Viewing posts from March, 2015

Our Persian New Year

Happy Persian New Year! 

The Persian New Year marks the first day of Spring. Most all Persians put up a haft seen in their homes for the new year. A haft seen is a decorated table with items that symbolize the coming of Spring. It literally translates to "7 S's" Each S represents something different. The seven S's that we put on the table are:

Sabzeh: Wheat, lentil or barley sprouts that symbolize rebirth

Seeb: Apple, symbolizing beauty and health

Samanu: Sweet pudding made of wheat germ, symbolizing affluence

Senjed: Dried oleaster, symbolizing love

Seer: Garlic, symbolizing medicine 

Serkeh: Vinegar, symbolizing age and patience

Somaq: sumac fruit, symbolizing the color of sunrise

Other things we put on the table spread are:

Hyacinths: Symbolize the coming of Spring

Eggs: Symbolize fertility

Coins: Symbolize wealth

Mirror: Symbolize the sky and honesty

Candles: Symbolize enlightment 

Fish in a bowl of water: Symbolize life

Sweets: Symbolize sweetness

Holy Book: I always put up the Shahnameh or Divan-e-Hafez (Famous Iranian poetry books) as I don't believe in religion. 

Norooz Haft Seen Persian New Year table spread

I love how Salar's parents were here with us in spirit....and through the mirror.

As the clock strikes the time of the Spring equinox, families gather round the haft seen in their best dressed clothes and eat sweets and give each other hugs and kisses. This year me and Salar were on a no-sugar-diet (gotta lose those pregnancy pounds) so we both put a mini cupcake in our mouths, chewed it, felt like we were in heaven for a few seconds, and then spat it out. #ihatedieting

Norooz Haft Seen persian new year table spread

Norooz haft seen persian new year table spread

For the new year I bought my babies matching suits. So they can be little gentleman.  I dressed them up and put them on my bed, where Valentino proceeded to sit on his little brother Caspian. 

matching baby suits brothers

That night we went outside our house, lit a sky lantern, and made wishes as it flew up up and away! I think this may totally be illegal. Valentino was fascinated by it, as were our neighbors.  

sky lantern chinese lantern

sky lantern chinese lantern

Later that night we all went to Cafe Renaissance for dinner with my parents and my sister. Caspian had to stay behind with a babysitter because he's still too little to go fine dining. We took Valentino with us, and he behaved like a perfect gentleman, all throughout the night! (I have my iphone youtube app to thank for that). Thank god for Peppa Pig. 

cafe renaissance vienna va

Chef Ocean made a special seafood tower for our special guest- Salar's brother. It looked delish....

cafe renaissance vienna va

Cafe renaissance vienna va

It was the perfect end to a perfect day....good food and family, complemented with some Darioush wine and my favorite Vouvray. We left a bit tipsy and feeling good about the New Year. 

The following day we had brunch with my parents, sister, and brother in law at our house.

We had the typical New Years eats: Fish and green herbed rice. Me and Salar are going through a no carb period for a while, so we just ate fish and this thing called kookoo sabzi...which I don't care for much but ate it anyway. 

One thing I love about Norooz is that it is celebrated by Iranians of all religions. It's not a religious holiday, but has roots from Zoroastrianism- Iran's pre-Islamic religion. Apparently back in the day they would include wine on the table as well, and would call haft seen "haft sheen" and fill the table with 7 "Sh's" including "sharab" which means wine. 

Last year I made a haft sheen (see pics below). I wanted it to be pre-islamic, and include wine. But then this year I researched it more and found out that the word sharab is actually an arabic how can the haft sheen be pre-islamic? Confusing. So I went ahead and made a haft seen this year instead of haft sheen. Can you tell I have a thing against the islamic invasion of Iran?? Can we all please start saying "Doroud" instead of "Salam" which is an arabic word?? 

haft sheen norooz nowruz

haft sheen norooz nowruz

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, prosperous new year. xoxo

How to make a sabzeh for Norooz

The Persian New Year is here, and I've successfully made my sabzehs for the haft seen. If you're not Persian and have no idea what I'm talking about, sabzeh is this kind of grass we grow and put on a pretty table spread with a bunch of other things that symbolize the coming of Spring. The grass symbolizes rebirth.

