Friday, December 29, 2006

Is it 2007 yet?

What a year 2006 has been!

For my immediate family, it has been stressful year on the home, career and marriage fronts. It's been tough, but isn't that what life is? We're not all living the good life of a Paris Hilton and frankly, I'd rather not be. It's all been a blur since last May when everything started falling apart. However the stars began to shift in the last quarter, and we can see better now. This is the time to pick up the fallen debris and make our choices -- either toss it or use it to rebuild or find another one.

There have been many exciting and positive events in the year especially related to children and friends. We've built stronger bonds with our friends -- learning that their laughter indicates deep-rooted strengths we all should have. When you're down-to-earth, everything falls into place.

This year, we've watched in amazement as a child was born, while others took their first steps into kindergarten, high school, or just up the stairs. My parents hit a few health related road bumps this year, but were able to recover nicely and move on to their next adventures.

My writing efforts started off with a bang and reveleation this year, but then had to take second stage with other events in my life. So, hopefully, I'll be able to steer that back on track this year.

By the way, my sister, friends and I have been superstitious about deaths coming in 3's. When James Brown died early this week, I wondered if there would be 2 more. They would have to be "legends." Then came the news of Gerald Ford, and I was a saddened. I was extremely surprised by his interview with Bob Woodward, which he asked to release after his death. I've always been impressed when people ask for such things to be witheld until a death. In a way, it brings a certain diplomacy to Ford's name that he did not want to give his opinion publicly. No doubt that his words and opinions would have ricocheted off the political walls.

Anyway, I just read Saddam Hussein has been executed. This seems more surreal than anything.

This makes it the 3 legends this week.


This is a photo of a sunrise as seen in my backyard. The backside of the house faces east and we can see a beautiful sunrise from any window facing that side - bedroom, bath, kitchen.

We can also see the moonrise and an on full moon nights, our house is flooded with a glowing blue light from the moon. As the moon moves, there would be silvery light in our foyer at 3 am.

Just a reminder that every sunset guarantees a sunrise.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Songs

These are my top 3 popular Christmas songs:

1. "Do They Know it's Christmas" by Band Aid
Lyric-wise, this is lame. However, it was 1984 and I was in love with Simon LeBon. There was Paul Young, Boy George, Sting, Bono -- singers whose pictures I carefully clipped from Teen Beat to grace my bedroom walls. This song was played continuously and I mean continuously since the proceeds would help Africa.

And, we watched the video continuously as well, waiting for that glimpse of Simon LeBon followed by squeals.

2. "Last Christmas" by George Michael
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, You gave it away
This year, to save me from tears

I'll give it to someone special

Is there anything more heartwrenching than a true love betrayed? The line about this year shows he's moved on, has a plan, but is still looking over his shoulder.

3. "Christmas Wrapping" by the The Waitresses.

Raise your hand if you remember "I Know What Boys Like" and "Square Pegs"! I used to watch "Square Pegs" and if you can squint at oh-so-smooth Sarah Jessica Parker, you can still see a skinny geek with glasses and frizzy hair.

I love this song for its movement of the lyrics. It starts as a frustrated song with "Bah Humbag," but then moves through a year's worth of encounters with this guy. I love it because at the end she does get to be with the guy for Christmas. That's the kinda Christmas magic some people need.

Even though I'm thirty-something and married to a romantic and loving person, I still remember what it's like to be twenty-something and angst-ridden about relationships or lack of a relationship. Single people think married people were simply born married. They forget that we have been alone, sat by the phone, not sure whether to call or wait or deciding how to hang up! We've looked around a restaurant to see if there was someone better to hang out with than our date. Or, sitting on a train after a horrible date and wishing you were in a Meg Ryan movie and the right guy would simply sit next to you.

So, when I hear a song like this, it reminds me of all those moments of anxiety when my family used to sit around and wonder how are we going to get Ashini married. They used to complain to the nosey aunties, "But she's so picky!" There is an unbelievable amount of pressure to marry in the Indian community. As if being in an unsuccessful relationship wasn't tough enough, you add your own guilt to the unsuccess.

And, at the end of the song, she does get her guy. (Interestingly enough, my husband's family thought he'd never get married either because he is really "picky"!)

So, it's that same Sarah Jessica Parker-Square Pegs phenomena. If I squint hard, I can see a girl who can't believe she's married with a beautiful family -- she's still giddy that a guy kissed her.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 22, 2006

On the Job Training:Motherhood - Bratz, Barbies and Girlhood

A friend pointed me to this article by Meg Talbot, printed in the New Yorker: Little Hotties. I found absolutely realistic since I'm living this strange phenomena and the article is riveting because it dives into the history of popular dolls and how the marketers have controlled a generation of girls and parents.

