Recently in Deep Insight Label Category

Camping and Preschool

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Dear Mama,

Labor Day weekend was a busy one for us. We had so much fun taking Liam on his first camping trip. Mark thinks it went 'remarkably well' for our first camping outing. Just between you and me, I know it was you and Papa raised us as campers ;-) It certainly didn't hurt that I had your old pickle barrels full of camping goodies to jog my memory on everything I needed to bring for a well-stocked kitchen, either. Thank you. I think the biggest thing we forgot was a lantern/candles. No biggie.

Liam had a blast, made new friends, loved the tent and absolutely reveled in helping with the fire. I'm glad we did it, though I imagine it'll be another two years before we do it again!

Camping: check. Now onto preschool. I know it's at least a year away, but I need to start learning about what's out there in order to even get into a preschool, let alone make an informed decision.

Holy cratcholie! Not only are there a ton of choices, but WOW! is it pricey! Why do I feel like I have to get a job just to pay for preschool? I'm talking several thousand dollars - and that's a 'moderately' priced preschool! I know the first couple of years of school are especially crucial to a boy and how he views and is viewed in school. I don't want to mess this up. But seriously? There's a part of me that is considering skipping preschool altogether. Let alone two years of it.

I didn't even know there were different types of preschools - play vs. learning schools. I sure as heck don't plan on shelling out that type of cash for a 'play' school. That is for certain. I can make sure he gets 'socialized' in other ways. But does he need that structure - do I need to pay out the nose - for him to learn his letters and numbers? Really? This stuff is mind-blowing.

Your daughter out in the cosmos,
Mara

The Void

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Dear Mama,
There's this void in me. I'm not sure how to explain it. I have no idea whether it is your lack of presence. I suspect that is only part of it. I feel like I keep trying to fill it - or perhaps cover it? - with something or someone, but nothing changes. It feels like there is part of me missing and I don't even know what part that is. Someone your age just made an entrepreneurial start and mentioned that it felt like everything she'd done in her life was leading up to this ... is this what I'm in search for? And I have to wait 20 years for it? Struggling to figure things out ... and, dare I say it without sounding completely morbid ... just to die?

What's particularly frustrating is that usually, I would pick up the phone and call you, or just come for a visit, have Papa play with Liam and sit down to a cup of tea with you in the living room. You'd ask the probing questions, discuss your own journey, offer your opinions of what my strengths and weaknesses are and then say something along the lines of, "you'll figure it out eventually" with a proud, slightly wry smile on your face, take another sip of your tea and suggest we go outside to join the boys.

On the other hand, I know you LOVED raising us. I know this. I know because you told me. And sometimes, I feel conflicted about the daily grind of childrearing. I know you didn't particularly relate. Which leaves me feeling inadequate. Again. So, do I just think I suck and need to get some self-esteem and patience with myself? What a rut.

Or is it all the pregnancy, and I should just have a cup of tea and not think too much about anything for, oh, another year?

Is this how you felt after your mother died? How ironic is it that my best resource on how to deal with a mother's death is the very reason I need this advice?

Well, I'm feeling the cosmic joke lineage, that's for sure. Have a chuckle on me.

Love,
Mara

Cherries at the Homestead

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Liam woke me up early this morning, 6 a.m. We had a simple breakfast of cantaloupe and blueberries. I had my mug of hot tea. I stripped him down to a diaper and put some junky clothes on myself. We each equipped ourselves with an appropriately sized bowl. My father got out a small bench. And we started picking sweet cherries. There's new growth on the sweet cherry tree. Liam can actually pick them just standing on the ground.

And the memories started - at the sweet cherry tree it was of my brothers maniacal will to pick more cherries. One year they put entire ladders on top of the picnic table. I was suddenly so alone, picking the cherries without my siblings. And with that realization I decided I had enough cherries, since I'd have to wash and pit them myself, too.

I went inside, started the water in the large basin of the sink and put the red strainer in the small side, placing the compost bucket off to the right for the pits and the bad cherries. As I plunged my hands into the water and grabbed the cherries, I thought of my mother, in her cherry-pitting dress, and those hands. Two years ago, Mark took pictures of her doing just this work, mostly her hands. She really did have such beautiful hands.

I looked up, out the little kitchen window. My father had one of the big white buckets and was washing my car. My little moosh was beside him, in just his diaper, trying to figure out what he was doing. Which took me back to the photos of my eldest brother at that age, helping my father clean the car. I dashed out with the camera - if any child of mine is going to be photographed, it's the eldest.

I looked back down at the cherries - I still have the sour cherries to pick and pit - and realized my hands were trembling. I best write this down and get it out of my head before it overwhelms my day.

Theme Song

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My mother's theme song for me (and really, everyone). I got her approval to use this before she died.

DON’T FORGET by BRETT DENNEN

Don't forget
Don't forget
Mmhmm
That I believe in you

Should you forget
Should you forget
Let me remind you
That I am behind you

You are a secret waiting to be found out
Soon you'll be what everyone is talking about
May you spread your love like laughter
And find whatever you're after
Hopin' all your windows let the music spill out

Don't forget
Don't forget
Mmhmm
That I believe in you

Should you forget
Should you forget
Let me remind you
That I am behind you

May you dance like rain upon a still lake
You make this world a beautiful place
No more cryin'
Don't shun your life, it's shinin'
Wipe your tears from your sweet face

Don't forget
Don't forget
Mmhmm
That I believe in you

Should you forget
Should you forget
Let me remind you
That I am behind you

Don't be afraid
Should things happen to change
Cause change can be a beautiful thing

Should things fall apart
Be patient like a rainbow
Life is loving and letting go

Me, Bare

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Liam is exploding a mile a minute these days. His vocabulary is beyond counting anymore. If I ask him to say, "geek", he does, and then if I ask him, "who is a geek?" He replies, "Daddy." Hahahaha! Oh, and he counts and sings the alphabet - at least parts - he gets partial credit. He likes to play with cars and trains, and he likes to clean up (yahoo!) and wear socks on his hands. He likes to give us kisses when he first wakes up in the morning (often waking us up this way).

And then, there's me. I don't even know where I am. Tomorrow marks one year since my mother died. I'm downing a tub of ice cream as I write this (some of you are aware that is not typical Mara behavior). My sister's calendar of Maman remembrances helps. Each day, I do something on the calendar, even if it's not the one for that specific day. I have no plans to take it down once January is over, either.

We're planning a bonfire here in town (you are all welcome, if you are able) on Friday to commemorate her ascension. I haven't exactly decided the layout - shall we roast marshmallows, as she would've enjoyed, or is the fire somehow sacred? I've asked my sister to read her eulogy - because it's awesome. I'm considering writing something to read - and perhaps something to write, seal and simply burn. We'll see.

I've begun to be diagnosed with a seemingly endless litany of stuff I need to deal with. An on-line thing I had to fill out for Mark's employer informed me I was struggling with depression. Thank you, computer/big brother, for your infinite astuteness.

I have several different options beginning to open up for me professionally - I feel almost overwhelmed with several truly interesting choices, and disappointed that I simply can't do it all, especially because I cannot bear to part with my son and put him in some sort of child care. Please don't read that as a judgment on child care. I just know I'm not up to it, personally.

Hmmm...end on happy note...we got plants for the third floor - it really makes it feel more cozy (and helps absorb stinky new paint chemicals). We also went out and bought the 'leftovers' of Christmas lights for 60 cents a box. We're going to put them up in the basement and convert part of it to a 'formal dining area' for use when we have guests over for meals. Fun!

There, see? I have happiness in my life.

Father and son, having fun:

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Thanksgiving

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I should make a new category for my blogs: depressing stuff you probably don't want to read. ;-)

Liam is watching Elmo and Natalie Portman dancing while dressed up as elephants.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It was the last holiday we celebrated with my mother. It's when she officially stopped working. (she never actually "officially" quit - she had enough sick time that she remained an employee to the end is my understanding).

I can't tell you what I'm feeling because I'm not even sure myself. Besides, Ernie is drawing Bert's face in lavender. Little distracting, right? On to the ears, now.

Liam is officially potty training, I think. He tells me when he's about to soil his diaper (put as politely as possible). I'm still not really pushing it, letting him set the tone and it seems to be happening organically. It's kind of fun (who knew?) to watch the process evolve for him.

He's got boots he can put on himself, he wipes up the floor if he spills something, (he says, "wipe"), and he has started talking about memories from past events. Cool little kiddo (with some fairly obvious "first kid" stuff going on, heheheh). I know my mother would absolutely love hearing about and watching his development - telling me how he reminds her of one of her own children and what-not.

Having Children

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Most of us, when we give birth to a child, have all sorts of hopes and aspirations. Not only for the child, but for ourselves. Some we don't even think about. We believe we will be with this child for the rest of our life, we will love this child unconditionally and the child will know that. We spend many spare moments pondering how our child may be productive to society.

We take a lot of this for granted. And then, for some at least, life apparently gets in the way - or death. And we are not with the child. Or we leave the child. Or our lives are so involved for whatever reason, we simply do not have the capacity to convey our love to our child.

And the child is left wondering. Wandering, bereft of discernment, to steal a phrase.

Oh, my heart aches for those children. For those parents. For the children who are still wondering, decades later as they try to raise their own children.

I organized a "motherless mothers" meetup this week. It was today. Thank goodness only 3 showed. We spent an hour and a half sharing our stories.

Oh, Maman, I'm so proud of you. Family, I am so proud of us. Our pain is not toxic. It is sorrow, borne of love. I'm so happy that I can share my story proudly, knowing that we all stepped up when it was our turn and came together united. I couldn't fathom Papa leaving Maman when she most needed assistance! Or one of us refusing to talk about our memories of Maman. No. Our tale may not be a happy one, but we can certainly know that we have done our best.

At one point in the meeting, I shared that I felt badly for one of the women who simply had no mother figure to reference. She returned that she was thinking that my pain must be so much greater than hers, since I lost a mother I knew and truly loved. I was very touched by that.

Celebration

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I imagine them all throwing their heads back, laughing uproariously at memories.

They're out at a late dinner, celebrating Nathan and Ingrida, who are getting married tomorrow.

I'm home, at my parents' home, alone with my sleeping toddler.

I can't believe my father has remained in their house all this time and can still put complete sentences together.

All I can think about is my mother.

I've been running, running, running. Chasing a toddler to avoid the pain, the grief. It's a good excuse, isn't it?

I can't avoid it here.

Nope.

I'm falling into a million little pieces.

And our damn AT & T phones don't work so close to the lake.

I'm supposed to MC the wedding tomorrow. It's a wedding, not a funeral.

All I can think about is my mother. All I can think about is my mother. All I can think about is my mother.

But I can't remember her. It's too big. If I remember her, I will definitely fall into a million little pieces.

I have to remember her sometime. Is there a good time to fall into a million little pieces?

Blogginess

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Can you tell, of late, that I'm lacking a bit of direction, deep thought ... or, you know, much of anything interesting to say? Okay, okay, that's assuming I ever had any of that in the first place.

Our family is changing. I imagine I'm not the only one who senses that. Instead of my mother being connected to us and up-to-date on all of our lives, we are trying to do that all ourselves. It certainly isn't that our mother stood in the way, but she was the only one doing that much work to stay in touch with all of us, I think. Not to say that we were all shabby about - Nathan set up these blogs, Rae is great at writing letters and sending little gifts, Mendon would call. We all made efforts, but now, well now we just simply all do a lot more legwork. It is as if our very lives depended upon it. At least, that's how I feel. I feel as if, even for one minute, I become disconnected from one of my siblings or my father, that something awful will happen.

Shortly after my father headed home on Friday morning, I went out for something in the same direction that he had gone, and I had horrible visions of finding his car on the highway. I tried to wait patiently for his phone call to tell me he had returned home safely.

I sometimes think about one of us dying, or even being told about some serious illness we'll have to deal with, and how that would effect our family right now. I cringe.

I saw greeting cards for "grandparents day" - hello greeting card holiday! - except, I didn't think "how phony", I thought, wow, if I really wanted to wound my father, I'd send him one of those, 'cause, wow, doesn't that hurt? Boo. Yuck.

On the bright side, I'm looking into joining a motherless daughters support group at a hospice here in town. At this point, it sort of feels like another chore, but I suspect it may be just what I need. I know my mother would recommend it to me.

Blargh.