So here goes!

I started the whole sabzeh making process 11 days before Norooz. This is what I did that worked for me:

Step 1:

I went to the Persian store and bought this:

Step 2:

I then soaked it all in lukewarm water for 2 days. I would change the water about three times a day. 

how to make a sabzeh norooz haft seen

Step 3:

I then chose things that I wanted my sabzehs to grow on- a plate, martini glass, little tiny plates, and mini cake stands. Because this was the first time I made a sabzeh, I thought I'd make a lot so that if one or two die I wouldn't be in trouble and left without a sabzeh. I took some paper towels, soaked them, put them on the plates and filled it with the sprouts. Then I wrapped them with the moist paper towels. Apparently it is really important to keep the sprouts moist at all times. Not soaking wet.....just moist. 

how to make a sabzeh haft seen norooz

how to make a sabzeh haft seen norooz 

how to make a sabzeh wheat sprouts haft seen

Step 4:

I kept them covered and moist at all times. I took a spray bottle and would spray the paper towels with water about 5 times a day. After 2 or 3 days I then removed the sprouts from their bundle of paper towels, cut around a dry paper towel so that it would fit in each of my plates, soaked it, and dumped the sprouts back on it. Then again I'd cover them with moist paper towels.

Step 5:

I continued to spray the paper towels and keep them moist. I would put them in sunlight for about two hours a day. Then they began to look like this:

Then two days later they looked like this:

Then they slowly turned into this:

Once they looked like this I took the paper towels that I placed on top of them off, and would just continue to spray them (you leave the paper towel on the bottom in place because the sprouts plant themselves on it.)

Day by day they would grow longer and longer. The eighth day looked like this:

This pic was taken on the 15th day:

I continued to spray them multiple times a day and keep them in sunlight. I felt good about them and was happy with the way they turned out. Making them wasn't as hard as I thought. I'll post some pics of our haft seen so you can see how they looked on the 11th day. 

A sucky situation.... (part four)

Click here to read part 1

Click here to read part 2

Click here to read part 3

Fast forward a year…… we find out that I am pregnant. We keep in touch with Sheri and call and give her frequent updates on the pregnancy. She tells us that she will come visit our son after he is born, but that Salar needs to figure out her accommodations. Salar told her that is fine. (YES! I heard him on the phone and he told her visiting was fine) - shocking to some people, I know…..

Nine months pass, and I have a baby boy. We don’t hear from Sheri for a while. She didn't call to congratulate us or send a card or gift (not that we expected one). Months pass, and when Valentino is 6 months old and I am pregnant again, we start receiving phone calls from relatives asking why we don't allow Sheri to see our baby. From the moment we started receiving these phone calls we knew she was having another episode, and it wasn't about seeing Valentino……it was about Valentino being her newest topic of fixation. This is what people have a hard time understanding.

What turned into a few phone calls from relatives turned into a million, all from different relatives in different states. Then Sheri began to call at odd hours, and Salar then blocked her number.

At this point, Salar was at his wits end, angry, and just wanted to be left alone. He was switching jobs and going through a probation period with his new job, I was pregnant, exhausted, and looking after a baby. If Sheri were responsive to receiving help, then yes, we would have helped. But the past proves that she is not responsive to real help. She would lie about taking her meds and seeing her psychiatrist.

We decided not to talk to Sheri, as she would drive Salar crazy and he would lose it and in the end they would just engage in full blown arguments. We decided to cut communication with her for a number of reasons 1) We could not afford to go through what we went through two years ago. This time Salar has a new demanding job and I have a baby and am pregnant again. Things are different when you have two little lives depending on you. 2) in order for her to get what she wanted….to see Valentino, that would have required either us going to London (which was not possible) or her coming here (which would completely cause chaos, have Salar go mad, and result in him losing his job.) 3) in the past, talking to Sheri to resolve a problem would not work. She would simply fixate on an issue, and then jump to another issue. The problem may be resolved for a day, and then the next day there will be another problem, and the following another.

