Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Directions for 2011

For 2010, I had come back from India and resolved to lead a life of more simplicity. I shouldn't complicate my life with more tasks and more material items. Looking back at this year, I haven't achieved the simplicity that I imagined, but taken smaller steps. As of now, we only have one activity on the weekends, and we're not trekking to dance lessons we don't enjoy. On the career forefront, it hasn't become any simpler.

If there was one word for 2010, I'd have to say "Family". We had a big family wedding and got to see lots of cousins and reconnected after so many years. There really is a common bond that links us all together even if we are separated. There was a powerful moment this year when my cousins came over and mentioned it was my aunt's death anniversary. I had no idea and suggested we go to our local temple. We stood there in a temple in PA remembering my aunt - her daughter from Canada, her daughter and son from India with their spouses, and her sister (my mom) from NJ. All of us were drawn together that day.

I was reading O magazine, and came across 3 words "Joy, Honesty and Meaning". That's what I want for the 2011.

I want to find joy in all I do. Being with my family and close friends, we can find joy. It's always there if we open our eyes.

I want the honesty to be with myself and with others. There's such a masquerade of emotions and attitudes. At this point, I'm ready to call people out on their actions.

Our lives need to have meaning. Of course this often means one needs to make changes and know exactly what they want in order for it to be meaningful.

It's not about the destination, but the journey.

Book Review 2010

All year I've been reading books and have been dying to write reviews for my site. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to carve out that time. Therefore, here's everything in one post.

The Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman. I had just come back from India in January and Ru's book helped me sustain the beauty of the Subcontinent for a bit longer. Her story takes place in Sri Lanka and is so beautifully written. She captures the simplicity of life in India, which was what I missed upon my return; her book illustrated that life so well. "Disobedient Girl" has two stories that run in parallel, but then merge at the end so well. I didn't expect to cry so fiercely at the end! Dammit, I cried for days just thinking of one critical scene because I fell in love with the characters. I was frustrated with the unfairness of life and fate. No, this is not one of your 'oppressed third-world women" books. It's a book about women who are friends, mothers, and daughters. It's about finding your own path when you've been dealt a hand without a choice. It's about secrets that control you.

It's been a year now since I read it, but it's so unexpected and I missed the characters when I closed the book. That's when you know they've truly come alive.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - It took me some time to get to this book, though I was listening to every Junot Diaz interview on NPR. I was definitely intrigued when he talked about his immigrant experience coming to the US when he was 6 and not understanding English. He applied that experience to the novel - forcing the reader not to understand what was being spoken in Spanish. When I read it, I got it! There was a scene where the daughter said the last thing she heard was the mother say XYZ. Unless you know Spanish, you don't know what happened.

Not  only is the story brillant and characters so real, I have a connection with Junot Diaz. He was spot on with his description of Rutgers University campus and lifestyle from late 80's/early 90's. I had to research and learned he was an English major at Rutgers the same time I was. Therefore, we could have taken a class together! (OK, fine, it may have been the Shakespeare with 200 people in it). As a reader, I connected to this book beyond the main story, and admired his writing even more. I actually got frustrated because I couldn't visualize Douglass library, though I practically lived there.

Downhome Anthology edited by Susie Mee - This is an amazing collection of short stories written by southern American women. I had pulled this collection off the library shelves because I didn't know what I wanted to read. This book has known writers such as Flannery O'Conner, Zora Neal Hurston, Dorothy Allison and other writers that were new to me. The book is sectioned out and deals with issues such as family, marriage, relationships. Stories are so honest and real, talking about the good and the difficult parts of the southern memory - race, gender, economical status.

I've actually wondered if I was a southern woman in my past life. I'm absolutely fascinated by the south and find the culture so exotic, but familiar. I once wrote a short story in the voice of white southern characters, which is crazy since I'm an Indian-American from northeastern US! Aren't you supposed to write about what you know?

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica - I had heard about this website and found the book on the clearance table. The first page grabbed me because it said waiters don't just bring food to your table - they have to be food allergy specialists, sommeliers, amateur chefs, etc. I've never been a waitress, though I have done a short gig at McDonald's as my first job. Then I decided I would never work in food industry again. Ever.

His writing is not that polished and at times I was a bit suprise an editor let him get away with awkward phrases. He's a blogger who kept an anonymous account of life as a waiter, which led him to a book deal.

However, it's great book just to give you an insight into the restaurant business. It's interesting to read about the expectations we have of our own dining experiences.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Doing Fine at Nine

Indulge me, oh dear blog readers. This blog has turned out to be a vehicle to document special moments with my daughter. I started writing when she was 4 and now she's 9, and every day is still a delight. It's great to see her turn into a tween with a stream of questions and her own answers. Tonight she asked me about when I had my first date ever and my first glass of wine. I told her that my first glass was with my father, and my husband said that she should have her first glass with him too. She's cute enough to say she wants both of us.
  • She's announced she wants to travel the world and live in hotels. However, she's asked I keep her room though. She wants to definitely see Paris. (Drat that Madeline!)
  • She's really into the "spy" thing these days. I got her a Pink Spy kit from Scholastic books and she has a lot of fun with her friends, talking about invisible ink and reading stories about famous spies. So, she announced she wants to be an FBI agent. "It's perfect..I get to travel around the world, do different things. The only thing is that I would first design the outfits for the FBI agent." Yes, FBI agents are lacking the sparkle.
  • She watches toy commercials and says, "It's amazing how many cool things they have now that they didn't when I was little."
  • We recently got stopped at the mall by two modelling agencies scouting for children. Mine happened to be wearing a sequined beret, layered peace sign shirt and jeans with sparkle low-tops. She was so excited when the person said the director of their agency will call in a few days. Somehow, the only word that stuck is "director" and she assumed a movie director is going to call her and she'll be famous. (Drat that youtube generation!!)
She talked nonstop into the next stores about how she'll be famous, become friends with Selena Gomez.
"Do I need an agent?" No, it's ok right now.
"Do we have to tell Daddy." Uh yes.
"That's right, he'll see me on the magazine cover and know." While I would love to have her dreams of celebrity come true, I'm not committed to this (getting pictures, taking her to auditions in NYC which means skipping school). She's got a magnetic personality -- I'm always shocked at how many people know her (adults and children). I fly under the radar, while she jumps into it. There's big stuff in store for her anyway.
  • She's gone through different names for me - Mom, Mummy, Mother. Nowadays, it's back to "Mommy", but she's so full of energy, it comes out as "M'y". In a way it's kinda nice because as an only child, I am only hers.

  • In a few short months she'll be 10. Same age as Harry Potter was when he joined Hogwarts. And, remember how the other wizards said "Has it really been ten years?" Yes, that's how I feel.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Anti-Bullying Intervention

    I've wanted to write about this topic for sometime, but haven't had the chance. Oddly enough, by waiting I have a different angle and more material about this.

    There's been a heightened state of attention on bullying in the media, due to the suicides that came about from bullying across the country.

    I've been very pleased with my daughter's elementary school for strongly promoting an anti-bullying agenda starting with KG. They used to make posters, learn about different words they could use to battle the offenders (e.g., "when you say that, I feel hurt") and how to take recourse. They recognize the bullying as not just physical, but verbal. The 3rd graders had "lunch bunch" in which a small group of students had lunch with the guidance counselor and they discussed friendships and relationships. The school encouraged us to continue the conversation at home.

    Recently there was an incident with a girl C. She is fairly new to the school as she joined the spring of last year. Now, she's in my daughter's class and she started circulating a sign up list for an "Annika X" club against my daughter. My daughter told me that all her good friends said no and they told her about it. One of her friends said she'll join as a 'spy' and take the information back to the guidance counselor. Annika is a confident, independent and social girl. So, she was initially comfortable with this because her friends supported her.

    I stepped in and told her I'm going to contact her teacher and guidance counselor and her friends should stay out. I pointed out that today C has a list against her. However, tomorrow she could create a list against another friend (I named a really sweet and shy girl). All of a sudden, Annika understood that this could happen to someone else for no reason. Something kicked in and she was after me to send that note immediately.

