24 hours), they asked if I ever went running with M. "No, he's asked me, but I don't like being left behind so I don't go at all." Now, this may have been a good time to say, "No, I ran with my Team In Training group until October, when I went to semi-retirement because of my injuries." But that would have opened a whole new can of worms, explaining the fact that I hid a half marathon and one of my proudest accomplishments for so long. So I let it be. Later than night, my dad started another conversation with M, asking if he would go to Phoenix and train my brother to run. (My brother who played rugby for a few years until he injured his knee, etc. who still managed to train until he could barely stand).

"You should also take GWCH with you."

Looking at me, "Of course, running may be too much for you right now" (slowly evaluating my figure with a little sadness) "Maybe you can walk around the block a little bit, then work your way up to walking to the park..." (the park is about 3/4 of a mile from our place) "You just need to get started and maybe one day you can run, too. With a better diet, you can probably lose some weight while you're at it!" He said this with the optimism of a man who hasn't given up on his child yet, a man who is still waiting for a miracle that will provide him with stories to take home of his daughter getting up and finding her legs.

M slowly said, "I started running because of GWCH. I didn't used to run, even when my co-workers kept encouraging me to. She inspired me." (Again, big brownie points to a man who can defend and compliment me at the same time).

"Well, that was back when she was in college. I don't know if she actually ran then, probably just walked to the library and said she was running."

M opened his mouth to say he was referring to my training and the half marathon that I ran last year. I stopped him with a calm look and a smile stolen from the Cheshire cat. My running was officially my secret. You see,
in the past, this conversation would reduce me to tears. I would be angry that my parents didn't think I was acceptable in some way; or the fact that they would talk about my fixing/improving myself as if I wasn't even there. I would probably even be a little angry at M for accidentally providing an opportunity for them to criticize me. But this time things were different. I am officially too old to care that I don't fit into the image of how great I could be. I have come a tiny step closer to accepting myself, flaws, pounds and all. I also have a secret that I kind of enjoy keeping. There is no need to defend myself, now that I know what I can do. I can just sit back and nod in agreement when they say it would be good if I could be motivated enough to wake up early and walk around the block. I may be a little evil to get such (perverse) joy withholding information like this from my parents, but I can't help it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

R.I.P. Alabama Pink

Forgive me if I make no sense, but I've spent the past couple of hours crying for the passing of a woman I never met.

My blogger friend and running inspiration, Amanda, passed away tonight, almost a year after being diagnosed with leukemia. I keep trying to remind myself that she is no longer suffering the indignities of a body that didn't appreciate her spirit, but it isn't stopping my tears.
I am thinking of her husband, who humored me and my rambling inquiries; her little boy who brought her so much joy.

Right now, my brain is flooded with our conversations while she was sick;
her faith and her laughter despite the pain. I recognized something almost immediately in her that is completely lacking in myself--courage. She always seemed positive and upbeat, no matter how bad things got.

I joined TNT in her honor last May, soon after she was diagnosed and was hoping so much to meet her in San Francisco. She was a runner in training and I wanted to entertain her with stories of doing something she enjoyed. I had heard of the masses of people participating in the Nike Marathon, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and wanted her to see it. I wanted her to watch 20,000 people running to give her hope. She couldn't make it to San Francisco because of her treatments, so I called her the minute I walked into my room. I honestly felt her with me from the time I woke up to go to SF, and wanted to share every moment with her. She answered the phone and told me she was being injected with what looked like toilet bowl cleaner.

And so I described the view, the masses, the excitement and my plans to get her there next year. "I am NOT running next year unless you either run with me or wear an ugly green wig and cheer me on! Lil' A will love this place! He can dance on the streets along the way." She promised to be there and I accepted. During our calls we talked about religion, faith, baking, pets, her adorable son, shooting, my attempts at running and just about anything else I could think of. I left her more voice mail messages than I can remember, because I had a horrible sense of timing and rarely called when she was actually available.

I wanted to see her when I was visiting Washington DC, but didn't want to push in case she wasn't up to it. I never got to see her.

In all this time, I only heard her cry once. This, despite knowing what she did. She had courage.

She had the courage to fight with grace and humor, to dress up for Halloween for her son, to talk to well meaning (but clueless) strangers; to laugh at the absurdities.

So tonight, I mourn the loss of a stranger who inspired me and taught me more than I can ever thank her for. I want to be glad that she didn't suffer in her final moments and will no longer have to deal with the indignities of cancer. But for now, I'll cry for the loss of a friend.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


ke·loid (lo̵id′) noun: an excessive growth of scar tissue on the skin

I'm invited to a wedding next month, and as usual, I have had a bit of a melt down. It happens every time I am looking forward to something fun and exciting: weddings, celebrations, gatherings, etc. It happens just about each time I have to think about how I look. And every time, I hate myself for acting so ridiculous.

The more I think about it, what angers me today is not what I grew up with. My parents may have had less tact than some parents and thought they were helping us improve ourselves. That is not how it turned out. I was always thin skinned and sensitive. Being compared to others made me seethe with rage and jealousy that my parents thought other children were better than me. Their comparisons never motivated me to eat less or study more, I just hated myself more. I was sure there was something hopelessly, incurably broken about me. My poor parents had to love me because I was their disappointing child and they were stuck with me. Their methods didn't work out too well on my brothers either, even though neither are as sensitive as I am.