Salar was tired of dealing with his sister. Every time a relative called begging him to talk to her, he would become angrier and angrier. He even thought about changing his phone number so the calls would stop. I had to convince him not to do that. All this started due to an imaginary problem of Salar not allowing her to see Valentino, when that was hardly the case. Salar had never told her anything like that, so you can imagine how surprised he was to all of a sudden receive a million calls from relatives asking him why he is not allowing her to see his son. It was ridiculous. It infuriated him so much that he wrote 2 emails to Sheri and all his relatives telling them why he has issues with his sister. Yes he was angry when he wrote those emails. Does he regret writing them? No. Not one bit. Had he not written them we would have continued to receive a million calls from relatives trying to get us to change our minds and engage in Sheri's nonsense.

Even after writing those emails, we still continued to receive calls from some people. They would infuriate Salar. He would always tell me "WHY ME? WHY CAN'T SHE OBSESS OVER HER OTHER BROTHER? WHY DOES SHE ALWAYS HAVE TO RUIN MY LIFE?"

Then Sheri started to call my side of the family. It started by calls to my mom's house, at odd hours like 5am. She would tell my mom to tell me to convince Salar to let her see Valentino. Then she took it a step further and contacted my other relatives such as cousins and aunts. She told them all to swear not to tell me or Salar that she has contacted them. She would plead for help from them. But whenever someone would tell her that she needs to go to the doctors and take her medicine, she wouldn't like that and would lie and tell them that she does see a doctor and does take her medicine, and that the only way she will feel better is if she sees Valentino.

Then she would tell people that she doesn't know why Salar is ignoring her, as she raised him. When Salar would hear this (as she told a number of people this) he would become so angry that I would see his veins pop out of his neck and his eyes pop out of his head. He would pace back and forth out of frustration at nights screaming "That is an insult to my dad, all she ever did was make things more difficult for me growing up. Tata would have to pick me up every day from school and I would spend time with her because my sister would fight with me all the time!"

Then Sheri started to contact Salar's friends. She would contact anyone who she could get her hands on, including people that Salar hasn't spoke to since he was 8 years old and who live in other countries. She would contact them and honestly I don't even know what she would tell them. Then she started telling people that if she doesn't see Valentino she will kill herself. Upon hearing this we wrote to her psychiatrist about this and told him it's best for her to be committed to a hospital. Soheil did his best to commit her but she would not have it.

Meanwhile, Salar became even more infuriated and was a complete mess. He even asked me if we could all move to the middle of nowhere Africa in the desert with no internet or telephone or anything so he could just be left alone. He wasn't even joking.

And then she killed herself overdosing on pills.

I often wonder, had we let her see Valentino, would she still have committed suicide? Talking to her older brother, she committed suicide shortly after he arranged for mental health services to visit her house a few times a day to make sure she takes her meds.

Maybe if she did see Valentino, by coming here to visit us, she would not have killed herself. But she sure would have driven my husband crazy and they would have constant arguments and I would have become a ball of stress.

And then I think to myself, suppose she did see Valentino, and suppose that were no longer an issue. I guarantee you, the next day there would have been another issue and crisis that she would fixate on and stress over. Just like we have repeatedly seen in the past. It all simply just does not end when she gets what she wants. She does not simply become better and her illness does not go away. This is what some people don't seem to understand.

So right after she killed herself, we started getting phone calls from people we were surprised she had contacted (like my side of the family and many of his friends). This made Salar even more angry, having them tell him the kinds of things she would say about him. Many family and friends blamed Salar for her death. 

