Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just Another Guy

Last June, I met a guy named Tim at a party. He was tall, attractive and a couple of years younger than me. We talked a bit. He was pleasant and had a good sense of humor. He was a manager at a financial institution. When I was leaving the party, he came to me and asked for my number. He called me the next day and we decided to meet at a bar/restaurant in downtown after work one day.

I met Tim at 6:00 o’clock at the designated place. We sat at the bar. I had a glass of cranberry juice. The conversation was OK. I didn’t feel huge sparks, but he was nice and interesting enough. At 7:30 when I was really hungry, I decided that our initial meeting had been long enough, since we had decided to just meet for drinks. When I wanted to say goodbye, he asked me to go for a walk with him in downtown.

We walked for about 15 minutes and, then he asked me to go to some place else with him. We ended up at a restaurant, again, sitting at the bar. At that point, I was really hungry, since all I had had for lunch was a salad. The waiter brought two menus, one for drinks and one for food. Tim, quickly, put the menu for drinks in front of me. Since I don’t drink, something he knew, and didn’t want to order another cranberry juice, I just ordered a glass of water. After about 10 minutes, Tim said do you want to split an appetizer. After I said yes, he ordered an appetizer. We shared the appetizer, which wasn’t that much and I was still hungry. Of course, I could have ordered something for myself and have paid for it myself, but I wanted to know how cheap this guy was. Also, during our conversation, he told me how he kept all his receipts from his non-business outings and submitted them as work expenses, a practice that I consider stealing and can never be a part of. At 9:00 o’clock, he dropped me off at my car. We said goodbye and, with reservation, I agreed to see him again.

A few days later, we met for lunch at Chilis, and I got to order a meal all by myself. It was a pleasant date. Afterwards, he showed me his antique car that he had driven that day.

Tim called me a couple of days later and wanted to know if I wanted to get together with him Thursday night. I asked what time and where. He said “How about if we go for a walk in the park after work?” I said, “So, are we having dinner together?” He paused for a second and then said, “Sure, I can bring us a couple of Subway sandwiches.” I was taken aback a little. The last time that my date treated me to a Subway sandwich, I was in college. I was thinking that we would probably have dinner at a restaurant and then go for a walk. I said “OK”. Then, he said “Do you want to get us a couple of drinks?” At that point, I was shocked. I thought, you are going to Subway, you can get us a couple of drinks while you are there. Then, I thought he is really cheap. Usually, after I have dated someone a few times, I cook for them and make sure that they are not spending money every time we are together. In the past, when I have gone out with guys who weren’t in great financial situation, I have insisted on paying for myself. But this guy wasn’t poor, and we had only had two cheap dates. I, finally, said “I guess, I can stop at a grocery store on my way to the park and buy a couple of drinks.” I didn't really know what else to say at that point and didn't want to say something without sorting my thoughts. All I knew was that I was totally turned off by him.

The next day I had lunch with Charles, my friend, dating consultant and subject matter expert in the field of “Men”. I told him all about Tim. He said, “Now, you know he is a cheap guy. He is never going to change. You have to decide whether you want to date him or not.”

On Thursday, we had a lot of rain and Tim and I decided to cancel our date, since it wouldn’t have been much fun to go for a walk in the park. I was, actually, relieved. I was thinking about a way to get out of our date. I remember thinking, he is probably the sort of guy that keeps track of every penny he spends and will make sure that I’ll contribute equally. I just don’t like keeping score like that. Tim called me on Friday wanting to go out over the weekend. I told him I was busy all weekend. He said he would call me on Sunday. He called and left a couple of messages on my phone Sunday. Then he started texting me Sunday night wondering when we would get together. I sent him a text Sunday night and told him, I would call him the next day.

Monday night, I decided to make the dreaded phone call. Fortunately, I got Tim’s voice mail. I left a long message saying that he asking me to get the drinks rubbed me the wrong way, since he was already going to Subway. I said I thought he was a little cheap and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I mumbled and said, “At this stage of my life, having a third date where we eat Subway sandwiches, and I bring the drinks is not appealing to me.” I didn’t talk about the underlying feelings that I had. I said Goodbye, wished him luck and hung up. My niece, Ziba, was laughing uncontrollably as I was leaving the message. She said, “You should have just blown him off.” But I had to be clear. I make deliberate decisions, and I wanted him to know why. That’s just me.

Twenty minutes later, I got a text from Tim. It said, “Good luck 2U2. You’re gonna need it.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Rags to Riches

I was reading an article today about the super rich people who went from rags to riches. All these people were CEOs of major companies with amazing life stories. All came from very modest beginnings and some were even brought up in the projects. One cannot help admire their genius, strength of character, focus and ambition. But of course, not all had the other characteristics that would make them great human beings, such as honesty, compassion and charity. A couple of them were CEOs of financial institutions that went rogue during their reign.

One of the people who stood out for me was Larry Ellison co-founder and CEO of Oracle, the giant software company, which is the world's leading supplier of software for information management. Larry Ellison is the fourth richest man in the world. He was a college dropout and yet he was able to achieve so much. There were a few things in the article about him that made me gasp and laugh. One example was, ‘Ellison is known for quoting Genghis Khan who said, "It’s not sufficient I succeed. Everyone else must fail."’ The article talks about his accomplishments as well as some of his character flaws.

Below is the link to the article:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye"

The song “Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye” by Leonard Cohen touched my heart. I hate saying goodbye when a relationship is over, even when it seems like the right thing to do. And goodbye doesn’t always mean that there is no love. In this song, the words “Walk me to the corner Our steps will always rhyme” speak to me of a constancy, a connection that will never go away despite all else that may change in two people’s lives. Walking to the corner signifies the very end of a relationship when the moment of saying goodbye is approaching. And the words “You know my love goes with you As your love stays with me” speak of the transcendency of true love and at the same time of inevitable separation.


Part of the Lyrics

...Yes, many loved before us
I know that we are not new,
In city and in forest
They smiled like me and you,
But now it's come to distances
And both of us must try,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.

I'm not looking for another
As I wander in my time,
Walk me to the corner
Our steps will always rhyme,
You know my love goes with you
As your love stays with me,
It's just the way it changes
Like the shoreline and the sea,
But let's not talk of love or chains
And things we can't untie,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye…

The Mouse

The poor little mouse was trapped in the mousetrap that I put in my basement. It made me sad to do it. It was sad to look at his lifeless body. I didn't know what else to do. I thought of capturing him and taking him to a park and releasing him there. But someone told me that was a bad idea, since he would just freeze to death at night.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Intruders

Last night as I was going down the stairs of my basement, I saw a little mouse on the landing. As soon as I saw the mouse, I screamed and ran upstairs and closed the basement door. The poor little mouse ran down the stairs to the basement. Once upstairs, I started to wonder how I was going to handle this situation. This was the second time in my life that I had encountered a mouse. The first time I was living in an apartment, so I didn’t have to do anything myself in order to get rid of it. But this time, it was my problem.

After I settled down from the shock of seeing a mouse in my house, I decided on a plan of action. I thought tomorrow after work, I’ll go to the hardware store and buy two mousetraps just in case there is more than one mouse living in my basement. Hopefully, someone at the hardware store can show me how to use a mousetrap, since I have never used one. I though I’ll buy some cheese and take it to the hardware store to make sure everything is setup correctly. Last night, as I was laying in bed I wondered about what I would have to do with a dead mouse. How do people dispose of a dead mouse? Would I have to take the dead mouse out of the trap and bury it in the garden, very creepy. Do I simply put the mouse and the mousetrap in the trash? Do I need to tell the guy who picks up the trash that in addition to all the usual garbage there is a decomposing dead mouse in my trash? I have no idea what to do. Maybe I should just google it. One thing is for sure; I’ll have to really clean my basement after all this is over. I saw mouse droppings on the stairs.

There was another intruder in my life over the weekend that caused me quite a bit of stress. Friday night as I was using my computer all of the sudden the screen was filled with a bunch of messages and popups saying that my computer was infected with viruses. I wasn’t able to do anything. The popups kept asking me to buy their antivirus software, which I didn’t. I knew those messages were probably from the virus itself. I already have antivirus software on my laptop. I spent about two hours checking all the security settings on my computer and making sure that I had the latest version of my antivirus software and resurrecting my computer. My computer came back to life, but I could not get rid of the popups that kept appearing every two minutes.

Sunday, I called Jason. He googled the virus and found out how to get rid of it. I read all the instructions for getting rid of the virus, but since it required modifying my computer's registry something that could be risky and I only had done once before, I was hesitant to do it myself. I downloaded a free software that allows remote access to a computer. Once the software was downloaded Jason, who lives in Texas, remotely accessed my computer and for the next hour and a half worked on removing all traces of the virus from my computer. That was the best part of my weekend, having my computer back. Thanks Jason. One intruder gone one left to go.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mom's Prediction

My mother announced a week ago, at the dinner table that this will be the year that she will die. She announced it very casually, as though she were announcing her upcoming vacation. I smiled and thought "just another one of her predictions".

