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Sunday, January 22, 2012

We've Moved!

Brothers and Sisters (pump up the volume). Ooops! Sorry - that just slipped out. (Naturally of course). I have moved the blog over to new digs at

Check it out at: There are some things I need to refine, but most of the boxes have been unpacked and the curtains are hung up.

I think we are pretty much ready to open for business :-)

Come on over and tell me what you think. I know its hard to sometimes handle change, but I hope you are willing to do it with me.

When I first started blogging in 2009, I did it within some boundaries that did not always make blogging enjoyable, though that is how it started and that is what I had hoped to gain from it.

Fast forward to 2011.

2011 started out tough and ended even tougher. Ultimately, I went through something really challenging last year. It was hard - so hard. But most of it wasn't something I could share here. And when you have something that consumes you but which you cannot share, it kind of makes it hard to want to write at all.

Let's face it, I don't want to write a blog about the weather. Or the latest "Bachelor."

I want to write a blog about the truth. My truth.

So other than the re-design, I think you will notice some changes. Not just in the layout but in the nature of my posts. I hope to dig just a little deeper, just a little more truthfully than I have in the past.

Thank you for sharing the past few years of writing with me. I have a learned a great deal not only about myself from my writing, but about myself from your insights.

Thank you.

Now, no dilly dallying. Come on over!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Place Called Ideally

I have always been hard on myself and the expectations I place on myself. There are times where I struggle with the realization that the desire to succeed is in fact some form of self-punishment. Punishment in that I create near impossible situations to accomplish.

This causes me a great deal of angst.

I have always lived in the world of "ideally." I have held myself to an often impossible standard. Some of these standards are driven by societal expectations, others by arbitrary deadlines and confines I place on myself.

Do any of these situations sound like they might sound familiar to you?

Sharing a dinner with an amazing beautiful, brilliant and accomplished friend lamenting the fact that she is still single. Because ideally, she would have met her dream man by 30 (not 40) and had the 2.5 kids she always expected to have.

She is a city girl, so ideally, she would not have picket fences, but a laundry machine would be nice.

Ideal, even.

A young married woman struggles with issues bearing children. Ideally, she would have had at least two by now, but its been impossible to conceive and the one time she got pregnant, she miscarried so early on. She struggles under the weight of this consuming need to love and hold the child she dreams of.

Instead she presses her abdomen as she shudders from the coldness and unforgiving nature of the womb she has been dealt.

she wishes God would hear her pleas and grant her this gift so many women stumble upon without even really trying.

Ideally, she would like to conceive, but would be open to adoption.

It's just not ideal. Not to her anyway.

A woman goes to bed alone. Her kids are sleeping and she sighs a tired breath as she inhales her loneliness and exhales out her frustration. This was not supposed to be her life. Ideally, she would have a husband who saw her, respected her. She thought in her twenties that by the time she was thirty she should be married with kids, ideally. Have a nice house and a great job.

Those things have all happened. But her idea of "ideally" is far from ideal. The check boxes have all been marked, but there was so much nobody told her, so much she didn't understand.

She takes off her reading glasses and turns off the light, alone with the thoughts that haunt her every night.

On the surface, it looks ideal. But boiling under the surface, below that layer of her mind where her thoughts run like a river, there is a parallel stream of regret that clenches her heart and makes her ache inside.

I have often chased after what seemed like required milestones in my life with the "Ideally" lenses on. When you put on the "ideally" lenses, they skew things a little. You see life the way you think it should be, the way you want so badly for it it be.

But life is rarely that predictable. And the missteps we often take in our rush to the summit of "Ideally" are often hard to backtrack from. Retracing to a new "ideally" seems impossible for many.

I sometimes get asked questions along the lines of "Ideally, what is it that you are looking for?" I think if you had asked me many years ago, my answer would be pretty clear. But life happens and you realize that the weight of "Ideally" runs the same risks of trying to accomplish perfection.

And perfection scares me. It leaves me in a pile of angst and insecurity, completely unsure of myself. Its a whole lot of pressure that I don't need in the high expectation filled life I lead where I feel I often let myself down the most on unrealistic expectations of myself and others around me.

If you are waiting for perfect from me, you better get in line and plan to wait a while.

Grab a seat.

Bring some popcorn, even.

As a mother, a professional, a business owner, a wife and friend, there are few things I do perfectly. I bust my little Indian hiny trying to get there, but I have come to terms with the fact that both the number of hours and the energy I can dedicate in this life are finite. And my best will just have to do.

Ideally, that will be as close to perfect as I can get.

I bet you are thinking, well you MUST think your kids are perfect. So lets do a brief inventory, everything from their little limbs, to their big brown eyes, to their distinct little voices can bring me to tears.

Because those little limbs can pack a mean punch, those brown eyes can weep tears the size of marbles over not being given the right color Skittle (who knew today was the day Orange was the best?) and those voices can say some pretty mean stuff to a mother, who IDEALLY, would not want her kids to talk fresh.

But I think that perfection is a heavy burden for any of us to bear. I can't and won't be the one to place it on my children, Shaila and Nico. Let's face it, being perfect is damn near impossible and to be honest, its a bit boring, isn't it?

