Vacation Right

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There is a lovely paradox surrounding a vacation, the hunger for it and the anxiety of it. This love like the other “person-to-person” love comes with a dent.

The paradox begins while packing for a long, much-anticipated vacation. The stress of packing the right gear…at least for those of us who do not have a genie or a paid help or a super-organized person who loves us dearly and has the time to pack for us.

Surviving the packing challenge, leads to the second layer of the paradox. As you fly above the clouds, there is a longing for the comfort of the home you left behind – the smell of cocoa, if you will, the touch of your mattress or the luxury of having everything at your fingertips at a moment’s notice. We leave it behind to live from a suitcase in hope of a better, grander place. We hope the flight above the clouds will land us on to something spectacular and powerful enough to expel our pain and our sufferings in one happy jolt or a slow-absorbing tonic. But what if the lofty expectation fails to deliver?

But it will fail to deliver, certainly.

Because the expectation of bliss is based on a faulty premise.

Lo and behold, the plane touches down and life remains, life. A clap of lightening and a roaring thunderstorm welcomes us, or if the sun is shining brilliantly, something happens with the reservation we thought we made months ago, or you know, life happens.

The expectation surely fails to deliver because we cannot run away from life.

And as expectation meets grim reality, the beauty of a vacation takes hold and reveals the real reason why we vacation and wait for it.

We vacation to spend time with the people we love twenty-four seven. Period.

We vacation to notice, I mean really notice, the smile of a loved one with undivided attention. Period.

We vacation to fall in love again not with Earth but with people we hold dearest to us. Period.

And if we are lucky, in the middle of our vacation (the right way) with our kids, or our parents, or our friends, or people that fit in no neat bucket, sometimes, just sometimes, the clouds part to reveal the beautiful, blue skies, the lakes, and the snow covered peaks. And you behold them with your loved ones. Without them, the view is barren. And with them, even cloudy skies are breathtaking.

So “Vacation Right.” Vacation to fall in love with people again and to never take them for granted in the hum drum of existence. Vacation Right.

How Nanowrimo Changed my Life?

My life changed November of 2016. I read Chris Baty’s book called, “No Plot? No Problem.” It taught how to write a book in a month. I would spit out a short story in six months if I got lucky.

“Must be too good to be true,” I suspected.

It was one of the twenty books stashed on my desk in hope of bettering my writing and making a storyteller out of a struggling writer. I was littered with comments such as, “English is not your first language, right?”

Truth of the matter remained English was the only language I knew from the time I started beading words into raw emotions. My fellow classmates in India were masters in grammar in three languages, English included. I struggled in all languages in the nineties and now after spending years in America. Being fascinated by words was insufficient to fix my grammar issues. I still butcher my grammar, but a key fundamental transformed with Chris Baty’s book.

Months prior to November, I had struggled producing five thousand words for a fiction writing workshop. Chris Baty’s book held my hand each week providing therapy for negative feelings inside my heart as I wrote without a solid plot and only a meager outline. Each week, the book prescribed exercises to get the creative juices flowing.

And I, a no body, with broken command of the language, wrote.

I, the world’s sorest writer, wrote.

“I” wrote.

The book taught me to FINISH. I hold completing projects you start an utmost priority. Did my first draft suck? It sure did. It bled plethora of complicated tribulations on my computer screen. Did it hide my grammar problem? It highlighted it. But I walked away from the experience, feeling accomplished.

It used to be a dream to make a living doing something I cherished. I no longer care for the money.

Although, I am unpublished on a steady path of rejections as I compete with multitude of manuscripts from far superior authors with better command of the language who never get to hear, “English is your second language?” type of a feedback, I am still a proud author of three books (besides being a mother of three,) unpublished but manuscripts completed with satisfaction.

And all this became possible because of Nanowrimo. I am indebted to it for life.