My mother’s predictions of her own death have been going on for about twenty years. But this one is a little different. A palm reader several years ago told her that she will die in her 80th year of life. I had heard her mention it many times, but of course never believed that it would actually happen. But she really is expecting it.

She had a major heart attack when she was in her fifties and a couple of minor ones in the years that followed. She has had a lot of health problems throughout the years, so it is not entirely irrational that she would be obsessed with dying. But all her illnesses have been managed and it has been about eight years since she has had any problems with her heart. She is on so many medications for her circulation, such as blood pressure, blood thinning, and cholesterol medication, that it is practically impossible for her to have a heart attack.

It all started after my dad died. All of a sudden, she felt old. When she was in her sixties, before she moved to Colorado, she would come and stay with me for a few months every year. When it was time for her to go back to the East Coast where she used to live, she would say goodbye to friends by saying, “See you next year if I’m alive.” With a worried look, our friends would ask, “Is she OK? Is she terminally ill?” Because of her constant preoccupation with death, I always worried that she might die any day. I would sometimes go and check on her in the middle of the night to make sure she was breathing. So, for the last twenty years she has lived as though death is just around the corner. Her commonly used phrase for all these years has been, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years.” She has used this phrase to make me feel guilty about not doing exactly what she wants and not getting her way. With me, guilt is a very strong motivation factor. If I wasn’t in a position to do something she wanted, I would do anything to figure out how to get it done, so that if she suddenly died I would not feel bad. It took me about fifteen years to realize that she has been using the same phrase throughout all these years to manipulate me and I always fall for it. When I would say “Mom you need to get a new coat,” she would say, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years. My old coat will do.” When I would say “Mom you need a new couch, this one is falling apart,” she would say, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years, this one will last until then.” She has been complaining about her dentures for the last five years. She has been saying that they are too loose and don’t fit anymore. When I say, “Let’s get new dentures,” she always says, “Dentures are too expensive, insurance doesn’t cover them and, I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years, so why waste money.” After all these years, I still haven’t convinced her to buy a new couch, lamp, coffee table or dentures. She won’t let me buy them for her either. She simply says, “Don’t waste your money on me. I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years.”

About three and a half years ago, one day when I was at her apartment, we had an argument about something. In the midst of the argument in order to make me feel bad, as usual, she said, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years and then you won’t have to deal with me at all.” All of the sudden, I heard myself say, “Mom, you have been saying that for the last seventeen or eighteen years, and it hasn’t happened yet.” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew I was in trouble. What I really wanted to say was, “Please stop saying that in order to manipulate me.” When my mom heard what I had just said, she got upset and said, “Oh, you want me to die, don’t you? You are waiting for me to die. Aren’t you?” I said, “No mom, I don’t want you to die. I just don’t want you to say that anymore. It makes me feel bad to hear it. I worry about you and feel bad when you talk about dying. That is what I meant to say.” For the next thirty minutes, I kept apologizing and explaining that she had misunderstood me and that I don’t want her to die. I love her and it’s just that I worry about her. But the damage was done. She would not believe me. I saw my sister, Sudi, later that day. When I told her what had happened, she burst into laughter and said, “Now, you have to stand in the corner for the next 30 days. It’s going to take her that long to forgive you”. And of course, she was right. My mom was mad at me for a long time after that and told everyone in the family what I had said.

I remember about six years ago, one Saturday morning, we were having breakfast. My sister Zhaleh had just moved to Australia. She was going to live there for about a year or two. As we were having our tea, my mom with a stressed look on her face said, “Oh, too bad Zhaleh won’t be here for my funeral.” I chuckled and said, “Why? Are you planning to die soon?” She said, “She is going to be gone for a year or two. For sure, I’ll be dead by the time she gets back.” Laughingly, I said, “Don’t worry mom. I’ll take care of everything.”

She has also written her will a number of times and has explained to me who should get what. She changes her mind so many times that she no longer updates her will. She just tells me and wants me to remember. The Persian rug in her apartment, for the longest time, was supposed to go to Zhaleh upon her death. Then about five years ago, she went to Iran and brought a Persian rug for Zhaleh, at which point the Persian rug was supposed to be given to Sudi when she died. Then tonight, when I was visiting her at her apartment, my mom again said, “I will die soon. The year 2010 is the year of my death.” As she was saying this she almost tripped and fell. I held her arm to help her maintain her balance and jokingly said, “It’s not 2010 yet, we still have a couple of months to go, so be careful.” She smiled. As she sat on the couch she said, “I want you to have the Persian rug.” I said, “But you had already said that Sudi could have it.” She said, “No, I’m giving Sudi my money. She needs that more.”

Throughout the years, she has also planned her funeral and memorial service in great detail. She has given me a list of people to invite. She wants to have a dinner, as that is the Persian custom, and if cooking for fifty people is too difficult for me, I should hire Holly, our friend, who is also a caterer. She has picked the menu too. She has also selected all of the readings for the memorial service. The last time we went to a memorial service was about six years ago. At the end of the service, she went to the lady who had just lost her father and said, “I really liked the last prayer that was read, could you please give a copy of it to Soheila for my memorial service.” The grieving lady burst into laughter.

So tonight again, my mom talked about dying. I kept telling her as I always do that she will be around for a long time and that she is not going to die soon. I told her that she is on all the proper medication and that she has no reason to think that she is going to die. But for the first time ever, I did not believe myself. She looks weak. She holds on to me when we walk. She trips and falls often. There is a frailty in her that I have not seen before. I looked at her when we were sitting on the couch, examined the wrinkles on her face. Looked at her old hands. Looked at her fragile body. And, all I could think was how much I wanted to hug her. For a second, I felt that her departure was near. Tears rolled down my face. I held her tight in my arms. I kissed her face and told her that I loved her. I will miss her so much when she is gone.

PS I just read half of what I have written here to my mom. She wanted to know what I was writing about. She stopped me in the middle and said, “What is this nonsense you are writing? People will make fun of me.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Me and the Rooster

The house where I was born and lived until the age of 17 will always have a special place in my heart. Although, I have not seen it in so many years yet in my mind’s eye, I can see every part and corner of it clearly. I have dreamed about it so many times throughout the years. Often in my dreams, I wonder how I came back to my home country. I just see that I’m back and living in that old house in Iran.

The house was a three story house that my parents had built. In its time, it was a nice big house. The first floor was at garden level, which basically was a large green house with lots of windows. My dad spent a lot of time there taking care of his plants and flowers. The next floor had three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom and a long hallway that led to the stairs to the 3rd floor. This floor was rented most of the time. The 3rd floor was where we lived. It had 5 rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.

The most beautiful part of the house to me was the landing between the 2nd and the 3rd floor. Its area was about 6 feet by 4 feet. The walls on three sides of it were about 3 feet high, and then there was glass all the way to the ceiling. I remember standing on that landing looking at the backyard, neighbors’ homes, alleyways and best of all amazing sunsets. I remember, my mom at times would open one of the window panes and call one of her friends who was one of our neighbors. And I remember her friend responding, although I could never see her. She would always appear at our front door shortly after that exchange. I was always fascinated by this method of communication, the simplicity and the intimacy of it.

There was another part of the house that I loved. It was the long balcony off of our living room facing the front yard, which was full of trees that my dad had planted, along with flower gardens, the grape vine and the big apple tree with its branches reaching the 3rd floor windows. We spent a lot of time on that balcony during the summer. The balcony was about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide covered with Persian rugs. We ate breakfast there a lot of the summer mornings and, in the late afternoon, we would all gather on the balcony and have tea and fruit. A lot of the summer nights, we slept on that balcony. The air was cool and fresh. Early in the mornings it would get cold and we would all pull the blankets over our heads. Later in the morning, it would get really warm and the sun light would be on our faces. Those summer nights on that balcony are some of the best memories of my childhood. I would lay there at night looking at the stars and imagine all sorts of things and dream of a beautiful future.

Unlike most Persian houses, we also had a large backyard full of tall trees. In Iran it is the front yard that is big and is used for playing and family activities. All the homes have walls around them, so the front yards are very private. The backyard was where my dad raised chickens, one of his hobbies. We lived in a city, and most people didn’t raise chickens in their houses. But we always had chickens and fresh eggs. In spring when the chickens would hatch, there would be these tiny, yellow chicks coming out of the eggs. They looked so precious and loveable. I would hold them in the palms of my hands and caress them and grieve the fate that was waiting them, ending up on our dinner table someday. The backyard belonged to the chickens. It was entirely their domain.

When I was very young, I used to like to go to the backyard with my dad when he was feeding the chickens. When I was about three or four years old, my dad bought a fighting rooster, which would walk about in the backyard as though he was the king. He was a beautiful creature. The colors of his feathers were variations of deep red. I remember, every time I would go to feed the chickens with my dad, my dad would tell me “Stay close to me and don’t get close to the rooster”. I, also, remember him saying don’t ever go to the backyard by yourself. The entrance to the backyard was usually locked.