Its great to have dreams. Its great to want things. But I think if we tried a little less to live our lives in the world of "ideally" and spent a little more time listening to our hearts and ignoring the voices in our heads and around us that say things like the things I have heard said to friends below, we'd be a whole lot happier.

"Oh, you're not married? Oh I'm so embarrassed - sorry! You'll meet Mr. Right one day!" Pause. "Or, um, Mrs. Right?! You're not gay, are you? It's just so unusual to find straight women in their forties."

"HOW many kids do you have? Oh, none?! Well, hopefully you guys get cracking soon. Its harder the older you get, you know!"

"When are you guys getting married? You seem perfect together! I know we only saw you together that one time, but I could tell by the way he held your hair over the deck when you puked that he really loves you. You better nab that one!"

"Oh, you look so good. Have you put on some weight? I can tell you must be under pressure. You're just not at your ideal weight."

Give the voice you hear and often block out, the one deep inside you, a little more credit. Give it a listen. And remember, you don't have to follow my advice.

But ideally, you will.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Get Your Pretty On

That's my daughter, Shaila. No, I am not picking lice out of her hair (though sadly, I have my own memories of that and can tell you vividly what RID smells like).

Roses. RID smells like roses mixed with gasoline. And then as if someone took a whiff of those roses and then threw them in a sewer to die.

Tell you more about that another day. It's promises like this that keep you coming back for more, I just know it.

On a more positive note, going back to Shaila.

My daughter is a lot of things. On good days I call her fearless. On bad days I tell myself she takes more after her father. (I don't know why that makes me feel better, John. Just trust that it does the trick and I can get through the day better).

Lately there seems to be a lot more good than bad. Which is AWESOME, don't get me wrong. The thing is, I feel like I am constantly reminded of how everything is just a phase in childhood development. Given that rationale I might have to believe that this includes some of the good as well as the bad.

So I am going to cherish whatever sweetness I can get from her (in case it's short-lived) and inhale her sweet smell which is so much better than rubber cement.

Rubber cement smells better than RID, just in case you want to know.

And just absorb the amazing spirit she has right now.

When I look at her, this is what I see. A spunky dreamer. Kind and loving and ALWAYS willing to share her Legos. Sensitive - I caught her crying during "Ice Age" during the scene where Queen Latifah remembers where she is from.

Shaila, of course, started bawling but would only admit to having dirt in her eye.

Stubborn. Determined. Adventurous, even.

And the best laugher ever.

So my daughter, this little spitfire of a girl - well, she came home and told me something that made me sad. And that I am hoping is kind of a phase.

Listen to this.

Why does this make me anxious?

She has blonde envy.

Like, major, major blonde envy.

I don't know if you noticed, but we are pretty, well, NOT blonde. Again, we are many things and blonde just isn't one of them.

My beautiful, gorgeous BRUNETTE daughter who is four years old, already believes that blonde hair is prettier than brown or black.

She has come home recently to talk to me about one girl in particular in her pre-school class, speaking almost reverently about her "golden" hair. The precious child in question is in fact, quite a cutie. I can already guess she will be in some way connected to the Homecoming court many years from now and definitely has the makings for the cheerleader squad.

I don't remember having blonde envy as a child. I had "pretty girl" envy - which I think is pretty normal - but I grew up in a town with lots of exotic beauty. When I say "exotic," I mean white brunettes - that's about as much excitement that the town of Old Bridge, New Jersey could take when I was growing up. If you went beyond a certain level of olive in darkness, your looks were discounted.

Kind of like mine. And in those cases you hoped that you had brains and sports to carry you through because otherwise, it was a pretty non-rewarding high school existence.

So I was at the library a lot.

But being pretty is more feasible today than it was in the past. Special pills, treatments, surgeries, medical spas that can suck out your fat over lunchtime are all the trend. And why wouldnt they be? We live in a society where beauty standards have become elevated as women "fix" themselves to the point of external perfection. In this quest for beauty, so many women can chase after all the things they always wanted to be or have.

Busty - go get some big boobs. Flabby - go get that lipo done on your hips. Blonde - Dye your hair from brown to ashy blonde.

All doable and in many ways, encouraged by the images our children and yes, we women, see on the television screen.

As a young woman who never thought of myself as pretty, when I got to college and realized that a few people thought I was semi-cute, I tried to cling to those fifteen minutes of pretty as hard as I could.

And it was hard for me to keep my pretty on after I popped both kids out of my nether-regions and found myself frankly a bit traumatized by the whole thing.

I have cheated in the process to keep my pretty on. Shaila sees her Mommy who once had curly hair with Keratin'ed hair that shines and is the straight hair of my childhood dreams.

But the funny thing about dreams, especially when they are shallow in nature and reflect only the most physical change in the mirror, is that they don't really feel all that special. Not really at all, actually.

Shaila may one day want to dye her hair blonde. Or PURPLE for that matter, just to piss me off. I won't stop her from trying to satisfy this need because I did it and well, I feel like she needs to make her own mistakes. I will probably like it anyway - she is my firstborn, so unless it comes out REALLY ashy, I will still let people know she is mine.

She will hopefully learn that its a journey most women need to make in some capacity to understand that there is only so much change you can do to yourself before you stop recognizing - and perhaps - liking yourself.