Funny how they blame someone who lives on the other side of the world who is just trying to get along with his life and trying to work hard to provide for his family. Is that a crime that he put his family first and would not give in to Sheri's craziness? I don't think so. Salar did more than his share of helping Sheri. Time and time again he would offer solutions to her issues. She would complain about being lonely, and he would beg her to come live close to us and offered to do all her paperwork for her to legally move to the US. He even invited her to parts of our honeymoon. She would complain about people stealing her house and that she needed him in London, he would go and help her. She would complain about not feeling well, he would take her to the psychiatrist and oversee her taking her medicine every day. She would complain about being alone, he would have her visit us and stay with us time and time again. But this last time he just could not do it anymore and he could not handle it anymore. Having a baby, new job, and a pregnant wife is not easy. It is not reasonable to throw your life upside down every time Sheri has an episode just because she refuses to seek real help. People may think a phone call or two or a "ghorboonet beram come stay with me" will make it all better but it DOES NOT. With someone that ill the only thing that will help is being committed to a hospital, regular therapy, and regular medication. All of which she would never do.

Sheri's funeral came and went, and Salar didn't attend. There were multiple reasons for this. He was still angry at her and that anger completely made the grieving process easier. There was no grieving process. Salar would tell me that when he heard of her death, he felt like the shouting in his head had finally stopped. We didn't attend the funeral because I was pregnant and unable to fly, and Salar was on thin ice at work and could not afford to take off. The only time he could afford to take off was for the birth of Caspian, which was fast approaching. And he needed to help me take care of Valentino since it was getting harder and harder for me to lift him due to my pregnancy.  

When I think of this big mess I think of a boyfriend / girlfriend scenario. The boyfriend breaks up with the girlfriend, and wants her to STOP harassing him. Then the girlfriend turns psycho and starts calling all the boyfriends friends and family playing victim. The boyfriend still does not get back with her. Then the girlfriend kills herself. Now people can blame the boyfriend all they want but it's not his fault that the girl committed suicide. The girl committed suicide because she has a mental illness, not because her boyfriend broke up with her.

Anyways, my main point is that sometimes you can try your hardest to help someone who is sick, but when they refuse real help over and over again, and instead seek superficial help, there is not much you can do for them (especially if they are older, stubborn, and live in another country.) Sometimes when it starts to effect you big time, you just need to let it go and concentrate on your own life. That is not unreasonable.

All this being said, it is sad that Salar is still angry about the whole thing. I don't blame him. It's a sucky situation. I feel sad for Sheri that she could have lived such a great life, could have been pleasant and involved in our lives. But her illness blocked any and all paths to happiness. I hope she is finally at peace in heaven with her parents and grandparents. 

A sucky situation.... (part three)

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

After a month long honeymoon in Europe, we came back home to receive alarming phone calls from Sheri, stating that people were going to steal her house. Then we started to get really worried. She then began to call us about 5 times a day. Every day we would both talk to her and reassure her that no one was going to steal her house, and that everything will be fine. But then the phone calls began to increase, and on any given day we would get 30+ phone calls, throughout the day and all through the night. She would repeat the same thing over and over, completely obsessed that people were out to get her and take her to court. We could tell that she was hallucinating and she had become extremely paranoid, and that she wasn't sleeping at all.

She continued to call every day and night, begging us to help her. She would beg and plead, over and over. She would tell us that she cannot live like this and needed Salar to come to London. We would reassure her that everything is okay and that no one is going to take her house, and Salar will make sure of that. We would then hang up the phone, and she would call back 5 minutes later saying the exact same things she said during the last conversation. It was like it was on repeat, and nothing you could say would stop it. You could not reason with her, there was no logic. It's like it would go into one ear and out the other.

Then she started calling relatives who would then call us and ask why we are not helping her retain her house. People would actually believe what she was saying to be true, whereas in reality there was no truth to what she was saying.

We begged Sheri to go see her doctor, and we would call her doctor and fax him letters detailing her mental state. She would lie to us and tell us that she went and saw the doctor, and the doctor would tell us that she had not. 

So we decided to go ASAP as she was deteriorating, and booked a next day flight.

When we arrived in London, Sheri was happy to see us, for all of 5 minutes. She would tell us that any day they are coming for her house and taking her to court. All throughout the day she would pace back and forth. She would not eat and would not sleep. She would barge in our bedroom in the middle of the night panicking. We then had to trick her into seeing a psychiatrist. It took 4 people (Salar, me, Soheil and Tata) to get her to leave the house and get into the car. We would have to beg her for hours to get her to come with us. In the psychiatrists practice and in public, she would act okay. The doctor prescribed her meds, which she refused to take. Every day was a struggle to get her to take her meds. At first Tata would try to reason with her and plead with her to. She wouldn't listen. Then I would go and try to persuade her to take them, while being very nice and sweet. Then Salar was always last resort. He would argue with her and they would have full blown fights over this, and she would only take the meds once he threatened to leave and stay in a hotel. Getting her to take her meds took several hours and was always a battle.