I should have grown out of my sensitivities. I've lived away from them for almost two decades. Their cutting words have become less frequent, a combination of distance, less contact and their having given up on fixing my faults. And yet, the scars remain. Much like keloids that stay behind as ugly reminders of past wounds, I see the effects of their words and ways each time I prepare for something I look forward to. Each and every one of their words flood my mind as I stand naked in front of a mirror trying to prepare. I'm reminded that I won't look good in anything, that it's a waste to buy anything decent before I lose weight and 'fix' my problem spots and on and on. And every time, not matter how hard I try, I break down. I ruin things for myself and everyone around me--which makes me hate myself even more.

Today was basically the last full day I had to try to look for a dress to wear to the wedding. I wanted to find something within my 'budget'--a number so low that even I know I couldn't find anything decent with that price. I had already gotten into an argument with M over this, but today was more than I could take. I was asking a friend to come and help me find something, but I refused to go to the mall where she suggested we start our search at Nordstrom--almost always her first stop. "Nordstrom?!", I said to M, "I can't go to Nordstrom! I can't shop there." And that was the beginning of my breakdown. With each word, I was beating myself up more--I was thinking and saying everything I have ever heard and hated. The worst part is, no one needs to do anything to me any more, I've been trained well and am on autopilot. I would never treat anyone else like this; why would I be more cruel to myself than I am to strangers?

Despite the angst ridden morning and my still burning eyes, I have found some dresses--almost all of them from Nordstrom. I'll only keep one and will go to the wedding to celebrate my friends. But I need to stop this. I'm too old and too exhausted to keep beating myself up in this way. I try so hard not to repeat their ways when I deal with my brothers and husband--something that took me a while to realize and let go of. I have to have at least as much respect for myself as I want others to have for me.

This may have to be my next project.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Original Miss Jane Marie

For reasons that I still haven't figured out, I attended kindergarten at Rock Hill Presbyterian. My mother was a recently observant Muslim who had just adopted hijjab and become friendly acquaintances with the Kosher butcher in downtown St. Louis. Frankly, if I had understood any more about religious identity, my childhood would have been even more confusing that it already was. As it were I spent my days trying to avoid Jesus' gentle gaze in the chapel, hoping he wouldn't notice that I didn't believe in Him as much as I believed in his Father. Still, I took great comfort in the stories promising that He loved me.

When I wasn't avoiding Jesus, my days were filled by Miss P, Miss J and Miss Jane Marie. Each had a specific role in my life: Miss P, the principal, was all love and patience. I remember the day she taught me to count in tens. Miss J was all business and order in a way that made me feel safe. Nothing bad could happen around her because bad things were not part of her daily plan for the kids. And finally, Miss Jane Marie was the thorn in my side. She was tall and very heavy in a way that only Midwesterners seem to be; an accident waiting to happen and the opposite of Miss J in every possible way. When I realized that they lived across the street from each other and sent their children to the same school, I was fascinated for days. I imagined a street bi-sected, pitting neighbor against neighbor. These thoughts made prayer time much more interesting.

After a few months, my mom started working at the church. My hijjabi, Muslim mother joined the pre-school staff and would sit next to me on the pew during prayer. She would peek into my classroom to see if I was behaving and soon became friends with the three grown-ups in my life. Frankly, in a time when my lonely mother needed support the most, these three women were by her side. During the days that my mother had to take my brother to the hospital, they would offer to babysit me. The Miss J days were wonderful: Snacks on actual plates; kids playing games and doing homework; dinner being prepped and a cat watching all of us lazily from the top of the stairwell. Miss J made being a single mom to seven children seem effortless.

Staying with Miss Jane Marie was like a smelly, whirlwind. As the proud owner of four cats, two dogs and four puppies, she had a given up on cleaning after them. Moving around her house was much like navigating my way through a field of landmines, "Oh! Don't sit there sweetie, that's where Mr. Whiskers likes to pee." or "Smell the pillow before you use it for naptime! I haven't washed them after Lady gave birth to the puppies." She was not a great believer in showers, handwashing or house cleaning. Meal time at her house was filled with anxiety for me, because she liked to reuse paper plates (the thin white ones) that no one had bothered to throw away from whenever. What time I didn't spend locked in the bathroom, cautiously washing my hands and air drying them, I would spend staring wistfully out the window at Miss J's house, planning my escape.

One day after church lessons, I asked, "Miss Jane Marie, is cleanliness really close to Godliness?"

"Yes, of course."

"And do you love Jesus?"


"Then why..."

To her credit, Miss J wasn't just orderly, she was incredibly fast, too. She had scooped me up and relocated me to a pile of books that needed organizing by size. Sadly, I never got to finish my question. Nor could I offer her any five year old wisdom on the necessity of bathing regularly and not discussing one's bowel movements.

Strangely, in second grade I met a girl at my new school who looked like she had been plucked out of a Peanuts cartoon, complete with her own dusty aura. Her name was Jane Marie. I went home that day and declared, "I think I don't like the Jane Maries. They're all the same! EWWWW!"

I would like to say that I stand corrected. I don't like the St. Louis Jane Maries.