My niece, Mahta, who is my age, would often come to our house, and we would play together. One summer day, when Mahta was visiting, we walked by the door to the backyard, and I noticed that it was open. I asked Mahta if she wanted to go and see the chickens. Mahta said that she was afraid of the rooster, and she didn’t want to go. I told her that I feed the chickens with my dad every day and the rooster has never hurt me, but she still didn’t want to go. To further prove my point, I proceeded to go down the stairs from the second floor to the back yard. All the chickens were moving about, and the rooster was about 5 feet away from the last step to the backyard. I looked at the rooster happily as I was going down the stairs thinking that I was visiting an old friend. I got to the bottom of the stairs and started to walk about. I had only taken one step when the wild rooster took a leap into the air and jumped on me and pushed me to the ground. Fortunately, I landed on my tummy and my face was on the ground. The rooster jumped on my back and started to poke at my head, neck, back and arms. I was shouting and crying and didn’t know how to save myself. I remember thinking that the rooster was going to kill me. Mahta saw what was happening. She ran to get my dad who came to the backyard and rescued me from the rooster. My hands, neck and head were bloody and hurting.

Afterwards, I remember my parents telling me never go to the backyard again. Of course, I wasn’t ever going to go there. There was a monster living there. From then on, I lived in fear of the rooster in the backyard and never went to feed the chickens with my dad. Shortly after that incident, I heard my parents talking to each other saying that I was lucky my face was on the ground when the rooster attacked me. The rooster could have poked my eyes out. I remember them talking about killing the rooster. They thought he was too dangerous to have around. After that, I knew it was going to be a short time before the rooster was going to be put to death.

A few days later, one sunny morning, my dad announced that he was about to kill the rooster in the front yard by the apple tree. I was curious to see how he was going to do it. I went walking in the front yard. Soon I saw my dad coming to the front yard carrying the rooster in his arms. The rooster was struggling to get away and was making a lot of noise. He took the rooster to the apple tree and proceeded to cut his throat. I was standing far away and couldn’t see how he was doing it. I could only hear a lot of noise coming from the rooster. A few minutes later the noise stopped and the lifeless body of the rooster was lying by the apple tree. Blood was flowing out of his neck. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. I was relieved that the rooster could never hurt me again, and I could freely go to every part of the house. At the same time, I felt sad that the rooster had to die because of me. Looking at his lifeless body by the tree made me want to cry. Needless to say, my dad never bought another fighting rooster again. Two days later, the rooster made its final appearance on our dinner table.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Marriage Proposal

I started working in downtown Denver about seven years ago and since I live in one of the southern suburbs of Denver, it meant that I would have a commute of about 50 minutes each way. I wasn’t used to that. My last job was only about 15 minutes from my house. The drive to downtown is always very hectic and traffic is usually pretty bad. Also, parking in downtown is sometimes hard to find and expensive. So for the first two years, I took the bus to get to work. There was a Park and Ride about 8 minutes from my house.

Not being a morning person every morning I would get out of bed with a strong sense of doom. This was, also, during the time that I was going through my divorce, so life was hell. I would jump in the shower, always, later than I should, get out, get dressed, grab a couple of pieces of fruit, my lunch and run out the door knowing that if didn’t run the stop sign by my house and didn’t drive like a maniac, I would miss the bus. So I would drive 50 in a 35 mile per hour zone, switch lanes quickly, and finally would stop behind the red light on the street that would turn into the Park and Ride. This was a major road and the Park and Ride was on a minor road, so the red light was very long maybe 3 minutes and the green arrow for turning to the park and ride lasted maybe two seconds. So 9 out of 10 times I would be stuck behind the light and miss my bus. Soon, I learned that instead of waiting behind that red turn light for three minutes, I could drive straight through and get to the next place where the bus would stop. It was another five minutes of driving. So I started to drive to the second bus stop to catch my bus. Since I always left the house late, at times I would miss the bus at the second bus stop too. In those situations, I would drive to the third stop and catch the bus from there. All this driving was done very fast with a lot of lane changing, trying to make sure that my bus didn’t beat me to the next stop. And I was always looking out for cops. There were times that I would miss the bus at the third stop too. On those days, I would drive very close to downtown, park my car in a residential area and then take the bus number “0". This way I wouldn’t have to pay for parking in the downtown area. I know this all sounds crazy, but a day in the life of Soheila can be pretty nutty.

There are two buses that go through downtown Denver. One is bus number “0” that goes north and south and the other is the bus that goes east and west on Colfax Street. Each bus has its own type of people. They can be kind of scary at times. The Colfax bus, I have never been on, but I have heard that a lot of prostitutes and transvestites take that bus. Apparently, there is a lot of prostitution on east Colfax Street. The people who take bus number “0” are a diverse bunch. There are a lot of homeless people who haven’t bathe in ages who take this bus. It gets them to the homeless shelters north of downtown. And, also, there are a lot of people with mental illness who frequent this bus. I have seen a lot of people who are totally delusional and talk to themselves or insist on talking to others. And a couple of times I saw men who wore women's clothes get on the bus all made up with high heels, finger nail polish, fake nails and all. So it can be entertaining at times. This bus would take me to the vicinity of my building right in downtown.

On one of the days that I took the number “0” bus, a man in his late thirties got on the bus. He was of medium height and build with blonde hair and blue eyes. He sat directly across from me. I noticed that the guy kept looking at me. I tried not to make eye contact with him. After a few minutes of him staring at me, I started to feel kind of uncomfortable. While trying to avoid his eyes, I, accidentally, made eye contact with him. Right at that moment, in a very loud voice and a serious expression on his face, he said, “Will you marry me?” Everyone on the bus looked at him and me, waiting to see how I would react. I looked at him and said, “I can’t. I’m already married.” Technically that was true. I was separated. I thought there was innocence and simplicity in his question. He had a thought and he, freely, expressed it like a child without wondering about the place, people and the fact that I did not know him. It was a clear expression of desire by someone who was not socially apt or had some mental issues. After my response, I looked away and tried to ignore him, but he wanted to talk to me. I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. I didn’t want to talk to him and give him the impression that I may be interested in him in any way, but he kept on talking. I tried not to engage in a conversation with him without being rude. I shook my head in agreement a couple of times as he talked. He said that he had just been released from prison. That alarmed me. He continued to say that after his release from prison, he found out that his wife had left him for another man. Then he said, “I found her and I took care of her.” I was scared at that point. I was dying to know what he meant by that, but didn’t want to ask. He kept repeating the sentence “I took care of her.” I was thinking I hope he won’t get off the bus where I’m going to get off. Soon, I got to my stop. I, quickly, jumped out of the bus and walked very fast toward my building. After a minute, I looked back to see if he had followed me, but I didn’t see him. I was relieved.

About six months later, one morning in downtown when I was standing behind a red light waiting to cross a street, I saw him on the other side of the street, also, waiting to cross. I recognized him immediately. The light turned green. We both proceeded to cross the street from opposite directions. In the middle of the street, as we were passing each other, he looked at me and said, “Hi gorgeous”. We both continued to walk. That was the last time I saw him.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Best Hike Ever (Mount Audubon)

The picture above was taken on June 28th on top of Mount Audubon in northern Colorado. It was an amazing hike. The weather was warm. There were lots of wild flowers on the mountain. There were patches of slushy snow that were melting and forming narrow streams. I loved the sound of the streams. I walked along the streams that were running gently down the mountain. At times, I closed my eyes and just stood in a shallow stream and listened to its soothing, gentle sound that took me back to my childhood. The last time I had walked along a stream was on the foothills of my hometown when I was about 12 years old. It was a beautiful and sunny summer morning. The hills were lush, the trees were green and the stream was cool and refreshing. If I could be anything in nature that’s what I would want to be, a stream. A gentle stream that beautifully sings as it runs down a hill nurturing all that crosses its path.
Mount Audubon
Distance: 4 miles one way
Elevation: 10,480 to 13,223 feet
Highlights: Dramatic views of peaks and plains, alpine wildflowers
Difficulty: Strenuous
"This prominent mountain, which can be seen from many points in Boulder County, looks like a dish of ice cream with one spoonful taken from the side. Because it is one of the many Indian Peaks, the views from the summit are especially dramatic. Imagine looking down on Mount Toll! Two-thirds of the trail lies above timberline so the views and the alpine wildflowers en route are also magnificent."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My relationship with a chocolate chip cookie

As I walked into the building this morning the security guard who sits in the lobby, and makes sure that no one without a badge gets into the building offered me a chocolate chip cookie. He is a nice and friendly guy, so I make sure that his friendliness is returned. I really didn’t want a cookie at 9:00 AM, but I took one to be polite. As I was riding the elevator, I thought once I get upstairs I’ll just throw the cookie in the trashcan. I don’t need any sweets today. But once I got to my desk, I just put the cookie on a tissue on my desk. In the back of my head I was thinking I’ll keep it for a rainy day. Maybe later on I will be craving something sweet like I sometimes do in the afternoons. At the same time, I was thinking I had a piece of cake last night, and I’ll probably have my mocha today at about 10:00, since that seems to be something that I cannot give up. I have become addicted to these amazing mochas that I buy from this little family owned coffee shop a block and a half from my work. It seems like I can’t really go through the day without one. I always get a small, non-fat, light whip mocha. At least, I try to keep it healthy. That is the only sweet thing I usually have during the day. Of course, sometimes I give in to a cookie or a piece of chocolate. Today may be one of those days, since there is a chocolate chip cookie sitting on my desk looking all pretty.

