Saturday, December 26, 2009

No. 58

1. On the plane to Baltimore-Washington, I fortunate to be sitting behind two gentleman--a smiley Mormon kid in his early-20s, and an aging Jewish man with an admirable beard and calming voice. They got to talking right away, and oh how I wish I had recorded their conversation for NPR. It was one of the most beautiful, curious, open, generous, and kind dialogues I've heard regarding religion. The young man kept asking these excellent questions, and the old man kept answering them in such a warm manner--explaining every word and concept with such a sincere desire to inform. And he kept talking about how he thinks Mormon architecture is so beautiful. By the end of the flight, the young guy said "Next time you're in Salt Lake, look me up--I'll take you out to lunch!"

2. My mom and I were pulling out of a shopping mall when we saw an unfortunate-looking minivan sitting there, the weight of the antediluvian vehicle flopping over its own tires. My mom waved it ahead, and as the van huffed and puffed to pull in front of us, the driver gave us the most exuberant TWO THUMBS UP.

3. Today I was in line at the Post Office, aka the 7th Circle of Hell. The line was long and the store's decor horrifying. The man in front of me had a couple packages to send, much to my chagrin as I had but one measly letter to drop off. When he got up to the counter, I realized that my annoyance was satanic since he was apparently the nicest guy in America. He was kind to the poor post office cashier, cracking bad jokes and asking questions. It was soon apparent that this guy had done nothing right; he bought the wrong postage, forgot a zip code, wrote "priority" when he didn't mean "priority." His trip to the post office was a disaster. And yet, even after the line-waiting, he brushed it off with a "Oh, I'm always forgetting something!" and "You can charge me extra for my mistakes" to the point where I just wanted to buy him some collectors' stamps for his trouble.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No. 57

1. The grandmother of one of my gymnastics girls telling me "You have the patience of Job!" It was such a great thing to say and so kind of her to express that I felt very accomplished for the rest of the day.

2. I was in desperate search for baklava, but so far from Albany Park. I walked up a few blocks and found a fancy restaurant which I knew served my very favorite dessert but felt intimidated about asking for it to go. No matter, I charged in anyway and asked the host if I could buy a few pieces. He seemed to understand my plight and replied, "NOOOO problem!"

Not only did he arrange them in a lovely box for me, but he gave me a dollar off, AND a coupon. He explained, "Because you're so kind!" but I think he was just being Lebanese about everything. My favorite thing about Arabs at large is how generous they are with food. This is a huge part of Middle Eastern culture--the sharing of food with friends and strangers--and I see it in every Middle Eastern restaurant in the city. Even the fancy ones.

3. Warm clothes on a cold night

Friday, October 9, 2009

No. 56

1. Me: Let's make tacos!
[4-year-olds lift their feet in the air and laugh hysterically]
Me: Let's make burritos!
[4-year-olds curl up into balls and laugh hysterically]
Me: What else should we make?
Chava, age 4: CHALLAH!

2. Cleaning the dance room by myself while listening to Tchaikovsky. Cleaning is my favorite part of work. It's relaxing, and meditative, and the smell of Swiffer spray is truly incomparable.

3. Feeling more inspiration to write.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

No. 55

1. Two members of our parish died this week. I didn't know either one well--at all really--but there was a certain heaviness in the church today. Something felt amiss, and strange. But there was also a baptism today: a tangible reason to rejoice. And I think the heaviness made the joyfulness all the more light and lovely. Celebration was needed, and it felt so good to celebrate this tiny large-eyed person wearing a wonderful white dress with puffed sleeves, who softly cried as water was poured on her head and we welcomed her into our church family. She snuggled into Sarah's shoulder and resembled a little bear cub, so cuddly and at home in this candle-lit sweet-smelling sanctuary. At church it is not only helpful, but necessary, to rejoice in the midst of mourning. We rejoiced heartily with ice cream cones during coffee hour--a gentle goodbye to summer and a happy embracing of fall's arrival.

2. The surprising sight of the skyline at night. The skyline is surely one of the most spectacular man-made wonder. The Parthenon, the microchip, the skyline--they all evoke a similar awe at humankind's astounding creativity and desire for progress, and beauty.

3. A soul-enlivening conversation with 3-year-old Hana, who summarized for me the plot of "Mamma Mia" and told me that her 1-year-old brother was her hero.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No. 54

1. A sick day taken, and an afternoon at Chicago Botanical Gardens. Happy to be lazy, laughy, and warm while strolling through all this beautiful fresh life with my kindred spirit. Chicago has lifted itself out of that little dip into fall last week but I am not protesting; I know fall is coming and I will savor this sweet sunshine while it lingers, hanging on desperately to the first weeks of September when bright warmth is still acceptable.

2. The smell of my rosemary plant

3. Not missing the 5:21 train, for once in my life. A few precious free minutes before work to walk up and down a few of Evanston's mansion-lined streets, so quiet and stately in the very early morning light. Being up so early feels like being let in on a secret. I love sleep but I love to wake up.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

No. 55

1. You know you [Mari] are destined to be soul sisters with someone when:
a. you meet her at church
b. she is wearing a long red beaded necklace that she has wrapped several times around her neck
c. within 45 seconds of introducing yourself, you are already talking about:
-feminine energy in a living space
-Audre Lourde
-women's and sexuality studies in a religious context
-vintage dresses
-organic peaches

2. The taste of baked thyme with olive oil, the surprising sound of new husband and wife speaking in Arabic from the kitchen. Hannah now has an Arabic last name, Lebanese cooking utensils sent from new relatives she has never met with exotic names like Noor and Fadi, and I now have access to all the za'atar I could ever want. And I want a lot.

3. "It looks like a tornado swept through a church camp you guys."
This is how I best spend my Saturday nights, this is my kind of party: pumpkin soup and hymns, 3 glasses of pinot grigio and going home with an entire apple pie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

No. 54

1. The way an Australian woman pronounced the word "ginger"

2. A quiet, warm morning at work. Listening to Andrew Bird and rain simultaneously. Eating orange-honey toast, drinking Sencha tea. I can feel fall on my skin already, and I relish it.

3. A tall man with long beard who topped his head with a yarmulke came pushing a stroller into the cafe. He ordered a hot chocolate [one of the most charming orders I must say], and I followed up, "Anything else?" He peered into the stroller and whispered, "Naomi, do you want anything?" The infant remained asleep. "Nope, she doesn't want anything," he told me.

Living in Rogers Park and working in Evanston, I am an instant part of a couple communities of which I am not actually a member: I live next to Loyola which unfortunately makes me feel like I'm living in a giant frat house sometimes; I work next to Northwestern which quite wonderfully makes me feel like I live in J. Crew catalog sometimes. And I particularly enjoy the Jewish community on the North Shore. I love how many times I hear the word "schlep" a day. I love the way my boss always exclaims "God bless!" whenever I do something well--"You're cleaning? God bless!" I love that meeting folks from Israel is a daily occurence. I love how many people I've met named Saul. I love how I have seen more yarmulkes in the past three months than I have in 22 previous years of life.