Newsflash, Darling. You are gorgeous. Like so beautiful that I hurt sometimes when I look at you. I ache because I know there will be self-doubt at times or perhaps reflections of all the things you AREN'T.

No matter what, we embrace you as you are. Don't lose sight of who you are and what makes you so special. Its not going to be your hair or your sweet little dimple on your left cheek.

Its going to be your joy, your bravery and your ability to look in the mirror and always like - no, love, the person you are.

I guarantee you that if you do this, you will come farther than many people ever will.

Mommy will always hold you tight.

We cling to youth and what's not ours,
External beauty as if it matters,
In the end, what we have is deeper
Than any reflections within our mirrors - Kiran Ferrandino

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Do you ever feel like your day just kind of ran away from you? I sit here and it's 11 PM. I know I should be in bed, because I know the trouble I have when my kids get up. I want to stay curled up under the covers and no amount of coffee can make me move from out and under the lovely, comfortable, soft and downy warmth of my bed which all make me want to ....


Sorry - that's about how easy it is to pass back out in the mornings, so excuse me while I get some coffee.

It's just...

Well, I feel like whether you are a working mother or a stay at home one (I will include daddies in this too, because I know plenty who fulfill both roles), by the time everything (and I mean EVERYTHING, as if I really did sweep every last bit of rice off the floor) is done and the kids are FINALLY in bed, I feel a little like...

"Ok what the HELL just happened?"

Because the day is done. Finito. Pretty much gone. And while I had some great highs in my work day (maybe some lows) and some amazing moments with my kids (or not), I just feel like, when the heck do you get to do the things that YOU need to do. NOT the laundry. Not the bills. Not even time on the phone with family.

I mean the things that make you more balanced as individuals - you know - journaling, exercising, writing, playing music. Just examples, please don't throw a rock at my head because I left off basket-making or pottery or anything. Those are very noteworthy as well.

Everybody has a heartsong. So how do you find yours? Or recognize that maybe it has gone someplace to hide with the sentiment, "hey she is not ready for me now with all this crazy stuff going on, but she will be ready by the time the kids are both in school" so you can put it in the drafty part of your closet right next to the old BCBG dress you refuse to donate because you JUST KNOW you will fit into it again.


Are you delaying singing that heartsong or maybe just saying goodbye to your dream?

Are you maybe, just a teensy bit scared? Of not being successful? Of risks? Of what people might think?

Still a mother.
Still a professional.
Still a wife.

But also...

Still a dreamer.

I have friends who have found their "heartsong." It's the ability to take what they have passion for in their hearts and make it integral part of their lives in some way, a way that it is woven in that it cannot be denied or perhaps made into less of a priority. For them, fulfilling these heartsongs has allowed them to live to new potentials they would never have known. Yes - they were mothers, but beyond mothers, they are also artists and needed a push in finding that song.

I think that I want these moments because right now my heart is kind of "skipping" in terms of playing the song. Its got a lot of static and it just sounds like a really crappy recording, probably similar to the recordings I used to tape off of Z100's top 5 at night on my radio/cassette player.

I can hear it, but because maybe its singing a few different tunes, I haven't found my "song" yet.

Is that crazy? Do you believe that you have a heartsong that you were meant to pursue? Something that always brings you back to a dream that you feel is unfulfilled.

Now listen here. If you tell me your heart always wanted to be Eva Longoria, I know that this will be a LIE because she only rose in popularity in the last six years. It needs to be a legit heartsong. A yearning, really. A yearning to pursue something which you have captured and mastered in your dreams in a way that you are comforted by the thought, and saddened by its absence in life.

For friends who I have who have taken that leap of faith, I must say that I applaud you. You are braver than me, and definitely more talented than I will ever be in the areas you found your heartsongs.

You make me want to be brave and own up to my own dreams.

And do you think that maybe if we listened a little harder to that song, and muted all of the other crap in our lives while also paying less attention to all of the areas that we are weak or make excuses for - that we are denying ourselves and our families a better life?

Just because YOU would ultimately be happier.

The journey to find your heartsong is a tough one. Sometimes realizing you have not achieved it makes it hard for your heart to sing anything, even happy Christmas songs. But you are brave and you can do this. Maybe in 2012 we can all listen a little bit HARDER and sing a little bit LOUDER.

It's not easy. Hard things never are. That's what makes them hard.

But soooo worth it.

I may not know my heartsong yet, but I can sing a bra off a drunk girl in a crowded bar. (True story, I HAVE done this). So I think its important that I really give this whole thing a try.

Don't you think you should too?

Dig deep. Don't tell me resolutions. Tell me your dreams. What have you always wanted to do? What made you stop? Could you, WOULD you - if you knew that it was an option?

If you could, but you won't, why not? Are you scared?

Please don't stop dreaming sisters and misters. You are brave. You CAN do it. I will try with you and I guarantee that if we do - we will sing this song in really kick ass harmony together. Like a "Feed the World" meets "USA for Africa" kind of harmony.

Sing your heart out. Just don't let you heart ever stop singing. Even if right now, it may only be a whisper.



I am really, really flexible. Bendy, in fact.

See this picture of me? It was taken in Hawaii last year.