Later in the day at about 3:00 PM, I take a break from work by having a cup of tea. As I’m making my tea, I think should I have the cookie with my tea or not. I go over everything I have eaten during the day. For breakfast I had a little bowl of cherries with a handful of walnuts. Yes, my diet is unusual. I try to eat a lot of beans, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetable. And I try to eat very little meat, dairy or processed foods. This diet works the best for my body type. I count my calories too. For my size 1300 to 1500 calories a day is sufficient. I, also, workout three to four times a week. What screws up my diet are sweets. My daily mochas shouldn’t be a part of my diet, but I justify having them. They make me happy! They really do. For the fifteen minutes that it takes me to drink one, life is perfect. It is the happiest fifteen minutes of my day. Can I have fifteen perfect minutes a day even if the mocha has chocolate which is sweet, milk that has added hormones, coffee that has caffeine and whip cream that is full of saturated fat. The answer most days is a resounding “yes”. I tell myself, it’s only 10 ounces of milk, it’s only one shot of coffee, it’s only a little bit of whip cream and just a bit of chocolate. I have actually looked at the label on the container of the chocolate syrup they use at the coffee shop. It has no fat and only a few calories. So, cherries and nuts for breakfast, a mocha at 10:00, which is about 300 calories. For lunch I had what I usually have a salad made of beans and vegetables with just a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice dressing, very healthy and low fat. For dinner I’m going to make sure I’ll eat low fat and healthy especially if I’m going to have the cookie. I’ll probably have something like Salmon with corn.

My tea is ready. The question remains. Should I have the big fat chocolate chip cookie with my tea or not? I sit at my desk and look at the cookie the same way that a cat looks at a gold fish in a fish bowl. I count the chocolate chips, exactly thirteen. The cookie looks moist and soft. I tell myself maybe I’ll eat half of it. I have a sip of tea and bite into the cookie. It is so good! I love it! I have another bite. Before I know it, I have eaten half of the cookie with a few sips of my tea. I am totally enjoying this. I tell myself just eat the whole thing, reminding myself that I’m going to do a workout tonight. I eat the whole cookie as I drink my tea.

About 10 seconds after I swallow the last bite of my cookie with my last sip of tea, I think to myself, I am feeling so fat. I always associate feeling full with getting fat. I usually try to stop eating before I feel really full, but that is hard for me to do with desserts. I look at my belly and wonder did it get bigger in the last 10 seconds? Then I think, It’s impossible for it to get bigger in that short of a time. I start to have feelings of regret about eating the cookie. I should have, at least, had just half of it. I probably put, at least, 300 extra calories in my body. I wasn’t even hungry, so the fat is not even going to be used at all. It is just going to be stored in my body probably on my belly. I think I should just get up and go for a 10 minute walk around the block so a little bit of it is burned. Then, I think, you’re so weak. You can’t even resist a cookie. What is wrong with you? Why can’t you not eat something that your body doesn’t need. For an instant, I think maybe I should go to the bathroom and make myself throw up. Then I think, that’s going overboard. I’m not bulimic, just go for a 10 minute walk and make sure you workout tonight and no more junk food for today. I do have a love hate relationship with sweets just like my relationships with men!

As I’m getting up to go for a 10 minute walk, I smell popcorn. Someone in the office has just made some microwave popcorn. It smells so good! I wish I could have some! Here we go again… Just kidding!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My experience with speed dating

Last year a friend of mine told me about speed dating. He had tried it and had dated a woman for a little while as the result. If you are not familiar with the concept of speed dating let me tell you about it. The way that it works is that you attend an event where you get to meet, for example, ten people of the opposite sex and have eight minutes to speak to each one. At the event, you are given paper and pencil to write down the names of the people that you like. Each person, of course, has a nametag. At the end of the event, you can go to the speed dating website and select the people that you want to be in contact with. If they, also, choose you then you have a match and you start communicating. Once the event starts, the organizers ring a bell at the end of each eight minutes, at which point, the participants move to the next table to meet the next person.

About four months ago, with reservation, I signed up for one of these events. I charged $35.00 to my credit card and registered for the upcoming event, which was in about three weeks. During the three weeks, I kept telling myself, I can back out at any time. I don’t have to go if I don’t want to. I’ll only lose the $35.00.

Finally, the day of the event arrived. That evening at about 6:00 o’clock, wearing a tight, low cut dress and high heals, I drove to the restaurant where the event was going to take place. As I was looking for the venue a part of me didn’t want to find it, but I did find it. I wasn't comfortable with the idea of meeting men this way. Anxiously, I entered the restaurant, followed the signs to the large room where the event was going to take place. I entered the room, and looked around. I checked out my competition. I had nothing to worry about. I looked at the men in the room. Except for two guys they were all at best average looking. I took a deep breath and relaxed. I was no longer anxious or intimidated. I approached the bar and bought myself a glass of cranberry juice and proceeded to sit on a couch by the wall.

A man in his mid-forties was sitting on a chair next to me. He introduced himself. His name was David. We started to talk. He was divorced and had an eighteen-year old daughter. He had some government job. I didn’t find him in any way attractive or interesting, but I continued to talk to him out of politeness. He was a pleasant guy. The event organizers announced that they had some appetizers at the other side of the room. David and I both got up and walked to the food table. Since the restaurant was a Japanese restaurant, they had a lot of great Sushi. So far that was the most exciting part of the evening, since I love Sushi. David was standing close to me and talking up a storm. At that point, I had been talking to him for about 15 minutes and I was ready to move on, so I put a few pieces of Sushi on my plate and walked back to the couch. David was still at the food table. As soon as I sat down a very good-looking young man in his late twenties sat next to me. He started talking to me. His name was Tim. He was a high school history teacher. As we were talking the event organizers announced that we were about to start the speed dating process. They said, “People under the age of thirty-five go to the next room and people over the age of thirty-five stay here”. Tim said to me, “Are you ready to go to the other room?” I said to him, “I’m over thirty five, so I have to stay here”. He surprisingly said, “Are you really?” I said, “Yes, couldn’t you tell?” He said, “No, I couldn’t”. He continued, “Can I write down your name? You may be the most interesting person I meet here tonight.” I said, “Sure”, but I knew I would not choose him. He was too young for me. I don’t like to date men more than five or six years younger than me. He wrote my name on his card. We said goodbye, and he walked to the next room.

I looked at the remaining men in the room. There was only one man who was attractive. He was tall and slender with great hair. He looked to be in his late thirties. Looking around, I knew that I would, probably, never want to date any of those men. I just didn't find any of them attractive in any way. The only guy I liked to meet was the good-looking guy. There were 10 men and 10 women in the room, but we were going to have eight dates. So I wouldn’t get to talk to two of the guys present. They rang the bell, and we looked at our cards to see which table we needed to go to. I went to the first table listed on my card. I met the first guy. He worked in carpet sales. We asked the usual questions, how long have you been divorced, how many children do you have, what do you do, what are your interests. The eight minutes were up. They rang the bell. We moved to the next table. I talked to another guy that I wasn’t interested in. He was a mechanic. The third date was with David. We talked a bit. He told me that he loved my hair, and then he said, “What kind of man are you looking for?” I said, “Someone kind, caring, giving….” He said, “I posses all those characteristics. You should pick me.” I laughed and said, “Oh, you’re so sweet.” I really didn’t know what to say. I knew I wasn’t interested in him. Our date was over, and I moved to the next table. The guy waiting for me was Chinese. We started to talk. He spoke perfect English. He had his own investment firm. He moved to the US to go to school when he was nineteen years old. He had a master’s degree from Yale. I asked him more questions about his job and his company. He was well traveled, cultured, and he was interested in me. I liked him, but I didn’t find him attractive at all. I thought if only he were better looking I would go out with him. Sitting there listening to him, I felt uneasy. If only I wasn’t so vain. I remembered my friend Charles telling me, “You are so picky.” I remembered my niece, Ziba, telling me, “you have so many hang ups and, don’t give a chance to the guys you should”. All of a sudden, I felt anxious. Why can’t I get over this and give him a chance. We continued to talk and soon eight minutes were up. I got up and tried not to think about him.

It was time for a fifteen-minute break. I dashed to the food table trying to distract myself. I put several pieces of Sushi on my plate and stepped aside to eat. As I was eating, a man named Mike introduced himself to me. He seemed like a nice guy. We talked for a few minutes. I couldn’t decide whether I was interested in him or not. While we were talking, in mid conversation, he stopped and said, “Soheila, you are really pretty, you really are. You’re not offended by my saying that. Are you?” I thanked him and told him that I would never be offended by a compliment. Soon the break was over and I found my next table and my next date waiting for me. On my way to my table I saw David. He was smiling big and said, “This is exciting, isn’t it?” I replied, “Yes, it is.” My next date was with a Fund Manager who worked for a financial firm. I asked him a bunch of questions about what a Fund Manager does. It was an educational date, but I didn’t feel any chemistry. The next date was very unremarkable.