 

Flooded by Memories

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Before I wisened up and could call myself mature
Before I could tell apart love from a crush
I scribbled the tribulations of my day
In the captivity of a forever-secret journal

Years flew by, and I could not contain time
Memories overflowed spilling here and there
Notebooks filled with coffee stains and words
Tear-stained pages wrinkled in a glorious show

From heartbreaks from joy and sorrow alike
To getaway escapades and faraway hideouts
My life sprawled like a giant Banyan tree
Notebooks no longer could contain my heart’s outreach

Memories flooded my heart
Without memory-proofing, tried vacuuming
But memories spread their wings as I aged
Day by day, trip by trip

As I tread forward in life
With an already-full jar of memories
My life’s memory jar will continue to spill
I let the river flow and drench all in its way

Why Companies Should Hire Mothers?

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Our worlds are rife with complications and stress. Sometimes we have great ideas but lack the great partnerships we need to forge ahead. And, in the middle of an uncertain world demanding certain outcomes, when we have an employee that needs to be away on extended family leave, it can feel like a liability especially if your company is small or in a precarious financial predicament.

Now, meet me, a mother of three small children who constantly need my attention. If you come to my home, you will find sticky cereal on the ground, screaming kids dashing from room to room, and potentially me with crazy mother hair and bloodshot eyes.

I am also a writer. I have written three fiction books even though I am unpublished and have yet to rear my head above water to pursue publishing.

I am also a coach and a project manager by day. I relish every second of my job where I get to interact with people from different backgrounds, solve problems that feel unsolvable, and resolve conflicts when there is no agreement in sight.

And, I love my life. If I could find a fourth passion, I would. I do not think being a mother of three, having a full-time job, and a burning passion that keeps typing at my keyboard at night is a liability at all – it is fortune.

But, I did not always feel this way.

When I was inexperienced in balancing work-life – life with children, when I was expecting my first child, I wondered how my life would unfold, if I could handle being a good mother and be good at my job at the same. There were occasions I stepped away from opportunities doubting I could give it my all. And, when I think about myself back then, I laugh. I was naïve. And, if you as an employer feel like my naïve self, unsure how big of a liability mothers are, think twice.

I am wiser today because I know what I bring to the table which I did not before having my kids. Here are some reasons companies could use mothers (or fathers for that matter) of how much ever experience.

  1. Mothers are great conflict resolvers

Children are notorious for fighting over petty things. And, a parent witnesses this on a routine basis. It is not a wasted skill because at work conflicts are prevalent as well even though adults fight in a different manner. The conflict resolution skill is honed and polished daily by parents.

  1. Mothers are patient

Ever sat at a dining table and watched someone eat at a snail’s pace half-hour after you are done? That counts for three meals a day for parents.

Ever coached a person, and you have learnt over time, that coaching isn’t always one time advice, it is repeated instruction that is cultivated over a painstakingly long time?

Selflessness associated with taking care of another human being who is entirely dependent on you emotionally and physically is a unique lesson and the patience virtue it endows is invaluable.

  1. Mothers are great multi-tasker

Multi-tasking is routine for a parent. Juggling and succeeding is an art learned, in my humble opinion, in world’s most difficult job – being a parent and raising a child.

  1. Mothers heal and are great counselors

From ice packs, to Band-Aids at their fingertips to snuggling in bed, listening to a child confide about their problems at the playground during recess, healing and counseling does not end in the confines of parenthood, it transcends to work.

  1. Mothers are creative problem solvers/managers

Ever had an associate that needs to be occupied every second of every minute of the day? Meet a parent who turns a dining table into a fancy craft station, paper into flying jets, pasta loops into necklaces – mothers know how to think outside of the box.

  1. Mothers do not take things personally

After a million conflict resolutions amongst people who love each other tremendously, after witnessing a million errors, after a million pitfalls and aftermaths, things a novice would spend a sleepless night over, a parent shrugs off and laughs it off as trivial. In the grand scheme of things, where nothing tops love and selflessness, it takes trivial out of focus.

 

  1. Mothers love their work in a new way

It is a perspective – leaving the people you love the most at a daycare, in someone else’s care with tears streaming down their faces, and driving yourself to work – be it for four hours or ten, that work better be damn good, and damn enjoyable else what is the point? Yes, I need the paycheck but if you have checked the costs of early daycare and college, you will understand a paycheck can only be so high, but if the work does not live up to the heart of a parent, they will not be coming there every day. It is a perspective that taught me how to burn 400 calories in twenty-five minutes at the gym – because those twenty-five minutes was all I could afford, and I had to make those twenty-five minutes the best I could. I apply the same philosophy to work.