It was basically taken in a place I call my dreams and apparently didn't involve me or any joints. Bones, even.

I am the least physically flexible person I know. In a quest to reach my toes, I am often amazed how ridiculously arthritic and just, well - UNCOMFORTABLE - I look as I try to inch my way anywhere south of my calves.

I have had a lifelong jealousy of people who have the ability to do things like splits and back bends with ease. The kind of people who you might end up sitting next to at the end of your workout at the gym, who manage to wrap their legs around their head while you make a valiant effort to do some half ass stretches.

Ughh, really.

Or that lady in my yoga class who I always manage to stand next to in Bikram. The one who can touch her head to her toes while still looking cute.

There are many things in life which are unfair.

I always felt like I got dealt a short stick. Or, whatever that saying is because as I type this, I realize that that makes absolutely no sense and I am mangling cliches again.

People say, "Oh it comes with practice." Well let me tell you something, sister. Or mister.

I practice. I practice so hard. I bend and stretch and try and hold and push some more and sweat and bend and god, why is this so damn hard?

I just don't seem to be going anywhere.

So, yeah, sometimes it feels like I am not going far. And how it bruises my ego and my vanity to realize that I look far from cute as I aim and shoot and fail.

Gosh, why are my toes still so freaking far away?

Sometimes it hurts me to look at myself in the mirror on these days where I feel like I cannot find that edge - the edge where the "me" in the mirror looks like the "me" that I envision in my head. The one who is not hindered by structural limitations - real or perceived.

Its hard to acknowledge that I well never be a yogi, despite the fact that I can pronounce Sanskrit better than most people in my class will ever be able to. And it feels hard because it feels like I have lost out on my birthright - a chance to bond closer with Indian culture.

Isn't that lame? Oh God! (Shiva, not Jehovah) just don't answer.

Its something that I am coming to terms with. I go to yoga and in my quest to gain some flexibility find myself being the furthest thing from peaceful or quiet in my head. Instead, I focus on weakness and not strength and isn't that maybe being just a little bit hard on myself?

I am not the woman in the picture above. And frankly, that's okay.

So I think I need pack my dreams of ever becoming Gumby away. It ain't happening. I will keep pushing myself, but only if I can do so without punishment.

Because life is not always a competition. And I have to stop competing with this image of the me in my head and the me looking in the mirror.

And when you are trying to be a mother, a wife, a businesswoman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a neighbor or WHATEVER role we try to wrap and bend ourselves into that day, sometimes you find that there is only so far you can bend before you break.

I am trying to be a little kinder to the "me" looking in the mirror. So maybe I should start now.

So I am looking in the mirror and taking an immediate stab at this. Looking pretty good, sister. Like, many not your full age even. Well, yeah - you do have that holiday weight on you, but that shouldn't be too hard to take off. Right? Hmm. Turning to the right. Your hair looks pretty nice and oh what is that? Yes, that is flour in my hair. Yes, my nail polish is chipping.

I start to take inventory of the house. I am nowhere near ready to do my taxes. My office is a mess and no, I am fine, that is not panic. My voice just sounds funny because this happens to people with tight hamstrings. Oh damn, the laundry is still waiting to get into the dryer.

What else? Oh shit, the Christmas tree is still up.








This year I will learn to be bendy. Not the "bendy" that I don't know if I will ever get physically, though I can keep trying. I will leave that to the women in my yoga class or videos or the Cirque de Soleil dancers. I mean that I will learn to be the kind of bendy that gives in to my life without being so darn hard on myself.

We can't all be Gumby.

But we can all learn to bend.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dip Your Toes in the Water

I remember going to the ocean as a kid and feeling like I was home. At that moment, it didn't matter that I was an Indian kid growing up in America who never felt quite like I fit in. It didn't matter that I was an American who would never quite fit in on the many trips I took to India - back to the country my parents had come from.

At the beach, the ocean seemed so much larger than anything running through my little head. Because even as a kid, my mind could not just sit the hell down. And I don't mean that in a - oh I was always just thinking about so many great ideas, in my pursuit for intellectual nirvana.

I mean it in the way that I wasn't sure where I belonged. Looking back I recognize it for what would be a lifelong journey with insecurity that many people struggle with.

I tell myself that others feel this so I don't feel quite so alone. (Or so crazy).

Things I think a lot of kids like me might have thought - Why don't I look like my friends? Why does my family seem so different from everyone else's? Why are my parents fighting, AGAIN?

You know, the normal shit most kids think about. Apparently, I was starting my lifelong questo to always ask "why?" for things I would never be able to answer, or were, in fact, quite obvious.

When I was at the beach, all of that went away. I smelled the salt water from miles away as we drove in caravans to the crowded shores of New Jersey. I didn't know yet that the rest of the country didn't always hold New Jersey in the highest esteem and had not yet been exposed to a lifetime of "Oh yeah? What exit?" type questions.

Yeah, so cute. And very original.

(Though I have to admit, at least you can get a geographical sense of where one lived in the often misunderstood Garden State. Let's remember that it IS called that, either because there ARE in fact, many gardens there. Or maybe just because we all have complexes about our garden free exits).