By the way, Papa, Liam now runs to the door with his big bubble makers and says, "bubbles? bubbles? out? out?" And he'll randomly say, "Goon-dah. Goon-dah" (his version of "Goompah)

Snark.

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I think I better get this out.

I'm feeling snarky, amongst other things.

To add to the list of my wonderful life at the moment, today I found MOLD growing behind our bed - and lots of it. What else to do but attack it? So I did, taking dirty laundry down to the basement to wash ... to find water, puddled, on the carpeted floor.

Rah! Rant! Rant! Rant! I could go on, get pissy, and probably make some people not like me very much, so I'll stop there.

Last night I had another dream about being an artist, getting asked to participate in a film festival in India for my work (which included a red clay & ruby nautilus that also somehow involved film). I told my mother, "maybe I could actually make a career of this" and she sighed, replying, "that's what I've been trying to tell you."

Natural Mother

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I'm just not one of them.

Maybe I over think things. Maybe it's the migraines. But all this mothering stuff, even if I can do it well, doesn't come naturally to me. Even if it appears so. Even if you think I am because I stay at home, or nurse or whatever. It doesn't come naturally.

I see other mothers make decisions to just keep having children, or get up at all hours of the night for long periods of time, or whatever, and I just think, "nope. I don't have it in me."

[Editor's note: this is where my mother would chime in: "Mara, you are comparing your insides to other people's outsides."]

I know. In fact, one of the 'outsides' I am comparing myself is to my mother. Four?! Four children?! Dear lord in the heavens above, how does anyone ever manage that?! I... I ... I'm speechless.

Frankly, it's a little amazing to me that anyone EVER decides to have even a second child. In fact, I am in awe that humanity continues to exist and that one generation simply didn't say, umm, heck no! Thanks, but no thanks!

So, if you ask me how motherhood is treating me, and I stumble? This is what's running through my head (simultaneously with a "what's an acceptable response?").

The Last Night

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Our cell phone rang shortly after 2 a.m. I thought it was on the nightstand, so Mark wiped his hands over it and knocked my glass of water over, soaking his clothes. It turned out it was in my sweatshirt.

We called Mendon back, and he told us my mother was dead. We got dressed and ready to head over to my parents' home. I called Mendon again and told him to wait for us. We were there by 2:30.

Mendon and Kristen were the ones who had been on the night shift that night with my mother. I like to think that it was my mother's last gift to Mendon. It was hard for me not being there at night with her, but somehow, knowing Mendon was with her, made it okay for me.

My father was sitting next to my mother. He had checked that her heart had indeed stopped. It just came to me, but I stood over her body, whispering, "Ya Baha-ul-Abha" in her ear. It was heart-wrenching to realize that she was gone. Really, really gone. And yet, in that moment, in that little itty bitty moment, I felt joy for her.

We got a large bowl, filled it with warm water and rose water.

I read a prayer for the departed.

Some time in there a Hospice nurse came in. Apparently, she was rather amazed and impressed by the way we were all functioning. Not much for her to do, actually.

Rachael, Mendon, Nathan, Kristen, Papa and I washed her body as Aunt Cindy read the Tablet of Ahmad. Mark held Liam.

We each said our last good-byes to our dear mother (and wife and mother-in-law and grannie nannie).

We then dressed her in her silk gown, laid her in her shroud, each of us taking up needles with beautiful jewel-toned silk thread and stitched up the shroud. We inserted roses that had sat at the threshold of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah in Haifa. My sister embroidered my mother's initials, S C D, onto the shroud.

The funeral home came not too long after and took her body away.

There was nothing left to do. We sat. It sucked.

We went back to bed.

I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

Other Shoe

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The other day, my brother Nathan asked me about how I felt regarding our mother's death, whether I was a wreck or felt okay and was wondering when "the other shoe would drop". I told him I did feel okay, and that I fully expected the other shoe to drop, repeatedly, throughout my life.

I had a shoe drop today. I was going over to a friend's house, who turned out not to be there, and trying to think about how I felt about my mother dying so that when she asked me how I was doing I could talk about it a little. Because, truth be told, I feel so much that it's hard to sort through it all and make heads or tails of it.

As I was sitting in the car, looking at a wallet size photo of my mother with Liam, with the gear shift under my hand, I realized that it was my mother who taught me how to drive stick shift. It wasn't far before I was sobbing. I got myself to my friend's mother's house - she happens to live down the street from me and is also a hospice nurse, walked in and said, "I need someone to say 'I know'." Not everyone does, of course. In fact, many people simply don't. And hey, bully for you. But sometimes, I just need someone who does know.

Well, we all need our distractions. Here's one for you:

Eulogy

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If you happened to miss my mother's funeral, then you missed the best eulogy ever. Fortunately, my sister posted it on her blog so that I could share it with you.

My father's response is pretty wonderful, too.

Thank you, Rae. It really is perfect.

What Do You Do?

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What do you do?

What do you do when death has come to your door, knocked, and then run away? What do you do when it returns, but this time, it stays, waiting for you to answer?

What do you do when you've made the arrangements, cleaned out the closets, filed the papers and had those discussions, and that was the first time. And now it's the second time. And there's no energy to be creative or interesting or witty or organized.

Is there anything to do? Or do you simply, for the first time in life, sit down and enjoy the shared silence?

Or do you just go to the wedding? :-)

Yesterday, at Mercy and Nevin's wedding. Little Liam the Lima Bean (as referred to by Grannie Nannie) even got to dance with the bride!

Wedding%20Nevin%202007%20009.jpg

Development

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One thing about this parenthood thing - at least at this stage - is all the moments I spend just staring at Liam. In wonderment. As I struggle to take care of him on my own, his constant occupation is to become independent of me. Obviously, right now, it is all small and incremental, but it is true nevertheless.

On a side note, as he finishes nursing, he holds the last sip in his cheeks like a chipmunk for a few seconds before he swallows. It's so cute.

Playmat.jpg

What's in a Name?

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I'm realizing that one of the most surreal aspects about being a parent is that I (we) have named this unnamed being. We have put our preference upon him already. It feels ... unnatural, like in some way I'm sullying his being. It suddenly seems so bizarre to me that we give names to our children at birth. I mean, it isn't exactly necessary - he's got no clue that "Liam" refers to him right now*.

I think this is actually is a small aspect of something much larger - I wonder at every action, comment, etc. as to how that may shape who he becomes in the future. Are we scarring him already? Are we dooming his reality by doing - or not doing - X? Are we setting him on the right course by modelling some action - or not? Oh my goodness. I suppose I best get used to this new reality of mine....

*Don't get me wrong, I like his name. And, as a matter of fact, I like my own name, so either my parents got it right, I grew into it, or both.

Upside Down

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It's one of those days. Just out of sorts. I guess the feeling has sort of been gnawing at me for a while. I'm not used to instability in my life. Now my life is nothing but.

I just finished a novel that, at the end, turned out to be about betrayal and deception. I think it's sort of highlighted my upside-down feeling.

On the upside, we did find out Mark could be eligible for up to $39,000 in federal loans each year for med school. Don't add that up. It'll make you sick, but it does make the idea of living and med school a little easier to wrap my head around.

For those of you fearing we might leave the US again, think of it this way: it means we'll be in the US for at least the next two decades. One for med school, the next (at least) for paying it off.

Distortion

My mother and I are attempting to sort through the house - particularly her nooks and crannies (spare bedroom, her dresser, top of the china cabinet, the craft corner in the basement, you get the idea).

When my youngest brother came along, my father built an amazing bed for him with loads of storage built into it. It has a full chest of drawers under it, and if you remove the mattress, there's a secret door for more storage (whole boxes fit in it).

Well, I discovered some of my stuff still in that secret compartment the other day - stuff from high school, college, my year of service, etc. Amongst the 'treasure', I found a letter from the BIC-Geneva. Mark did his year of service there, and I had applied - basically as his replacement. Without knowng what their response was, I assumed I wasn't accepted and headed down to Guadeloupe. For years now, Mark and I told the story that I could have met him then, if only I'd read the letter (of acceptance).

Well, turns out I didn't get accepted at the BIC. At least now I can let go of any guilt about not reading the letter and responding to a possible invitation to serve sooner - so much for our story.

I've found other evidence of me slightly twisting my memories - often making them sadder than they were. It's freeing to find my 'correct' memories, though crushing to know why I'm finding them at all.

The Beauty of Leaving

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Tomorrow evening I leave the Baha'i World Centre, and with it Israel.

I had no idea it would be such a beautiful experience. I want you to understand there is no sarcasm in this statement. It may have a little to do with the fact that I'm in the second trimester of my pregnancy now, but that's okay, I'll ride this happy, ethereal, at-peace wave.

My last visits with friends, co-workers, and above all, the sacred places I have had the immense privilege to enjoy endlessly for the past 3 years. All of this, in such a condensed, concentrated form brings me indescribable joy. I thought I would be sad to leave, but how could I be when I am receiving confirmation after confirmation of all this love in the world that surrounds me? Furthermore, I am going home to be with family; family that I miss immensely. I hope that I can bring a little bit of this love with me to them.

On Thursday, we met with the Universal House of Justice. That's right. Me, Mark, and the Universal House of Justice. In its council chambers. (this is like meeting the Pope for some - it is the supreme governing institution of the Baha'i Faith) Now that experience is beyond indescribable - this body thanking us for our services - so I will simply have to leave it at that for you.

And go to my last visit to Bahji, which houses both the Shrine of Baha'u'llah and His Mansion - both of which I get the ineffable pleasure of visiting this afternoon.

Coping with Terminal Illness

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Several of my friends have remarked that my frankness about my mother's terminal illness is somewhat incomprehensible - especially for those who have never lost a parent.

First of all, it is beyond describing. It is excrutiatingly difficult and painful. I want my mother to live.

That said, there are guiding lights for me.

1. The Baha'i Faith, first and foremost. This past year, struggling with her cancer, has taught me what true reliance on God is. It ain't easy, that's for sure, but it has allowed me to let go of the control I so strongly craved and was desolate without. I think this is a large part of the struggle over losing a loved one.

2. Prayer. I see so much new meaning in prayer now. Turns of phrases such as "Make Thy beauty to be my food", which I always understood to be a request for detachment from things on this realm - now I read it as a request for my mother when she moves on to the next world. Not that either interpretation is invalid, but it is a new understanding of the possibilities of the power of the prayer.

3. Mimi. My grandmother, my mother's mother, passed away when I was one. She has had such a large influence on my life that I believe I can genuinely say that I do not think I would be where I am today, who I am today, without the relationship I have had with her - which has obviously not been the typical relationship considering she passed away 30 years ago. My connection to her is so strong, and through this I know that my own children will know their grandmother in the same fashion in the event that she isn't on this plane of existence to pamper them as grandparents do. This is not the end for me.

4. Finally, my mother. Her own frankness - having lost her mother in a similar fashion - has helped me go through the process that I have gone through. It highlights how much I rely on my mother, and also how much she means to me. Whenever she dies - be it tomorrow or 20 years from now - she will be missed by many more than just me for her wisdom, generosity, kindess and strong will, among other things.

That said, if you're still up for a long read, my mother is hosting an amazing dialogue over on her blog that highlights what a wonderful family we have. I suggest you have a peak - both at her entry and all the comments from my aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and "out-laws" :-)

Consideration

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"In all matter, take your spouse into consideration. Always try to see things through the eyes of the other."

This is the advice my mother gave us at our wedding shower. I recently looked over the 3 x 5 card notes from that day, and realized that this is the one I forget most frequently. It's the one I have the most trouble with.

I was chatting with my sister-in-law Kristen the other day and had another one of those moments. She and I were discussing my mother's somewhat imminent passing and some of what Kristen and Mendon are going through as a result. Kristen expressed concern that Mendon would expect her to "be there for him" - a solid rock in his time of need. She, validly, pointed out that she'd be grieving as well. Which is when it dawned on me that I expected the exact same thing of Mark, even though he will, in all probability, be grieving as well. D'oh.

So, in advance, I'm asking all of you (who are not related to me) to be there for us*. And thank you, Kristen, for helping me realize this important need.

*If you don't know what to do, I have learned the overwhelming importance of food at such times. So, if you're in the area, bring us food.

Cracks

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When my mother told me that her cancer was back I was at work. I took it rather matter-of-factly, and moved on. Now is preparation time. Looking back, I know this routine. It's the third time in as many years that Mark and I have been through this drill. Parent ill, get plane tickets, arrange flat, pack bags, get on flight ... then fall apart. Last year, when my mother made a similar phone call, people were literally walking in our door for Mark's birthday party. I broke down, then pulled myself together and held the (small) party. In a way, it helped me put the emotions on pause.

