Friday, December 26, 2008

Things are better

Yes, the part about me having a terminal illness in my last blog was a joke. I am totally healthy. As my friend, Gerry, put it the only illness that I have is a severe case of silliness and that is not terminal. Things are better and I'm managing all the things I need to take care of. I was just having a bad day the last time I wrote. My next blog will be more interesting.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One of those days

I’m having one of those days. I know you don’t know what I’m talking about, but I have a feeling you’ll get an idea in a minute. I feel so so so frustrated today.

My family left a couple of days ago and I have been feeling sad and very lonely.

My house is falling apart. There is a leak in my roof that I had fixed over a year ago, but it’s leaking again. There is another leak that I recently discovered right above the front door by the gutter. My microwave is broken. My kitchen sink has been leaking for a long time and is getting worse. My water purification system is not working. When I was trying to do something myself at home a couple of days ago, I accidentally, hit the wall and now I have a big hole and a crack in my family room. On top of all this, my computer that I bought in Aug has been having problems and it needs to be replaced or repaired only after 4 months. The digital camera that I inherited from Jason stopped working a couple of weeks ago when I wanted to take pictures of my family. And, yesterday, I found out that the deed to my house still has Jason’s name on it although I bought his portion of the house from him as part of our divorce settlement. He is in Poland at the moment and the form that he needs to fill out in order to correct the deed has to have a US notary, which is impossible to get in Poland. So if I die from the terminal illness that I was diagnosed with today (joking) Jason will get the house! Oh well, if I die soon enough maybe I won’t have to pay for all this repair and won’t be ripped off like I was the last time I had something fixed in my house. More money for my funeral expenses!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mateen and Niki

My niece Ziba and her two children have been here in Colorado for almost three weeks. Ziba and I are best friends and she is the closest person to me in my family. She has two sweet children that I love. Her son, Mateen, is eight and her daughter, Niki, is five. I have watched these two children grow and evolve since they were born.

Almost three weeks ago, Sunday night, they arrived at 9:30. The doorbell rang and I, excitedly, opened the door. As soon as I opened the door, I saw two bright eyed smiling faces looking at me expectantly. I hugged them both and showered them with kisses and kind words in a mixture of Persian and English.

Our family gatherings are very interesting. My mother and my sister who comes to visit from Iran from time to time speak very little English and the young kids in the family hardly speak any Persian. So there is a communication problem between the oldest generation and the youngest generation. Those of us who are fluent in both languages take on the responsibility of translating when necessary. So we have lively meals around the dinning room table, since that is when all of us gather together. The two people who complain the most about not understanding everything are my mom with the least amount of English and Niki with the least amount of Persian, the oldest and the youngest. They both get frustrated if they don’t understand what is going on for more than a few minutes. Having had two American ex-husbands, when we have Americans or non-Persians in our group, I’m always very careful to translate everything back and forth so no one is left out of the conversation. When we are not gathered around the dinning room table, we have little groups of Persian or English conversation going on in different parts of the house.

After Mateen and Niki arrived that Sunday night, for the next two hours, they followed me everywhere I went, talking to me at the same time competing for my attention telling me all about their trip and their life in Kuwait where they have been living since last June. Niki is just adorable. She talks in her little high-pitched voice and says a lot of funny and cute things. Mateen is very smart and really well read for his age. One of his favorite activities is to read. He talks to me like a grown up and I’m always amazed at how much he knows. They both speak a little Persian, which is American accented and really cute. I talk to them, mostly, in English with little interjections of Persian words. I really like them to be able to speak and understand a little bit of Persian. They call me “khaleh Soheila”. Khaleh means aunt in Persian and it is a word that they pronounce with a cute American accent. Being half Persian, half Mexican and having been raised here in the US and recently in Kuwait, they are very aware of all four cultures and quick to identify different characteristics of each culture.