The anticipation would course right through me as I would wait. It was a whole lot of waiting, I can remember. Waiting for my parents to meet up with our uncles and aunties in our separate cars so we could caravan to the beach. Waiting for us to haul our station wagons through the Jersey traffic to the ocean. Waiting for the drawbridge that just HAD to pick that moment to be up.

Oh god someone has to pee.

Waiting to find a bathroom. Waiting for us to find a spot where we could lay out the colorful sheets and for the aunties to start arranging the coolers full of roti and sabji. God forbid we ate any of the food from the boardwalk or bologna sandwiches like the family next to us.

In retrospect, all ok - but I don't know. At the time, I just felt so darn strange.

And then finally, FINALLY!!, the waiting was over. I was free. The ocean was right there.

As the crispness of the wind coming off the ocean and the massaging feel of the sand soothed every inch of my being, I felt whole. The "crazy" was still there, but slightly muted in the unmitigated joy I felt, knowing that I would be running into that water in just a few minutes.

And I would remember running up to the water's edge, surrounded by my siblings and cousins, ready to run right in.

But I would stop.

Because the ocean, no matter how much it called to me like it was exactly where I needed to be - was cold. Sometimes colder than I could handle. And I wasn't always ready to be caught in the undertow. The few times that I had gotten caught in a wave still scared me, scared me the way I would never eat my mom's fish curry for fear of that time I got a bone stuck in my throat.

For you see, when you are 5, these things kind of stick with you.

But no matter what - no matter how much I still could hear the thoughts in my head asking why does nobody look like me, why can't I be like everyone else, why do I feel like my family is so broken, why am I surrounded by so much shouting all the time, why, Why, WHY?! - kind of way - I was finally home.

And as I would walk towards the small waves breaking on shore and put my little toes in while the water rushing back to the ocean pulled the ground away from under my feet, I came to realize that for me, life would always be a little of wanting to run towards what I know I couldn't control. That I would want to be in situations where the ground was never quite stable under my feet and where it was okay if things got messy.

The loud crash of the ocean was louder than the clashing voices raised in anger at home, the tears and the heartache I seemed to know too well at the age of 5.

This was the time, MY time, where I was just a normal kid, eating a roti with bhaigan bharta at the beach.

And eventually, once my toes were in the water, I would rejoice in something bigger than me, bigger than I could comprehend and surrender to what I knew I would always have to surrender to.



Friday, December 30, 2011

Let There Be Light

As we approach the new year, I am sitting in a shadow of darkness.

For you see, there once was a girl I knew who could walk into a room and smile a smile so bright that it would light up the darkest corners within. A girl who would laugh with such abandon that you couldn't help but laugh with her, whether or not she let you in on the joke. A beautiful brunette who radiated an enormous amount of self-awareness and confidence within the petite package of a cute, bubbly teenage American girl.

A girl who liked Taylor Swift and hanging out with her friends. A girl who was an amazing, incredible soccer player.

A kick-ass sister.

A wonderful daughter.

And I thought she was a pretty rocking niece.

Today, just a few hours ago, we received a phone call telling us that this beautiful, lovely, amazing girl is gone.

She made a decision that I cannot bear to think of.

The finality of it seems so unfair.

My husband, John and I, along with a shattered sea of family is sitting wherever we are tonight, some far - some near from each other. All asking questions that don't have easy or immediate answers, not wanting to believe that this is true. We all feel the sharp stabbing of pain that makes it harder to breathe as we realize that the aftershock of this quake will be felt for the rest of our lives.

I know that I for one keep thinking that this is just a bad dream. Just knowing that there will not be another time, another day where we see that smile is almost too much to bear.

I don't know if her parents and step-parents will ever find the answers they will need. I don't know if life or death ever fulfills that need for us. But I know that they will always honor that sweet girl, the one with the heartbreaking smile and the heart of gold.

I know her brother and sister will mourn her but will also still hear the sound of her infectious laughter somewhere in their hearts every day of their lives.

I didn't have the chance to say it, but how I wish I could have said the following words to her as we spoke at Thanksgiving as she lovingly threw her younger cousins in the air.

You are so loved. You are precious to so many people in ways that you do not yet understand. The joy you bring to the lives of others is immeasurable and the joy you will experience in life is something that you cannot yet comprehend.

You are strong. Stronger than you think. You have people who will hold you up and catch you if you fall. You just need to let them.

You are cherished. Your smile. Your heart. Your mind. Your laugh.

Just you.

You are worth so much more than the problems you have today. Your pain is real and pain will undoubtedly be there in life. But if you don't know pain, you won't understand what true elation is on those moments that I know you have ahead of you. The ones where you soar. The ones where you catch your dreams. The ones where you leap from great heights and land with a grace you don't even see in you yet.

A grace that we all can see and know will only grow with time.

You are a blessing.

Just you.

And you're perfect.

I am still not able to make sense of what is happening right now, but for now I just want to get to the point where breathing doesn't hurt. Please pray for her parents and sister and brother, stepbrothers and sisters.

They got to see that light every day and it will be hard for their eyes and their hearts to adjust to the sudden dimness that overtook the brightness.

We love you, angel. We loved you on earth and we will love you in Heaven. Everyone who loved you will learn to be strong but don't ever stop shining that light down on them.