This time though, I have some of my own health concerns to deal with first before I can fly. I really, really don't want to have to use one of those vomit bags during take-off, for instance. Unfortunately, this means I may have a whole month of "emotions on pause" before I can leave. And the cracks are already beginning to show.

Last night I couldn't sleep, kept up by unseemly thoughts about my family. I dreamt, in one night, that Mendon had fingers blown off in an explosion, Kristen ran through a glass door, and Rachael and I were trapped in a tiny room w/ an open outside window from which scary things were about to descend. Other family members were involved, but I no longer remember what their roles were....

How do I let myself feel - without falling apart? I have to get our flat ready in a "I'm never coming back" way, same with my job.

Maman, I am glad you told me in my 13th week and not my 6th. Even if I hadn't lost the baby, those weeks of severe nausea and vomitting would have been unimaginably more hellish.

Ambiguity

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I'm not a big fan of ambiguity. I am a horrible recipient of surprises. I am a planner and a controller.

Well, I'm tired of the ambiguity. I'm sure my mother is, as well as the rest of my family. Could someone just tell us she's not going to die this year - or the next, or the next? Or that she will die?

Then I could be in control again, planning my life accordingly.

Life can be so irritating sometimes.

I Have a Confession

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I'm serious. This isn't going to be pretty, so you can skip this if you wish. Ironically, my mother tangentially hits on the issue in her most recent blog entry herself. Sorta' makes it look like this brought it up, but actually it didn't. I am hoping this is safe - Kristen made a comment that I'm hoping makes it okay, 'cause she's sort of at the center of it. And Kristen, please know I love and admire you.

So here goes. I hope I'm fairly concise.

1. My mother has pancreatic cancer (not the confession). As she states in her most recent entry, she has a 1 in 33 chance of living another 5 years (she's already almost made it 1 year, woohoo!). Now she is fairly healthy and we are thrilled to have her this way. But it has brought up certain issues for me. For example, ways in which I have been less than the perfect daughter.

2. Okay, the ways in which I have been less than perfect are too numerous to count, I am sure, but let me tell you a story. Shortly after my mother's surgery, one of my acquaintances came by to drop off flowers and tell my mother she was a 'crunchy mama' and that she'd learned all her own 'crunchy mamaness' from her. She also happened to be showing off her child and 8 month pregnant belly. I was spitting nails and wanted nothing more than to shove her off our front steps and dump her flowers on her head (I'm really not exaggerating).

Wow, you're saying, Mara I had no idea you were a psycopath. Well, I think I've gotten to the root of it. And it's my imperfections. First, let's address the kids. My mother has no grandchildren, and a few of us got mighty sad about that when my mother was diagnosed. We also didn't get to know her mother because she died of cancer at a young age, too. I was going to be different. My kids would know their grandma (and she will be a rocking grandma). So this news really really really hurt. Hence this 8 month pregnant belly making me venomous. Go take your happiness elsewhere. Cause I was J-E-A-L-O-U-S, duh, and hurt that I couldn't change the situation for me and my mother.

Now let's get to the "crunchiness" of my mother. Growing up, we were indeed 'crunchy' (can you tell I don't like the term?). We grew our own fruit and veggies. My mother made a lot of our clothes, sold her homebaked bread, and cut our hair. I didn't realize, until university (I kid you not), that not every mother baked her own pies. I was so stunned I had to go ask my mother as to the truthfulness of my friends' claims. (think about this, I was at least 19) Of course, she didn't have much choice. We was po'. Not that I felt it. I loved my childhood and I loved fresh baked bread and sweet peas off the vine. I knew we didn't have a lot of money, but that didn't particularly seem to affect my happiness (heck, it felt pretty abundant).

However. When it came to me learning from my mother, well, out comes my huge painful zit-like imperfection. I was neither patient nor determined. I was a snotty brat. I practically threw tantrums when she tried to teach me how to sew. Granted, I loved helping in the kitchen and frequently did. I can make a pie, for heaven's sake. But my craft skills are ... limited. And it's something that I occasionally reflect upon and regret. [as for that girl learning everything she knows from my mother - I still think that's total malarky. what, was my mother privately tutoring her?!]

Yes, Kristen, this is where you come in. You are a craft rock star. {goodness, and nearly a freaking decade younger than me, too} When you do stuff like THIS, not to mention this, a part of my heart breaks thinking, "she's the crafty daughter my mother didn't get". [yes, Rae, I know you haven't fallen down on the job like I have. I'm not trying to take you down with me.]

I know this is the life I've chosen, but these and little comments (like my mother saying, "Mara hasn't taken to gardening the way I was hoping") sear into me with pain. And I do NOT want to feel like throwing you, Kristen, down the steps - now or in the future (I don't, by the way). And I don't want to keep it bottled up - 'cause even if my mother dies in a year or five, my relationship with Mendon & Kristen hopefully will continue for years to come. I just wish I was more like you.

Did I just hurt a bazillion people I love and make everything worse? Is the obvious answer just for me to 'get crafty'? Am I just looking for yet another validation of my mother's love for me?

I Hate Kafka

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I am deeply convinced that if I'd never read Kafka I would not have been up half the night freaked out about having seen a cockroach, and dreaming about them the other half.

I could have packed my bags and left right then.

Unfair

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Craving prosciutto in Israel.

(or, one better, Iberico jamon...mmm. I actually have a friend in Spain who had this prescribed to her!)

Sigh.

A Girl's Got Ideas

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You know that human tic-tac-toe game that's used for icebreakers? Someone fills in odd details of all the participants' lives (or makes obscure things up), and then everyone has to go talk to everyone else and find out who fits each description. That one.

Well, usually I would use "has three birth certificates". It was very effective at starting conversations.

And here, at the age of 30, I find out I've been lying. Shoot. No, I have F-O-U-R. My mother just sent me one I'd never seen or knew existed! I always thought my Falkland Island birth certificate was the letter from the governor. It's cool 'cause it doesn't admit my dad is my dad; at the end of the letter it simply states, in parentheses: (husband: Dustin Dale Dornbrook). I always thought that was funny. But on this birth certificate, which looks much more official, not only does it say he's my father (twice!), it states his profession (as opposed to his rank). It also asks for my name, and then in parentheses: (if any). Heheheh. I think that's funny, too. On top of that, all of my other birth certificates are from 1976, which in my utter uncoolness, I also thought was kind of cool because I was born in 1975. Yet here again - this one is dated 30 December.

Sigh. I'm glad to have it, don't get me wrong, but it did burst a few (very small) bubbles.

One of the Deadly Sins?

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I'm pretty sure making your grandmother cry is right up there with, say, gluttony. Or avarice.

Anyway, it sure felt that way. I can understand the attraction to losing contact with your family. It's easier to make threatening life decisions because you have no idea how they impact the people who love and care about you more than anything in the world.

Ouch.

It does put some things into perspective for me. Not that I'll discuss those perspectives. But it was good for me.

The Whistle

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It started with my parents. I'm not sure how, but parents, this is a plea for an explanation. Growing up, our parents would whistle to one another to find each other in public places. As we got older, we responded to it - and eventually learned it - ourselves. One high note, one low note. A simple combination to be heard easily.

Go ahead. Laugh. Guffaw.

But it has been truly helpful. As my parents and siblings will tell you, now, in the comments section. Hint, hint.

Falkland Palace

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About a week into our trip here in Edinburgh, Nathan took us to Falkland Palace. It's about an hour north of Edinburgh and used to be the capital of Scotland. Which is pretty cool to me.

Okay, so we paid a slightly irrational amount of money to see the palace for a brief visit, but I know my attention span and 40 minutes was really about all I would have spent in there anyway. We saw the whole palace (not including the 'unofficial' tour Nathan would have been happy to initiate, ahem), got information from guides-in-costume and then spent a very enjoyable time in the gardens, which were open after the palace closed. The guides even knew how the Falkland Islands got their name, which was pretty cool for me. I admit it, the entire intrigue of the place has to do with the fact that I was born in the Falklands, but it was special for me and I appreciate that no one made fun of me for finding it special when clearly it's a bit flimsy.

Afterward we went to dinner at a homey place in the village of Falkland, which made very yummy veggies and desserts (yeah, the mains were, well, err - passable).

I also met a young man at the devotional we went to the other night who grew up in the Falklands. I'd met his parents a few months ago while they were on pilgrimage in Haifa. Coolio!

Oh, the name. I figure some of you might want to know: so, one of the kings wanted one of his friends to be more important, so he made him the Earl of Falkland (or maybe duke, but I think it was earl). Anyway, it meant nothing, but it was a title. Now this Earl of Falkland (meaning 'hunting land') was in charge of the seas at the time, so when the islands were 'discovered', either he named them after himself or someone else did or whatever. Oh, and it wasn't his palace. So there you go, unrelated, except for the king part - he would occasionally live at the palace.

Not in Haifa

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I am deeply conflicted about not being in Haifa right now. We just happened to go on vacation 2 weeks before the first rocket attack in Haifa, and then due to a brief trip to the hospital for Mark (he is fine, it wasn't serious and it is all resolved - let's leave it at that) we extended our stay (the doctors wanted to be sure). Now that it has 'gone up a notch', as Ron Burgundy would say, we have now further extended our stay.

Not that I'm not enjoying Edinburgh; I love Edinburgh. (erg, I had this all eloquently in my mind last night...sigh) In any case, a part of me wishes I was in Haifa, while another part is relieved that I am not. However, the part of me that is relieved feels a bit ashamed, considering what all of my friends are going through back in Haifa.

Thank You

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Recently, as many of you know, Mark and I have been through some tough times - getting our butts kicked, so to speak. We had mold in our flat, had to move, both of us got quite sick [not to mention other stressors affecting our lives at the moment] - and we are just now getting to the point of spending time recovering.

As low as the lows got, the people who surrounded us with love, support - championning our cause, dinner, packing, cleaning, moving, unpacking, cleaning some more, laughs - showed us the peaks of capacity for humans to love and care for each other.

I have thanked many - those who kept us sane in the midst of insanity - but in case I missed you, please know how much you mean to us, from the bottom of our hearts [Sjona, I'm not going there... :-) ]

We are humbled by your friendship. Thank you.

Disturbing/Tragic

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I've realized something.

Apparently, French-speakers (and I suspect others are the same), write poems for their mothers twice in their life time: at Mother's Day or on their deathbed (nice guys, real nice).

I just had an urge to post a poem, in French, for my mother. They were all ... sort of depressing.

I'll just post this brief excerpt from one of the better ones, written by 'Patrick':

Si tu savais...
Tout ce que tu m'inspires
Tous ces beaux sourires
Quel bel ange tu fais.

Today, Saturday, my father is graduating from Lakeland Community College, receiving his associate's of applied science in Respiratory Therapy. Last week, he was awarded Lakeland's Outstanding Student in Respiratory Therapy award.

This was not totally unexpected from our father, considering his study habits :-)

However, what was unexpected was my mother's pancreatic cancer. 6 months ago today, I was sitting in a hospital room watching - hoping my mother was recovering from surgery. Relieved that they'd even operated. So my father has done the last 1/4 of his degree in the shadow of this beast. Now, that makes his accomplishments outstanding. And we know the award ain't no pity award, he worked his arse off for it and deserves every inch of that plaque. Without cancer, we would have been surprised if my dad hadn't gotten these accomplishments. Now, for me, it's another small miracle of life that my father hung in there.

To make it extra, extra special, my mother works at the aforementioned College. They are giving her the honor of awarding my father his diploma! Now if that isn't a Lifetime Special just waiting to happen, what is?

Ah yes, tomorrow. Tomorrow is Mother's Day in the States. Maman, I hope life is sweet for you tomorrow as you look over your life and what you have accomplished thus far. You inspire us to do great things - today is a little bit of the proof of that. You've taught us to do great things. You've encouraged us to be great people. Everything good we have and do and give in life, that's you. This may be one of my most special Mother's Days, as I have learned so much about you - and me - this past year. Living up to my potential, that is how I celebrate you - every day of my life.

Another Mother's Day with you here to hear my "thank you". That's good enough for me.

Mara and Failure

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I don't do so well with failure. If I think failure looms I tend to shrink from doing the task at all.

Case in point: driver's license.