Mateen is very sweet and gentle. He reads, makes really complicated structures with Legos and makes these really intricate and detailed drawings. He loves for me to sit next to him and listen to him read aloud. Before he went to school, I used to read to him. When he came to see me when he was in first grade, he brought a book to me and said “khaleh Soheila, I have a book that we can read together.” Now that he is in third grade and reads well he always says, “khaleh Soheila, I want you to sit next to me and let me read to you.” Last Sat. morning, he and Niki came to my bedroom as they always do when I’m at home. Mateen sat on my bed next to me. I read a magazine while he read his book and Niki sat on the floor painting and drawing. Niki likes to paint and do crafts as she cannot read yet. She and I have spent a lot of time making posters together. Niki, also, has this amazing fascination with my bedroom where I have all of my clothes, perfume, accessories, makeup, finger nail polish and sweet smelling skin lotion. She loves all of that. I have given her her own finger nail polish, perfume and a little collection of different color eye shadow and blush. Of course, she puts on the eye shadow and the blush just for play. She says that my bedroom is her favorite part of the house. She spends a good bit of time there beautifying herself to the extent that her mother allows her. A couple of days ago she told me when I grow up, I want to be just like you. I asked her why and she said because I want to put on finger nail polish, lipstick, perfume, makeup and have pretty clothes like you. I’m not entirely sure if I’m a good role model for her, but I was happy to hear what she said. She, excitedly, watches me get dressed and put on make up and gives me advice on what colors to use and how to accessorize.

Our visit has been so much fun. When I come home from work Mateen and Niki run to me and throw themselves in my arms. When I’m at home they follow me all over the house wanting to be near me. They curl up next to me while we watch movies together. They come to my bedroom in the mornings and get in bed with me. They always have so much to talk about especially Niki. When I go to work I miss them and can’t wait to get home to see them again. When I leave the house they always want to know how soon I’m coming back. When they come home, they look all over the house to find me and make their presence known to me. It feels so good to love them and be loved by them. Their pure and untainted love, which is manifested so perfectly and unhesitatingly is a balm for my wounded heart.

In two days they will leave and I won’t see them until the next summer and I wonder if the next time I see them I’ll still be their “most favorite person in the world”.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Bicycle Accident

In my teenage years one of the few things that I loved doing was riding my bicycle. During the summer, fall and spring I took advantage of every opportunity to ride my bike. During the week, I would go riding right after school and on weekends sometime in the morning. I would usually rid for about one to two hours.

In Iran, weekend is only one day and that day is Friday. Friday is the day that people don't work and schools are closed. So, normally, people work six days a week and kids go to school six days a week. The normal work day for most people is six hours instead of eight.

When I was 15 years old, one Friday morning in early October, I decided to go for a bike ride. On that day we had about ten people coming to our house for lunch, close friends and family that my parents spent a lot of time with. Lunch was supposed to be at 1:00 and I was supposed to be home at about 12:00 to help my mother. I left at about 10:30. My house was on a street that led to the mountains, so it was very busy on Fridays, since a lot of people would go to the mountains taking that road. I started riding my bike towards the mountains. My ride wasn't as much fun, because of the excessive traffic of that day. I had to be more careful than usual. I rode for about one hour.