    I sent an email to the teacher and guidance counselor; the teacher was upset this had happened on his watch. The student C was taken to principal, and the guidance counselor talked to Annika. C was obviously upset and crying. The teacher "isolated" her in the classroom that day.

    However, rather than creating resentment between the girls, the school is encouraging them to be friends. They are back at the same table. Annika told me that C's mom wants her to be friends also. This is still early in the year and hopefully things can smooth over.

    People always talk about how mean girls are to each other. It obviously comes from jealousy and insecurities. I once watched MTV's "If You Really Knew Me" series ("The Breakfast Club" meets reality tv) and one of the girls bragged how she was "the mean girl". To me, I saw a girl that is hurting inside, which is why she was so negative and abrasive. When she opened up, she revealed a broken home and feelings of loss. The meanness and tough attitude is just a symptom of deeper problems within. Girls don't have to be mean by nature. They have to be helped.

    As I said, C just joined the school last spring and she doesn't have the existing relationships the other kids have since KG. She was probably jealous and needed to make her own stand in the social structure. I'm glad that we really have to step up and intervene early. In 4th grade, they can just pass around a list like this. In a few years in 6th or 7th grade, they could post a list like this on Facebook or Myspace.

    Maybe all this early "anti-bullying campaign" will work or maybe it won't. There are probably deeper problems kids have that can't be resolved so easily. However, i do think it's something worth trying to create the group effort not to accept certain behaviors.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    What happens in Vegas.. gets blogged

    I recently had my first trip to Las Vegas and it was definitely interesting! I've been wanting to go for so long and never had the opportunity. My husband has to go there frequently for business, so he doesn't see it as a vacation spot. Since it was an elusive destination for me, it obviously becomes more enticing. My husband once read a quiz to me: "What is your dream vacation? A. an island retreat B. European tour C. weekend in Las Vegas". He was surprised when I said Las Vegas. Of course I would've said Europe, but I pointed out Las Vegas because I hadn't been there yet!

    The first surprise to me was the airport is adjacent to the main strip. Most cities are built first and then they had to squeeze in an airport somewhere outside of the city. Given the Las Vegas location in the middle of nowhere in the desert, there was plenty of space for an airport. Airport itself is ordinary, but I wanted to stay in the baggage claim area of airport and just people watch! What a diversity of people congregating here. There was a man and his son wearing slick cowboy hats and they had a special hat case carrier . I reminded myself i was in the southwest now, not northeast, where cowboy hats are haute couture. But, lo and behold! There are a couple of Staten Island guys sporting the gelled and sprayed "Jersey Shore" hair and talking on their cell phones. (Note: I did see a Snookie lookalike at one of the hotels) There were Europeans and American families, each can be distinguished by their fashion sense.

    Las Vegas is like a magnet that draws people from all over the world. Everyone there is essentially a tourist. That's why everything can stay there because people will just go away and back to their normal lives wherever they live. It's a bit bizarre to realize the whole downtown city functions for one reason - tourism.

    I was excited to see the hotels and architecture there. I remember my husband telling me about New York, New York and how they recreated the Statue of Liberty and other buildings. I've seen pictures of the Venetian with its bridges. A colleague has night shots of The Excalibur hotel as his screensaver.

    However, when I went there, I felt like it was cardboard. Nothing seemed solid. I've seen all these places in real life and it seemed too artificial to me. Folks say you have to see attention to detail, and I agree that is incredible. I loved the Luxor's pyramid and was absolutely blown away by the interior with its unfathomably high ceilings and Egyptian details. I did fantasize for a minute with the idea of being a casino designer. I could definitely improve on Trump's Taj in Atlantic City with its cheezy New Delhi Deli.

    Couple of my tips:
    Ask, and ye shall receive, else you don't: I indulged in The Bathhouse spa at THE hotel. I have to point out I had been scoping out different spas and looking for good deals. After chatting with one of the employees, he had told me about a 'buy one get one 1/2 off" on their services. Awesome! The next day I came for my services and received the bill for the full price on two. I questioned it and got it adjusted. So, this "deal" is only available if you know about it. It wasn't an automatic discount you received, so all the other women who were there that day paid full price. (Caveat Emptor!)

    Don't let appearances fool you: So, we were getting really hungry for lunch after walking around a bit. We finally settled on a burger type joint with outdoor seating. We got really lame and ordinary sandwiches for $13 (fries would've been $4 extra had we not been health conscious). We've had better sandwiches at the convenient store. Fortified with a little bit of food, we ventured to the Bellagio. We saw the posh cafes inside the old European settings. Sandwiches were $10-13 each and actually appetizing on fresh bread and gourmet ingredients. We assumed the hotels would be expensive, but if the roadside joints are selling for the same price, might as wll go upscale.

    Don't let appeareances fool you (Part II) : We saw a few shows - Lifehouse, Criss Angel & The Divas (female impersonators of celebrities). We had gotten the tickets for the Divas from someone and when we went to the casino, we were turned off. It was older casino and had smell of smoke and mustiness. The crowd there was not the Bellagio crowd. We had our concerns about going there later, but decided to go. We even dressed down because we figured our clothes would stink. However, the show was a lot of fun. The dancers were extremely good and the performers were memorable. For an hour or so, we just enjoyed the impersonators who brought the celebrities to us.

    It's Disney World for grownups: Yes, Vegas is the new family hotspot, but I'd be hestitant about bringing children there. Hotels such as the Mandalay Bay are ideal - huge pool area, and "Lion King" and Colby Caillat performances. At some point, one is going to have to leave the hotel to go to neat attractions such as Bellagio's fountains and Mirage's volcano. However, you're going to walk down "the Strip" and see billboards for adult shows, alcohol promotions and Mexicans workers handing out flyers for call girls. You could plan to be strategic, but I'm not sure how much fun it would be for adults or the children.

    And, then we left the city and headed out to Hoover Dam. I haven't been to American southwest before so it's just exciting to see mountains of boulders. I'm used to Pennsylvania's rolling green hills. To see these jagged dry rocks was amazing. It is awesome because of the little geology that I know, the earth's pallettes shift and when they come together, mountains and canyons are created. I felt as if there was a lot of energy released from the earth, but it was simply forgotten. We thought of going to the Grand Canyon, but time didn't permit us to.

    We ended my trip with drinks atop The Mixx, a rooftop restaurant/bar on the 62nd floor of the hotel. We looked out over the city with its lights and contstant movement. I do hope to return there one day!

    Saturday, October 09, 2010

    Picture Books - Long May You Reign!

    The New York Times had an article recently about the waning interest in picture books for children as parents push their children to read chapter books. I've written about my experience with reading with my daughter.

    I was surprised by this article that it had impacted the publishing industry. However, I can certainly relate to this article because I've seen the subtle push for kids to read chapter books early. It's not demanded by the school or other teachers, but it's been a social pressure. Sure, Indian and Asian parents are notorious for pushing their children into advanced levels of all academic activities (spelling bee, anyone?). And, they have a certain way of saying these things. "My son is always reading. I keep telling him to go play video games, but no, he just wants to read "The Chronicles of Narnia". His kindergarten teacher doesn't know what to do with him."

    It's to those parents that I want to say "Let it go!" I've always been concerned when children under 7 have read the entire Harry Potter series. I've enjoyed the series and there are actually a lot of themes and messages that I think would simply go over their head. They'll have to reread them 10 years from now anyway.

    Yes, once kids learn to ready, kids can read anything. However, do they need to read those books now?

    My daughter has always been an avid and excited reader. I started feeling a little pressure when she said her 1st grade friends were reading chapter books, but she still brought home picture books from the library. The books she selected had beautiful artwork and absolutely great stories. There was one, "Anook the Snow Princess" that we read together and it sounded very familiar to me - it was based on Shakespeare's King Lear. She picked up non traditional Princess stories like "Falling for Rapunzel" or one about Indian princess Narangi (she turns into an orange during the day and girl at night). We loved "Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding" and other stories about other cultures and immigrant children in the US. She her whole life ahead to read Harry Potter and other series. It's just when she was young can she read these books that would inspire and root value in her.