In the States, at least at the time, it was typical to get one's driver's license when one turned 16. So, shortly after turning 16, I dutifully took the driver's education course at high school. Wisely, the instructor took us out to practice during the school day - when most people are safely out of harms way at work or school. The first time I got to practice in that class was literaly my first time behind the wheel (I think the others in the class really feared for their life). I remember taking a left turn not quite sharply enough. I started going into a yard instead of the street. When I realized it, I panicked and instead of hitting the brakes, I gunned it!! Fortunately, the driving instructor had a break on his side and saved the house in front of us. He just had me reverse and drive away - I always wondered about their lawn. Shouldn't I have paid for re-seeding it? The instructor didn't seem to think so.

Anyway, it was almost two full years before I got around to getting my license. I saw so many friends flunk that test - repeatedly. And I just couldn't handle it. I remember one day trying to get up the courage to make an appointment to take the test. I had to decide whether I'd take it first thing in the morning before going to school, or taking it after school. My dear sister recommended I take it after school so that I "wouldn't be depressed all day". We laugh now, but I just didn't make the appointment for like another 6 months or so. I think I see failure as a sign of weakness or inability.

I remember planning my oral exams for my master's degree. Two weeks prior to the exams for which I had been preparing for two years, they told me I had to switch one of my areas of specialty. Two years...two weeks. I asked how on earth that could be possible?!?! The response was, "well, if you flunk that area, you'll just take it again later." So, wait, let me get this straight, fo the first 22 years of my education, flunking is the most shameful and bad thing a student can do, and then after that it's normal? I chose another area and crammed (17th century drama? yeah, I read all those books in ENGLISH - shameful, but true. Fortunately, I had also done my undergraduate thesis on that era). Turned out I flunked in every area except that one, I think. Drr. But, get this, I survived. Not sure I remember too much of that stuff anymore, but I did survive. [side note: I do remember what I wore to the exams though...]

In any case, I tend to shrink from possible failure. Events, programs, opportunities, challenges - passed for fear of failure.

All this to say that I have taken on a project in which failure is nearly constant, success is in no way secured and I have absolutely no choice but to plod on. Well, I suppose I do, as always, but this time I refuse to le that be an option.

I have worked hard on building my relationship with God. Cancer in the family has, in its silver lining way, been an amazing opportunity for me to work on that and understand just how hard reliance on God can be and how useless (and stress-inducing) it is for me to try to live my life without relying on God. Now, apparently, I'm supposed to apply what I've learned. Aw, shoot. Didn't we just talk about this whole failure thing?

Oh! One final note: seeing as how I don't have a whole lot of experience at sustained failure, if anyone has suggestions on how to remain positive during my continued attempts I would happy accept them!!!

Baha'is in Iran

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Baha'i Blog, which I also have a link to over at the sidebar has an excellent summary with an accompanying map that is very helpful and informative about the worsening plight of Baha'is in Iran.

This most recent news, that the Iranian government has ordered the identification and monitoring of all Baha'is, was first released here.

And if you are afraid that I am simply overreacting, here is the perspective of someone who is not a Baha'i: The Times.

I admit, my life may not be the cheeriest at the moment, but I am allowed to have a life and that is much more than I can say for the more than 300,000 Baha'is currently living in Iran. The information contained in the links above is much better than anything I could say. And the conveyance of information is the power we have.

Fashionable Rant

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Mark likes to check out the latest and greatest on various blogs such as Gizmodo, Engadget, MocoLoco, Grassroots Modern and others of that ilk. Yeah, so I'm lazy about the links, so shoot me.

These blogs are great fun, don't get me wrong. But one of them ('them' being the trend-informer blogs) - treehugger.com - had links to stuff, that, well, was simply absurd. Absa-freaking-surd. I tell you. There was an 'organic' clothes line that, for one, I find frustrating because apparently, everyone who is a treehugger is also a holdover from the heyday of Nirvana and the grunge gang. But furthermore their prices made me think that they were a hoax. Seriously. Their tee-shirts were $40! They had a pair of men's jeans for $159. Yeah. $159. If these treehuggers are all the grunge-lovers, where are they working - what eco-friendly place of course - is paying them enough that they can afford $159 jeans?! Are they wearing them to work?

Another site, also linked from treehugger, had a dining room table (and a whopping 4 chairs) listed for, I kid you not, $3,800. Ehn? (made of P-I-N-E?!) Tell me it's a hoax. 'Cause if not, well, I guess these are the folks wearing $159 jeans to work.

B.S. This is such a load of B.S. It's become nothing more than a meaningless label to show off to your friends. "See, I can afford to save the earth." Puke.

Inbetween Moments

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You know that level of sub-consciousness that is experienced as a person is first beginning to wake up? I also have them when I get up in the middle of the night and try to hang on to sleepiness for the brief moments that it takes me to use the toilet, wash my hands and return to bed.

Do you experience that? Do you know what I'm talking about?

You know, it's where I have all my amazing ideas for inventions and movie story lines. It's when I have peaks of utter rage at the world over ... um, not sure. I think this morning it had to do with the rain. Which is odd, when you consider just how much I love the rain.

Shrine

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rainbow.jpg

This is a photo of the Shrine of the Bab that my mother took while she was here last winter. It had just rained - I hope you can see the rainbow! In fact, if you really look closely, there are actually two rainbows.

[yes folks, I changed my template just to bring you this photo!]

Spinach Lasagna

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The other night, we were over at the Ishikawas. Mark was enjoying various board games and I hung out and watched a movie [The Castle - absolutely hysterical]. We brought spinach lasagna with us as a contribution to dinner. Apparently, Amelia had been seriously craving lasagna, so she was pretty enthusiastic about the lasagna, as were others. It made me feel pretty good. And then I said the magic words, "it's my mother's recipe".

It's the little things. Months back, my mother told us to get any 'end of life' issues out of the way now, while everyone is still feeling well and healthy. At the time, I thought, "I don't have any unresolved issues and secrets." I couldn't think of anything. What I am realizing is that there are things that I want my mother to know. I want her to know what I will remember about her, what she has meant to me and done for me. One of my friends, whose mother has passed away, was talking about how he can't always remember her before the cancer. I feel like by telling my mother what I will remember, and asking her what she wants me to remember, maybe I can hold on to these memories differently.

Problem is, now that I've thought of this, so much triggers something that I feel I should tell her. Like the lasagna. It's her recipe, and every single time I make it, no matter where she got the recipe herself, I will think of her - as I do now. It's the same with knitting, which then extends into every form of artwork I dabble in, as she is my creative source. She taught me not just how to knit, but the value of art and participating in art.

My problem isn't where to start. It's that it has no end. Maman, I can tell you what I will remember, but I will continuously have amendments. And so I keep putting it off, until I 'have the time to sit down and really reflect', which of course is the danger.

I guess this is my start, and now you know I'm thinking about it.

Beautiful

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My friend, Selvi, compiled these three quotes to read at our friends' wedding last week.

When I heard it, other than the tears streaming down my face - I don't think I've ever been so moved by Baha'u'llah's Writings before - I thought, "gee, I wish I'd had this to read at Mendon and Kristen's wedding!

So, here it is now. The first is from 'Abdu'l-Baha and the second two are from Baha'u'llah:

Praise be to God, those two faithful birds have sought shelter in one nest.

Wherefore, wed Thou in the heaven of Thy mercy these two birds of the nest of Thy love, and make them the means of attracting perpetual grace…

Hear Me, ye mortal birds! In the Rose Garden of changeless splendor a Flower hath begun to bloom, compared to which every other flower is but a thorn, and before the brightness of Whose glory the very essence of beauty must pale and wither. Arise, therefore, and, with the whole enthusiasm of your hearts, with all the eagerness of your souls, the full fervor of your will, and the concentrated efforts of your entire being, strive to attain the paradise of His presence, and endeavor to inhale the fragrance of the incorruptible Flower, to breathe the sweet savors of holiness, and to obtain a portion of this perfume of celestial glory. Whoso followeth this counsel will break his chains asunder, will taste the abandonment of enraptured love, will attain unto his heart's desire, and will surrender his soul into the hands of his Beloved. Bursting through his cage, he will, even as the bird of the spirit, wing his flight to his holy and everlasting nest.

Oh, and this last one really reminded me of the medieval French lit. that I studied in grad school. It made me miss it, too. I really do enjoy medieval literature. In fact, if I was going to get a PhD in French, that's what I'd do. I just can't figure out why I should do that. Also, my perspectives and thoughts on medieval lit. didn't seem to be much appreciated by my professors - that was a bit of a turn off, I must say - though they did say I was a natural at the old French language. To me, medieval French lit. is best consumed while, and the equivalent of, wearing a warm fuzzy sweater under a warm fuzzy blanket and drinking a yummy cup of hot tea.

Wow, talk about a tangent I did not expect to take.

A Word to the Wise

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Clue # 547 About How Mara Is Coping

My mother is trying very hard not to die of cancer. That's blunt, but it's reality and we all know it. Now, I'll let you in on a little secret: the next person to offer me the oh-so-not-soothing words of "it's God's will" ... well, I'll let you imagine the consequences. It won't be pretty. Please, think about this comment. You are telling me, essentially, to lay back and not only accept, but expect, my mother to die. In the near future. Ahahaha - no arguing - you are. Yes, you are. If that is how I understand what you are saying, that is what you are conveying, so if you don't want to convey that, choose different words. CHOOSE - DIFFERENT - WORDS. Got it? I know you mean well, but God did not give my mother cancer. It happened. Yes, she has cancer. Is God responsible? No. Hello?!

Thank you and have a nice day. Oh, and if you're interested in discussing something other than my mother's state of well-being, I am available for meals.

[Sorry, I know it was my first day back in the office and things will gradually normalize, but I just wanted to get that off my chest. I do appreciate all of the love and support everyone has offered and continues to offer me. If you want to see a much better example of an "I'm-back-thanks-for-all-the-support-blog", check out Nathan's blog].

Essence of Birthday

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Simple Gifts

Today, Monday, 14 November 2005 is my mother's birthday. It is exactly one week since her surgery. This is already a milestone.

Before the surgery, she told me she was looking forward to this year's birthday like no other. Well, she will probably spend it as she has spent no other. Simply a ride home from the hospital and go to bed. Her bed. We might sing to her, but as one of her get well cards said - that may simply add to her suffering! And unless you know how to light candles in applesauce, we'll probably skip that tradition, too.

Here's me signing off for today to carry out my birthday gift - I got my maman to pick up from the hospital!!

Pharmacist

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I like my pharmacist. He makes me smile. I like having a pharmacist. To me it is a great sign of me belonging. When he pauses to talk to me, letting the other people wait until he finishes, it makes me so happy - to me it's like a big neon sign above me: this girl belongs here!

He recognizes me, knowing what I am coming in for before I even get in the shop. He has taught me practically all the Hebrew I know. He tells me about the lectures on the Baha'i Faith that he attends at the university here. Recently, when the Kitab-i-Aqdas was translated into Hebrew by the Chair for Baha'i Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he proudly pulled out his copy to show me how beautiful it was, to explain why he appreciated the language so much, how well done the translation was....

And tonight, after promising me a 3 month supply of my medications by tomorrow evening (just in case), he told me he had a famous Jewish prayer that was excellent for healing (apparently they've done studies on how effective this prayer is!). So he is going to translate it for me and give it to me tomorrow.

I think that is so kind. All the other things I know he could do for anyone, just good business. This, to me, is going beyond that. I mean, I could probably just Google it. But why would I?

You know, I don't even know his name.

TCKs

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A TCK is a "third culture kid" - both children and adults.

If you grew up spending time in more than one country or culture, you may just want to find out more about how your quirks and how you never really fit in anywhere is similar to all the other kids around the world who did the same.

I'm reading a book: Third Culture Kids, and I can think of a number of my family and friends who would be able to relate to this. Whether you actually lived in a country different from the one your parents called "home" or you were simply raised differently enough to feel like you lived in a foreign country, this book is worth the read.

This is, in essence, our future. The world is only getting smaller, and with Australians marrying Nigerians, Bolivians marrying Americans, Iranians marrying Japanese, etc. more and more children are going to find themselves in this situation of "so, which culture is mine?"

What's wonderful is what the book has said, at least so far: that these kids can find a sense of belonging by viewing themselves as people who can help make change happen. As a future parent, it's wonderful guidance on how to help shape my children's identity. Even if they don't relate to the society around them as 'the norm', if they understand that their 'place' is to be different, then they can be comfortable in many places.