On the way back, near my house, I had to cross the street. The road was a four-lane road, two-lanes going west and two-lanes going east. There was a lot of traffic and no stoplights. As I was riding, I kept looking back to see if I could find a gap in the four lane traffic to cross the street. But the traffic was very dense and cars were driving fast. After a while, I realized that the traffic wasn’t going to let up and I had to be quick and make my move. I looked behind me again and I saw a cab approaching, but I thought if I’m quick enough I can cross the street. I made my move as quickly as I, possibly, could and proceeded to cross the street. As I turned, I saw the cab getting really close to me, my heart dropped, it was too late to turn back or to stop. Less than a moment later, I was hit by the cab. I remember flying in the air; I saw the roof of the cab. I remember thinking how light I felt. My next thought was that I’m going to hit the ground and I may not be a whole person or even alive after that. Within a second I hit the ground. I felt this incredible pain on my left side, the side that got hit. But within a couple of seconds, I realized that I wasn’t seriously injured. I had a lot of pain, but could move my arms and legs. I was on the ground face down and could hear the crowd gathering around me. I could hear people describing what happened to each other and wondering if I was OK. I remember thinking “I wish I was dead.” I did not want to face the crowd around me. The accident was my fault and I felt humiliated. I did not want to face my parents especially my mom who only a week before after I had gotten home too late from my bike ride and had gotten her all worried, had told me “one more irresponsible act and I will take your bike away from you.” I didn’t even care about the pain. I remained on the ground move less not wanting to face the situation quite yet. At that point, my neighbor’s younger brother, who had a crush on me, came to me, called my name and asked me if I was Ok. He helped me get up and made sure that I could stand up on my own. At that moment, I saw the cab driver who had just jumped out of his car approach me with a horrified expression on his face. He looked like he was going to cry. I, immediately, told him I was OK and apologized for causing the accident. He asked if I wanted him to stay around and I assured him that there was no need. He got into his cab and drove away as soon as he, possibly, could. My neighbor’s brother picked up my bike, straightened the wheels and very gently helped me cross the street with my bike. He kept asking me if I was fine. More than anything, I felt humiliated and embarrassed. He walked me to the front door. I went in and thanked him for his help.

Once I was in the house, I was determined not to let anybody know what had just happened. I, quietly, went to my bedroom and just laid on the floor. I was unable to move. I was hurting so much and felt so exhausted. I was wondering how I was going to join my family and friends for lunch and how I could hide the fact that I had a hard time walking. After about thirty minutes, I gained a little bit of strength. I knew I had to get up and join the group. With difficulty, I went upstairs. My mother who was busy with food preparation saw me for a second and complained that I didn’t get back early enough to be of help to her. I made up an excuse and proceeded to set the table for lunch. We had lunch and after that I helped clean up and went on with the rest of my day trying to stay out of sight and rest while I could. No one found out about the accident. I remember the next day at school while sitting in the class and hurting, I wondered how soon I could ride my bike again.

Two days later, as soon as my family and I sat around the dinning room table for lunch, my dad said: “Soheila, one of the neighbors just approached me as I was walking into the house and asked how you were doing. I said: "she is fine, why?" and he said: “Oh, the accident! It was so terrible. She is lucky to be alive. You need to sacrifice a lamb in thanksgiving, since she survived the accident unharmed.”” Sacrificing a lamb is a Middle Eastern tradition done to express gratitude. The meat of the lamb is supposed to be distributed among the poor in response to a bounty received from God. My dad went on to talk more about what the neighbor had said. I cut him off and said: “it really wasn’t that big of a deal. The cab hardly hit me.” And very quickly, I changed the subject. I remember my dad looking at me with wonderment wanting to talk more about the accident and my mom looking at me curiously. But I was determined not to have that conversation and moved to a different topic discrediting my neighbor’s account of the accident. After a couple of minutes my parents moved on and I felt relived. I really just didn’t want to lose my bike. That was all that I was concerned with. The topic was never brought up again and I was, actually, surprised that my parents didn’t pursue the subject any further.

After that accident, I became a more careful cyclist. The memories of biking in my teenage years are some of the best memories of my life. One of the things that was hard for me to say goodbye to when I was leaving Iran was my bike. I actually caressed it and tearfully said goodbye to it on the day that I was leaving. It was my best friend. It gave me an outlet and provided a great escape for me from the things that I didn’t like in my life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A New Era

In the summer of my 12th birthday, when I was still living in Iran, I found the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in my father's library. I was curious by what I saw on the cover. I read the introduction and decided that was the next book I was going to read. I knew about the existence of slavery in America, but I didn't know anything about the brutality of it. I started to read the book not knowing what was waiting for me in the lines of the text. Very quickly, I found myself in the midst of a violent, inhumane and unimaginable cruelty. Soon, I was wiping my tears with every line that I read. At times, I had to put the book down and take a break. Finally, by the time I was half way through the book, I decided that I no longer could read this book. What I was reading was unbearable, and I no longer could take it. I put the book back in my father's library and never looked at it again. What I had already read had left a lasting impression on my psyche.