    For awhile, I got nervous because the chapter books she kept selecting were "Tiara Club" (an academy to be a real princess that looked a lot like Hogwarts, but no real plots) and Fairy chapter books. I pulled in "Little House on Prairie" chapter books that I had found online. I would emphasize the sections where Laura and Mary had just ONE old rag doll to play with and they didn't need a whole lot of others. She was super excited and got the regular book from the library. I think that overwhelmed her and now she's not interested in those at all. I know she was reading Junie B. Jones at least into 2nd grade, while other kids had finished those in KG.

    She's in fourth grade now and I have to write about about her latest obsession - Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. We watched the movie, which is centered on Greek mythology. I've always had an interest in Greek myths since I was young so I've been enthusiastic about it. She said she learned about Greek myths through Poptropica website (created by Family Education Network/FunBrain). The players have to go to an island and perform series of tasks and challenges with a Greek mythology theme. So, the seemingly endless hours on Poptropica did have some benefit. After seeing the movie, she snatched up the books. She's reading the books now and we talk about Greek gods like old friends. I've also gotten an iPhone app for her on Greek figures so we could do quick queries.

    As with everything with raising a child, it will all come in time. In their time. And, when they are children, they should dream and read as children do.

    Questions and Answers

    These days there's no reason not to have the answers. Google for it.. find it online. Parties take on a whole new direction - "Who was that guy in the movie?" "Well, I have an IMDB app on my phone, so I'll check it out."

    Whenever anyone has a question, we can get an answer. Even at work, that's my job. If I don't have an answer, I'll find a way to get that answer.

    Recently my daughter had a stomach problem. First we figured it was bad food at a catered event or maybe it was 2-day stomach virus. She was fine for a few days, but then woke up with strong stomach pains. It was a surprise! We ran out of explanations. I didn't know what the problem was and it was frustrating. My mind rushed through every situation and imagining the worst. We were able to see the doctor the same morning and learned that she simply needed to make some dietary changes.

    However, this incident made me realize how frustrating it is not to have the answers. As a parent, we think we should have all the answers. Our children look to us for that information. Actually the highest expectation come from ourselves. However, I can't know everything or do everything. I never got a medical degree before I became a mother (nor the degrees for teaching music, math, Hindi, nutrition, classical dance and child psychiatry to name a few missing skills). For the few hours between the stomach pains and the doctor's appointment, I had to tell myself to be patient.

    But, it's not so much as to being patient, but having the trust and faith that the answers will come. This idea can be applied to any situation where we feel frustrated and feel the pressure on us.  I see this at work all the time where the loudest and most frustrated people are the ones without the information. Once they know what's going to happen, they feel more in control and can manage what they need to do. Most of the pressure comes from what we do to ourselves, not the external entity. We really have to let go of the pressure and just float for a little while, untethered to our worries. Of course this is easier said than done. I suppose if we practice a little bit every day we would be better able to handle these situations.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    "Where the Wild Things Are" Review

    Spoiler Alert.

    When I first heard about this movie, I was intrigued and blogged about it. My daughter and I watched it last night and I think I want to watch it again. Just to make sure I understand this movie.

    Stylistically, I liked the way it was shot. Very casual, handheld camera movements, light hits seemingly arbritarily, but it's intentional. The beginning of the movie had a 70's feel to it, so it instantly reminded me of my childhood. I actually questioned the timeline until we see the mother working on a computer. Actually, it was an older desktop she had. So, now it could appeal more to someone who grew up in 90's.

    It opens up with a day in Max's life. He's wrestling the dog and seems more animal than boy. You see everything from his point of view and can empathize with him. Watching him argue with his mother in the famous scene, he seems like a lost and frustrated boy. You understand his situation from his point of view, as well as his family's.

    When he escapes to "where the wild things are," his adventures begin. The Wild Things are essentially large muppets with excellent facial expressions. I loved how they all had normal voices and names - Carrol, KW, Judith. Nobody had a fanciful name or funny voices. They sounded and acted like average humans. They just had the impulse to eat Max, every now and then.

    At home, Max has no control over his circumstances. With the Wild Things, he does. Yet, with power comes great responsibilities. They have their adventures and there's no sense of time in this new world. There's no sense of baths either as his costume gets dirtier. When problems rise and he's forced to be the "grownup", he quietly reflects. There are lots of power dynamics between the other creatures and their own relationships with each other, as well as what it takes to make an ideal society. The whole movie is rather quiet and low.

    So, the book is written for young readers - 5-7 years old. It's perfect for kids. There's a bit of rebellion, lots of dreams. When I was young, I didn't like Max because he was a rude boy. I loved the Wild Things with their fun spirit.

    I watched this movie with my 9-year-old, and I think that's a good age to really absorb this movie. Anyone younger will quickly be turned off by the quiet nature of this movie. Also, I'm intrigued by my daughter's reaction to this movie. When I was young, I was offended by "I'll eat you up" threat from Max. My daughter was shocked when Max bit his mother in anger. That stayed with her all evening as his most brazen act - you don't attack your mother. She was also upset by the way he had wrestled the dog and was surprised the dog took it. She and I talked about Max and his handling of anger, since I don't want her to imitate him and think she could get away with it. By the way, she asked me what would I do if she ran away. I told her I'd go find her and she could never go away from me. I have to laugh thinking of my sister and I threatening my mom that we'd run away. She'd laugh at us and say, "Oh yeah, go right ahead. The world is ready for you, right? Come here, we've been waiting for you!"

    The end was surprisingly quite moving. Max's farewell to his friends and his reunion home.

    I definitely want to see it again and understand it better. And turn up the volume more so I could hear it.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Keep Your Church Out of My State

    All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
    Dalai Lama

    At my office, when some someone is frustrated with their situation, they will blame the managers for not attending to them. Managers believe they are helping the employees by focusing on long term solutions, not immediate fixes.

    Take this to the national level. People are frustrated with their economic situation and turn their anger to the leaders and government for not fixing it now.

    News commentator Glenn Beck recently led a rally in Washington DC. The New York Times said, "Mr. Beck told the crowd, in what was part religious revival and part history lecture. “America today begins to turn back to God.”" While the Tea Party movement doesn't specify religion as their platform, it invariably arises in their speeches. They're bringing out the "forefathers" and their original intentions. They claim our freedoms are at stake because the government is involved.

    I wish more Americans could visit a country where they truly lack freedoms. If they are able to hold rallies and public congregations without police action, arrest and detentions, they are obviously enjoying American freedoms. If women are allowed to have their own income, own name, and own control of her body, we have freedoms the government cannot take away. I find it intriguing that immigrants are not engaged in this movement. Based on my experience, immigrants tend to have a different mentality and perspective than those who have been American for generations.

    I had to laugh at the NY Times article where a woman states: "Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando, Florida, because, she said, “we believe in Jesus Christ,” and Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare. “You cannot sit and expect someone to hand out to you,” she said. “You don’t spend your way out of debt.”

    Really? Jesus Christ does not support helping the sick and poor and believed in capitalism?

    However, that raises the whole other point about religion. A growing number of Americans think that President Obama is Muslim. Is it because he plays golf on Sundays instead of going to church? He doesn't make a big display of his religion so he is not seen as a valid Christian politician, and not one of "them"? Yes, he was born Barack Hussain, but Christianity is a religion that encourages conversions. How are these people forgetting this? George W. Bush was known for his substance abuse with alcohol before he found religion. So, that's been cleared from his record. I hope that President Obama will stay true to himself and not parade his religion now to assure the ignorant Americans he is not one of "them". However, this is American history repeating itself as Lincoln and Roosevelt's religions were also subject to criticism.

    Honestly, I don't want my President to be religious. He (or she!) will be representing millions of Americans. Some believe in the same God and some do not believe in anything. I don't want their religion influencing legislation. First of all, we do not have the same religion. A quote from John Locke English philosopher, "If each of them [state and Church] would contain itself within its own bounds, the one attending to the worldly welfare of the Commonwealth, the other to the salvation of souls, 'tis impossible any discord should ever have happened between them."We don't have a uniform religious code and shouldn't. We simply need to turn outward and see other countries with religious agenda in politics.