Lastly, I will say, I know I wrote this article about mothers because they bear the nine-month gift of pregnancy and the immediate aftermath of labor and delivery but the qualities above apply to all the hardworking, hands-on fathers all the same.

Next time, you think of mothers or future mothers as liability – Think twice.

A Thanksgiving Wish For My Children

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As surely as the good days make your heart melt with joy
There will be days when you may just want to cry
And, you feel you cannot take it another day
Remember all you have to do is breathe
Breathe a big one in and a big one out

On days when you feel things didn’t turn out
How you imagined life would be
And, nothing seems alright with the world
Just listen to all the sounds you hear
Be it tick-tick of a clock, or a soothing melody of the birds.

When you feel you have reached
That place in life where nowhere else to go
You take a seat, close your eyes, and wait for tomorrow
For in the morning light you will see,
All the things you can be thankful for

In life all days are not equal
Some will be great, but some not so great
On those sappy terrible days
Remember the sun too will rise
And, a miracle you will see

Thousands of years, millions have ached,
And millions have cried tears of pain and joy
Now, go on, my babies make fast a list
Of your life’s blessing, all your life’s treasures
Because they will come in handy, on one of those needy days.

A Giant Scary Bus

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Today my boy took a step
Into a giant scary bus
Trembling with fear, a hard goodbye
A necessary must, the letting go of hand

Today my boy took a step
Into the giant scary world
A baby no more, a big kid now
How do I shelter you no more?

Today my boy took a step
Through that large yellow door
They called you a “little peanut” when you were born
Now my peanut is on the road alone

I wait for a ring on my phone
To tell me you cried no more
To tell me you smiled some more
I wait for that ring my boy!

Go now, my boy, fear no more
Don’t you worry; Don’t be shy
Be happy, be proud
You are a fantastic little boy

Don’t hold back; Don’t look back
A new road waits for you
Sing a happy tune, now sprint away
Go now my boy, live full your day!

Take Me Away

When I was young I used to dream
To will it to happen for real
Else a wretched miserable life forever

Now that I am old I dream
But reality isn’t the idea any more
It’s the idea that’s important

When I was young I used to believe
Dreams must come true
Else it is all a waste

Now that I am old I don’t dream that way
All that matters is to believe again
In the goodness that exists, if not around
Somewhere sure as heck for real

For that that is hard to endure
I now dream to believe again
That fairies exist and heaven exists

When I was young I used to pen my dreams on paper
I would gladly seal with red ink stamp
Under my hearts stiff dictator rule

Now, the night I dream I dance away
Like a flower floating in the morning wind
For lucky are those that can dream of heaven
When chaos is ambient as far as eye can see

I wish I could will to dream
But my friend plays the elusive game with me
And when it stops to visit
I hold the thought in deep embrace

Lived too long and seen too much
I seek to forget in my dream’s refuge
Unshackle me, my old friend
I am ready, now take me away!

Why want everything when you can have one key thing?

I stood behind a long frozen queue of heads rocking my newborn.  When my turn came, the lady on the other side of the glass glanced through my pile of official papers with keen dexterity.

“Is that all you have?” she asked.  I nodded with another question, “What more do you need?  Answer-less, she pointed me towards a seat propelling me into an endless abyss of wait.  In the shadow of hours that floated by, whispers rose to higher pitch.  People began to march to the window, furious, some sufficing with fuming looks, others roaring at the young lady.

“I am just doing my job” she would respond timidly.

Finally when my turn came, a male officer stood beside the young lady, sifting through my papers-birth certificates, school-leaving certificates, the only remnants of my childhood scribbled in ink on paper.  He was still dissatisfied as though not seeing what he desired to give me his stamp of approval.  He asked me a series of questions, in response to which I pulled out yet another certificate of my grades from high school.  With a perplexed look, he asked, “why didn’t you provide this before?”

“Because you asked for ‘all I have’ and I didn’t know what that meant!” I let my stare meet his.

Why couldn’t the Consulate where I had spent an entire day just give me a list of documents they needed?  This outward experience of mine propelled me into an inward tirade of thoughts about my own desires over the span of my life.