First of all, I hate the Bratz. They're little tramps. They wear too much make up. They look like they got stung by a bee on their lips and are having an allergic reaction. They have no nose. Their eyes are just too alluring ("meet me in the bedroom"). They don't do anything except party and shop. What the hell are they all about? The article pointed out, "With Bratz, the company is selling the notion that divahood is something for girls to aspire to, with or without a talent to go with it." And, why do I want that for my daughter?

Annika started asking for these dolls when she was 4 and I said, "Not until you're six." She was cool with that and would tell her friends. Well, six is around the corner and I'm going to have to do a quick step now. I was hoping they would die down in 2 years, but these little hos have gotten stronger! She knows I don't like them, but I'm worried that my forbidding them will make them more enticing. However, I know where I stand on this and I can't allow or accept them. (I am publicly declaring that if she receives them as a gift, we will return them.)

She loves her dolls -- a few ballerina Barbies, a Princess Jasmine doll, a nice Madeline doll and she'll be getting some wholesome Wee Friends dolls. By the way, Holly Hobbie is back -- it's the granddaughter of the original Holly Hobbie! Nickelodeon has revived her and I think she's really cute. I have no problem with little girls playing with 'teen' dolls, as long as their belly buttons are covered.

On the other side of the doll spectrum are the American Girl dolls. I'm not a big fan of American Girl dolls either. Mostly due to the obscene marketing techniques. You buy the $100 doll. Buy the doll $50 pajamas, and then another $50 to buy another set of pajamas for your daughter to match the doll's. They do cool things like customize your doll - so we could get a "tan" doll with dark curls that looks like her. But why? I'm not a totally mean mom - I let Annika browse through the American Girl catalog and we did take her to the American Girl store on Fifth Avenue. We just look, we don't buy anything.

I think that article pointed it out succinctly:"American Girl dolls -- expensive, innocent-looking, and old-fashioned -- are on one side of a class and cultural divide. Judging from the families you see shopping at American Girl Place, the dolls appeal disproportionately to well-off white parents willing to spend whatever it takes to help prolong their daughters’ childhood. Bratz and My Scene Barbies, by contrast, are peddling the toy world’s version of gangsta chic."

Most of the women I've talked to whose daughters have American Girl point out it was a gift from a grandmother and now they're looped into getting the accessories. However, I did see a mom sit and circle items in the catalog, which she gave to her mother-in-law as a Christmas wish list for her daughter.

By the way, I loved playing with dolls myself. I actually played until I was 11, believe it or not. For me it was creating my own stories or enacting a story I had read. I loved to look for little objects throughout the house and turn them into items for the dolls. I remember specifically playing right before bed and first thing in the morning. My mom used to get so annoyed because I wouldn't do anything else.

By the way, I find myself in a weird position when I'm scolding Annika to get ready for school and she wants to play with her dolls. It's like those weird out-of-body moments when people are floating and looking at themselves. But, now I'm in my mom's place and Annika is begging for just a "little bit longer"!

Annika has a small dollhouse and at the time, she was too young to take care of the furniture and accessories. So, I had put away all the extra pieces. She still plays actively with the house and her miniature dolls, but she uses her imagination. For example, she has a shell collection from the beach and the large shells have become as beds for her miniature dolls. She picked up an old lipstick holder to use as a bed and mirror. She has Disney Princesses mix with a half-naked Mowgli and a tiny blue-haired Trollz . She narrates and plays all the roles. I know I had to nudge and show her how to play when she was younger, but she really took off with this. I love watching her play and be creative.

Isn't that what doll play is -- imagining and creating a world of your own. It's not the pumped up Diva or matching pajama or customized doll bullshit.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Little Women

Last night, I watched 1949 "Little Women" on cable. It has June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, blonde Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Margaret O'Brien as Beth. At that time, these were huge stars, even Margaret O'Brien was known child actress. The 1994 version with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, and Christian Bale is also a fabulous movie.

I loved Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" series when I was young. I remember hunting for "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys" at the library.

To those who are not familiar with the story, it's about a family of four sisters in New England in 1860's. The father has gone to fight in the Civil War and the mother, Marmie, holds the family together.

The central character is Jo, whom Louisa May Alcott based on herself. Jo is a self-assured tomboy and a creative writer. Meg softer and longs for pretty things, but bears the weight of being the eldest in the family. Beth is kind, generous and musically inclined. And, Amy is the youngest, free spirit and self-absorbed.