[Warning: Easier said than done.]

So, yes, Char and Danio, I think you should find a copy of this book and read it. :-)

Ambition?

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Beware: this is very stream-of-consciousness stuff.

You know, Capricorns are supposed to be known for ambition.

And I think I have it, certainly to some degree or in some areas.

But I was wondering: is my struggle with confidence intertwined with what I/society define as ambitious?

I don't think I've considered my definition of ambition much. When I think of ambition - as related to women, because I am one - I think of women dressed in business suits in high-powered jobs, making executive decisions or women "in the field" saving the world en masse or a woman in some research lab, biochemical for instance, making discoveries which will also save the masses.

I guess, in large part, these are my heavily media-driven concepts.

But I don't exactly fit into any of those categories:

1. Me in a business suit? Well, maybe, but I prefer to be Assistant X, than Director X [and I live for my jeans]. I suppose this harkens back to my fear of failure: I don't want to have to take the blame when it all falls apart (wow, how awful is that?). I imagine my parents will have something to say about that one.

2. Me out saving the world? No, I've learned I'm not exactly comfortable with the nitty-gritty side of social work (Kristen, I really admire your strength). I have more faith in humanity than I used to, but that stuff sort of kills it for me - I really struggle to keep a positive outlook when I get that close.

3. Research: I love it. But academia is not exactly calling me at the moment. Anyone know of a job where I can run around researching stuff for people all day? I love being given a puzzle and working and working and working, with whatever resources I can find, until I at last achieve it. It has to be attainable, if it's too convoluted I'll just walk away, but if I know there's a solution, and it's worth my time, I love research.

And yet, I would be totally untruthful to you if I denied wanting to be one of those women.

And do you notice that none of those three examples includes her children in the definition? Hmm. Definitely gotta' rethink that one, too, 'cause I know I value motherhood, crave motherhood and all-around respect motherhood. On the other hand, I do want to do things as well. I want to contribute to society in some other way, too. I know women who, when they no longer have little kids depending on them, go through a major identity crisis. There must be some balance, right?

Help me out here, folks.

Courage and Confidence

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A few months ago, something slowly began to dawn on me. At the beginning of my migraine - at the very beginning - I would recognize that in about 2-8 hours I would be getting a migraine.

And then I'd panic. Now, I did not only panic because I was going to get a migraine. I would panic if I could not find someone to distract me. For example, if Mark wasn't home, I would call him to see how soon he'd be home; and I'd be irritated if it was going to be a while. Now, why would you want to rush how when your spouse was about to get a migraine anyway? Well, I wanted him there to distract me because I have had several experiences where this worked. I wouldn't get a migraine if the distraction was thorough enough.

And that's when it struck me. Whoa. This is what I used to do for my roommate when she was getting over bulimia. Her body's trained reaction to stress or anxiety was to vomit. In order to overcome this trait, she needed some help de-training her body, so we would distract her (sometimes successfully) until the feeling passed. Do you get this?

I've trained my body to give me an "out". I take myself out of commission for several hours - immediate sleep and certainly no going back to work that day. Granted, this is the simplified version. I didn't exactly plan this.

I know I can have great power over my body when I want to. I remember talking myself into being sick when I was younger. My mother was aware of this and would say, "you convinced yourself you're sick, now convince yourself you aren't". And I would. Once I 'froze' my period for a day because I wanted to go to the river to swim with everyone else, after which it started back up (I was young).

So, putting this all together, I decided it was time to do something about this. I knew I needed help if I was going to achieve results. Knowing the problem is one thing, having the tools to create the solution is another. So I turned to our wonderful therapist and presented her with my theory and she has very encouraginly assisted me to take a bit of a closer look at some of my neuroses (okay, quirks?).

We started with what are some of the common situations that I think "cause" migraines. Well, work was an easy place to start because at the time we were sadly understaffed and it was very stressful to me. So understaffed that I literally had no assistance. None. There was no one in the office and there was no one off-site. I had a migraine every single day that week. And frankly, I was surprised because I thought I had it under control. Of course, by the time someone arrived in the office they had 25 extremely urgent documents to translate. I guess that sort of got to me. I hated that I couldn't get completed work to people in a timely manner. That is for certain. With this very concrete example, we were able to ascertain that I'm a special kind of control freak. (heeheehee) I don't have to do the work myself (I love delegating!), but it's the stuff I have absolutely no control over that freaks me out.

Come to think of it, ever since I was a child, that's what I've worried about. What if someone breaks into our house? What if someone tries to kidnap/kill us, etc. And I didn't stop worrying about those types of things as I got older - heck, I still do that sometimes. Oh, those pesky "what ifs".

So, taking a closer look - why do I worry about stuff I can't control? Fear of failure and/or rejection.

I have so many episodes where I experienced one or both that they are too numerous to count. I'm sure you do, too, but the thing with me, I guess, is that it doesn't just roll off my back. No, it's more like a tick that nestles in my ear. (do you know how to get those ticks out? it involves lighted matches - I assure you it is no fun at all)

So we're working on that - and I am working on courage and confidence, the only way to counter my fears of failure and rejection. Oh, by the way, no need to reassure me that you love me just the way I am. I know. Really. It's the people who have rejected me I'm much more worried about.

As I started to think about courage and confidence, I realized something. I realized the part that reliance on God plays in my ability to be confident. And then I realized how meager that current reliance is, due in large part to my inability to connect to God in a personal way. Do I love God? Do I feel God's love for me? Can I state proofs of God's love for me? What is such a proof? My first thought was: well, my family is whole, fairly good health, no major tragedies in my personal life, basic needs provided for ... and then I realized that was all wrong. I mean, how selfish is that? And if I don't have all that stuff God doesn't love me? A few examples: Baha'u'llah, the Bab, Jesus, Muhammad, Moses - and their families who supported them. I'm pretty sure God loved them - a lot. And they suffered - a lot. Okay, so physical comfort is not a good measure. (please, don't try to convince me otherwise)

So, I'm trying to work on seeing God's influence in my life and signs of His love for me.

I asked Mark the other day what proof he saw of God's love for him. I think he was sort of surprised - it just seemed so obvious to him: "that I breath". Wow. Cool. Now if only I could get to a place that that is evidence enough for me to rely on God and live my life with a bit less anxiety.

This is, therefore, my question to you, my dear readers (yeah, that includes YOU!):
In your opinion, what are signs of God's love for you? Can you see God's influence in your life? Do you rely upon God? How? How often? You can email me, too.

p.s. I've already talked about this with my mother - she recognizes that a fear of failure/rejection runs in the family a bit, so please, I'd like to hear from people other than my family as well!! Of course, comments from family members (and others) about dealing with fears of rejection/failure are more than welcome, too. Thanks!!

Must I Know?

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Must I know the details of your sex life?

Must anyone?

What is with these discussions? Isn't this rather adolescent?

But published in magazines?

I was reading an article recently and at some point it simply devolved into all the different variations on who sleeps with who and why, including personal interviews.

Uh, wha?

Okay, if you're being abused, that's one thing. But, well, this wasn't discussing abuse per se.

Some Powerfully Strong Wonderful Dreams

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I love my family. When I have migraines I usually have some pretty far out dreams (drug side effect, I imagine). They are not usually good, and lately I've had some really nasty ones. Last night, I went to bed drugged up due to a migraine.

But last night I had some dreams that were SOO good I just have to share.

First dream. Member of family I dreamt about: Eric (sister's husband). Now, Rae & Eric got married two years ago. See any connection? Well, I left the country shortly thereafter, so this isn't a dude I know very well. Anyway, kinda' irrelevant I guess.

In this dream, Eric and I were out in the woods with a group of people. There was a castle - or at least some sort of cool stone structure out there. We had read, as a group, several novels. One of them was called Hex and it was about this group that would get together and this guy would hex someone. Well, so there were two groups of people in the woods with us. One had only just arrived to work at the organization where we worked and were getting trained, Eric included. The other, myself included, had been there for a while. When the new group was finished in the stone shelter - which had included eating - they just left, or some of them did. Eric stayed. My group was still there, and were irritated that the new group had not yet learned that at this organization, you clean up after yourself. Everyone in the group started bickering. Eric arose to the occasion, called to us to leave everything, temporarily, and come outside to do a unity builder. I was a bit reticent, but followed, figuring that since we were related it made a statement if we stuck together. He took us outside and asked us to form a really tight circle - one guy freaked out thinking we were going to repeat the whole hex thing. Somehow I knew what Eric was going to do and managed to convince the guy otherwise. I don't remember everything Eric said, but I know it was good. One of the things he said, repeatedly, was "Your thought is your reality". I was thoroughly impressed with Eric's skills.

I tried to remember what he said so I could share it, but well, then I had another excellent dream. I guess it got a bit clouded.

In my second dream, my dream included: Kristen (brother's fiancee), my mother's voice, and a 6-year-old Mendon (brother engaged to Kristen).

I don't remember how the second one started, but what I do remember is that I would talk on the phone with Kristen. Pretty normal, as again, Mendon & Kristen started dating around the time I left the country, so long-distance has been our relationship so far.

Well, Kristen was in a play. She was in a kitchen doing a number of things. She had created a part where she would be on the phone with me. As we talked, I realized what she'd done - and that, in fact, I was just backstage - and I just swelled with pride. I was so overwhelmingly honored that Kristen had included me in this. Then I realized I had to sit backstage and be quiet the rest of the play, but that was cool. Then something else happened during the play that was totally awesome and unexpected - sorry, I don't remember what - and I knew it would be okay for me to come out and join the clapping and cheering crowd. As I did, I was sitting in a great, cozy, very old, lecture hall - next to someone who was loudly planning all of the sights they wanted to see on this trip they were on. I tried to ignore her. Then it changed a bit, and it was a great dark hall in a castle maybe? full of beautifully carved ornate darkwood, lit by orangish-lightgiving lamps that were just as beautiful. I was sitting in a chair (with others), and off to the left was a family going to bed on lavendar mattresses.

[sidenote: as a child, my sister and I shared a room in the attic - sometimes, as a parent came up the stairs to put us to bed, they would chant something (i.e. "fee fi fo fum, here I come", etc.)]

Then we heard it - she was coming [my mother]! "One a pop, two a pop, three a pop, four! [something about colors] bubble gum!" We thrilled with excitement, and then realized we should join in. So we did - getting louder each time. Suddenly, a little boy appeared running up the gorgeous dark brown hardwood stairs. I was in the seat [college-style desk] nearest to the top of the stairs. As he ran up, I realized it was my younger brother - at about age 6.

[another sidenote: Now my brother, who is currently 20, when he was a little boy, was one of the most adorable little kids I have - in real life - ever met. He and I are very close and always have been. As a toddler, he called me "little mommy" because I spent so much time caring for him (our mother was working at that time).]

When I saw him, I put my arms out to him and he ran to me. I was so happy to see him! When he got to me, he said "don't hug me, hug my mommy and daddy!" I didn't listen and just embraced him as hard as I could. Then I realized how much I missed him and started crying uncontrollably.

At that point, I woke up because I got the feeling I was crying for real, too. I wasn't, but I was pretty close.

I miss my family! What wonderful dreams! It almost makes me miss my family more - if that's possible!

My Hero

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My husband is my hero.

It's 10:48 p.m. and he's studying Hebrew so that he can charm his way into a sherut (a van taxi) for some friends who need to go to the airport tomorrow at midnight (that's Friday evening - shabbat [sabbath]). They've already tried and got all negative responses and one guy who wanted to charge extra and take them there an hour and a half early.

Yup, he's my hero.

Advancement of This Woman

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Life is just so good right now. Things in my life have come together so well for me I can't really imagine it getting much better. On several levels.

Our marriage went from plummeting into a spiralling murky abyss up to flying high with the kites. I feel like I'm walking on air - watch the bounce to my step. It'll be five years on Friday, and it feels to me like I've discovered my marriage - so much about it. I wonder now, was there a certain reserve I was keeping from Mark? I know it sounds twisted, but I don't know how many times I thought "what if he dies tomorrow? I have to be able to cope." I think I may have actually kept a part of me closed from feeling a certain love for him for that reason. Hey, I said it was twisted. The good news is that I let that caged bird fly. And it feels wonderful. It's also allowed me a new vision of my marriage and of Mark. And the care and respect that Mark deserves with which I was perhaps not always forthcoming {I need no affirmatives about this from anyone who isn't my husband - thanks in advance}. I also feel like we've opened up to a certain freedom in our marriage. I don't know how to explain this. A detachment? Detachment about the other person's time, which makes us value, and thus structure, our time together a bit better. Our Saturday morning ritual, although having morphed, is as important as ever.