After a few days, she suddenly stopped talking about people stealing her house, and started being fixated on something else…..she started to fixate on giving Salar power of attorney for her so that he can handle all her affairs. Every day she would beg him to, and would constantly tell us we needed to see an attorney as soon as possible. She said this was absolutely necessary, and went on for days  telling us this needs to happen. Salar reluctantly set an appointment, thinking he will just get this done so that she may feel better and have a better sense of security since she wanted it so much.

The day arrived when we went to see the attorney. During the meeting detailing power of attorney, Sheri suddenly tells everyone "Why are you making me do this?" "How can I trust Salar?" We all stood there shocked. After days and days of obsessing for this to happen, how can she just suddenly change her mind like that once we are in the process of getting it done? That day, we were in the attorney's office for hours. It was a complete wasted trip.

Salar then told her that he will NOT be taking power of attorney and that is actually the best thing to do.  As soon as he said this, then she immediately changed her mind (again) and begged him for the rest of our stay to make another appointment so that she can sign the papers. Every single day she would beg and beg, pace back and forth, claiming she made a big mistake and now wants to go back to the attorney's office again to sign the papers.

Salar felt defeated, angry and fed up. It looked like the more he would give in to her demands, the more it would backfire and nothing would help. 

That entire trip was a nightmare for Salar. Tricking her every week to go to the psychiatrist and forcing her to take her meds were one thing, but it was completely another thing to have her manipulate other people into thinking that we came just to have a vacation and were not helping her. This would infuriate Salar. While staying with her, we would beg her to come out to buy some groceries or necessities. She would refuse to leave the house. Then while we were out we would have numerous relatives call us angry at us for leaving her alone and not helping her. We would have to explain to these relatives that it was her own choice for not leaving the house and that we had begged her to come with us.

 Other times we would all be going out to dinner together, and right before leaving the house she would call relatives in the US (in front of us) and tell them that we were all going out without her and leaving her all alone. We then would just stand there stunned and speechless.

She did a GREAT job of playing victim and manipulating people.

Because things were so bad, we had to extend our trip. Every day was a struggle to get her to sleep, to eat, to shower, to take her meds, to see her psychiatrist, and to leave the house.

Shortly after we left, she followed us to Virginia and stayed with us. During her stay it was also a struggle having her take her meds in front of us. During this time, she would say mean things that would get under Salars skin and then they would fight. It was a hectic time, and Salar was losing his own mind, and unable to concentrate on his work that was really lagging. During her stay with us, we had a serious meeting with her and her close uncle about her options for moving closer to family. We begged her to move to the US, and Salar told her over and over again that he will do all her paperwork for her and help make it possible. We all talked to her for hours about seriously considering moving here and that we would all help her and hold her hand through it, but again and again, she would come up with an excuse. Then she would complain about being lonely in London.

It was like talking to a wall, you just could not get anywhere and it would just frustrate everyone. 

A few months later Sheri went to Arizona and stayed in an apartment that her aunt sorted out for her. We were going to meet her there to attend a wedding, and she wanted us to stay with her but I preferred us to stay at my relatives home who also lives in Arizona, as we would spend all day every day with Sheri anyway. She then blew this up into a big problem, and we had relatives calling us begging us to stay with her instead of my relatives. Sheri then started calling people telling them to call us and tell us that we have to stay with her. She even called my mom, and my mom would get mad at me and tell me that I have to stay with Sheri. Then I would get into fights with Salar over this, as more and more people would call begging us to stay with her so that she could stop driving everyone crazy. In the end we had to cancel staying with my relatives and opted to stay in a hotel instead just so she wouldn't feel like we were choosing favorites. 