At the age of 19 when I was taking an English As Second Language class at University of Kansas, one day my instructor, a young white woman with red hair, brought to class a tape player and a cassette. She said to the students, "I would like you to listen to something. It is a very important speech given by a famous black American named Dr. Martin Luther King." That was the first time I heard his name. I had no idea who he was and what his speech was going to be about. What we were about to hear was Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. At the time, my English was good enough to understand the speech. I knew the meaning of most of the words in his speech if not all. The instructor started the tape and for the next 10 minutes, I listened to one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard. As I listened to the speech, I felt a surge of emotions stirring within me. Soon I had goose bumps on my skin and tears in my eyes. The words, the delivery, the urgency and even the desperation in the voice of Dr. King left a lasting impression on me. I have often remembered that day and the words of that speech have echoed in my mind from time to time.

Through the years of my life in the US, I’ve read a lot about American history, slavery, its abolition and the Civil Rights Movement. I often wondered how a group of people could survive such atrocities. Some of the stories from the depth of slavery speak of unimaginable cruelty. A lot of the footage that exists of the marches of the Civil Rights Movement era, to me, has always seemed like a group of lambs being watched at first and then attacked by a gang of wolves. I often wondered how scared and vulnerable the people participating in those marches must have felt.

I have wondered how a 15th century pope could sanction slavery in the name of Jesus Christ and how a large group of people could for the sake of greed engage in the practice of buying, selling and torturing other human beings. How could one lose his conscience so entirely. Unfortunately, this level of abasement is something that we have seen throughout the human history.

When the news of Obama’s running for presidency came to surface about a year and a half ago, I remember thinking this is impossible. We live in a country where we have institutionalized racism, namely KKK. It wasn’t that long ago that a black man was arrested by white cops for a relatively minor offence and was gang raped by them while in captivity. It wasn’t that long ago that a black man in Texas was dragged by a car for several miles and died as the result. The list goes on…I thought, America will never elect a black president, not in my lifetime. I did not believe the possibility existed until a couple of days before the election when the polls showed Obama leading. And I remembered the words of Dr. King “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These words echoed in my mind over and over during the days leading to the election. When on the evening of Nov. 4th, I heard the words, “Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.”, I remembered Dr. King’s words again. I thought, his dream is no longer a dream. Forty-five years after the day he delivered his passionate speech, forty years after he was assassinated, his dream is being realized. I wished he could have been alive to see this day with his own eyes. He would have been seventy-nine years old.

Election of Obama to presidency is a shinning moment in American history. It is a monumental step in eradication of racism, which has been “America’s Most Challenging Issue”. Its culmination is the result of untiring efforts of people like Rosa Park, Dr. King and all the people who continued to struggle for justice even when it seemed futile. It is the result of the efforts of those who did not allow us forget our humanity and inspired us to be better. It is also the result of the efforts of people who listened to the voice of God within themselves and could not ignore the atrocities inflicted on their brethren. It is the result of our common humanity. It is the result of what is good and pure within our hearts. For me, it has confirmed the belief that human beings are inherently noble and the human spirit will prevail the evil that may exist around it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My first blog

For the last couple of years, I have been wanting to create a blog for myself. I often send emails to friends and family about the things that are on my mind or the things that happen to me or others. I thought having a blog was a good way of communicating and getting feedback. We'll see how it goes. I don't know how often I'm going to write. I don't really have a specific topic to talk about, so it will just be whatever I want to write about at a particular time.

At this point in my life, I feel I'm at the threshold of a new beginning. My life hasn't gone the way that I had expected it to go. Husband, children and the white picket fence didn't happen for me. These were the things that I wanted so desperately. Instead, I am learning to let go of the things I wanted. This process has been difficult and at times painful, but I have come to find strength and contentment in my life and perhaps those are the things I should have always wanted. I have learned to change the definition of happiness for myself and look outside the box. My life's journey has been difficult, but it has been filled with insights and discoveries and for those I am grateful.