Anyway, I've also come to a deeper understanding about my work too.

I mean, I'm a translator for the Universal House of Justice. I think I can be a bit flippant about it at times. You know, "eh, whatever - we do what we can and 'they'll' just have to understand the original wasn't very grammatically correct." Now, first of all, before I go bashing myself, my disclaimer: I am a qualified and excellent translator. I know that. But something small happened recently - I was questioned about one word in a rather long translation - and I realized, wow that "they" I think about in vague terms has a lot of rather important stuff to do. The least I could do is make sure that what they're getting from me is as understandable as I can make it. I mean, I've got a pretty rockin' job, and one of the very oldest associated with the Baha'i World Centre. That is why Shoghi Effendi went to study at Oxford. Sooooo cooooool. To be a part of this is very humbling and invigorating all at once.

And a final word about babies: I think Mark and I are getting a bit of a grip on our intense desire to start a family. Granted, that desire is there, but we have made a choice. We don't need to be irritating about it. So, for now anyway, we've swung to the more positive side of wanting children.

I feel like I'm in a much saner place now. I'm surprised at how reclusive I've become. Of course, I am now holding what should be an office of 6 afloat by myself this week. Just about all I have the energy to do once I get home is surf the net a bit, eat dinner and sleep.

I took some awesome pictures at Bahji this weekend. You should be able to find them on Flickr soon.

Got Me Thinking

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I was busy posting on a friend's blog (Sashwee), when I realized I had quite a bit to say about her discussion. So first things first, here is what she had to say about lessons she learned about enjoying where she is living:

One thing that I learned in Denmark about creating a home for yourself somewhere, is that you have to look for things that you like. You have to make a running mental list of things around you that make you happy, lift your spirits, give you pleasure. It was a turning point for me in Denmark when I started doing this. It’s a little like befriending someone, discovering things you share, remembering their jokes and opinions.
I thought of this recently and have started a little list.

Okay, if you want to see her list, you're going to have to check out her blog. I don't think it would be fair to just repost her blog on mine.

But it got me thinking, so here was my comment on her blog [which I had to recreate because I accidentally closed the window before publishing it, gah!], my list if you will:

I love going to my pharmacist because he gives me mini-Hebrew lessons and recaps the Baha'i lectures at Haifa University.

I like going to Fresco, well, because we go there often so they know us. And one of the young women who works there always says "Bone Appetite" when she serves us pizza. That makes me smile.

I like walking in the Merkaz/Ahuza area because it is clean and full of life.

I like looking out our front window at the ships in the bay. When my father was here he did the same and told me so much about them that it reminds me of him when I watch the ships.

I like watering my backyard. It gives a sense of calm control.

I like recycling our plastic bottles - physically putting them in the bin. It reminds me that I live here, that I am grounded, that I belong here and it lets me feel like I am contributing to it.

I love eating the labane and zaatar pizza at the little hole in the wall on Allenby. It's scrumptious, definitely Middle East specific and makes me feel like I know a great secret!

Thank you, Sashwee, for getting me thinking!

You Figure Out A Title

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I don't want to be here.

I want to leave and I don't want to be around anyone I know.

Otherwise they'll just want to 'know what's wrong'. And I don't want to talk.

I just want it to all go away.

Is this what it was like, Maman, when you used to say "I've changed my name and I'm moving to Australia"?

Twist Ties

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We all have people and things that we value.

Most of us also have some silly things we're attached to, for one reason or another.

We also have things that seem completely unimportant, but due to circumstances, became valuable.

Well, that's the way twist ties are for me.

Twist ties?, you ask.

Yes, well, as I said, due to circumstances they have become valuable to me.

As far as I can tell, Israel doesn't have twist ties. I kid you not. All the trash bags I've gotten don't include twist ties, and I haven't seen them anywhere else. And you don't miss them until you don't have any. Who'd have thought to pack twist ties? Except, all those half open bags of rice, pasta, raisins, etc. - what do you do with them? I used rubberbands mostly. We had some hard plastic twist ties from computer equipment, too, but there was definitely a shortage.

Then my parents came to visit in January. And my mother was horrorstruck that I couldn't find twist ties here. I'm sure she would have bought me some had she seen some to buy.

A few weeks after my parents left, I got a package.

Yup, you guessed it. It included a plentiful supply of twist ties - not to mention MSG-free boullion, colorful post-it notes for my office, and a silly comic strip about digging tar out of your shoes (let's just say Israel isn't exactly known for clean beaches).

Now, every time I reach for a twist tie it brings a smile to my face because they are part of such a loving, thoughtful gift from my mother.

Sometimes, it really is about the little things.

Thank you, Maman!

Empty Place

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You may not know the specifics, but I know you can relate to the feelings.

There's a part of me that just hurts. In fact, I am apparently going to have to write this blind, as I can't help tear up at the memory....

One of my office mates left Israel this morning. And, as she and her husband have been here since the inception, literally, of the Universal House of Justice, it was a particularly special occasion as they left the Seat of the Universal House of Justice just shortly before their departure. The entire building assembled to wish them good-bye. One of our friends led us in song, and they paused, acknowledging us, and quietly turned and left the building. So typical of their quiet, unassuming ways.

I guess I just want you to know how honored I am to have known these people. Both husband and wife have bestowed upon me so much noble loving guidance. So much humble encouragement - as if they weren't some of the most accomplished, selfless human beings on the planet. For a brief moment in time, my life touched history in the making - and I was worthy of it.

And I miss them. And it makes me sad. And I know it was time for them to retire. And I know that life still goes on here at the Baha'i World Centre, and now there are new people on the Universal House of Justice. But for a minute I will let myself be sad.

For a lifetime, I will cherish the memories that they created for me in a special - open - space in my heart.

Idealism

Idealism {a.k.a. Irony}

This is our virtue of the week. For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you may remember that Mark and I use the Virtues Guide as family prep. We select a virtue a week, study it together, and then try to focus on opportunities to practice it. One of the concepts of the book is that you can study a virtue a week with your children in order to help teach them these virtues. One of our friends had been doing this with her partner since they were dating - now married they still do a virtue a week. Since there are so many virtues and you only spend a week on each one, doing them over and over, year after year, takes a while to get repetitive. We liked the idea and started doing it ourselves, so that we'd know a thing or two about these virtues before we sat down to work on them with future children. [I must admit, I don't think this is the person I envisioned myself becoming when I was younger.]

So, this week is idealism. Which is so ironic it's not even funny. What makes idealism funny to a girl who spends years working to get her master's degree just to jump ship, move to Israel and work 44 hours a week to earn, literally, nothing for 30 months? Well, umm, see ... it's been our 'virtue of the week' now for, oh, well, I think about 3 weeks now (it's actually longer than that but I'm choosing not to include our week in Spain).

Yes, folks, here we are, preparing ourselves to raise our as yet unconceived children but can't seem to get around to reading about idealism!

Well, idealism will be our virtue of the week for at least another week, I geuss. (Mara then weakly smiles and blushes as she can hear her brother Nathan laughing raucously all the way from Edinburgh. I'm here for you, Nae. Any time you need a laugh, well, you know where to find me!)

My Favorite Search Engine

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I've written about writing in this space before. I've written about V's awesome writing. I've at least commented on my sister's natural talent. I've written about how I know I have a book in my head, but I don't know what that book is. Most recently, I directed you to Mendon's cartoon writing.

Well, if I have a book in my head, my mother is like Google Books. She's an entire library. Now, she thinks her info is largely useless (somewhere in the mass that is our family of blogs there was a conversation about it), but if it's really useless then I apparently tend to find myself in need of useless information on a fairly regular basis. I have called from every single foreign country I've lived in to ask her to fill me in.

'Cause here's the thing: it isn't useless. And I for one do not know where else to get the information. My most recent foray into useless knowledge was clumping yeast. Yes, you heard me. See, when you make a dough that rises, you have to proof the yeast to make sure it's not too old, etc. Usually, when I proof yeast, I add some lukewarm water, sugar, STIR - and leave alone for 5 minutes. Except this time, I stirred and got ... paste? No! No! Throw it out - it must be bad!! I did that twice before I called my mother when it happened for a third time [I didn't admit that to her at the time]. What finally convinced me to call her was that I saw in the sink that the remains of the former attempts, soaking in water, looked like normal risen yeast ... hmm. Telephone to Maman, and voila, I had overreacted, the yeast was fine. I used the third batch (doh!), and went on to have wonderful yummy bao. [I'm the dough expert of the bao industry - now even more so thanks to Maman!]

So, here's my vote. Maman, you should write a book, or a Web site, or create a search engine of your mind - or something. Admit it, you're smart. You know stuff we don't. What was the term? domestic goddess? hmm - there might just be something to that! By saying that your knowledge - at least your knowledge related to home economics - is useless, you are demeaning this largely unpaid labor that is done predominantly by the women of the world. And I know you don't believe that!!!

Hair

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Does anybody else change their hair when they have big life decisions to make - or are feeling generally ... anxious, unsettled, ready for a change, etc.?

I think a person could almost read my moods by my hair. I dye my hair, I get hair cuts - sometimes I hold out long enough (or am just too lazy) that the changes don't happen, but I'm considering chopping my hair short again. If you read this blog regularly, you might rightly think "hmm, I think this is a mood haircut." I also dyed my hair w/ henna recently - not that anyone noticed (just a bit o' red). I guess that's one advantage of doing something to my hair, I can feel like I've "made a change" and others won't even necessarily notice anything.

Of course, I'm in Israel. My regular hairdresser (Elishia) left Israel ... in December. And she was cheap (a bit o' chocolate & good music would make her happy!) - which is good because I'm still not used to paying for a haircut. Fortunately, my mother just happened to be in town in January, so my last haircut was with her (just a trim - and I had to move to Israel to get her to cut my hair again! - thank you, Nannie!!). I could get on the waiting list of the lady who cuts hair here at the BWC ... or I could pay for one, but they seem so expensive here! I heard someone saying they'd "only" paid 180 sheks for their haircut (only $42!!! Gah!!). The only time I paid that much (ok, twice that much) was when I got my hair cut and dyed purple (charged me for 2 dyes, since they had to bleach it first). I don't plan on doing that - or paying that much, oh ... ever.

This is one reason I don't mind going back to the States - I know how to do this stuff, I know what is a reasonable price range, I know who is good, etc. - and if I don't, I know who to ask... it's just easier because I know the system (obviously, I mean more than just for haircuts).

Whoa

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This past Friday we broke the fast with another couple, Vaishali & Vijay, by having a BBQ on the beach. Now, before you go and get all jealous about how warm it is here, well, it isn't - maybe in the low 60s - maybe. In any case, we were all wearing coats, hats, etc. and at one point my fingers went numb. And we were on the beach - the wind was raging. However, we had a blast (literally and figuratively, hehheheheh)! We introduced them to s'mores and had tandoori chicken kebabs (OMG! Awesome!). And we laughed endlessly about how ridiculous the whole situation was. It will definitely be one of the wonderful memories we take with us when we leave Israel.

Saturday we spent the day at Bahji. We went specifically to pray about what our 'next step' should be. We then had a very productive discussion about what our most preliminary step should be...but of course, we had prayed our hearts out to Baha'u'llah to guide us. Those prayers have an effect, and well, we're still rather undecided, but now we're thinking of a whole new direction. One I don't think we had ever seriously considered before. Not that I'm going to say what it is. Obviously our lives have been changing quite a bit lately - no point in telling you every notion that enters our mind. [so, basically, I'd be willing to discuss it offline, if you wish]

In any case, I think Mark and I are more convinced than ever that prayers work, are powerful, and God is occasionally willing to be hit-you-over-the-head obvious. Because at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning we think He was. [it was a phone call, don't go looking for major events on the Web or anything]

Israel

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I was looking back at some of my old entries, after a friend had asked me what I blogged about, and I realized I used to discuss my journey in Israel much more. I wondered whether it had to do with something more than just having changed the name of my blog (formerly: Journey in Israel). Is it because I've gotten comfortable? Does getting comfortable imply I'm losing touch with the sacredness of the land in which I live? I don't want to do that.