When I sat down for my seventh date, I noticed that my date was very young. We introduced ourselves, and immediately I asked him how old he was. He said, “guess”. I said, “twenty-five”. He said, “I turned twenty-one two nights ago and have been partying ever since. I only had three hours of sleep last night.” I replied, “You turn twenty one only once. You might as well make the most of it.” My next question was, “Why are you in this group?” After a couple of minutes, I found out that for the thirty-five and older age group they were short one guy. So the organizers grabbed him from the bar and bribed him with free drinks so that he would participate in the event. That way all women would have a date at all times. We both laughed about it. He reminded me, so much, of my nephew, his demeanor, the way he talked and his attitude. I guess, there are a lot of similarities in young men in their early twenties. I felt maternal towards him. He, surprisingly, said a few times, “ I can’t believe you’re here”. He said, “You are the best looking woman here and, I can’t believe that you are single.” I explained to him that I was divorced. We talked about relationships and how complicated they can be. He told me about his last girl friend who recently broke up with him and how heart broken he was. I thought to myself he’s only twenty-one. He’ll probably have many more heartbreaks. A part of me wanted to spare him from all that. At the end of our eight minutes he said, “Can I tell you something?” I, curiously, said, “Yes”. He said, “OK, I’m gonna put it out there”. He sheepishly smiled and said, “You have great boobs!” I laughed really hard. That was not what I was expecting to hear. He asked if he could give me a hug. I said, “Sure”. I gave him a light embrace and wished him luck.

As I was walking to my last table, I saw the good-looking guy. He gave me a big smile. My last date was not memorable at all. I went through the routine of questions until the eight minutes were up. I was not interested in him.

The bell rang and I thought I didn’t have a date with the only guy that I thought was attractive. The organizers announced that the event was over, but there was still some food left and invited us to hangout and chat. I was still sitting on my chair when the good-looking guy came and sat next me, put his arm around my waist and said, “It’s, finally, time for us to meet.” I was surprised of his easy approach. We had started to talk when one of the women, who had attended the event, came to him and started flirting with him putting her fingers through his hair. I thought she really likes him. She was so obvious about it. He wasn’t at all interested. He pushed her hand away and continued to talk to me. Apparently, she had been trying to get his attention all evening. We talked for about thirty minutes. As we talked, I realized that we didn’t have anything in common. He was more of a beer-drinking sort of guy who likes to go to sports bars. He didn’t seem very interesting or engaging to me. When we were talking I said, “One of my favorite places in the world is a bookstore.” He replied, “That’s one place you’ll never find me. I don’t read.” I thought how could someone say, "I don’t read". To me, it would be like saying I don’t eat. I can’t go a day without reading something. That’s how I relax. It was clear to me that there would be a huge part of me, my intellect, that I could not share with him. For me three components would have to exist in order to become attracted to someone. I have to have an intellectual connection, an emotional connection and a physical attraction. If any of the three is absent then it is not going to work. By the end of our conversation, I was sure that I didn’t want to date him, but he seemed so into me. He insisted on walking me to my car. As I was leaving, I saw the Chinese guy. He said, “Every body here is going to pick you. I’ll definitely pick you. I hope you’ll pick me too.” I said, “I’ll see.” I said goodbye and left with Doug, the good-looking guy. Doug walked me to my car. He was nice and sweet. He said, “I’m definitely interested in you. I hope you’ll pick me.” I said “OK”. I had no idea what to say. We said goodbye. I got into my car.

Driving home, I thought it was an interesting evening, definitely something different, but I didn’t meet anybody I wanted to date. It was like picking eight random guys off the street. What are the chances of me liking any of them? I thought how just a few short years ago I was married and I thought I was going to be married forever. How things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to turn out. I really hate going through all this dating, again, at my age. It was hard enough in my twenties. A part of me felt mad at Jason, my ex-husband, for an instant. I thought it is because of him that I have to go through all this. But I, immediately, reminded myself that he did the best he was able to do. I said to myself, this is life. Life is complicated and, we don’t always have control over what happens to us. We just have to be resilient and make the best of things. I thought at least, in my life, I have experienced great love. Even if I never love again with Jason, I experienced something that forever has a hold of a part of my heart, which is sweet and precious to me, and for that I am grateful. I remembered how when we were at our best, I experienced true intimacy and oneness with him. That was an amazing experience, that coming together, that understanding, that acceptance, that pure love, that unity of heart and mind, what we call love, what I believe to be the cause of creation, I experienced a form of it with him although for short durations. My life is richer because of it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My sister Azi

The emotions surrounding my birth were unknown to me until many years later. I was the last of five children. My mother had married at the age of sixteen and had given birth to my oldest sister, Zhaleh, at the age of seventeen. When my mother got pregnant with me at age of thirty seven, Zhaleh had been married for about a year and was one month pregnant with her first child. My mother had her fourth child at the age of twenty eight and did not want to have any more children. Her children were growing up and she had no intention of changing diapers and breastfeeding again. More distressing to her was the fact that Zhaleh was already pregnant. The idea of being pregnant at the same time as her daughter was utterly embarrassing to her. She was depressed and tried not to go out very much and hid her pregnancy. At some point in her first trimester, she decided that she didn’t want to have me. She made an appointment with a gynecologist to have an abortion. In Iran, at least at that time during the 1960s, there were no laws against abortion. Abortions were done discreetly. The subject was considered more private than immoral. The night before the abortion my mother had a dream about one of the holy figures of the Baha’i Faith, which is the religion of my family. In the dream, she makes a great effort to speak to this most revered holy person, but he appears upset and he refuses to look at her or speak to her, turning his face to the opposite direction of my mother’s at every effort that she makes to look at his eyes. She woke up filled with remorse about planning to take the life of her own child. She concluded that God would not be pleased with her if she would have the abortion and that was why the holy figure would not look at her and seemed angry at her. She canceled the appointment the next morning and I was born about 5 months later one month premature.

The day before my birth was filled with anxiety and stress for my mother as Zhaleh went into labor. My mother accompanied her to the hospital and stayed with her during the long hours of a difficult labor and finally at about five in the afternoon my niece was born in the midst of cries of pain. The difficult and painful labor of my sister and her cries of pain were all too much for my mother to bear. Almost at the same time that my sister delivered her baby my mother went into labor. After making sure that my sister was OK, she left the hospital. She took a cab and went home to have me. I was supposed to be born at home just like the rest of my siblings. My parents could not afford a hospital stay for my mother. In the early hours of the morning the same gynecologist who was supposed to perform the abortion arrived at our house. I was born minutes later, a month premature in a room in our house which later was converted to our dining room. Present during the delivery were my father and my seventeen year old sister, Azar. My mother told me years later that as the moment of birth grew closer, my father was anxious to know if his fifth child would be a son. Having had three daughters and only one son, only the birth of another son could make the arrival of this unwanted child desirable. My mother told me that my father’s expressions of excitement were replaced with disappointment when he saw a very little girl come out of her womb. He said nothing and withdrew himself from me completely and didn’t hold me or touch me until about a month later. My seventeen year old sister who had witnessed my birth was in an awe by the miracle of birth and by the sight of a tiny, helpless baby who was blue all over. The seeds of everlasting bonds of affection between her and me were planted on that day. She was the most positive influence of my early childhood.

After about a month, my father warmed up to me and accepted and loved me like the rest of his children. He was a very gentle, kind, and quiet man, a very loving and giving father with a great sense of self sacrifice for his family.

My beautiful sister Azar whom I called Azi joon (“joon” means “dear” in Persian) filled the first five years of my life with her cheerful youth and endless expressions of love and laughter. She was my world. She was mine. I really believed that the purpose of her existence was to take care of me, tell me stories, and love me. I couldn’t stand to be away from her. She took me with her everywhere she went. I slept in the same room with her with my bedding next to hers. Every night she would tell me a story while holding my hand. I would often ask for my favorite story, the story of Cinderella. Every morning, I would follow her to the bathroom, we would brush our teeth together and she would help me get cleaned up for the day. Often at nights, after dinner, she would teach me songs which we would sing together. She played the accordion and I liked to dance to the music she played. She was very artistic and would make different kinds of crafts. One of her hobbies was to make silk flowers. As a present to me, she made a few silk flowers and put them in a little vase and gave them to me. We put them in the living room on a counter and I boasted about them to whoever that came to our house. Those first five years were the best years of my life. One day Azi joon had to go to the dentist. I followed her to the door of the house and begged her to take me. She kept explaining to me that she would be back before I knew it and she couldn’t take me to the dentist. I waited patiently until she came back. Her presence always made everything OK.

When I was about five years old, I noticed that Azi joon was crying a lot. She wasn’t happy anymore. I didn’t know what was going on. One afternoon, she was sitting at the dinning room table, her head was on the table and she was crying. My parents were standing next to her. I went to her and said, “Why are you crying Azi joon?” My mom said, “Azi joon wants to go from here.” I said, “Where do you want to go?” She said, “To hell”. Thinking that she might go and not take me, I pleaded, “Take me with you.” I didn’t know where or what hell was and my response sparked a laugh from my parents and my sister.