This is a great story of relationships within a family and outside. Yes, things are rosy sometimes and more often than not, they aren't. Also, the sibling relationship is so unique where brothers/sisters are close to each other to hurt them, but then also forgive and move on.

When I read these books I identified with Jo's passion for writing and storytelling. In the movie, June Allyson's Jo is telling Laurie why it's important for her to write and he doesn't get it. She writes in the garrett of their house, seeking her private space.

I also identified with Meg since I was the oldest in my family and you forever have to be "responsible" for others and set an example.

As for Amy, she makes me so mad. If anyone in literature deserved a slapping it would be Amy March for throwing Jo's manuscripts into the fire in a spoiled tantrum. Actually, there are many moments when selfish Amy should've been disciplined. (Come on, Marmee, wake up!)

Beth.. yes, dear kind Beth. My favorite scene about Beth is on "Friends" believe it or not.
Joey is reading "Little Women." He's enjoying the book and Rachel asks, "Did you get to the part where Beth dies yet?" He stops. He chokes, "Beth dies? How could Beth die!?" Then Rachel comforts him and takes the book and puts it in the freezer. Everyone loves Beth.

By the way, I tried to read "Little Women" again about 6-7 years ago. Somehow, I couldn't get through it. It didn't flow and seemed forced. However, it's probably because these characters are already embedded in my consciousness, I couldn't reintroduce myself to them if I tried.

We're all like Laurie - watching the March family from a window and wanting to be part of them.

On the Job Training - Motherhood : The Grandmother

When we went to CA, we left our daughter with my parents. They get to spend time bonding and we get a chance to be on our own. Total win-win situation!

Anyway, I was unpacking the bags since we had taken at least 4-5 bags for my daughter to take there filled with clothes, books, dolls, shoes and whatever she needed for a few days. I was unpacking her bag and figured I'd toss everything into the laundry.

Lo and behold, mom did her laundry! I was so happy to find washed and folded clothes in her bag.

Then, there a small bag of gumdrops and candy in there. Annika was delighted with the treat.

I looked further and found a small necklace and earrings that my mom had given to Annika. When I showed it to Annika, she said there should be one more flower earring.

I felt good and thought this is what going to your grandmother's is all about. I didn't have a chance to build a relationship with my grandmothers since they lived in India and died by the time I was 14. I feel closer to my grandfather with whom I kept up an airmail correspondence when I was in high school until his death when I was 18. So, in my opinion, I value the grandparent and grandchild relationship because it's something I did not know. Even though my mother-in-law is in India, Annika will have a stronger relationship with her through pictures, emails, phone cards and frequent flier miles.

Anyway, I felt all warm and fuzzy and called my mom to thank her. She said not to mention it because they are thrilled when Annika comes to visit.

Then, I got a 10-minute verbal lashing about "neglecting" my daughter's health! How she's "malnourished", smaller than other American kids, I need to feed her banana & egg milkshakes every day, give cod liver oil vitamins and if I sell Annika the idea she can grow tall and healthy, she'll agree to do everything I ask her.


Yes, she had good suggestions and I asked her what foods Annika actually ate there. It takes this 5 year old at least 1 hour to eat a cheese sandwich. She just loves to talk, but also likes certain foods only. I'm not worried about her right now - just the wasted time that goes into every meal reminding her to eat.

I think she'll eventually eat everything. I refused to eat tomatoes until I was 11. Healthwise, she has her growth spurts so I know she's growing well.

AND I know my mom is telling me this for our own good -- really, if your mom doesn't tell you something, who else in the world will care to? BUT, you can't help but feel your mom doesn't think you're a good mother. My father, on the other hand, gave me compliments on the way Annika is being raised and he could see certain things that I've taught her.

I think it's that whole mother-daughter communication gap. One says something and the other hears something totally different.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

San Francisco Postcards from Home

We're back on the east coast and I wanted to share some more of our adventures. By the way, this is only my second time to CA (San Francisco both times).I would like to go to LA and San Diego next. I like San Francisco and CA as nice places to visit, but I don't think I could live there. There's something about the city that I can't connect to, though I know many people who swoon over it. When I visited cities like NYC, Paris, Venice, Montreal, and even New Hope, PA (which is a big village, not a city), I think, "Yeah I could live here." But with SF, I'm not feeling it. There's a latent lure to the west coast due to the career opportunities there. However, the funky landscape coupled with high cost of living makes our decision clear. We like the green rolling hills of PA and its quirky northeastern culture.