RIP, sweet Amanda.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter From Santa

I said I wouldn't do it. I vowed that this year would be different.

I really, REALLY believed I would change.

But I didn't. I am still the same person who gets sucked into the frenzy of Christmas shopping, gifting and shenanigans that I say every year that I deplore.

It's not that I don't love the joy of giving gifts at Christmas. I do. In fact, it's one of the few times I buy something special and beautiful and what I hope is very meaningful to every person on our list.

It's just that, when I think about my kids specifically, I question whether I am doing it right.

I come from a childhood where I can remember most every toy I was given. While toys and games were not plentiful, each one I had was cherished and appreciated. The clothes were revered and worn till they were threadbare or outgrown. Even then, the next time my family would go to India, we would give it to family members in the remote villages of Northeastern India, where they were worn even further.

I have memories of my Holly Hobby First Oven (My brother bought it for my fifth birthday after saving money from his paper route).

My first pair designer jeans - they were Jordache's (My sister saved up for me from her first job at Macy's). I was only 5 and really didn't know why I was so excited. (Note: On that gift, I think my sis was more excited than me. I was like a real American Girl Doll she could dress up that talked and pooped and everything. Just the Indian version.)

Apparently she wanted toys too.

My husband John grew up in a family where Christmas was everything I ever romanticized it to be. Full of presents, holiday songs, roasts and stockings and all that seemed merry. He talks about the extravagance of his holidays and how special they were growing up.

And I get that.

So every year we go back and forth on what to get the kids. On the ideas - I start small, he starts big. We end up somewhere on the other side of even his big ideas, not the middle, but GARGANTUAN.

Apparently once I start shopping and getting into the true Christmas spirit, I become unfocused and quickly forget my intentions to keep things simple.

And they end up being far from simple.

My daughter is four and my son is two. We are trying to teach them the difference between want and need. I feel like we missed the mark this year a little.

I wrote my daughter a letter to Santa that I want to give her on Christmas night. Some may call me a buzzkill. Some may say this is too much for a four year old.

But I know her. And I kind of think she will get it. And I hope that as she starts getting IT more, maybe I can remember what IT is really about.

Dear Shaila,

Well if you are getting this letter, it is because you made it on the NICE list this year. Congratulations! Your brother Nico made it too! I know that your mommy and daddy are very proud of you and so am I.

This year you got many presents. Too many to count, I even think. But I want you to know that Christmas is not just about getting gifts. It is about being grateful for what you have and showing that by being the best person you can be to others.

You will not always get so many gifts on Christmas. There will be Christmases where there are several presents to open and there will be Christmases where there are fewer gifts.

Don’t ever judge your Christmas by how many presents you get.

One day you will come to know that the best Christmases come from giving. From giving your heart, giving your love and giving your generosity to others.

There are some children in this world who will not receive presents this year. While it’s true that some ARE on the naughty list, what is even more true is that there are some places in this world that even Santa can’t even reach.

Many of these children not only need toys to bring smiles to their faces, they need food. Some don’t even have water to bathe in. Or even drink!

Will you do me a favor and say a prayer for them? I pray for them too, every night with Mrs. Claus. I know it’s not enough but I do try.

One day your mother and your father will talk to you more about what Christmas is about. While I hope you enjoy your many toys this year and that you take extra special care of them, I also hope that you think about something.

Something very, VERY important.

That is this.

Love does not come to you in presents.

Happiness comes from more than just things.

You are more than all of these gifts will ever be. No matter how expensive, extravagant, fun or pretty.

It’s easy to get distracted about what matters most in life, most of all at Christmastime.

If I can tell you one thing right now, which I believe from what I see and from my reports from my good Elf, Brimley, it is this.

The greatest thing about you is your kindness and your grace. Your amazing desire to think of the whole world as your best friend. I have seen the way that you can never answer who your best friend is, because you want to be the best friend you can be to each of your friends.

While I brought you gifts today, just know that what you possess is one of the greatest gifts you will ever have. Don’t ever lose it.

Shaila, presents will come and go. You will outgrow toys.

Never, NEVER outgrow your spirit.

I know this is a long letter. But it is very important that I got this message to you. Please continue to be the best sister you can be your brother, Nico. He loves you very much (though you are right, he doesn't always know how to show it).

You are very, very lucky to have each other.

Listen to your elders and take care of yourself. You will get another letter like this again from me, probably in a year from now. (If you are nice, that is!)

Always remember to believe. In Christmas, in Santa and most of all…



Santa Claus

I hope you all have an amazing holiday.

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sex Ed 101

When I was a kid, I had a lot of strange ideas about sex.

Like many words in my family, the topic and even muttering the actual word were considered taboo in my family. It was a concept that I knew about mainly because I saw people rubbing their bodies against each other if I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of "Guiding Light."

My older sister and I had an arrangement. If I was quiet and let her watch "Guiding Light" then I would be able to watch as much "Scooby Doo" as I wanted.

The arrangement worked for me.

I was lucky enough to watch a lot of Indian movies with my family when I was growing up. Full of colorful singing, highly choreographed dance routines, car chases and gratuitous violence, the movies were an amazingly entertaining way to spend most of my early childhood in a trance in front of the television.