    A lot of the controversies these days could have been squashed had the media not been involved. The media wants to show they are "balanced" by showing different points of views. This is only effective if it's true. They show askewed angles. It's like giving a blind man an elephant's trunk or tail and asking him to describe the elephant.

    The problem with our society is the need to have everything now. Journalists need to kick out articles for the web instaneously; time to research is an obsolete concept. The media churns news like cotton candy -- sweet and alluring fluff, no substance.

    Last year, we had Obama's spirit of change sweeping across the country. It didn't happen fast enough, people say. This reminds me of a server at work that needs to be replaced. It's about to die and if it dies, we're goners. Replacement is there and it could be stood up in a week. But, if we're going to do it right, it may take longer. It's been 6 months now and it's partially stood up. This is ONE server in ONE building for ONE company. Let's multiply this by millions of Americans and the government bureaucracy. Yeah.

    Friday, August 20, 2010


    While at a magic show at a recent birthday party, I started mulling over the concept of magic.

    This magician was tall, moustached and average looking. I'm sure he has a regular job as reliable citizen of society. On weekends, he breaks out his red vest and tie and becomes a Magician. He captures the attention of children and excites them by bringing them into the spotlight as assistants. He tells corny jokes and charms the audience with his sleight of hand tricks.

    Magic is intriguing because it is an act that engages performer and audience. If audience doesn't believe, performer has no reason to be there. He's got little eyes upon him who believe and follow his lead, gulping down each action as factual.The ball disappears and turns into a bird. That's obvious and true.

    For adults, we watch a trick for the first time and think "Wow, that's so cool! He really did that!"

    He does something again, and we think "Ok, now how did he do that?" You look for a fist hiding something or try to peer into the bag and check for double pockets.

    And, let's say you do realize how he's doing his trick, you're suddenly bored. You've lost that belief in him that he is doing the Impossible and remember he's just regular guy who has a reliable day job.

    Therefore, in order to truly enjoy magic, we have to suspend our criticism and analytical way of looking, and stop trying to figure everything out. We really have to look at it as factual as opposed to a problem that must be solved.

    By the way, this magic show was exceptionally difficult as I had left my phone across the room. I fought hard against getting up play with it during the show. In the end, I just waited and tried to live in the moment.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    They Came for Them

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me--
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.
    - Martin Niemöller

    There's a lot of coverage in the media about the Park51controversy - aka "Ground Zero Mosque" about which Sarah Palin, Newt Gringrich and other extremist opinion leaders are buzzing. The building being constructed is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. It's not being built atop the rubble; it's an existing building that has been used for interfaith prayers and is being renovated to capture more functions. There are mosques that already exist in lower Manhattan. Here are some pictures of the area and it's definitely not the "hallowed ground" as it's being promoted. As soon as you enter NYC, it's obvious that it's the most multicultural city in the US. You hear different languages and you can see vast diversity in people.

    The extremist opinion leaders need "a theme" to spoon feed fear to public. It could be Obama's birth certificate or death panels. It's unfortunate because the people who accept this probably do not know Muslims or New Yorkers. Rather than extinguishing these flames, CNN and other media outlets pour kerosene upon it by highlighting this as a controversy, rather than xenophobia. Bloggers are saying it's not "American" to have mosque built because it will promote violence and jihadism, and it will disrespect the memory of those who died on 9/11. It would be important to remember that people of all religions and races died in those buildings --  Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Catholics, Protestants to name a few. When the buildings fell that day, my thoughts turned to all the folks running those newstands and Dunkin Donuts on the lower level.

    I was shocked to hear a caller on the radio say that Muslims would instill sharia law in the US and not follow the Constitution. Why, this is just the first step on that road to craziness! We'll be donning burkas and Taliban will set up shop on Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, our President's name is Hussain and we don't know where his birth certificate is.

    If these people had talked to a Muslim in the US, they would see that they want to be recognized as Americans. They're in the US because they believe in the American dream. It's a shame that some Americans don't realize how fortunate they are, but allow themselves to perceive themselves as victims. 

    Had the terror attacks been performed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish wanted to build an Irish Catholic community center a few blocks from the site, would this be an issue? If a Hindu lunatic conducts an act of terror, should the rest of the Hindu community not be allowed to convene? This is why we have to speak now.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Sorry -- one final comment about Palin:
    “If the purpose of this mosque, as we are lead to believe, is to create this tolerant environment, to avoid anything like a 9/11 ever repeating, you have to ask why didn't one of those 100 [existing] mosques already accomplish such a thing,” Palin said.

    That's so funny.. I've wondered if she had raised her children with such "traditional strong family values," how did her daughter get pregnant in high school and have a boyfriend who has become become a talk show boy toy? The 'abstinance only' church sermons didn't accomplish such a thing did it? Hmm.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Patience - It's All About You

    One of my greatest assets is my patience. My colleagues are always impressed with how calm and focused I am. I don't like drama at all and dubbed myself the 'anti-drama queen'. Really, what is the purpose? When you create drama, you bring the spotlight to yourself. This drains everyone's energy, including yours since you have to sustain this attention-sucking disorder. I'm patient at home with my husband and child. This is not to say I don't do my fair share of freaking out at 8:30 before the school bus comes or during violin practices when my daughter doesn't focus. I probably should be less patient with some colleagues, but I understand their position.I'm probably the most hardest on myself than others. By the way, because I am so patient, it often gets misconstrued that I don't care about a situation. Ironically, it is because I do care and have a strong belief in it that I can be patient.

    The key is to keep everything in perspective when unexpected situations arise. How important is this issue when you zoom outwards? What would be the worst thing if you are 5 minutes late standing in line? Is it really that awful?

    When I find myself being angry and impatient, I ask "why" until I can whittle down the answers.
          "Why am I angry at her for eating breakfast so slowly?"
           Because we are running late.
          "Why are we running late?"
           Because we should have woken up 15 minutes earlier.
          "Why didn't we wake up early?"
    By drilling down, I realize my anger is not at her for eating slow, but at me for not waking up early.

    The important thing about patience is to lose our judgement of others. It's so easy to blame others - the 'moron' driving slow in the left lane, technology for failing, clients not providing full and timely requirements. It's everyone else's fault, but our own.

    Why do we judge others so harshly? We expect perfection and absolute stellar performance each and every time. And, when that fails, we become impatient and angry.

    When you're angry and impatient, it's because you feel out of control. This is all a choice. You can choose to be angry or choose to let go. If people realized this little fact and implemented this as a mindset, it would change everything.

    I've taken the perspective to look at delays as something important. A friend commented on her FB status that she sat in the doctor's office for 1.5 hours. However, she finally learned to use her iPhone. This is really the way the universe forces us to slow down. We were recently stuck in traffic en route to a family event. We were anxious in the car thinking it was badly planned construction traffic flow. However, there was nothing we could do but sit. When we moved up more, we saw that it was an tractor trailer accident. Obviously this was unintentional and unplanned. We said our prayers for those involved. We reached our event and learned everyone was behind schedule! Stewing in the car for 30 minutes would not have helped. Also, people don't remember what time we rushed in, but that we were present and participated in the event.
    By the way, by accepting these delays, we are taking control of our situation. We are not allowing the traffic or the doctor to control our temperment, but ourselves.

    I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and various scenarios that are too lengthy to detail. In the end, it is all about you and how you choose to accept or reject a situation.

    Wanted: Muse Who Can Water Ski

    Sign of a bad blogger: clicking on my own website and being surprised by the template change I did a few weeks ago!

    I suppose the vibrant colors feed the need for energy in my life. With my subdued colors, I was looking for peace. I've been consumed by a lot of activity in my real life the past few months, which caused me to suppress my creative writing and blogging. I read a good quote on writer's block that it only seems to inflict writers who have day jobs. True, if my income subsisted on my productivity of my writing, I'm sure I'd find a way to overcome it.