Comfortable with my surroundings, okay. I like having a pharmacist that knows which drug to pull for me before I even walk in the door. But I don't want to forget all of the struggles that went into building and tending the beautiful surroundings I now enjoy. I don't want to forget the holiness of the people buried in the shrines I walk by on my way to and from work every day. I don't want to forget what a privilege it is to be here - that for millions of people it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to come here for a mere 9 days - if that.

Beyond that, I've been thinking about Iran a lot lately. Probably for two reasons: 1. I'm studying the Kitab-i-Iqan (Baha'u'llah's defense of the Babi Faith to one of the Bab's uncles before Baha'u'llah declared His own mission), which focuses on Islam and Muslims to a great extent and 2. I proofread a number of Persian translations - so they make me think. The Baha'is in Iran have been so oppressed by the government for so long one would be likely to think they are worn down, worn out and generally a mean set of people. And yet they aren't (this is general knowledge - I'm not sharing stuff from work). They have recently written an open letter to the President of Iran demanding redress for all the injustices continuously heaped upon them. It being an open letter many, many people have seen it in Iran, which means the Baha'is are being recognized by many and vilified by some. And yet they dare and they dream and they love and they give - as unrelenting as the government is in being heinous, they are in remaining dignified and noble. Granted, I am well aware that they are not the only set of people in the world who are suffering injustices heaped upon them.

But when I think of these people, a number of which who have left the country, told their story and are my friends, I know I can do more. They who fear nothing, and often get just that in return, are such an example to me.

Hear Me Roar

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I'm seriously beginning to think about editing. I love it, I know I'm capable - now I just have to work on the network connection ... we'll see. I think I have some good leads.

Get this, women of the world: you know those high-end jobs we're not getting? Check out NewScientist - they have an article (October 2004) that says some of that is because we simply don't apply for jobs if we don't meet all the qualifications, whereas men will apply for a job if they have 50% of the qualifications. Hmm - that seriously would have never occurred to me. In my mind, if something is missing it's because I'm not qualified! Well, who'd have known. I'll have to work on that one - no wonder women think they're being managed by incompetent buffoons (drr!). Okay, okay, that was mean - but think about how many women are most likely more qualified than certain men who are in higher-ranking positions? Hmm....

Something else the article said was that some companies (research firms & universities) are beginning to get much more 'family friendly' because it's good economics. Money may just save us in the end. People are finally figuring out that having women on board (basically, diversity in general) means higher profits. Yeah, 'cause we rule! :-) Oh man is Nathan going to have something to say about this! I know I'm being simplistic about the details, and slightly anti-andro in my lilt, but this is a blog - and mine at that.

In any case, that is really exciting for me as I've been talking about needing a paradigm shift in the concept of work, work hours, work advancement, etc. This article tackled these issues, and discussed how some companies are doing just that - and finding that it's good for business (and job retention) too. How exciting!

Another exciting note is that I have been able to implement my thesis in my work! That is so exciting for me! I knew there was a reason I put myself (and a few choice others, Mark primarily) through that hell. Woohoo!! [Thanks to Joany & Ian for their super-supportive and generous guidance!!]

Oh, so if Mark get's an MBA, he'll need to take the GMAT, not the GRE - so anyone have GMAT study materials?

Writing

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There has been a lot of talk about writing recently. Violetta is prolific {Mendon, if you get bored, just visit her blog!}. Not only is she prolific, but very, very soon she should put pen to paper and start shipping those ideas off to publishers. Anyone who can't tell she's an amazing writer is illiterate - that's their only excuse.

She is currently in the Congo Republic. I don't know about you, but I didn't spend my childhood pining over a trip to the Congo. Violetta is currently residing in Paris, but visiting her parents in the Congo. I've lived in Paris. I love Paris - especially when I have friends there to share it with. I have some amazing memories from my time in France, and when Violetta writes about Paris it brings it all alive to me, all the stuff I enjoyed, and I yearn to go to Paris and share her experiences with her.

That said, when she writes about the Congo - well! - what can I say? I feel like I'm reading a good fantasy novel. I'm swept away into an alternate universe, where everything is beautiful, lush, purposeful and appreciated - especially by V. I feel an overwhelming urge to buy the next available ticket to the Congo and be apart of these experiences she's describing. She's suddenly made the Congo a high priority - smashing my top five [places to visit] to smithereens. I know it'll pass - when she leaves the Congo, probably. I doubt I could appreciate the Congo as much without her loving and appreciating eye to guide me. But that's okay. She's not going to evaporate - she'll be writing about somewhere else, and I'll fall in love with that place all over again. What's great about her writing (for me) is that I can keep this stuff - and hopefully her published stuff as well - and even if she's not near me when I have children, I can share her writing with my children and maybe help instill in them a similar sense of wonder and appreciation in them. I'd like that. A lot.

My Parents Rock

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As I sit here at the computer, looking out my window at the gray warships in the Haifa harbor, I know that my father has forever changed how I look out my window at the Haifa Bay. While he was here, every day he would point out the different types of ships in the harbor and bay. I hadn't even realized there was an Israeli navy contingency here! I think of him every time I look at the ships now.

I Have A Book In My Head

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Is that a disturbing thought for you? It is for me.

Mainly, because I don't like to write. I certainly don't have a flair (Violetta has flair, so does my sister, Rachael). And yet, as much as I encourage others to write, and swear up and down that I can't write well - okay, I can but it it sheer torture to all involved - I get the sneaking suspicion I have a book in my head. And every day is a step closer. Granted, at that rate I figure I still have about 10 miles to go. Let's see... 1 step a day x 10 miles = a really long time. We'll see where it leads. I wouldn't stay tuned or anything, as I said, it's not developing quickly, but on occasion I feel like I'm on the verge of something big and I just happen to be in one of those moods. Mental and spiritual growth spurt, I guess.

Adjustment, Healing & Love

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Dornbrooks & Broomhalls.jpg


My parents are in Haifa! This is their first visit to the Holy Land, and it's a sneaking suspicion that they are in the process of some profoundly moving experiences. However, just my suspicion. Mostly because when I'm in that mode I neither realize I'm going through it nor do I want to talk about it.
On verra.

Violetta just left - this picture is from her farewell. I miss her, but I don't think I've really figured out she's gone yet. On the other hand, it was time for her to go, and I recognize that. Somehow, I think that if she hadn't left it would have been hard for me from the standpoint that if she couldn't leave, it was less likely that I would. I love this place, but I have other plans.... I'll be ready to go when it is my time.

Vi, I wish you all the best in the whole wide world, you know that, and nothing I could say could truly express my feelings for our relationship. I know it is one that will always be there, whether we're in constant contact or not.

Evolution

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Forgive what may seem as meanderings.

I was home sick for a week - hence the lack of all the profound stuff you usually see from me...

So, let's see... it's 14:08 now ... which means ... in 19 hours my parents will be here!!! Yay!! Totally exciting. I'm going to go take the train to Tel Aviv and pick them up at the airport. Again - yay! And they're going to volunteer here, and we're going to go to the Shrines together, and visit with lots of friends ... mmm, can't wait.

My aunt and uncle sent me an email to convey special greetings to my parents on their trip to the Holy Land. In the email my aunt told me they're taking tango lessons. The only reason that is like so totally freaky is that the night before I dreamt that my aunt visited me and taught me this cool Argentinian improvisational ballet-type dance to tango music ... huh. It was such a beautiful dream. First of all, my aunt is just this totally elegant woman (all 6 ft!), and I happen to feel very spiritually connected to her. It was one of those dreams where I really felt like she was there, visiting me, and it had all the special warmth that accompanies a visit from her. Plus, there was this beautiful dance that she taught me, which made it all the more special. Anyway, one of my friends suggested I write about my dreams (I have lots and I remember many), so there you have it. One of my dreams.

Purposefulness

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I was surprised when purposefulness was drawn as our virtue of the week. I don't think I would have ever named it as a virtue before. Usually one thinks of kindness, generosity, love, obedience, truthfulness...etc., etc. Anyway, purposefulness was a surprise to us.

So, as usual, we did a little research and found out a bit more about purposefulness. I also realized that although I can be purposeful, I don't particularly always like to be purposeful. Sure, put a trip to Spain in front of me and I will delight in being purposeful. However, put a 90 page thesis in front of me and my zeal for purposefulness wains. Considerably. But that's not all, it points to a large source of my stress and anxiety, I believe. Ah, how amazingly interconnected everything is. I may eventually get to my ideas of success and failure, too.

So sorry if this is boring for you. More for my benefit than yours, I suppose. Feel free to stop here.

Prayer Request

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I know I'm the one that is in the Holy Land, but I have a prayer request for you, my readers.

Mark's aunt, Auntie Susan, is rather ill. She went into a coma about a week ago, and they have decided that on Wednesday they will take her off life support. I have never met her, but I have spoken with her. She is the epitome of kindness, generosity and sincerity. I think she's had a great influence on who Mark is today, and he reveres her. They say it will be a miracle if she survives once off life support. ... I know this will be a crushing blow to Mark.

Please, if you could send happy thoughts, love, support or a prayer her way, I would be very appreciative.

I'm A Greedy Freak

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a.k.a. my name is Mara!!!

I've never known another Mara in my entire life. I have always liked my name, my middle name is also stiff competition, and together I like Mara Noelle. Especially if you can say it with a French accent (actually, exclusively if you can say it with a French accent).

However, what I have recently discovered is that I don't like anyone else having my name. A lot of the reason I like my name is that it is something about me that is unique and different. I like the stuff about me that is unique and different. I would never name my daughter Mara. Of course, 'junior' doesn't really exist for women. My fem-dar is screaming sexism, not that I particularly care. I guess it's the whole "continuing the family line" thing. Blah, blah, blah. On the other hand, that whole family line thing may see me visiting a chateau in France next summer. There are some benefits. And no, do not extend that for me to read "there are some benefits to sexism". I'd have to beat you.

Well, another young woman from the States just arrived to serve here. Her name is also Mara. (Mara Jamal - that's almost freaky, considering my older sister's name was Jamali!) Anyway. I'm having trouble liking her. Not her so much as, well...her name is a problem for me. Hey, I said I was a greedy freak. Several people have excitedly told me that their friend Mara was coming to serve (she pioneered to Kazakhstan - does she have to be freakin' cool to boot?). So now she's here. And she's in my old flat (did they plan that?!). And every time someone brings the two of us together, we say hello, look away, and then just sort of walk away from each other.

Rachael, my dearest, lovely, beautiful sister with whom I had the most bestest (female) fribling conversation ever today recommended that I tell her all the cool meanings to our name. I did. I think she thought I was a bit of a freak. Well, I guess I am. I did say I was. But then, hey, wouldn't you be proud if your name meant penis in another language? It's not everyday, you know....

So, I'm having some trouble getting over this and figuring out how to be friendly. On top of this, people are confusing us. I've never had a problem with people knowing who I was. I mean, I'm Mara. Isn't it fairly obvious? She's been here 3 days and already we've been confused twice. I never thought I'd have to identify myself to friends as, "Hi, this is Mara Fojas." I guess I'll have to adjust. I got to a dinner party Friday night, and the host opened the door and rather puzzledly said, "I thought you we're coming late?" I replied, equally as puzzled, "I just called you to ask if it was okay if we came early!?" Like, hello what? Twilight Zone?!?! His reply, "Oh, I thought that was Mara...uh, the other Mara." Wah....sigh. Soooo weird! Then, other people started to come in and introduce themselves and I thought I'd watch peoples reactions, thinking they'd say something like "What, two Maras? What're the chances of that?"

You guessed it. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. No reaction. I was shocked. Almost mortified. Hello people! This is crazy freaky!! Nothing.

Wow, do I have to get over this! Big time! Anyway, just thought I'd share.

Coolest Fight

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Okay, so maybe this is sort of twisted, but Mark and I saw the "coolest" fight the other evening. Maybe 'cool' is the wrong word, and of course, if the fight hadn't occured, all the better. But, anyway. We were enjoying some pizza outside a little pizzeria/gelateria, went in to pay, and when we came back out there was clearly a kerfuffle of some kind at the corner of the street. We paused to assess the situation as it was the direction in which we were headed, and realized that a fight was in progress. But not for long. Men descended literally from every corner, separated the men and simply blockaded them from approaching each other. One had been on a motorcycle. Another cyclist came over to his bike, helped him move the damaged motorcycle out of the road (away from the other man). Masses of men, I swear, continued to appear - all civilians. Not, however, to "see what was going on". They were there to help, to discourage any continuation.