After about a month or so, I noticed a young man, Parviz, who was starting to come to our house on regular basis. Azi joon was always happy to see him. She would light up whenever he was around. Seeing him so friendly with my sister and so close to her bothered me. I felt that he was partaking of attention that should only be bestowed on me. He was always nice to me, but I didn’t like him. I was wondering for how long he was going to come around. He intimidated me. When he was with my sister, I didn’t feel comfortable running to my sister and throwing myself in her arms. At about the same time my mother started to tell me that Azi joon might be leaving us soon. I would ask why and she would say, “She is going to marry Parviz and go with him to Ahvaz.” My reaction to these words were to throw a fit, cry and proclaim that Azi joon was mine and she shouldn’t go with Parviz. My mom would say, “Azi belongs to Parviz now.” Again, I would cry out, “She is mine and I’m going to ask her if she is not.” I would run to Azi and say, “Azi joon, are you still mine?” “Yes, I’m yours.” she would always reply. I would ask, “Are you going to leave me?” She would always say, “No, I’m not going to leave you.” I guess, she didn’t have the heart to tell me that she was getting married soon and moving to Ahvaz, a city in the southwestern part of Iran, near some oil fields and very close to the Persian Gulf. My mother at first didn’t approve of the marriage, because Parviz was only a year older than my sister and was not yet established in his career. My mother also had someone else in mind for Azi. A doctor who was very much interested in her, although he wasn’t nearly as attractive as Parviz, but established and prosperous. These were qualities that were very attractive to my mother. In addition to that, my mother doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body or if she does none of us has ever seen it. She is extremely practical. In our culture, parents sometimes exert a lot of influence on the marriage of their children, but this time Azi’s perseverance and refusal to ever marry anybody else eventually changed my mother’s mind. I found out that the reason my sister had been so sad for a few months was because of my mother’s refusal to give consent for her to marry Parviz. The time that she was crying in the dining room was during one of her arguments with my mother about marrying Parviz.

Parviz was beautiful. He was tall and slender with light green eyes and chestnut color hair, uncommon in that part of the world. He was muscular and mild mannered. During the three months engagement of Azi and Parviz, I got to see him quite a bit more and my mother tried very hard to prepare me for Azi’s departure. I remember her engagement party. She put on a beautiful dress that she had made herself. She fixed her hair and put flowers in it. She was so happy and excited that her happiness and excitement rubbed off on me too. All that night, I followed her around like a puppy. Parviz was always next to her. By then, I had gotten used to the idea of always seeing him next to her. Everybody commented on what a beautiful couple they made. My sister was slender and proportional with beautiful face and hair and Parviz was considered handsome by everyone. I remember me and my niece who was born a day earlier than me would tell everyone, “I’m going to marry Parviz too when I grow up.” Although in the back of my head I thought he would be too old for me by then.

The day of the wedding was approaching. I knew something was going to happen but I didn’t know what it was. I was seeing less of Azi as she was preparing for the wedding. I still wasn’t sure if Azi was going to leave me or not. She had given me a lot of assurances about her love for me and how she would always be my Azi. But I couldn’t ignore my mother’s efforts in telling me that Azi would someday leave with Parviz.

At the night of the wedding, I saw Azi and Parviz together. My sister looked so different in her wedding gown and make up. Her dress was beautiful, but I had never seen her with make up before. She looked so different. She had changed. She was sitting next to Parviz surrounded by flower baskets. I circled around them a few times. I had become shy all of the sudden. She looked so different that I didn’t know if I should approach her or not. She noticed me circling around them and watching them from a distance. She called me and I ran to her. She made a little place for me to sit between her and her new husband. I realized that she was still the same person and all that change was just on the surface. On her wedding night she told me that she would see me again in a few days. The wedding had taken place in Tehran, the capital. Day after the wedding we went back to Hamedan, my hometown, and there I waited, patiently, for Azi’s return. In the last few months I had come to accept her not spending so much time at home. After a short honeymoon, Azi came home with her husband. I was happy to see her. I didn’t know that she had only come home to pack her things and move to Ahvaz with Parviz.

The day that she left we all accompanied her and Parviz to the bus station. I knew she was leaving. I clang to her and refused to let her go. I screamed and cried. My face was wet with tears. I remember Azi kissing me and telling me that she would come back to see me. My parents separated me from her. She got on the bus while I was calling her and crying. I saw her bus move and the last thing I saw was Azi’s face by the window at the back of the bus. She waved at me. Her lips were moving. I couldn’t tell what she was saying. I was crying in my mother’s arms as I watched the bus disappear in the crowd of the street and the movement of other cars and buses. The days that followed were filled with sadness, emptiness and a great sense of loss. A couple of weeks later, my mother received a letter from Azi. She called me into the living room. I ran in and she, excitedly, said, "We have a letter from Azi." I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Does that mean that Azi was coming back? Is the letter somehow going to make me feel better or make me miss her less? She read the letter to me out loud. Azi was doing fine and she was happy. For an instant, I was happy. Then the letter was over and I asked my mom when will I see her. My mother replied, “next summer”. So everything was still the same. Receiving the letter was a great disappointment. For days my mother had told me soon we will receive a letter from Azi and I had been looking forward to it. But when it arrived and was read, I still missed Azi as much as ever. The letter didn't cure my heartache. I knew then that there was nothing that could be done. I had lost Azi forever and she was no longer mine. Nothing could take away the pain, loneliness and the abandonment that I felt. When Azi left she took with her a piece of my childhood. The years that followed had less joy and were more difficult.

Twenty five years later when I was thirty and living in the States in a phone conversation with Azi who lives in Iran and I have not seen since I was seventeen, she said to me, "I still feel bad about abandoning you when you needed me so much." It was only then that I realized that our separation had been painful for her too.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Enlightenment, at last!

You know how so many therapists have written all these books about how not to be a co-dependent, how to be your own person and don’t look towards another person for validation and happiness. I have been trying to implement that in my life for as long as I remember. I’ve read books. I’ve gone to therapy, but I could never do it. It really always seemed like for me to be happy in life, I must have a man. For years, I wondered how I could feel happy without having a life partner. It seemed to me that life was all about finding someone to love and share your life with. Twice, I thought, I found that person, but I was wrong each time. After my divorce about three and a half years ago, I thought this time I will do it right. I’ll take my time and I’ll find the right person. But after three and a half years of searching, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such a person in the world for me. I can, actually, say that now without feeling a sharp pain in my stomach. It’s OK, really. I’m fine. I’m finally OK with it. It took a while to get here, but I’m finally here. I have finally reached Nirvana (grin), the state of happiness under all conditions. I think, maybe, or at least something close to it (not really)! We all get there somehow, right? Maybe not all. But I’m there. For so many years I have read the spiritual writings stating that detachment from this earthly life and earthly desires is the key to happiness and freedom from suffering. My ex-husband’s voice echoes in my mind, “You need to let go of desire. It’s only then that you can be happy.” He must know. He is a practicing monk. He went from being a Software Engineer to becoming a monk and living in a Buddhist monastery in Las Vagas, from all places, within a few short weeks. He would call me from the monastery and tell me that he meditated for eight hours that day. I always thought what stamina he has. I can’t meditate for more than five minutes. I must say that he was a monk for only a couple of months when he was going through a lot of emotinal pain. That was his way of finding solace. He is back to being a Software Engineer, thank God! But he meditates a lot and deals with life’s difficulties by practicing detachment. Buddhists say, “Desire will bring suffering.” I understand the concept totally, but letting go of all desires is way too difficult. I have already let go of so many things that I desired in life and never got. The last thing to let go of is finding a life partner that suites me. I am letting go of that as well.