"Will Sell Husband for Wine" Country

My husband pointed to a t-shirt in a shop and made a glib comment that this might be something I would do. I paused to consider.

Last time we came, we did the Napa Valley wine tasting trip. We drove around, randomly stopping at small and large Disneyland type wineries, where you dodge the tour buses for parking and try not to trip over families on picnics. I was also pregnant last time I was there and kinda just stood around a lot since I couldn't partake in the tastings. I vowed this time would be different.

So, on Sunday, we decided to try Sonoma County wineries. We loved the open spaces, the quiet landscapes, you could see the olive trees all over and smell rosemary in the air. We definitely enjoyed this more than Napa.

Here are my picks from the wineries we visited:
Gundlach Bundschu - Chardonnay Sangiocomo Ranch : You take it as artistic license when wineries start describe their wines with "Complex aromas of granny smith apple, meyer lemon, pineapple and toast". However, this was on target - the crisp apple flavor was right there! This vineyard was beautiful and they offered a tour of their cave, which was interesting.

Cline Cellars - Marsanne Roussanne :This was the first one we visited and enjoyed the experience - it definitely looked like a beautiful place in the summer. I liked this wine for its fruity flavor and smoothness.

Cline Cellars - Zinfindal: We had tasted this at the winery and then found it at a "world market" downtown. We enjoyed this wine with Afghani dinner at Salang Pass. The guys loved this with the grilled kabobs and it went well with my vegetarian dishes. (By the way, the bolani at the Afghani restaurant was awesome - square aloo paratha!)

Gloria Ferrer - Blanc de Blancs : Ah, a sparkling wine! I had a yen for some bubbly when I had seen our hotel serving mimosas for a brunch. This was nice, dry and not very sweet. This winery offered an excellent view, though we could barely stand out there for 10 minutes before we ducked inside to warm up.

The Mystery Spot

We were told to go here. So we did. Kinda knowing what to expect, but not really.

ere's the deal with the Mystery Spot: there's something funky happening with the gravitational pull in that 150 meters. (I got a B in Physics in high school, so I don't really understand any of the magentic and gravitational explanations or lack thereof). Alls I know is the ball rolled up the plank! We thought we were standing straight but we were leaning about 40 degrees! I did a handstand on the wall and my husband was doing backbends (you have to take a picture when your husband finally bends over backward!!)

I felt really dizzy in the funhouse and felt like I was drunk - I held onto the railing. Gravity pulling the wrong way disturbs your equilibrium and I felt lightheaded for at least an hour.
We were annoyed that there were no signs warning you about this. If we were healthy people and felt dizzy, what about people with blood pressure issues, heart conditions or

There are no birds or animals in that area and the trees grow in bizarre formations - branches on one side only or one tree was corkscrew. See, nature knows when something is wrong and doesn't need a compass.

Check out the slideshow on the site and I can attest that all those pictures really happen. I wish I had more pictures to share, but our rechargeable batteries died in the middle (we were told the magnetic forces screw up batteries and cameras). We had to go get new ones. Here's a picture of our guide standing "straight" on a table.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Postcard from San Francisco!

I'm in San Francisco this weekend on a long overdue vacation. We're having a good time, although it is raining on and off. That stinks because it cuts short the walking, which is the most important part of sight-seeing in SF. We're struggling with our itinerary, trying to make the best of the non-rain weather (sunshine was shortlived). We saw the Golden Gate Bridge in cloudy, windy weather, from the distance with the sunlight breaking through and another in rain, which was not fun!

Anyway, the fun points have been unplanned. We ran into a parade of 100 or so "Santa Clauses" on Fisherman's Wharf. Apparently it's a pub-crawl "conference' but people were dressed (or undressed!!) in various Santa outfits. It was great and we took some pictures with them.

We did the pilgrimage to Ghiradelli Square and had super-rich hot chocolate. They should put a warning on the sugar/chocolate levels before you order a large. In Sausalito, we went to the No Name Bar and had fun chatting with Ilse the owner. (If you see her, tell her we said hi -- we're the group with the guy who couldn't drink beer because he was hungover from the hot chocolate).

We went to Chinatown via Lombard Street -- I held my breath and prayed on this roller coaster through the city because it was dark, rainy and we didn't know where we were going! How do you live in a street that is at a 45 degree angle??

Our friends had told us to go the Stinking Rose, so we checked it out. The food was alright, but atmosphere is fun. We had the garlic ice cream, which was like eating vanilla ice cream with a dirty spoon.

We asked the girls at the restaurant where to go since it was soggy and rainy. One suggested City Lights Bookstore.

