Monday, March 31, 2008

Caught Between a Sheepdog and My Moral Conscience

As I was leaving Firehook Bakery with a soy au lait in hand, I pulled open the door and in walked a sheepdog (rather, everything but the sheepdog’s hind legs). The sheepdog’s leash was tied to a bench just outside the place that has the best oat bran muffin in town (and no longer seems to charge extra for soy milk - score).

“Uh ohhh,” I thought to myself.

I hadn’t taken a sip of my awakening potion yet and, therefore, my reflexes were reminiscent of molasses.

I stood there between the sheepdog and the door, feeling paralyzed. I started to let the door inch toward closing, but the sheepdog didn’t budge. Story of my life.

Now I’m also a little scared of big dogs, so I didn’t want to pull on his leash or nudge his hairy frame with my own hand. So, I just stood there with my right hand preventing the door from closing on the sheepdog’s neck and my soy au lait in my left hand, beckoning me to drink its contents.

The layout of the bakery is a long hallway, with the counter on one side and tables for two on the other side. In the midst of my sheepdog predicament, it was as if everyone at their tables (those patrons facing my direction) leaned slightly in toward the walkway so they could see what was happening in the doorway – namely, a sheepdog making me look like a complete idiot.

The patrons looked at me and the pooch, then leaned back in to their edibles and beverages (all of which I hoped were poisoned because they didn’t help me).

If I just let the door go, it would have pinned the sheepdog between the door and the door frame right at the sheepdog’s neck, and I believe I would have been stoned.

Finally, a woman at a table nearby said, “I’m going to help this poor woman.”

Wait a second…I’m a woman? And the beat goes on.

She very confidently put her hand under the sheepdog’s head – near his upper torso and lower neck – and pushed him outside, making a “shhh shhh shhh shhh” noise. I quickly let go of the door and headed down Connecticut Ave., back to my apartment in time for my monthly women’s writing group.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sittin’ Itchy

How long it seems since I was sittin’ pretty. Pretty doesn’t feel within arms reach when you’re encased in wool. It’s nearly April and I’m wearing wool – still.

I ache for an opportunity to move to a locale further South. Right around the Equator sounds ideal.

En route to a yoga class, I stopped at The Mayflower Hotel (made famous by a loser of a former governor) to use their loo. There’s something you should know about me; I thoroughly enjoy using bathrooms in fancy hotels.

When I spent a semester abroad in Prague, I used the loo at The Four Seasons daily, sometimes twice in a period of 24 hours. Those were the days. You just have to know where the bathroom is (straight past the ornate statue in the lobby, down the two-tiered staircase, and make a sharp – and I mean sharp - left) and walk with a purpose.

I entered The Mayflower Hotel with my hot pink yoga mat slung on my back and sneakers on my feet (enabling me to walk to work and sometimes back home, too.) The lobby was bustling with people who seemed important, elegant and educated. There was a man wearing a bow tie. I knew my destination and prayed for an invisibility cloak.

“Ho hum, ho hum, I don’t belong here,” I thought to myself. Story of my life.

Lately, I don’t know where I belong. I’m approaching the age of 25 in four months and am doing some serious thinking to surely frazzle myself enough to provoke the ominous quarter-life crises.

So yeah, I’m feeling itchy on the inside and out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here's to Hope

Last Saturday, I went to visit my great aunt who's recovering from surgery that eradicated cancer in her lungs. She's staying at The American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge, a phenomenal residential facility for people receiving cancer treatment far from their home.

Finding myself on I HEART NY soil, I exited the bus I took from DC and headed straight to Dunkin Donuts. I was cranky from the cramped seating (yes, even people who are 5'2" need leg room) and in need of a DD fix. Only in New York City does DD have soy milk. God bless 'em.

A few sips into my brew and hostility in check, I called my aunt to let her know I was close by. She said to call her again when I was at Hope Lodge and she'd come down to the lobby to meet me because my great uncle was at the dollar store. Okay.

I waited for just a few minutes in the building's lobby and then appeared my aunt. I immediately started crying, the kind of heavy crying that is audible and not attractive because it also makes your nose run (heavily).

My aunt was wearing a pink sweat suit and a white baseball hat (to conceal her lack of hair from chemo to treat her breast cancer) from a 2002 Super Bowl – not sure where she got that. I couldn't really hug her because her back was still very tender from the surgery. Instead, I kissed her and cried.