However, these movies were not the best representation of what sex was either.

You see, in Indian movies, people don't kiss. Like, ever.

Ok, so there might be some movies now that have kissing scenes, I am out of the loop. But when I was growing up, it just didn't happen. Not to say that the sex wasn't there. It WAS. But I just had no idea when it was happening, what initiated the action or how people kept getting pregnant.

Did it happen during the dance scene where the woman was wearing a white sari in the rain?

Did it happen during the scene where the man looked deeply into the woman's eyes and placed his hand on her hand?

How come the next scene shows her panicking and her parent's throwing her out of the house for dishonoring the family?

Dude, he just touched her hand. How is that her fault? I thought. And how did that sperm get in her stomach?

Which lead me to believe that pregnancy could happen at anytime. To anybody.

Spontaneous pregnancy.

I was very cautious around men. If someone accidentally brushed against me, I would make sure to wash the body part (foot, hand, shoulder) quickly and thoroughly.

I had my whole life ahead of me. I couldn't be saddled with a kid!

While I knew this pregnancy thing could happen very quickly and without warning, I still had no idea how in the hell it actually happened. I knew that odds were higher once you were married because of increased risk of exposure - for example, hands brushing each other at the dinner table and all that.

While we didn't have the internet, I know I could have easily looked some of this stuff up in the heavy outdated volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica, so I blame myself for not knowing.

Sure, I read "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." But short of understanding now that I would be saddled with some stupid thing called a period for the rest of my foreseeable life - none of the penises, I mean - pieces (SORRY!) fit together.

Sometimes I would catch glimpses into what this meant. When watching an episode of "Who's the Boss" with my mother (Ma hearts Tony Danza), I was banished to my bedroom during the episode where Sam gets a hickey because it was too risque. I didn't even know what the hell a hickey was, but I knew again that it probably had to do with sex.

Over time, I realized that my assumptions were wrong. Through close observation, I started to note something critical to my understanding the epidemic proportions of pregnancy and the key to prevention.

You could not rub tummies with a man. Ever.

I had it all wrong. It wasn't the hand or the foot or the shoulder or the leg, all which could come in contact easily without risk, even in the most sperm infested environment. It wasn't like sperm was pollen - it wouldn't just float over to you while you paid for your lunch in the cafeteria.

Not even on Pizza Fridays.

A whole lot of tummy rubbing was what was causing these outbreaks of pregnancy on "Guiding Light," "Dallas," and every other show on TV. That dad from "Eight is Enough"? He liked to rub tummies so much with his wife that they had 8 kids.

What the hell?

Watching the scene from "Grease" where Rizzo and Kenickie are necking in the car? Well of course she got scared that she was pregnant. Now I understand my mother's concern about Alyssa Milano's hickey.

Necking, i.e. the touching of necks and exchanging of lipstick from one face and or neck to another oftentimes leads to good fashioned tummy rubbing.

Rizzo must have been so bloody grateful at the end of "Grease" when she wasn't prego because she obviously had been rubbing some serious tummy.

That girl got around. She knew her way around necks and belly buttons.

I lived the first 12 years of my life in the dark on the mechanics of the actual act. Sitting in Sex Ed in the 6th grade next to one of my best friends, I skipped a few chapters ahead to see a picture of male and female genitalia with arrows indicating possible entry points.

"What the fuck?" I said, looking at my friend Danielle. Yes, even though I did not know what sex was, I cursed like a sailor when I was 12. Another day, another post.

My eyes were wide open. I was horrified.

"What?" she asked. I could tell she was amused by my reaction, because I was obviously joking.

"Danielle, why would he put THAT, well THERE? This book makes no sense. " I was floored.

"How do you think it happens?" she asked.

I explained to her what it was really about. How tummy rubbing was the cause of so much unexpected pregnancy in the world. Like most friends would do, she nodded understandingly and patted my hand.

No fluids were exchanged.

No, of course she had to bust out laughing and announce it to the whole room. "Oh my God! Kiran thinks sex (that word, ugghhh, that WORD!) is rubbing stomachs."

"Is she stupid?"
"What the fuck's wrong with you?"
"Why the hell would anyone want to just rub stomachs? How did you think the sperm went in?"

"It just goes through the skin," I explained, not willing to let go. "Sometimes the belly button."

They all looked at me in silence before busting out laughing again. I am pretty sure my teacher was laughing the loudest.

So - SEX - yes, that WORD - and what it meant from a purely physical, mechanical perspective, was fully explained to me in my 6th grade Sex Education class at Jonas Salk Middle School when I was 12 years old.

I would like to say that finally having this knowledge gave me what I needed to navigate my way through relationships with men, but I think I was so traumatized by the pictures in that textbook that I was too hesitant to let go of my tummy theory for a while.

I had my first "real" kiss when I was 17. I almost bit the guy's tongue off, I really had no clue what the hell I was supposed to do. My teeth were like a blockade and nobody was going to get past them. I tried, I really did. I am only person I know who had so much trouble with the act of French kissing.

It took a long time before anybody got to rub tummies with me.

When Nico and Shaila do get to the point where they ask me, I wonder how readily I will walk them through the truth. I think just to mess with them, I should work the tummy theory into their education in some way.