I’ll tell you how I made this spiritual transformation or at least transformation. I don’t really know if it was spiritually based. At the risk of sounding, I don’t really know what, arrogant maybe, (grin) I will tell you what happened. I woke up one morning with extreme clarity of mind. That is when I see things with perfect clarity when I first wake up in the morning. That is when I’m most rational. Although it only takes a little while for my emotional needs to cloud my judgment, usually about 30 minutes. So during that time of clarity, I thought about all the men that I had actually dated since my divorce. I’m not talking about the ones that were interested in me, but I wasn’t interested in them and, therefore, I didn’t go out with them more than once or twice. I’m talking about the men that were interested in me, pursued me and I also became interested in them after a couple of dates. They were all highly educated, relatively attractive and successful in their own right. But they all seemed to have issues or be damaged in some way and these were supposedly the best of the bunch, at least on the surface. No, definitely on the surface. I realized that morning that I was actually more interesting than them, more well rounded than them, more mature than them, less confused than them, less self-centered and selfish than them. When I examined their character, I realized that they were all kind of flakey, unaware of their true feelings and scared at some level. I realized that I had been happier and emotionally healthier, since I hadn’t dated anybody. I thought, if this is what is out there, then not only I’m not missing out on anything, but also I’m gaining more by not putting up with a bunch of BS and by not wasting my time, energy and thoughts on these guys. Knowing that there probably isn’t anybody out there that is worthy of me and all that I have to give ( rolling my eyes big time) puts the idea of finding that person to rest. And I’m fine. The moment that I feel alone and in need of affection, I just remember the men that I opened myself up to in the last three and a half years and how incapable of giving and receiving they were. I remember the agony, frustration and the disappointment that I felt. From the guy who was so insecure that couldn’t stand the fact that I was more knowledgeable and educated than he was to the guy who said that I was too emotional and demanding when I got upset when he canceled our date for the fifth time just a few hours before we were supposed to go out, because his ex-wife who lived in another state had had a bad reaction to her chemotherapy treatment and was not feeling well. He said that he wasn’t up to going out anymore. Mind you, they had been divorced for three years and she was surrounded by her children and family during her battle with cancer in the opposite side of the country. There was also the guy who told me, “I don’t want to be your husband. I don’t want to be your boyfriend. I just want to sleep with you.” This guy was also the same guy who told me that we weren’t a good match, because I was spiritual and he wasn’t and oh, this is a good one, my English exasperated him. Yes, my English isn’t as good as his. He is a native born American with a Ph.D. There have been a few others.

I have decided that I will never again allow anyone make me feel bad about what I am whether it is my English, my accent or the fact that I am emotional. I’m not going to beat myself up for not measuring up to someone else’s standards. I refuse to allow my worth and value be determined by another person’s perception of me. The majority of my life I have struggled to please the people around me. I have tolerated unwarranted blame and abuse by different people in my life, people I don’t even respect. I will never let anyone make me feel less than what I am again. I have found that I’m a person of great strength. I have been the one taking care of most of the people in my life. I have been to hell and back and no one can tell by looking at me what I have lived through. I have not allowed myself to become broken by life’s calamities. I have finally realized that I am a person who is very reasonable and sensible and I’m not going to allow someone else to tell me otherwise. I will not allow the limited view and understanding that they may have of me affect the way I see myself. If that means that I have to be alone for the rest of my life, so be it. My mantra at the moment is “I can do it alone”.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A spring snowy day in Colorado

It is Sat. afternoon, April 18th. We have been having a lot of snow for the last two and a half days. It started Thursday night and it hasn’t stopped yet. Yesterday morning, I called my boss and asked him if I could work from home and he said “Yes”. I was so happy. I was spared of at least four hours of driving back and forth to work in my little car that slides easily on snow. Actually, I’m mostly scared of other drivers in snowy conditions. So, that made my day. My other co-workers were working from home also. The last snow storm we had, they let us leave work at noon. It took me two hours and fifteen minutes to get home. It usually takes about forty minutes. It was a terrible drive mostly because people were driving about one mile per hour in a lot of the areas much slower than necessary, but that’s Colorado. So many people who live here are from California or places without much snow. They make the most annoying drivers in Colorado snow storms.

I haven’t been feeling that great today, trying to rest and stay warm. Actually, I haven’t left my house since Thursday evening. We have had about eighteen inches of snow. Occasionally, I look outside at my driveway and sidewalk. It stresses me out. I know, I have to go out and shovel the snow at some point. It won’t be today. It has to be tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll be all better then. I’m hoping for a lot of sunshine tomorrow, so I won’t have as much snow to shovel. This morning all the neighborhood men were shoveling the snow in their driveways. Some people have shoveled a couple of times already. My driveway and sidewalk is the only one on the block that is totally covered in snow. I hate shoveling snow. It always makes my back hurt. I was in a bad car accident when I was nineteen years old, which totally messed up my neck and upper back. I have to see a chiropractor when my back or shoulder goes out. The last time I shoveled the snow, my back went out. I was in a really bad pain for two days before I was able to see my chiropractor and get an adjustment. So, if I’m lucky tomorrow will be sunny and some of the snow will melt.

My friend Shari called me today to check on me, since I live alone. Every time we have a snow storm she calls me to see if I made it home OK and if I have enough food at home. She and her husband are really good friends. Every time she calls to check on me, her sincere and caring voice and her words of concern make me want to cry. It makes me feel good to know someone cares about me enough to call to see if I’m OK.

I’ve been trying o figure out what I want to have for dinner. I need to go to the grocery store. I’m low on things, but I don‘t want to leave my house. As I was looking at my refrigerator, I thought I feel like pasta. I looked for the ingredients to make this dish that I like. The ingredients are whole wheat pasta, lots of garlic and onions, parsley, broccoli, olive oil, chicken, parmesan cheese and butter something that I use only once in a while, because it has so much saturated fat. I have everything that I need to make this dish, unbelievable! That makes me happy. I’ll fix dinner and then watch a movie, a great way to spend a snowy Sat. night at home.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I want money

My oldest sister, Zhaleh, who is twenty years older than me has been living in Australia for the last two years. She has a condo, here, in one of the suburbs of Denver that I check on every couple of months. If all goes well, she should be here living in Colorado in about six months. I do miss her. She has always been like a second mother to me. My sister has two daughters one is my age and lives in Australia. The other daughter who is five years younger than me and is the closest person to me in my family has been living in Kuwait with her family for the last year. Her name is Ziba. As she and her family still have connections in the US sometimes they ask me to help them with some things here. It makes me sad that they probably won’t ever live in the States again. I miss them all so much and feel a sense of loss since they left the US.

Ziba called me a few days ago and asked me to go to her mother’s apartment and look for either hers or her mother’s birth certificate. She said that they should be in the set of drawers in her mother’s bedroom. I knew it was important to her to find one of the birth certificates at least, otherwise, Soudi, one of my sisters who lives in Iran will have to go to our hometown which is a seven hour drive from where she lives and try to get a copy from the place where births and deaths are registered. Who knows if they still have those records and it would not be free to get copies of them.

Yesterday after work, I drove to my sister’s place. I opened the door to her very clean and beautifully decorated apartment all in pastel colors so indicative of her taste. It always makes me feel good to go there. It looks so relaxing. I went to the bedroom, located the set of drawers and began to search. I opened the first drawer. It was filled with bags and envelops. I thought, if I’m lucky the birth certificates would turn up pretty quick. I looked through everything in the first drawer, insurance papers, car papers, tax information, bank accounts, pictures, letters, cards, more pieces of paper and so on. I thought, note to self, clean out the drawers in your office. This is way too much paper for someone to go through when you die. I, especially, looked through everything that I found in Persian. I came across a packet filled with the letters that my sister’s husband had written. I, immediately, recognized the handwriting. Tears came to my eyes remembering how he was killed. I had not seen his handwriting since I was a teen-ager. He was a prominent Baha'i in my hometown who was imprisoned, tortured and executed, because he was a Baha'i by the Islamic Republic of Iran who has persecuted the Baha'is since they came to power. I saw letters from my mom and dad who had been written to my sister. Each letter started with “To the light of my eyes, Zhaleh”. That was how my parents addressed their children in the written form. It is a Persian expression. I, always, thought it was a powerful expression. There were letters and cards from my sister’s daughters. There were a lot of drawings from her grandchildren to their grandma. There were cards and letters from old friends. There were even stuff from me. I looked through them, but I didn’t find either one of the birth certificates or copies of them. I moved to the second drawer. This drawer had more documents and photo albums. I looked through the pages of the photo albums. There were a lot of old pictures. I saw pictures of me when I was little along with other family members. I saw a picture of my mother when she was eighteen years old holding my sister, Zhaleh, who was only a year old at the time. My father and uncles were in the picture. They all were so young. My dad and one of my uncles have passed on. It was a picture taken about sixty years ago. I thought I like to have a copy of this picture. I need to remember to borrow it from my sister when she comes back. I continued looking. There were more papers and documents that I had to sort through. When I was almost done with the second drawer, I came across pages of writings in my handwriting in Persian. They were all poems that I had copied from a book of poems by Hafez, one of the famous Persian poets, years ago. I sat on the bed and started to read the poems. The poems were so beautiful. I hadn’t read them in a long time. Before I knew it twenty minutes had passed. I thought to myself, go back to work. I looked through everything in the second drawer and I didn’t find the certificates. That was it. There were only two drawers. I thought, I probably missed them. I probably didn’t look through everything with enough care. So, with frustration, I started to look at everything all over again examining each piece of paper. At that point, I was tired and hungry and I was thinking, Ziba really owes me for this. What does she owe me? A dinner out? No, that won’t do it. A gift certificate for a massage? No, that won’t do either. A gift certificate to one of my favorite stores? No, that wasn’t good either. None of those options were good enough for the frustration that I was feeling. I thought she owes me money, that’s right, money. That’s what I want. I, then, remembered the song “Money, that’s what I want” by The Flying Lizards and started singing it to myself. “The best things in life are free. But you can give them to the birds and bees. I want money. That’s what I want. That’s what I want…” After a little diversion of singing, goofing off and laughing, I continued to look. Finally, I had gone through everything that was in that set of drawers twice. I had not been able to find the birth certificates. I started to look in different places in the bedroom like the bookcase, the nightstand and boxes in the closet, but didn’t find anything. So, finally after two hours of searching, I had to give up. I drove home humming “I want money. That‘s what I want…“.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mom goes to Iran

My mom decided to go to Iran for a visit a couple of months ago. My sister Azie and her family really wanted to see her. The last time my mom had gone home was five years ago and she was due for another visit. I made the travel arrangements for her, and she started packing about a month before her travel date. She likes to pack early and carefully decide what presents she is going to take for everybody. We went shopping a couple of times and she bought a few things, but most of the presents were what she had collected over the last few years. My sister Soudi who was visiting at the time and was staying with my mom for a while kept telling me, “Mom is taking a bunch of junk to Iran. No one is going to like those presents. A lot of them are old stuff, talk to her. She listens to you.” I said to her, “I have been through this before. She doesn’t listen to me and she will get upset.” I said, “Everyone knows that she is an old eccentric lady and they won’t be offended by her.” I have to say that no one travels like my mother. She takes so much stuff with her everywhere she goes. Every time she travels I ask her not to pack so much, because I’m the one who has to carry all the stuff back and forth to and from airport, but she just can’t help it. Last year, she went on a three-day cruise and she had two good size pieces of luggage and a big bag to carry on the plane.