She took me up to the 6th floor, a multi-purpose space complete with a meditation room, computer lab, large kitchen, TV and lounge area, and an outdoor deck the length of the building (yowsa).

My aunt introduced me to this guy and one of her favorite staff members. She's like the Miss Congeniality of Hope Lodge. She told me to take some life savers from a jar on the reception desk before we went back to her room.

My great uncle came back from the dollar store with three items: slippers, vacuum-packed salami, and a new wallet. Mmmhhhm. And that was his second trip there that day. Apparently the dollar store has a grocery section.

He then proceeded to make my aunt a salami sandwich on rye bread. I offered mild protest, believing that she should be eating foods more macrobiotic-esque and less E-coli-prone. My voice was not heard.

I looked over at the desk in the room they've been sharing for the past month and saw a big cup of life savers.

"Did you take those from the 6th floor?" I asked my aunt.

"Yeah. Sure I did."

Ok, don't argue propriety with someone recovering from cancer.

My parents arrived and got a tour of the 6th floor, too. My aunt has a way of intending to whisper but actually being quite loud.

Just as someone would pass us in the hallway, she'd whisper (i.e. shout), "Pancreatic cancer. Doesn't have a chance." Or, "That one…full of cancer!"

To which I would exhale heavily and send my bangs upward. Story of my life.

When we got back to her room, she – in her usual way – only wanted to offer us food. There was a mini-fridge marked "For medication only" and inside I saw tomato juice, Trader Joe's organic yogurt, vacuum-packed KieĊ‚basa (also from the dollar store), and other things that didn't require a prescription.

There's a journal in each person's room so the patient can write about their stay before leaving. My aunt asked me to write something for her based on how she felt about Hope Lodge. She told me her ideas, and then we went to the computer lab so I could make prose out of her sincere gratitude.

I printed two copies of the letter, which she retrieved from the printer. As we were getting ready to leave, I saw a thick stack of paper in her hand.

"What do you have there? Are you taking that stack of blank paper back to your room?" I asked.

"Yeah. Sure I am."

Again, not the time to point out ethics.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cucumber Samaritan

Having spent the weekend in NYC (about which I want to blog, but my mom says I can’t. How many of you have a mom who worries about who reads your blog and what they’ll think? Mom, I have less than 20 subscribers. Please. To be continued, readers.), I was in desperate need of groceries so off to Giant (gross) I went.

As I was making the ten minute walk back to my one-room show, I noticed that my 14-inch seedless cucumber had poked through the plastic grocery bag. Story of my life. I know, I know…I’m a criminal in the eyes of green do-ers. I should have taken the paper bag, which likely would have put up a stronger fight in the face of an overpriced cucumber.

It was also raining. Two heavy PLASTIC grocery bags (Nope, separate bags. I don’t double-bag. I’m not that much of a foe to our planet.) and an umbrella – it was like being pulled in two directions. The down force was stronger.

“Excuse me,” I heard someone say from behind. I scooted to the left side of the sidewalk, as I was walking straight down the middle. Selfish with my stride, I guess.

Then again, “Excuse me, you dropped this. Your bag ripped,” and there appeared a rather good looking guy with an arm outstretched toward me and my seedless cucumber in his hand.

“Oh godddd…thank you,” I said as I reached out to grab the other end of the seedless cucumber.

And there we stood, hand-in-hand (via an overpriced seedless cucumber) gazing at each other (was he Ethiopian?) for a brief moment before he let go and walked ahead of me.

Now I had to manage two slightly less heavy (minus the cuke) PLASTIC grocery bags, an umbrella, and a stray seedless cucumber in the crook of my arm. I laughed to myself but out loud, so any passerby coming toward me must have thought that my imaginary friend (or cucumber) and I were having a jolly good time together.

We were, but it would have been more fun if the cucumber Samaritan had stuck around.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Liberty and Caffeine for All

As you read this, coffee beans are being farmed in rural Uganda. Along with the beans, peace is sprouting from the ground and primitive approaches to life and business are fostering a level of peace we – intelligent, developed, seemingly superior nations – can’t seem to come close to.

Ugandan Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Catholics chose to overcome religious differences in favor of economic development and quality of life in the form of a coffee farm cooperative. Imagine that.