    I've always been happy not blending my professional career with my writing, as it extends the leash for creativity. It's like being on water skiis. One foot on the creative platform while another is technology/management. Unfortunately, it's been hard to maintain balance with work taking more of the effort - leaving me to balance on one foot without the the creative outlet to sustain me on the other side. All the while, I hold onto the rope/boat, which represents my family - never letting go.

    I tried all the tricks of the experts - keep writing jibberish, pick random words, go out and do something else, etc. I tried to read other poets and exceptional writers to be inspired. Instead, I felt more depressed that it was so easy for them to be so talented. Maybe I've been fooling myself all along thinking I was a writer. Then I would read some of my own work and be surprised.

    What worked for me was talking to other people, engaging in discussions for topics that were outside my normal scope of work/home. It was as if someone cranked up the gears in my brain and it started ticking again. Very slowly.

    What I needed to do was use my peripheral vision. I was focused on what was exactly straight in front of me. Writers and artists need to look at what is to their sides and find what others are missing. So, rather than writing exercises, I should have been doing eye exercises!

    Friday, August 06, 2010

    Vampires, vampires everywhere and not a drop of blood to drink..

    The vampiremania is just too much for me to handle. Firstly, I have to say I am a vampire fan. Back in late 90’s, I was right there with Anne Rice and LeStat, the lean rockin’ vampire. I was a vampire for Halloween my senior year of college. I loved Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and craved prequels and sequels to the classic story. I tried to fall for Keanu as Jonathan Harker and Tom Cruise as LeStat, but I prefer my men real and vampires literary.

    Secondly, I must state that I have not fallen victim to the current wild trend of vampire stories. Haven’t read “Twilight” and feel less inclined to do so after seeing the movie. I've wanted to get engaged with "True Blood", but I missed the beginning and now I believe it might be difficult to join midstream.

    My real problem with the cinematic vampires is the whole blood thing since I'm not into gore. Somehow it's easier to accept reading a vampire saying "I have to feed" than actually watching him feed and come back all bloody or hanging over a dead body. That was the cool thing about Rice's vampires - some were happy with small animals.

    With so many choices these days, I decided not to make a choice. I pulled "Dracula" off my shelf and decided to reread. I had read this years ago, some time after college. I had read "Frankenstein" for a number of English lit classes and loved it. Shelley's book is a beautiful story about relationships, responsibilities, desires and emptiness. There are underlying themes of parenting. So, when I landed upon Bram Stoker's book, I simply figured it'd be similar. Sure, why not?

    Well once I started reading this, I was quite surprised! What the bloody hell -- people are dying? Ok, I'm really creeped out by this vampire that changes forms and climbs the walls outside window. I was genuinely surprised by the fear evoked by this story.

    When I read this again, I had to laugh at my notes in the margins, which were obviously leftover from my English major days. For example, there is a scene where a female vampire kidnaps a child and laughs wickedly and luredly at Jonathan. I wrote "antithesis of motherhood... excessive sexuality is animal.." (Oh wow.. I totally missed that link.. glad I wrote that note! Didn't realize I was so astute!)

    Stoker's "Dracula" is one of my favorite books for its use of narrative. Every chapter is either a diary or a letter of sorts. It did seem funny that Lucy had the blood sucked out of her, yet she managed to scribble her encounter on paper.

    Nonetheless, the feminist themes in this book are quite evident. I loved how the men remarked that Mina was a woman with a man's brain. She's probably the most practical person in the mix, and rather than a straight forward compliment, it has to be in context with her gender. Sexual politics and desires are also evident in this book (e.g., women are proper ladies, until they are defiled by the vampire and become sexually aggressive).I don't want to turn this blog into one of my old term papers from 19th century English lit. But there's definitely lots of material in this book.

    By the way, I also found the xenophobia intriguing. Dracula is from Translyvania creeping into English society. On the other hand, Quincy & Van Helsing are American and Dutch, respectively. Van Helsing's "foreignness" is important because he has knowledge of other cultures and practices.
    The most exciting part of reading "Dracula" is remembering this is where it began. In 1897, the idea of an un-dead man sleeping in a coffin was new.  Today, it seems obvious to us that is where all vampires are found. All the traits of a vampire - lack of reflection, fear of sunlight, the elongated canine teeth - are identified in this book. I don't know if Stoker took these from folklore or took artistic license to invent them.

    Of course, vampyric folklore has always been around. There was evidence of vampire stories circulating in the regions. Theyv've even discovered vampires in Indian folktales. What ties these together is the innate human fear of the dead stealing life from the living. There is the fear of untimely death. This fear embeds itself into different cultures.

    What I find fascinating about my interest in vampires is that I don't believe in them. I don't read ghost stories or alien encounters because I do believe in them. With vampires, it's so far off that it's unfathomable. Hence, it feeds my imagination even more. If I were to write a vampire story, I know the first task is to create "rules of engagement."

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Regret Factor

    I know someone who spends a significant time and energy on regrets. After making a decision, he will think of 10 other things he could have, should have, would have done. He tends to look at all options and consider all viewpoints. However, the more viewpoints you have, the harder it is to gain a solid perspective. When you have regrets, you can't move forward. Anger and frustration at oneself sets in.

    I once had a friend who questioned her own judgement and it led to fear and paralysis of action in the greater schema of her life. The incident that I recall clearly is when we were ordering lunch. Once she placed her order, she questioned herself and regretted not ordering another item. I had reminded her this was one meal. There would be another meal in a few hours. Not every decision is critical to warrant the worries and stress.

    I'm not here to declare I don't have regrets in life. Definitely there were some decisions made that I did not agree with, but I didn't have much control. For those decisions that are under my control, I always reminded myself that when I take an action, it's based on the information I had at the time. If you know a Stock A and Stock B are certain values, you buy Stock A with the best intentions. You don't know that 4 months from now there's going to be 15 minute DOW dive that will happen and your stocks are going to plunge. You can't regret not buying Stock B, which was untouched.

    There will always be opportunities that seem better than what we have in hand. However, we have to remember why we made certain decisions and need to stand by them. Of course, if we're given the opportunity to steer into another direction, we should. We have to look at the decisions we make and see how they fit into a larger picture. You have to ask yourself what's the long term impact. A friend told me that you shouldn't make long-term decisions based on short-term situations. People make decisions based on their children ("kids are so young"), forgetting that kids grow up.

    So having regrets is definitely tied into the decision making process and the ability to have confidence in yourself. And, if it doesn't work out, we have to learn how to deal with it better. Anger and frustration are a fiesty pair that lead you down a tumultuous path. You're better off not inviting them into your lives.

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Top 10 Things I Love About Being a Mother

    I'm borrowing this idea from someone else. Great exercise I think.

    Top 10 Things I Love About Being a Mother
    10. She's allowed to sleep in our bed on special occasions (i.e., Dad's not home). The clingy hugs when we sleep together. As if we're trying to meld our bodies into one again; I know her body as well as I know my own.
    9. When I pick her up from school, her eyes light up and chatter bursts like a neverending stream from her mouth about school, friends, teachers, what she ate.
    8. When I look at her, I don't see me. Yet, when I look in the mirror, I see her.
    7. Just when I think I recognize her and know her, she changes into a different person. Not like me, not like my husband. She's like a flower that changes colors as it blooms.
    6. Watching my husband become an incoherent fool when they play together and speak their own language and games.
    5. Surprise when she does something on her own and asking her how she learned to do it. "You showed me." (You paid attention??)
    4. Watching her read "Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great" and "Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing" and discussing what we think Sheila, Mouse & Fudge look like.
    3. Eating ice cream on the couch together - Turkey Hill Extreme Cookies and Cream with Hershey's chocolate syrup.
    2. Holding hands to cross the street and not letting go on the other side.
    1. Realizing how hard my mother worked raising 3 kids, running a household and working physically taxing part time jobs in a foreign country. Becoming a mother finally made me realize how much my own mother did for us.