It literally felt like she was picking on her little brother. Salar would get frustrated time and time again, and would often feel like his sister was obsessing over him and loved to pick on him. He would get jealous that his older brother didn't have these issues with their sister, and would often say "WHY ME? I've moved across the world to start a new life and she keeps dragging me into her world of crises! She's ten years older than me! Why does everyone constantly look to me to solve all her problems??"  Living through all this with him and seeing it firsthand, I could sympathize.

click here for part 4

A sucky situation.... (part two)

Click here to read part 1

To fully understand the depth of Salar's emotions, you have to understand the history. You have to understand the background that led us to make certain decisions that we did, including the decision to cut her out of our lives.

Salar would often tell me stories about how miserable his sister would make his life, but that him and his dad wouldn't say anything just to keep her happy. He would tell me about how much harder she made his childhood, constantly screaming and fighting with everyone in the house and causing chaos. Maybe that was her way of coping with the loss of their mom and grandparents. He would tell me that she would take his allowance money and wouldn't give it to him until he did things that she wanted him to do, and would torment him when they had to share a room. To help him out, Tata (a mother figure to him) would pick him up from school every day and take him with her to work.

When Salar's father became ill for the last few years of his life and required constant care, Salar and his sister teamed up to provide the best care for him. Salar would hire caretakers left and right, and Sheri would constantly drive them away. She would have bursts of rage, alternating between yelling at the caretakers and at her father. Salar would tell me she would often fight with her father and blame him for ruining her life, and she would say mean things like "I hope you die" in Persian.  Because Sheri used to always talk so highly of her father in front of me, I didn't believe Salar when he would tell me these things. But then I would hear the same thing from a relative who stayed with Sheri and her father in London for a few weeks, and I was shocked.  Apparently things got so bad that everyone decided it was best for Sheri to move out and into Salar's apartment that was close by, so that she could have some space and time for herself to sort things out. Salar often tears up when talking about this difficult time and becomes angry and regretful that he could not do more to keep the last years of his dad's life more peaceful.

So up until Sheri passed away, she would call my mom and tell her that she "raised" Salar and that she was the only one taking care of their father when he was ill, and how she doesn't understand why Salar won't talk to her. This would enrage Salar, and upon hearing these things his eyes would pop out of his head and his veins would pop out of his neck and I could almost see fire in his eyes. He would pace back and forth claiming that was complete bullshit….how she LOVED to self glorify….and how in reality she made his and his dads life ten times more difficult with her mental health problems.

Although during those difficult times Sheri would constantly stress Salar out, he still loved her and tried to help her. After their father passed away he decided to move to Orange County. He felt bad that his sister would be lonely in London, and tried to convince her to move to Orange County also, where they have a lot of relatives and the overall atmosphere is a happy one. He booked her a ticket to go visit and stay with family members. So she went, stayed with some relatives, and decided that she does not like the people or the area, and so she went back to London. Salar would still often try to persuade her into moving there also so she can be close to him but she absolutely refused.

A few years later, I met Salar and we got engaged. For our engagement and for Christmas we invited Sheri over to stay with us. During this trip, Sheri had an amazing time and we begged her to move to the US and live in the apartments across the street from us, or at least visit regularly. She would often tell us she doesn’t like traveling and that it is difficult for her, and that she is more comfortable in London. 

The next time Sheri visited was for our wedding, where we again begged her to move here so she can be close to us and closer to all her relatives. She had a good time, but we could tell that something was not right, and that she seemed restless and depressed. Because she would often state that she is extremely lonely in London, we told her she should join us in parts of our honeymoon, so that she will have something happy again to look forward to. She then met us in Italy and stayed with relatives. It was here where we started to notice she was deteriorating fast.  While in Italy we tried to convince her to again, either move to the US so she can be surrounded by family, or move to Italy so she can be close to her Italian side of the family. One minute she would tell us that she has decided to move to Italy, Virginia, or Arizona, and the next minute she would change her mind. Every day she would decide something, and then the next day she would completely change her mind. After a month long honeymoon, we went back to the US not expecting what would happen next with her. 

Click here for part 3