The coffee is sold to the Thanksgiving Coffee Company, and the farmers receive prices four times higher than what they previously earned. The financial improvement allows them to send their kids to school and open savings accounts.

Four farmers from the Mirembe Kawomera coffee farm in Uganda spoke at the place where I work, but I was at my weekly volunteer gig so I had to miss the program. [Insert massive frown.]

The American couple hosting the farmers invited my co-worker to a dinner at their house the next night and said that she could bring a guest. She chose me. I jumped up and down when she told me the news. I was airborne. At least three times.

We pulled up to quite a nice home in Silver Spring, Maryland, and JJ, Sam, Margaret, and Sinina were outside. We said our hellos and shook hands. Sam shook my hand for what seemed like a while. He would shake my hand several times throughout the night. At length.

And so began a one-of-a-kind experience of having a family style meal with farmers from Uganda and Washingtonians who numb me with their intelligence and life experiences. The farmers talked about the co-op, JJ played a variation of the guitar while the others sang, and Sam remained a reliable shaker of my hand (and close-talker).

In their month-long tour of the US – visiting synagogues, churches, and mosques – the farmers have been wowed by snow, airplanes, escalators, elevators, and countless other inventions we don’t even give a second thought.

What does it mean to buy Mirembe Kawomera Coffee? According to JJ, the founder and chairman of the cooperative, “It means that the buyer and the consumer want quality, peace and love, and this can be spread world over.”

So, I urge you – if you have any influence over the coffee that your company orders – order from Mirembe Kawomera, which translates to “Delicious Peace.” And yes, the coffee is yummy.

Upon leaving, Sam shook my hand (surprise, surprise) and said, “Ohhh, I thought you were going to sleep over here with us.”

A Ugandan farmer with nine children wants me to spend the night – a whole new dimension to the story of my life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stomach Ache

I’m growling as I write this. Apparently my posts haven’t been feeding to my reader (whatever the heck that means). I’m an old soul with words to share, but technology is not my middle name. It’s Sara. For a while (…years) I couldn’t remember if it ended in an “h” or not. I wish my middle name was Granola.

I attempted to fix the problem, so could you kind-hearted folks hit the pink RSS feed button (thank you deeply, Ryan P.) and make sure you’re subscribed and well fed?

Please let me know if my posts are appearing on your reader. If not, do help me. And to think that some of you missed out on all of the
nuts I’ve consumed recently. Almond joys and technical difficulty – story of my life.

Matchmaker Sans Discretion

My great aunt recently had surgery to eradicate an internal enemy: cancer. That’s why I’m doing this. For the past few years, she’s been overly concerned about my sister and I finding husbands. My sister is 27 and I’m 24 ½. My parents think that my sister might require a dowry. (Sorry, Julie.)

“Please. I want to go to a wedding before I die. Do you think that can happen?” says my Polish, Holocaust surviving aunt.

Nothing like Jewish guilt to make a serial single girl question her place in the world.

“Probably not,” I say. I think I left my filter somewhere.

She says that we’re both too picky. What’s wrong with being picky? Picky might keep you single (though not indefinitely, believes the optimist in me), but it also keeps you from swimming in the same pool as 50% of the population who find themselves divorced. And people often treat pools as if they are a loo.

She says that if we don’t use our female anatomy, “it’s going to get rusty.”

Nothing like Jewish guilt to make a serial single girl question the livelihood of her inner thighs.

While being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, my great aunt is staying in the facility’s residential complex with other cancer patients and their families. My aunt met someone who she thought would be great for my sister.

She called Julie to tell her about the potential match.

My question-prone sister: “How old is he?”


My quick to negate an opportunity sister: “That’s too old.“

“Why do you have to be such a picky pain in the tuchus, huh?”

My rational sister: “My mom is around 47.”


My increasingly inquisitive sister: “How do you know him?”

“He’s a cancer patient. Cancer in the leg. I think part of his leg was removed.”

My dream-crushing sister: “I don’t think it’s going to work…”


My straight and to the point sister: “Because he’s FORTY-SEVEN and HE HAS CANCER.”

When I heard the story, I wished she had tried to set me up because I thought it would have made for an interesting blog post. I mulled it over and realized that I could write about someone other than ME (imagine that). So hear it is – the story of my sister’s life.