    Monday, May 03, 2010

    From Cubicle to Cubism

    The only thing motivating me this week was to step out of my Dilbert-esque cubicle world and step into Picasso's world of Avant Garde art in Paris. I love the cafe scenes that set the stage for paintings, and the complicated and intriguing people who sneak themselves into them. After all, there must have been something that inspired the painter to do this.
    The Philadelphia Art Museum actually just raided their own vaults to do the exhibition. Nice move in this economy to bring people to the museum. The best part of this exhibit was the audio tour. It's great to have someone take the time to explain each piece and what the overall direction of cubism says.

    I was particularly intrigued by the other artists like Juan Gris and George Braque. It's as if they took the idea and just ran with it. I loved Juan Gris' The Table. This image doesn't do it justice because it's a collage with chaulk shadows around key areas.

    I have to acknowledge that my introduction to the great artistic masters of the world was due to the Hoechst Corporation. My father was on a mailing list for their art calendars, which had gorgeous paintings. I collected these for a number of years and always looked forward to the arrival of these calendars. I still have a number of them in my basement, always hoping to frame a few or ate least use it as an art history collection. Anyway, there was a great cubist painting, and every time someone walked into my room and glanced upon the painting, they would say "Oh, Picasso!" However, I'd look closer and say, "Um..no, George Braque." Not sure who that is. Figured he was a Picasso knockoff.

    After this exhibit, I have a better understanding of how George and Pablo were closely influenced by each other. Another intriguing concept of cubism is to show all perspectives at one. You're not looking at a face straight on, but looking at the face from multiple perspectives.
    Another favorite of mine was a Marcel DuChamp's "Nude Descending the Staircase". Apparently this was a controversial painting since nudes generally "reclined" and having one descend made it impossible to "find" the nude. I loved the movement of this painting.

    Art has inspired some of my poems. So, I was definitely captivated by the concept of multiple perspectives and made a note to myself to play with "cubist" poetry. Unfortunately, this was not a novel idea. Apparently, Senor Picasso already did this. Nevertheless, I will try my hand at it and will hopefully cause readers to til their heads and say "Where is the guitar?"

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    The Road Not Taken

    Someone today asked me “Why was the step not taken?” And, it reminded me of the Robert Frost poem about the "road not taken." We’ve all read this in high school, but I had to read it again this morning.

    Keeping the broader context about life's paths in mind, it really moved me. I had to sit back and think about the paths I've taken that led me to where I am now. I have to wonder what other steps I did take and the ones I should've taken.

    By the way, it's important to remember that Robert Frost was American, and this is an extremely American attitude - to pioneer, try something adventurous and know there would be rewards for the hard work.

    Quotes are so often plucked from poems and tossed around in commencement speeches, greeting cards and mugs. Sometimes we have to go back to its origin, see it within its place in the poem.

    The Road Not Taken -Robert Frost

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    Speak to Me

    This week I did a presentation at an industry conference. We had about 20 people in our workshop, and I already knew the fairly important ones in the audience. My copresenter has the charm and grace of a talk show host. She fell in and out of jokes and stories casually to make her point. I was impressed with her ease of public speaking.

    Two weeks prior I had a poetry reading and I've been advised by experienced poets that it's important to memorize your poems. Brillant idea! But it doesn't really work since I was editing and flip flopping between the poems as I waited for my name to be called. In the end, I read 85% , improvised 10% and memorized 5% of the poems. The one thing I learned from my disasterous experience in high school when I forgot half of my poem for a French language competition is to always have paper in front of me.

    Nowadays, I'm comfortable with public speaking as I'll ever be. I'm used to discussing workflows and technologies in front of clients. I deal with the challenge of facing 25 seven-year olds every Sunday at culture class. This alone has forced me to learn to maintain my audience's attention and be flexible with the program.

    Last week's presentation was a new situation where the topic was definitely familiar as it was related to my work for the past two years. I had spent a lot of time on the presentation slides, adding color and custom animations. Fast forward to the day and it's not what I thought it'd be like. I'm used to standing in front of my slides and pointing out key items. This time, my slides were projected on a large screen while I was behind a podium on a stage! First of all, I had the microphone too close and had to adjust. My copresenter didn't need a microphone since she knew how to project so well. I started reading my notes for the introduction and I sounded so awkward. Let's go to the slides.

    I wanted to talk about something on the screen and felt at loss because I couldn't point it out. I panicked for a moment and then I clicked the Enter button on my powerpoint. Voila, little arrows and message boxes! Oh, yes, I did add these pointers to highlight the areas because I thought it ahead it may be hard to define those.

    All of a sudden, I relaxed and trusted my slides. I had spent a lot of time on them, and thought through the design carefully. And, so what if I say something incorrect. It's like the poetry reading where I improvised some of the poem. No one knew I did that, unless my face expressed it.

    More importantly, I had to trust myself to say the right thing. I had started off trying to be very formal and was reading my notes (remember the poetry reading?). This was all wrong. I needed to just speak the way I would - not the way people expect me to speak. It feels like running with someone else's shoes, and all that will happen is I will trip.

    So it's not so much about being able to perform in public, but to trust yourself and have confidence when all eyes are upon you. Some people thrive in this environment, while some of us have to come around to it.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Connecting Across the Universe

    Our school district is in the middle of a teacher's strike. As of today, it's day 4 and I heard 7 days is their max. Apparently, they haven't had a contract all year and the school board is not yielding. I don't want to comment about the actual contract negotiations since I'm not directly involved and don't know the details.

    However, people have been saying the kids are the ones who are losing out. This is true. Mine has been moaning "I'm bored" for two days. She's done just about every activity possible from arts, crafts, dancing, read a stack of Geronimo Stilton and Super Fudge books, biked, made milkshakes. It's also "Turn off TV Week" and she's adhering to it. Her friends told her it's not necessary because there is no school, but she's oddly committed. She's got signs on the TVs and computer.

    The impact is further than the kids and the parents. It's the whole community. I'm fortunate enough to be able to pop into work for few hours and work virtually the rest of the day. However, another colleague isn't able to work virtually, so he needed to take a day off. This meant, his team needed to balance their load around his sudden time off. His clients may have needed him, but he wasn't available. Someone else paid for a babysitter for her twins while she went to work; the next day she swapped with someone else so she could stay home. Others are sending their kids to grandparents' and relatives' homes.

    We're so connected that one element does not exist on its own. These are the handful of connections that I know. Multiply this by the 12,000 students who are home this week.

    Let's move to another connection. The Icelandic volcano eruption. A friend of mine has travelled to a conference in CA this week, representing her company. She's going to be working longer hours at the conference over the weekend. Why? Her colleague in England is unable to get an airlines ticket for another two weeks and won't be joining.

    We think we're isolated and absorbed in our own activities. We don't believe we belong to a larger realm. Why should we? Our vision extends only to as far as we can see. But this is one of those times we need to stop seeing, and just think about what we can't. Every incident eminates ripples beyond our own sphere.

    This week, we've made some crazy discoveries on Facebook of people from different circles, old and new friends, actually knowing each other. Again, more unseen connections.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Review: Everybody's Fine

    I was so excited to see an American remake of the Italian movie "Stanno Tutti Bene." Marcello Mastrianni's role as the father would be played by Robert DeNiro, and Drew Barrymore and Kate Beckinsale as the daughters. It's about a widower who goes to see his children and tries to reconnect with their lives, but they all have secrets. It's beautiful and sad, and touching. I remember in the Italian movie all the kids were named after characters in operas.

    This new version was definitely sad and touching. I had tears because I felt guilty for not calling my parents. (I dutifully did so the next morning and listened to my dad ramble on about books and tv shows, and allowed my mom to scold me for not feeding my family - even though we were getting late for lessons). Also, you could look at it from the parent's point of view and wonder what do you have to do with your own kids to stay connected over the years.

    This movie was just slower and depressing. Maybe it's the American landscape. Taking a bus from one Italian city to another is not a big a deal as taking bus from Chicago to Las Vegas. Acting is very good, but there should be more life to it - maybe better dialogue, maybe less quiet landscape shots?