Aren’t we all, to some degree, similar in wanting everything?  We want it all in our lives, career, family/friends, house, etc.  And in obtaining everything, who knows, we may get the one thing we truly desire!

Truth be told, there is always something missing, for a working woman on an overseas trip, she may carry the trepidation of the welfare of her kids hidden in her heart.  Or the thorn that pricks a homemaker’s heart is one of a career abandoned, even if for the time being.  That is the harsh reality of our worlds, for every achievement there is always a road that’s left behind.  That is what everything entails – things we have, and things we do not.

But how do you realize what you really want in life?  Especially, when wanting “everything” is cluttered with so many conflicting desires.  And, how important is it to siphon it out?

My experience taught me a lesson that I hold dear.  Wanting everything can be misleading, even to your own heart.  Focusing on one or two ambitions is the key to success.  That helps you to cherish what you are pursuing and “give the moment at hand” your very best, remorse free.  It helps you to look ahead instead of pandering to every road not taken.  It de-clutters your chest of desires so only the important few remain.  And, it gets simpler to grasp the chosen few without risk of distractions from the unimportant wants.

What often needed is a reset.  The following habits can help.

  1. Take a break
    It was a crisp day in March.  At lunch time, a bunch of us sat enjoying the warmth of precious winter sun in outside patio.  It also happened to be my first day at the job.  A fellow colleague sat next to me.  That day happened to be his last at the company.  When I asked him where he was headed to next, I fully expected a response one where he would tell me the name of the new company or try to hide it.  But I was not prepared for the response.
    “Nowhere; Just taking a break.” he responded calmly.
    I reconfirmed just to be sure.  His confidence unsettled me.  He was doing something I could never get my dutiful mind to do.  I lived my life by the book-go to college, get your degree and job, get married-you know how the story goes.  I charred in silent envy for I lacked the courage to reset my life.A break necessarily does not have to involve quitting your job, it could be a long vacation; it could be things you do in a day.  For instance, within the boundaries of a day, a break may be spending alone time at a lake watching the water shimmer away.

    In my last semester in college, heavy in debt and income-less, my aim was very clear.  My aim was to become debt-free, to be in a position where I paid my bills on time never having to worry at the first of the month if my rent check would bounce again.  When our survivor instincts are high, it is easy to see what you want.We live in a perfect society where we are pressured to be perfect parents, be perfect partners, etc.  Sometimes it takes losing the anchors we put in for ourselves and let ourselves free fall to meet our inner self again, which takes me to point number 2:
  1. Allow Failure
    A friend of mine, a hard worker, fresh out of college landed herself a contract as a techie at a small telecom company. She felt lost at the job, the environment was hostile.  A couple of months later they let her go.  She described that day with painful precision of how she was escorted out of the building in a matter of minutes.  Knowing her, despite being unhappy at the job she would have never left by herself.  In hindsight, the company letting her go was the best thing that could have happened to her.  It gave her downtime to reflect on what she really wanted in her life.  And, she came out of it stronger and happier.  The experience taught her it is OK to say no to certain jobs, that she can choose even if it takes time.  She went on to make great strides in her career since.
  2. Persist
    Once you do pick a road, stay on it.  It is easy to keep resetting your life again and again especially when you successfully kill the fear of failure from your heart.  You learn from your mistakes and pivot but do not give up on your dream.

So, to my fellow human beings, life-long dreamers, good luck in finding your true desires and be fearless in the journey to pursue them.

 

Tread Gently, My Mir

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Not like a mother doting with love
More like a lover afraid to indulge the heart
That pines away in secret love affair
Writing a thousand love letters
Stashed away in wooden drawers

Overworked paparazzi with a fancy camera lens
Shuttering, Stuttering, opening and closing
Noting each smile, each frown
Breaking and unbreaking my heart in a million pieces
Waiting around the corner for your next move
A tear waiting to drench the cheek

So, just like that wordless, nameless, countless lover
My Mir, my knight in shining armor
Keeping me awake into the night
You danced away in pious grace
Tread carefully, my love, my mir

You may not see the veiled admirer
Being killed with an innocent smile of yours
Bruised with the sheer intensity of love
My Mir, my buddy, my loving treasure
Tread Carefully, my Mir
I love you beyond hearts can imagine

Live Well, My Mir
And when you go out there
Remember your first follower
Will be loving you endlessly for times to come
So, tread carefully, My Mir
I am so in love with you!