We went to the bookstore and got lost in it. I used to say Farley's Bookstore in New Hope, PA was my favorite, but this wins! We were jumping up and down in the Third World Fiction room. We wrote down names of authors and books that we want to read. There were books that I had not seen on bookshelves - Amitav Ghosh's "Calcutta Chromosome", Samrat Uphadhyay, Nedjima, Anita Nair. There were anthologies of Modern Indian Literature. Plus, Orhan Pamuk and Naguib Mahfouz. I couldn't believe this collection because there were some obscure South Asian books that I have on MY bookshelf and did not get the popularity that Lahiri and Rushdie get, such as "The Dancing Girl" by Hasan Shah.

I was thrilled with the collection of literary journals. I'm always sending my poems and stories to journals and don't see these available at Barnes & Noble. So, I spent some time reading poems.

The poetry room was inspiring -- a whole shelf of Neruda! There was a lot about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation. However, this morning I just read more about City Lights and learned they had published "The Howl" in 1956. They were right on the website -- this is a literary mecca!

So, we went into this bookstore to get out of the rain and it ended up being a worthwhile find.

Anyway, the sun is peeking in and out. Let's see where we end up today!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


If "Bubbles" are my soothing expressions, then Firecrackers are my bursts of energy. Some people call these sections "random musings" but mine are not so random as I have thought about it.

1. Iraq Study Group
In a time where we have Task Forces and Czars as names of goverment committes, what is with the Study Group? This sounds like a group of people, cloistered in a library, surrounded by tomes and papers about Iraqi history. It's a soft word that reminds you of a Bible Study Group or a Math Study Group. I suppose giving them a softer name brings down the sense of urgency and the critical work they are doing. So if you're called a SWAT Team, chances are you're not doing much?

2. At the Gym
I go the gym pretty regularly and always like people watching. If I had my own gym I'd have some rules.

  • Cell phone reception should be cut in the cardio area. How can you work on a treadmill and still be chatting? What does the other person hear: "Hey..puff..pant..yeah.. I'm at the gym..puff.., it's ok..go ahead.."
  • People should have novels removed from the cardio area. Again, how can you read "Da Vinci Code" while on the treadmill? People who are reading are also working at a really slow pace. Their heartrate is probably higher when they're sitting in front of a computer. So, you're not respecting your body by giving it a full attention work out. Also, you're not respecting the book because you're distracted and not giving it full attention either.
  • People who have excessive amounts of make up, have a genetic propensity for svelteness and/or just come to socialize should have a separate area. They hog up the equipment by just sitting there and chatting or parading. Again, another unworthy distraction.
  • Another rule is the dress code. I've seen a 65+ year old man wear a half-cut shirt with cut off jeans. He was in good shape for his age, so you have to applaud him. But, does fashion wisdom not come with age? I've also seen men who think Fruit-of-the-Loom shirts are appropriate work out weare and they're not. They're underwear. Muffin tops on biker shorts is also a no-no. Lastly, don't get me started on the dark socks with sneakers!! (I would hand out free white socks if I could).

3. Why do bands like Black Eyed Peas come on the scene with songs like "Where is the Love" and "Let's Get it Started" and then switch to raunchy numbers like "London Bridge"?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Haiku This!

So, among the many calls for submissions I receive, there was a recent one for haikus. Specifically, there should be haiku about wine (red and white).

The last haiku I wrote was in 4th grade:

Lonely boy and girl
on a rainy Saturday
Soon the sun comes out.

It was published in our 4th grade class magazine and I also provided illustration (a dismal looking boy and girl, peering through a window with their tears mixing with the raindrops).

Since then, I haven't written haiku, so I took some time to browse haiku books at Barnes & Noble. I remember haikus being about nature, trees, cherry blossoms and such. Those topics don't interest me, so I stayed away from the haiku. I was pleasantly surprised to find modern American haiku writers that took the Japanese style of 17 syllables and ran with it.

Here are some online samples.

Creative Haiku
Erotic Haiku
Ocean Haiku

Reading through these sites, I can see the seriousness of the art of haiku. I've been doing free verse for so long, it was hard to restrain myself. However, it was fun trying to force myself to think within certain guidelines. While poetry is all about selecting the right words, the syllable constraint made it tougher to choose the right word.

Here are my haikus. Even if they don't win and appear on wine labels, at least they made my site.

1. Red

So the Merlot turned
a pirouette, tossing
a bouquet in the air.

2. White

The Sauvignon Blanc
smiles and sparkles a bit
of summer in a glass.