I was really impressed. Mark and I mulled it over while enjoying some yummy dessert and realized that this scenario was unlikely in the States for a couple of reasons:

1. you never know whether one of the 'fightees' is carrying a weapon

and

2. if the police show up, they're most likely to simply arrest everyone there as they wouldn't know who the true culprits were and everyone would have their own version

Just a snapshot of life here that makes it interesting. Israelis may not be friendly, but they always seem to be there if you need them.

Raw

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Anger.

I had a beautiful, relaxing weekend. I felt great. Refreshed even...

Then, I woke up at 5 this morning so angry from such a horrible, horrible dream. I immediately thought "I must have to go to the bathroom." Growing up, whenever we had a nightmare our mother had us go to the bathroom. I assume the theory is that if our bladders are full it may cause bad dreams. I have no idea if that is true, or if it was our mother's ploy to bring us back to reality, or maybe even simply an attempt to make sure we didn't wet the bed - but in any case, that's what I did this morning [went to the bathroom, not wet the bed].

I got back into bed, but I was so furious that I couldn't get back to sleep. I kept thinking/dreaming about what I'd dreamt, going in and out of consciousness. I tried praying to get it off my mind. Unfortunately, as you can tell, it didn't work, as I sit here 6 hours later writing about it.

I won't tell you the details, because, quite frankly, they don't deserve to be repeated. However, have you ever had a dream in which someone you know and love does something horrible, and even though you know it's a dream, it's hard not to hate them when you wake up? Well, that was definitely the case this morning.

History and Religion

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This was the title (at least roughly) of a talk I attended last week.

It was phenomenal. Of course, the man speaking happened to have been one of my most favorite orators. He probably could have talked about toilet paper and I would have found it to be life-changing.

The first talk I attended by him was probably about 6 months ago, and it helped clarify for me my decision to return to the States after our time in Israel. Now for some of you, that may be shocking because perhaps you assumed that was what I'd do all along. However, it wasn't clear to me. I did want to return to the States, but I couldn't justify why that was so important to me. Not that reasons such as:

I want to be close to family when I have children (not to mention close to a health care system I at least vaguely know how to deal with) are not valid.

There's a lot of bashing of the US that goes on these days - sort of a world sport. One point he made was that America's problems are just that. America's problems. Whew - what a load off. I'm so sick and tired of feeling guilty or ashamed about being American. Oh yeah, he also made the point that no one should feel ashamed of where they come from. Good point.

4 Years of Marriage

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For some, I suppose that will be thought-provoking - four years? already? wow, what a long time... For others, it's almost a laughable period of time. Four years? You still have no idea ... which is true, and I know it.

On the other hand, it is still four years, and if I managed to learn something in four years of college, I think I've learned a thing or two in four years of marriage.

Last Thursday was our anniversary. We took the day off, and travelled around Israel for the next three days.

First lesson: Israel is really, really small. And what with the temperments as they are, it's really, really, really small. We never drove more than an hour and a half to our destination, which is okay, spending all your time driving isn't necessarily fun either. The day trips were nice because we got a vacation without the hassle of the airports. Unlike Nathan's vacation, we feel like we really had a great, relaxing vacation. We went to a park that had converted natural pools into a water park (but still, much more nature, than 'park'). We went to an artist's colony (Sefat/Safed/Tsefat) north of the Galilee and had the best coffee I've ever had [that's saying a lot - I don't generally like coffee], we drove around the Galilee a bit (saw the Church of the Beatitudes, one of the loveliest (simple) churches I've ever seen), we visited Ziporri/Sephorris, a partially excavated Roman village - with an amazing aqueduct that we could go down and walk around in - breathtaking!! And then we'd go out and have yummy Asian food for dinner :-)

Yearly Assessment

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A reflection of what I was doing a year ago. And a little bit about where I am today.

This time last year I had just decided to leave for Israel without Mark. He'd come later, once the house sold, which I naively assumed wouldn't take quite as long as it did. However, three months still wasn't as long as it could have been. I had 2 or 3 weeks to get ready to go. I decided that I'd pack up all our books, the kitchen, the basement, and all of my belongings before I went. Thereby facilitating the move for Mark (or so I thought, apparently there was still quite a bit of stuff left ...).

Meanderings

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I think I'm experiencing blog overload. I've actually had experiences where instead of being "in" them, I was thinking about how I would describe it on my blog. That's weird. At least in my opinion. And I can't even remember what those thoughts were. Duh...

Another weird thing... my brother has a link on his blog to my friend's blog. Read that again MY FRIEND. Okay, not that I'm possessive or anything, but I don't even know HOW to put a link to somebody's blog on my blog ... or I would. Ah well, sigh. Maybe somebody will read this, realize how pitiful this is, and tell me how to do it, because I haven't figured it out. I also happen to hate computer manuals as a whole because they are so dry, so boring, and well, not in my language.

Weight

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These are just some of my random thoughts on weight. Please do not take this personally.

I started this a few days ago, and apparently, it's time. Why my regular commentators have decided to all share weight and food issues this week I don't know, but apparently, it's been on our minds.

First of all, I am writing this on the premise that my mother is not to feel guilty.

Are we clear?

Really?

Because if not, don't continue, okay?

Blessed

I am so happy to be here.

In Israel. Where I am illiterate.

But yes, I am really happy. I am not being sarcastic.

I love my job. I can't imagine a job where I could be happier. That has it up sides as well as it down. I am currently a French translator for the Baha'i World Centre, as well as the facilitator for the European languages [which really just means I'm the intermediary between the other translators and the coordinator & I (am supposed to) work on staff development]. But this means that 1. I get to use my French skills, which shortly after 9-11, my hopes of ever being able to do that in the near future had been seriously dashed; and 2. I get to work on my management skills. I do enjoy management, but I also know that I need serious skill-building in that area. The moral leadership work that Mark and I are getting deeper and deeper into is helping me with that.

In fact, not only does it help me in my job, but it helps me in my marriage, my friendships, my family, etc. because it really teaches you how to be a good, effective human being. And I can take everything I learn and apply it everyday at work and at home.

The down sides to that? Well, I can't imagine ever being this satisfied with my work ever again. But then, who knows, maybe I'll go home, have children and stay at home to help develop their moral leadership skills :-) I could probably find some satisfaction there, don't you think?

But I'm also blessed because I am living in the Holy Land. And despite the very hurt, confused, and painful things going on here right now, it is still just that. To so many people. It's amazing to think about, really. A central location for Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha'is. Hmm, something to that perhaps? Hmm.

In any case, I get to go to the Shrines of the central figures of the Baha'i Faith on a very regular basis. Out of the millions of Baha'is in the world, I have somehow become one of the privileged few who get to do that more than once every 7 years, let alone in a lifetime. [that's referring to a 9 day pilgrimage Baha'is can make - and the current waiting list is about 7 years long]

There is such a wonderful, positive spiritual energy here. I feel very safe here, in more ways than one. I feel very nurtured and loved here. I'm not [as] afraid of making mistakes simply because there are so many people around not only to catch me when I fall, but to lovingly help me get up, dust myself off, and get going again.

There's a young woman here from Argentina who clearly knows my family in Argentina and loves them very dearly [whether they know that or not]. Every time I see her I am so happy. She simply glows she's so happy to see me - she's just oozing love from her pores.

A young woman in my office from Kazakstan shared her nickname with me, so I call her that when I see her. Again, she simply glows! And just from that small gesture we have grown closer. Few people here call her that, and it seems to make her very happy to be called that.

A young man from Nepal is always out tending the gardens in the morning when Mark and I walk to work. We all say good morning to each other, and are so happy to see each other. You'd think he could be tired because he starts work a bit earlier than we do, he could be hot because it is quite hot in the mornings here ... but no, he always has a wonderful, happy smile on his face.

I like being here. And yes, there are others here who are a bit older... but I'm going to go watch Kill Bill 2 now. I'll tell you about a particularly special one for me later. She's another French translator, and she's sending her children off to Canada for college in 2 weeks. They were born and raised here.

I hope I haven't burst your bubble. hee hee hee!

Inside My Head

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I think that sometimes I have so much going on inside my head that some of you would be stunned at how much time I just spend thinking about things - most of them utterly inconsequential, of course.

Let's see. Instead of sharing in depth these thoughts, here's a list:

Youth Photo

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Im not the most excellent person in the world at dealing with anger.

Is rejection even an emotion related to anger? Yeah, I think so. I am angry that I have been rejected, I suppose. I think it is unjust, and well, Im a big fan of justice.

Baha'u'llah

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Archives Visit.JPG

This past Friday, Mark and I had an opportunity to visit the International (Baha'i) Archives. This is normally something one does on pilgrimage. We are only permitted to do this once a year while serving here. It was, needless to say, an amazing experience. [the photo was taken of us on our way to the visit, directly behind us is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice - I work in the dome]

Pilgrims

Yesterday I interpreted for a group of newly arrived French pilgrims. It was amazing. I met them at their orientation and stayed with them until they had finished meeting with the Universal House of Justice (the highest authority in our administrative structure). I've been working here for 6 months now, but I felt like I was seeing it all over again for the first time with them. After their orientation they all (167 pilgrims) went to the Shrines of the Bab and Abdu'l-Baha for the first time. Ever (for many of them). I just stood outside and distributed tissues. And tried really hard not to cry myself. It was so amazingly touching to see these people experiencing what they have been waiting many years to do.

Afterward, we all walked up the terraces to the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, were served tea and cookies and were then greeted by all present members of the House of Justice (2 are away at the moment). I also interpreted this for the pilgrims. Want to feel inadequate, and yet wholly loved? Try doing this for an afternoon. I was so afraid, thinking how could my words be adequate? And yet, once it started, all my fear washed away and I just did it. I actually used the word "exaucer" (to grant/fulfill)- hahaha, not exactly a word I use in general conversation. Thank goodness I read from the Holy Writings in French everyday - I think some of it is actually entering this brain of mine. And then! the House members went around and met every single one of the pilgrims - every single one! I can see why, too - it just fills your heart with joy to be with the pilgrims. It is so refreshing, and it definitely helps me to remember why I am here. I'm so glad this is part of my job. It is such a joy, even if it is draining. It's like a really good workout - you're exhausted afterward, but you feel really good at the same time - healthy and rejuvenated.

I'm also glad that I did it because I was so afraid to do it. Now it's one less fear, which is always liberating.

Worth Reading

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My brother Nathan just posted a beautiful article entitled "A short essay on dissent - and also I'm moving". I highly recommend it for anyone committed to making this world a better place. When I started reading it I thought - yeah, this is what we've been doing! - with which he later concurred.

Nathan and I don't always agree on issues. It is perfectly possible that we are each becoming a bit less radical and polarized; that we as we learn more about the world we recognize the validity within the other's position, and that without a vision of unity nothing will work or change. Whether we agree on the details, if we're willing to not have complete control over everything within our reach, doesn't matter. In fact, we've had some real doozies of an argument. However, on this I agree with him. Wholeheartedly. I don't see why someone would not, unless they were invested in the current political situation in the U.S. (ugh).

Check out his article - his name above will take you to it.

Learning to Pray

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Ive started saying my prayers in the Shrines differently, and its really exciting for me. In my mind, when Im praying for someone I picture them. So, Id picture my parents, then move on to Nae in his apartment the locale helped me. But I found I was still getting distracted. Id start thinking about the person, or just wander off. So, one day I thought I have to make you sit still so I did, in fact I made them sit down and pray with me in my mind. Now I do it with everyone and I go through all of the Dornbrooks and all of the Fojases, as well as some friends. Ill have a whole family sit down with me and pray. It makes me pay attention to how Im reciting the prayer in my head, too no more just rote reciting of the prayer. I say it like I would if I was saying it out loud. In fact, for families w/ small children Ive even started singing the prayers to them (again, silently). And its interesting sometimes people do things in my mind that I dont expect them to do. Yesterday, I was saying a prayer for Rachael and because I had her sit down in her living room, Eric sat down, too, with her. And afterward, they both hugged me - just spontaneously. I didn't think, oh that was nice, I'll hug them. Its allowing me to be more respectful of all of the people for whom I am praying seeing their nobility. By the way, I hope no one minds that I pray for you. I'm not praying, like, oh I gotta' save that sinner... prayers are for your assistance, in whatever way they can help you in your life, your struggles and your joys.

Shrine of the Bab

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Seat of the Universal House of Justice

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Deep Insight Label category.

Babyhood is the previous category.

Funness is the next category.

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