The Walking Snowman

It was a beautiful crisp winter evening. Few flurries hung suspended outside. Little Sahir sat there staring out the window with joy in his heart he felt each winter. He rarely sat still but waited patiently for his mother to finish her kitchen chores. He had some exciting news for her. But he was afraid she would not believe what he had to share. As she came with her coffee mug oozing warm vapors and sat next to him, Sahir wasted no time.

“Mama, I want to tell you something about my day.”

That elicited a quick response from Sahir’s mother who was used to asking Sahir all sorts of questions about his day, but always hearing the same response, “good”. How can all days just be good?

“Great, I am listening,” she exclaimed with anticipation.

“Mama, I climbed on top of the snowman in our backyard, and it started walking.”

Sahir’s mother chuckled in response. “Wow, that’s some awesome imagination!” was all she said as Sahir suspended his head low disappointed. He whispered to himself, “except it wasn’t imagination.”

Why wouldn’t anyone ever believe him? He walked over to his father who was pressing buttons of his phone.

“Papa, guess what?”

“What Lolo?”

“I sat on a car and it just started moving.”

“That’s very nice. You want to drive a car?”

“I did it, for real!”

A few hours later as the dining table was cleared up, Sahir’s parents overheard their children talking.

“Guess what Dua, yesterday I sat on your big yellow horse and it started moving.”

“Woooooow” gasped Dua. They both erupted in crackling laughter. They emitted out sounds of a horse galloping, imagining riding it through the forest as their parents glanced at them fondly.

Soon the day ended in darkness and silence of the night. In the morning, while Sahir’s mother performed the daily monotonous chores thinking, may be it was possible for all days to be the same as one another. She peeked out in the backyard and noticed something peculiar. Sahir’s snowman was still intact under the cold, but it indeed, had moved. Sahir must have moved it, she explained to herself.

But from that point each morning she walked up to the window. And, each morning the snowman shrunk a little and moved a little. One day she grabbed hold of Sahir who had long stopped talking about him climbing on top of things to watch them move.

“Sahir, you want to tell me more about your ride on the snowman?”

Sahir did not answer. He was busy making buzzing sounds and rolling his favorite orange school-bus toy back and forth.

“Sahir, are you listening?” repeated his mother.

“Yes”

“What happened to the snowman, did it move again?”

“No”

She sounded disappointed and didn’t probe him anymore.

That night dense fog enveloped the area. It appeared as a still from a scary movie with mystery shrouded in each nook and cranny. Her footsteps were gentle as she climbed down the stairs careful not to wake her family. Despite the fog, the outdoors was lit from the reflection of all the snow on the ground. And up very close you could see for a few feet past which the fog drenched the view in total whiteness. She could hear the crackling laughter, mumbled conversations as her heart raced. She imagined herself part of an animation movie except the crackling of the wooden floor beneath her feet was real, the coldness of the door knob to the backyard was hand numbing, waft of ear reddening winter breeze was chilling, and the sound of snow crushing under her feet was ambient as the laughter grew louder and louder.

And at that moment, from under the canopy of the fog emerged the waddling snowman with a shrill voice with Sahir atop it, his hair rustling up and down, his cheeks red with cold and eyes closed in joy. Round and round they went buzzing and electrifying.

And, the next morning, nothing had changed. Fog remained suspended in the air. The children worked on their omelets and fussed over milk. As Sahir’s mother stared at her son, with fresh memory of his hair flying in the air and cheeks red as watermelon. It must have been a dream, she dared not cross check.

As Sahir put his plate in the sink he winked at her and disappeared into the garage on his way to school.

That evening as temperature rose and lifted the fog, out came the sun, and the snow man melted away. There was an old carrot and couple of sticks where it once stood. The snowman was gone but little Sahir’s mother could never forget what she saw on that foggy night, and it didn’t matter if it was real or just imagination.

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