    The ending was nicer I think that the Italian one, as I recall. So, it doesn't totally leave you flat, but more hopeful for reconnections.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    March 2010

    Now that the healthcare bill has passed, there is much uproar on the net. One of the boards I had read had a post that this was "the saddest day in American history". Really? This is it? The day a parent doesn't have to tell a kid to wait a little longer to get eyeglasses or their teeth fixed? An elderly person decided it was cheaper to buy Depends over the bladder control meds. Where's the dignity in being an American? If I had to truly point to the saddest day it was this month 7 years ago and we learned that "shock and awe" is not really a strategy.

    I wrote these poems on March 19, 2003 11:30 pm, as the invasion would begin March 20, 2003 . The first poem is what I imagined it would be like to be an Iraqi in Baghdad, just waiting for the war to start. There were interviews with citizens on the radio - debating whether they would stay or flee. I always wondered about on particular family that stayed. At the time, my daughter was 2 and she'd get frightened by low flying jets from the naval air base. I could comfort her easily knowing it would pass. I don't know what that mom in Baghdad was doing. I usually edit my poems perpetually. This one I kept it unpolished.

    We have fear
    to pull over our heads at night
    to shut out the prying eyes,
    the fingers that crawl through the blinds.

    We have fear
    to protect us from the
    Invisible Evil that
    may fall from the sky

    or hurt as we breathe.

    let the fear harden our lungs
    so it may not let out the
    cries of anguish,
    the turmoil we feel inside
    should be hidden.

    Tell me how one strikes
    upon a city
    that sleeps.

    A city in a stupor
    of silence

    Do you feel stronger and braver
    knowing you have concrete targets?
    Had someone thrown the first punch
    and you fought back with that awesome
    left hook,

    I would understand.

    I would know where it came from -
    a fire inside sparked.

    Yet how do you light a fire
    when there is only ice in the air?
    Sand in your eyes?

    We cloak ourselves in answers
    knowing what we do not know
    but say we do.
    Is it all Right?

    We will find out tomorrow

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Review: Up In The Air

    So, we're catching up on the movies we didn't know anything about during the Oscars. I had heard enough interviews on NPR about this film, so I was quite eagar.
    Jason Reitman is the guy who did "Juno" (seen it dozens of times) and "Thank you for Smoking" (also on my list). So right away you know it's going to have a lots of witty dialogue and quirky quiet music. Yes, the characters are witty, yet real and say the truth. Conversations we all have, but never see in a film. The plot and the dialogue are so well-crafted so actors just have to flow with it.

    We recognized Anna Kendrick's character immediately - we've all met the eager 23 year old, trying to be taken more seriously than her age, but put into positions where she's limited only by maturity and experience. Vera Farmiga was good, but I wasn't impressed until the twist at the end. So that elevated her performance. I kept trying to imagine the Ryan character with another non-George Clooney actor. But, George really does fit the role of a polished, seasoned exec. He's such a subtle actor too - doesn't have to say a word, but just through facial expressions you know what's going on. That's my favorite type of acting. (Robert Downey Jr does this really well too!!)
    And I can't forget that Jason Bateman is in this too -- I see him and I'm 15 again and want him on my locker.

    The relevance of the subject matter stands above everything else. Systemic corporate downsizing, living in airports, virtual meetings, texting, and dynamic relationships with people -- if there was a cinematic time capsule, this movie would be a snapshot of our current times. I loved the aerial shots of the cities because that's how business travellers get to know each city. You're not walking down to the historic sections, you'll be going to your hotel and the suburban offices.

    I plan to watch this again before we return the DVD just so I can revisit the dialogue and the story development.
    Ok fine.. and George Clooney.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    My mantra these days..

    It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.

    It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

    - Anonymous

    Tuesday, February 09, 2010


    I've had an unbelievable day today and needed to sort some thoughts (lucky readers!)

    In the morning, I was awash with "bad mom syndrome." I was frustrated that I hadn't spent time with my daughter practicing her violin.. she doesn't know her multiplication table.. needs to see an eye doctor and I haven't had time to schedule an appoint. I become "grumpy mommy" in the morning before school. This is just not right. Demands of work are consuming again and I'm losing my balancing act.

    As parents, we take the blame. It's our fault they can't do something or they can. I know this is not right - she's her own person and all I can do is show her the door, and she has to walk through it on her own. Speaking of doors.. this morning I dropped her at school for early morning orchestra practice. She's carrying her violin case, her roller knapsack and needed to pull open the large school doors. I wanted to jump out of the car and help her open the two doors. She looked so little! However, she had told me she didn't want me to get out of the car. So, I sat in the car, waited as she struggled with her bags and she did it.

    This evening, she pulled out her homework papers and showed us her science test. She got 10/10 on description of electrical circuits. They do this in 3rd grade? She said, "Yeah we did the experiment so I knew." Her handwriting was neat, and she knew what she was talking about. They were also making flashlights in school with paper towel rolls and batteries. Then she sat down to read a book of silly poems that I had once bought for her. I loved how she giggled while reading it. She said she was looking for "figurative language."

    I felt relieved this evening. I'm looking in the wrong places. She's doing well in so many ways, but I'm just looking at the part that makes me nervous.

    And, I think that's so key about our lives. We are surrounded by wonderfully delightful things all the time, yet we choose not to see them. Since yesterday, the one thing that has made me smile and laugh is a colleague's IM to me where he mistyped some words (i.e., "he knee keeps jerking"). It's silly. However, we all need to laugh a little to break up our day. I always remember years ago my colleagues and I were in an intense meeting. At the end, one of the colleagues told a story about how her two pet chihuahuas had died (one was crushed by an ironing board and the other accidently stepped on by her brother). The three of us laughed so hard we practically cried. The poor chihuahuas (I don't condone animal cruelty!), but the relief was what we needed.

    And, happiness doesn't come in one size. It can be something as small as a silly IM or it can be as big as the Super Bowl. We all have some element of joy and happiness in our lives. If life is about making choices, we make a decision on what we choose to see in our world. And, how we react to these things. We can laugh or we can cry.

    Sunday, February 07, 2010

    Driving in India

    On my last trip to India in 2007, I wrote this piece about Traffic Guidelines. I need to expand those.

    I think the key to driving and walking across the streets is the attitude. To cross the street in Mumbai, one must be bold. There are taxis, motorcycles, buses and cars. There are other pedestrians walking, so one car may stop. However, the guy behind him may want to loop around to pass. I tried to adopt the mantra "Maintain my stride and the driver will accomodate me." When I did that, I was pulled aside and told "You're gonna get hit! What are you doing?"

    We have a friend who lived in the US for some time and now returned to India. She said she tried to drive conscientiously, but it was wasted effort. She said people honked at her and told her to shape up and drive. After that, she found her attitude and started driving like the rest of maniacs on the road. Her husband doesn't drive in India.

    The problem in cities is that people walk in the street, not on the sidewalks. "Sidewalks are for the hawkers and parking motorcycles." So, in a way, you can get to your destination faster by walking and dodging traffic than on the sidewalks. Quotes by my friends who were driving:
    "You're banking on your luck when you drive in Mumbai"
    "[In Delhi], drive by instinct"

    These are some pics from our roadtrip from Delhi to Agra
    We're coming out of parking lot. Pick a lane to drive, buddy!

    This is a morning car pool. This type of rickshaw can accomodate 6-8 people inside (including the driver). Note the guy holding the orange bag. Next to him is someone holding a water bottle that you can't see!

    This is the business class seats!
    So we're driving through a town and everyone jumped on the truck for a ride! We were right behind them and took some neat pics!

    And, just when you think you're done with people, you run into goats!

    Trucks in India all have decorations and statements painted on them, especially requesting honks when driving around the truck. The classic is the "Horn Ok Please", which lead us to an interesting discussion. I always thought it meant "Horn Please, OK?" We saw "Horn Do" (Do in Hindi is give, so it meant Give a Honk) . This one just said "Blow Horn." There were also statements in Hindi.
    By the way, I loved this moment when we driving to a town called Gokul. It was an unpaved road with construction in spots and just generally dirty. Yet, this man was washing his truck so passionately. In one way, it seemed so futile to do it. However, there's such a sense of pride in what he was doing it. (I always wondered about this male phenomenon - they can wash a car for hours.. a sinkful of dishes, well that's just too much to ask!)
    There's never a dull moment on the roads in India!