As the appointed day was approaching I was getting a bit nervous. She had two large suitcases, which thankfully weighed right below fifty pounds each, which was the limit, but what made me nervous was her humongous carryon, which was almost the size of a regular suitcase. I was sure they would not let her take that with her on the plane. She also had a big handbag and a video camera, so there were three pieces that she wanted to take on the plane. The airlines usually let you take two.

On the day of her flight, I woke up in the morning thinking I wish this day was already over. It was going to be a difficult day. I had to go to work and then leave work at about three, go to my mom’s apartment, pick her up and take her to the airport. I had decided to get to the airport three hours before the time of her flight instead of two. I thought we might have difficulties, and I wanted to have enough time to deal with anything that might come up, so I had taken three vacation hours. Once at my mom’s apartment, I carried the suitcases to my car and put them in the trunk and the back seat. We got to the airport forty minutes later. I parked the car and proceeded to carry the suitcases to the terminal. My mom carried the carryon with her big handbag and the video camera on top of it. The other two suitcases which were really old and the wheels on them were worthless I carried. There were no carts in the parking lot. Half way to the terminal my mom saw two young men and asked them to help me. Gratefully, I gave one of them one of the suitcases, and he carried it to the elevator leading to the terminal. We thanked him, got on the elevator and went to the British Airways ticketing counter. When we were approaching the ticketing counter, my mom gave me her passport and said, “You go ahead and check me in. I’m going to sit here.” I said, “I think, you are going to have to be there, don’t sit down yet.” When I approached the ticketing agent my mom was standing about 15 feet away and I was wondering why she didn’t want to approach the counter. I gave her passport to the agent, and we weighed the suitcases. Fortunately, her suitcases weighed about 46 pounds each, so we didn’t have to take things out of them like the last time she traveled to Iran. The agent asked if she had anything else. I said, “She has a handbag and a carryon”. I didn’t mention the video camera. The agent said, “I have to see the handbag and the carryon.” I asked my mom to come forward. She approached the ticketing counter hesitatingly trying to hide her carryon behind her. I realized, at that point, why she didn’t want to come forward. As soon as the agent saw the carryon he said, “That is the size of a regular suitcase. I can’t let you take that in.” My mom said, “I was afraid of that.” The agent said, “If you want to take it you have to check it in and pay $165.00. You are only allowed to have two suitcases free of charge.” I looked at my mom and she said, “No way”. I was wondering what we were going to do. The agent said, “I can give you a bag to put the stuff that you want to take with you, but the carryon cannot go.” I said, “OK, we’ll take the bag.” He gave us a very sturdy plastic bag with a zipper. I was thinking the size of the bag is about a third of the size of her carryon. I wonder what she is going to leave behind. At that point, the agent said, “You can still put in a few more pounds into each suitcase.” We took the suitcases, the carryon, the video camera, her big handbag and the plastic bag to a corner out of the way and for the next hour my mom examined each item in the carryon trying to decide what to take and squishing as much as she possibly could into the bag we got from the agent. I was kind of stressed, but I thought we came to the airport a whole hour early for something like this. We have time. It’s OK.

As my mom was unzipping her large carryon to see what she should take with her, I thought this is going to be a difficult process trying to decide what to take and what not to take. She opened the carryon, and I was shocked at what I saw in it. I saw a dress that I had worn about 20 years ago when I was still in college. I saw a bunch of pens from the First Bank, the auto repair shop and the insurance agency. I saw a handful of band-aids. I saw a long white zipper. I saw old sweaters and shoes. I saw a couple of old towels. I was bewildered. I could not stop laughing, and I could not hold my tongue. As far as I was concerned this was all junk. She didn’t need to take any of it. I took vacation time to deal with this? All of these items would not be worth $20.00 at a garage sale. I said to my mom, “This is all junk mom. They wouldn’t like any of it. You are not going to a refugee camp in Sudan!” But of course, every piece of item to her was valuable. She said, “The clothes are in good shape, the sweater is made of wool. The pens are new and so on. And I thought not only they won’t like any of it, they may even be insulted. They are not in need of charity. Then I thought they all know mom. She is an unusual old lady. They’ll probably get a good laugh out of it like I am. I started helping her put more stuff in the suitcases. When I thought we had reached the limit of fifty pounds, I went and weighed the suitcases to make sure they didn’t exceed the limit. They didn‘t. Then my mom started to fill the plastic bag. She was pushing and shoving as I watched anxiously. I was thinking the bag is going to bust, but it didn’t. A couple of minutes later the bag was full and my mom was trying to zip it up when she exclaimed, “The zipper broke“. At that point, I thought I’m just going to leave this to my mom and the universe. I’m done. I’m through. I’m going to stand back and watch. This is beyond me. Then, I heard my mom say, “Go ask the guy for another bag.” I was embarrassed to go and ask him, but I did. I gave the new bag to her and as I looked at the remaining stuff in the carryon I thought, I’m not going to dissuade her from taking what she wants to take, this is her experience, her vacation, and I‘ll keep my opinions to myself. I sat on one of the suitcases and watched my mom do her work from afar. The ticketing agent would occasionally look at my mom and I and would examine the progress. My mom sat in that corner for the next thirty minutes without looking up oblivious of her surroundings and sorted through all the items left. She tried to put as much as she could in her handbag and the plastic bag with the working zipper. At one point, she realized that the plastic bag holds more than her handbag and she would rather take another plastic bag with her instead of her handbag. She told me “Ask the agent for another plastic bag”. I replied, “Just use the one with the broken zipper”. I was way too embarrassed to ask for another bag. So she emptied her handbag into the plastic bag with the broken zipper and put more stuff in. At that point, I realized that she may actually be late for her flight and I told her to hurry up. As I watched my mom stuff the bags, I thought how beautiful she looked. Her fine features, delicate face and beautiful white alabaster skin are very noticeable. Her mostly white shoulder length hair was pushed back with a headband. Her light red lipstick complimented her skin. She looks at least ten years younger than her age. People always tell me that she is beautiful. I thought, I wish I would look as good as her when I’m her age.

My mom was finally done. She approached the ticketing agent with her two bursting plastic bags. The ticketing agent looked at me and said, “What kind of miracles did you have to perform?” I replied, “You’ll have to ask her”. My mom told the agent that one of the zippers broke. Of course, he didn’t understand her broken English, and I had no choice but to translate. Without looking up he said, “So what do you want me to do?” My mom chuckled and said nothing. The agent checked her in. I told him that she is insulin dependent and needs to carry her bottles of insulin with her on the plane, since they need to be refrigerated. He looked at the bottles to make sure her name was on them and said OK. I had asked for a wheel-chair for her, since walking is a bit difficult for her and she had the two bags. I explained to her the last minute details before she sat on the wheel-chair. I walked with her to the security area while an airline employee pushed her wheel-chair. When she reached the security, I told the man who was pushing the wheel-chair to make sure and tell the security people that she needs to have her insulin bottles with her. I reminded my mom of her stop in London and how another person with a wheel-chair would take her to the right gate once she got there. She asked me if I would stay and make sure she got through security without any problems. I said, “Yes, I’ll be here until you have gone through security”. She said, “Thank you my dear, May God give you that which will make you happy. You are my rock. You are the delight of my heart.” It was nice to hear those words. Those words coming from my mother had an incredible power. This woman whose love and approval I have always sought. This most powerful person in my life who can build me up or bring me down with just one word, the person who I have tried to please for as long as I remember. This woman who has hurt me deeply and has also loved me like no one else ever has… I gave her a hug and said, “You’re welcome mom. I love you. Have a great time.” I stood there and watched her go through security. At one point, she looked back to see me. I smiled and waved at her.

I watched the sunset as I drove home. The colorful sky and the cloud formations against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains looked breath taking. I felt a calm come over me. I smiled. I felt at peace with my life.