After all, its how they were made.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Forgotten

Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

The other day I woke up and it was just one of those days when nothing went quite right. The air conditioning was not working and our refrigerator was completely on the fritz. My son, who is perpetually teething or just being "picky" would not eat and my usually sweet daughter was acting like the spawn of Freddy Krueger.

It was NOT a good day.

A mother walks twenty miles with her children in her arms. Her husband has died and both she and her youngest daughter have already been raped while on their journey to seek refuge. She is too numb to hurt, she just knows she needs to find water and get her children some food. She has heard that if she makes it to a refugee camp just a little further away, they can find shelter and sustenance and maybe she and her children can make it through this.

Already on the journey they have seen too many frail bodies that have not made it to the destination. The mother averts her eyes and pushes her children, whose blistered feet bleed as they walk mile after mile, just a little further. The sight of blood provides some comfort, because if they can bleed doesn't that mean they are still alive? Her arms grow heavy from the weight of her two youngest boys in her arms as she continues along.

She is tired.

Work was a bitch today. After a busy day of meetings, some good, some not so good, I am ready to sit back with a glass of wine after spending a few hours playing with the kids. The refrigerator repairman came in and told me that it would cost $500 to fix it.

I cringe, especially since the air conditioning breaking at the exact time makes this extremely inconvenient - and yes - financially painful. It's not like I can pick to choose one thing over the other though, right? I mean, what do I ignore, the refrigerator or the air conditioning? As I pull my sticky shirt away from my skin, its clear that there isn't really a choice. Oh, and I need to hit Costco this weekend.

We need more paper towels.

We are so thirsty. There is no water. My third youngest son grew more weak and could not walk anymore. He fell to the ground a few miles back. I could not revive him. I could not hear him breathing, but I needed to keep moving with the others.

He is gone.

I hope he is with God.

We walk towards where we have been told there is some water and food. I can't lose another.

By the time I am done with the conference calls and can go start cooking dinner, I realize that I am tired. Pizza again, I think, as I pick up the phone and call our local pizza joint. Heck, we'll even throw some breadsticks in, just to mix it up. Gosh, is that enough food? Let me throw on a salad too.

That should be enough, I think.

We are at the camp. We have traveled so far, but there is no water. There is no food. There is nowhere to bathe. There are just so many people, all hoping that they would find their hope for survival here. But we may be too late.

Only three of my six children are still with me. I had to choose some miles back which ones I thought could make the journey with me. I could not lift my eldest daughter. My arms can only hold so much.

My heart can't hold anymore.

There are no tears anymore. There is no water in me, anywhere. I am crying a river inside my heart but how can you cry when you have not had water in so, so long? We keep praying that the rains will come, but they do not.

I have lost three of my children.

I am praying that we can get more food and water at the camps.

My husband and I had a great conversation about how we might contribute more to the world. There are several domestic programs we want to support, but we definitely want to make sure it all makes sense when we do our taxes, so we can claim the right deductions. We should definitely help some international programs as well. Let me look into my company's corporate matching program.

I'll get around to it. Gosh, I hope I still remember tomorrow.

It's going to be a busy day and I have been so stressed.

Do people not know how we cry? Can they hear the choked breaths of my children as they breath their last breaths?

If they know, why won't anyone help save us?

If I can save my three remaining children, that should be enough, I think. It's the only thing I pray for now.

As you know if you have been reading my last few posts, I went to the Social Good Summit to learn more about how we can influence change through the use of social media.

During one of sessions on Day 1, I was actually able to watch my cousin-in-law, Dr. Raj Shah, the Administrator for USAID speak about the crisis in the Horn of Africa. He had recently been to the Refugee Camps in Dadaab.

There was a slide you can see on the picture he is sitting in front of. Sadly, he said that the situation was all too familiar for him. The UN estimates 750,000 people are at risk of dying in Horn of Africa if more immediate, aggressive measures are not taken.

"We're on the cusp of a huge amount of deaths in East Africa - it doesn't have to be this way, " says Shah. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the current drought in the Horn of Africa are the worst in six decades.


In the picture above, Dr. Shah explained how the mother in the picture was helping her child to eat. The child was so weak that in order to be fed, it had to be done via a nasal tube.

The mother sits next to her child and tries to feed her son. You look at this picture and think to yourself "Is it too late?"

God, I hope for that child, it is not.

What Dr. Shah went on to explain was that earlier that day, that mother had already lost another child.

If you look closely at the bed, he is wrapped up in a sheet on the right side of the bed.

There is a dead child on that bed.

Too. Late.

That picture was up there for a few minutes, but when our eyes stopped focusing on Dr. Shah and the image of the mother and the son, when he pointed out the baby on the bed, there was an audible gasp and then just the sound of silence.

What can you say?

This is happening today. And its so bad that so many will die. The ones who will suffer the most are women and children.

We must not forget these children. Some of us already have. But they are no different than out own children, except perhaps that they are not born in a developed country and they will never have the opportunities that so many of our own will have.

But the opportunity to breathe, drink water and eat seem pretty basic, right?

The opportunity to NOT have to choose which child you allow to die today seems pretty basic, right?

Please look at that picture again and say that you won't accept this.

Please don't accept this.



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