    Saturday, January 30, 2010

    Avatar - Really?

    After 4 weeks of trying to get tickets and babysitting logistics straightened, we finally made it to see "Avatar" in 3D IMAX. I liked the IMAX screen, but the 3D experience was personally rough. The flimsy plastic in the glasses were not straight and distorted images, giving me a headache. Periodically, I had to take off the glasses to relax my eyes.

    Is it worth seeing? Yes. Is it worth the hype? Not really.

    The utopian planet that's been recreated is just luscious and gorgeous. During this time, I actually thanked the filmmakers for creating such a beautiful and creative landscape. I loved the stones that were naturally carved into perfect arches, the "hallelujah mountains." For the "humanoids", the design of having a tail that was like a "universal plug" into the earth was a cool concept. The connection of living beings to the spiritual world and the planet is beautiful. The experience of flying at high speeds is exhilarating.

    Spoilers Alert!!

    Can we make the characters not be such caricatures? The military colonel was pumped up with testerstone and conglomeration of every cliche of power hungry bully. It was interesting that they didn't depict a specific country leading the take over, but a corporation. We don't know exactly what was the benefit of the stone. It would've been more justifiable to say that stone would help repopulate earth or something like that. But, they left it at shareholder greed.

    The indigo indigenous people were a mix of all the tribals known to general audiences - African and Native American. The filmmakers really stayed with the stories and practices of Native Americans. Maybe it's a purposeful action so the audiences can connect. But, you have tribals in all parts of the world that have nature based practices. I don't know why Na'vi had to hunt in the first place - they have a plentiful resources.

    The action scene at the end reminded me of the battle scene from "Chronicles of Narnia." We already know about the "Dances with Wolves", "Pocahontas" and 'The Last Samurai" connections. There's also a nod to the "Transformers."

    Also, we were flipping through the new "Planet of the Apes" on TV the other night. There's a part where Mark Wahlberg tries to inspire the human prisoners to revolt. He says human history is full of humans fighting back and succeeding. It would've been nice if the people from Avatar had tapped into human history and seen what happens when the land and its people are sacrificed.

    When the Home Tree is destroyed, it conjured the Twin Towers falling. My friends pointed out it reminded them of Sadaam Hussain's statue being torn down. In case you missed those "subtle" references, the Colonel has to say they have to take "pre-emptive action" and "fight terror with terror". I loved how "Shock and Awe" is still going to be a phrase used century from now. So, if they did not want to identify a country as leading the effort, they just slapped a label on it.

    But overall, this is a movie about race and white men taking over. Note - Sigourney Weaver is a white woman who wanted to pursue scientific and diplomatic options. Here's an interesting POV on the issue of "white guilt movies."

    By the way, Mr. Cameron, in the future will there be a computer space station with no Asian techies on board? Are they still going to call India for tech support from Pandora? Talk about your fantasies!

    I'm stealing this quote from an online forum:
    Man, was it amazingly beautiful, but it's gotta be the first one-dimensional 3D movie I've ever seen.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

    Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
    - Wendell Berry
    Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
    vacation with pay. Want more
    of everything ready-made. Be afraid
    to know your neighbors and to die.

    And you will have a window in your head.
    Not even your future will be a mystery
    any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
    and shut away in a little drawer.

    When they want you to buy something
    they will call you. When they want you
    to die for profit they will let you know.
    So, friends, every day do something
    that won't compute.
    Love the Lord.
    Love the world. Work for nothing.
    Take all that you have and be poor.
    Love someone who does not deserve it.

    Denounce the government and embrace
    the flag. Hope to live in that free
    republic for which it stands.
    Give your approval to all you cannot
    understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
    has not encountered he has not destroyed.

    Ask the questions that have no answers.
    Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
    Say that your main crop is the forest
    that you did not plant,
    that you will not live to harvest.

    Say that the leaves are harvested
    when they have rotted into the mold.
    Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
    Put your faith in the two inches of humus
    that will build under the trees
    every thousand years.

    Listen to carrion -- put your ear
    close, and hear the faint chattering
    of the songs that are to come.
    Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
    Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
    though you have considered all the facts.
    So long as women do not go cheap
    for power, please women more than men.

    Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
    a woman satisfied to bear a child?
    Will this disturb the sleep
    of a woman near to giving birth?

    Go with your love to the fields.
    Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
    in her lap. Swear allegiance
    to what is nighest your thoughts.

    As soon as the generals and the politicos
    can predict the motions of your mind,
    lose it. Leave it as a sign
    to mark the false trail, the way
    you didn't go.

    Be like the fox
    who makes more tracks than necessary,
    some in the wrong direction.
    Practice resurrection.

    Friday, January 08, 2010

    Reflections Upon Return

    I've been home in the US for a two weeks now, and still trying to hold onto the magic and peace I found in India. For me, it was a wonderful vacation because I was away from my daily grind. My life is generally so hectic as with a demanding job where multitasking is an expectation, as well as the obvious juggling of home and family. There, I spent a lot of time with our family and our focus was on how to optimize our time together. There were maids and nannies tending to all the tasks that usually overrun our lives here. So, even when I offered to help, I was told not to worry.

    Normally, I'm constantly checking my work email on my phone. In this case, there wasn't much I could do due to the time difference. My colleagues were forced to adapt to the situations and come up with answers on their own. Before I left for India, there was a lot of anxiety around me leaving for 3 weeks out of the country. People were shocked when I said 3 weeks. People are out for 2 days and there's chaos. I tried to remind them I would return and the whole corporation won't collapse because I'm on vacation. I identified 6 people to cover various projects and tasks, so the burden wouldn't be on one person. Before we left, I was trying tie loose ends at work and prepare for the trip.

    They say that on one's deathbed no one ever says "I wish I had spent more time at the office." I felt it more so with this trip.

    I'm much happier that my daughter spent a few lovely weeks with her cousins and grandparents in India. She got a better taste of India as a country and the lifestyles that exist. We all had a good time bonding with our family and securing those relationships. When I grew up, we weren't able to go to India frequently, so we only have a handful of memories with my cousins and grandparents. However, the connection is still there with my cousins.

    Even in India, I felt so clear headed. My life wasn't cluttered with promises to fulfill and negative energy. Part of my stress is the need for perfection in everything, which could make a simple task as writing an email into a stressful time consuming task. There wasn't the need to come up with solutions and answers all the time.

    While in India, I also recognized some physical health benefits. I didn't need to have so much caffeine to get me through my day/evening. We had balanced meals, though we're not used to widespread. I've noticed that when I'm typing emails back to work, I tend to snap more at others around me. We had happier moments when I wasn't checking my phone. The one downside I felt was that I didn't get enough exercise as I needed.

    After seeing how simply people live in India, I do want to make changes in my life. There isn't a lot of space for things, so you keep what you need at hand.They buy fresh vegetables everyday. We have such a "just in case" mentality where we buy everything. Maybe it's our environment. It's 20-30 degrees outside right now. I'd rather go into my pantry and dig out soups rather than go to the market for fresh veggies to make my own soup.
    I'm looking to make changes in simplifying our schedules. Kumon is out. My family is much happier that we're not fighting over Kumon. We regain almost an hour in the evenings, which my daughter can spend more time practicing her violin and finishing up school projects. She's agreed to work on other math workbooks to keep up her skills sharp.

    Delegating is an art that I need to master. My problem is that I enjoy doing certain tasks and will take them on just for that sake. But, I need to devote my energies on primary tasks that cannot be done by others. I see this being critical for an activity coming up in April, for which I'll be co-directing a children's program.

    I've definitely returned with my head on straight. I can say my head was 100% turned the other way before I left. I don't want to be "Grumpy Mommy" anymore. Someone suggested to me that I meditate to find the peace I'm seeking. I thought about it and I realized I'm not seeking peace. I've found it.
    It's as if I'm holding a cup of a precious liquid. My challenge is to go through my life without spilling it or having someone taint it! I think my key will be to conjure the feelings that I had in India.