Protesting is not the problem

The past two nights, I’ve attended rallies in Oakland and San Francisco marching against police terror and violence. I chose to march to unify, to be a body in a sea of protesters, to bring attention and to call on Oakland City Council to reform our corrupt police department. I attended in solidarity, but I was also there to learn, to LISTEN HARD, to give space to ideas some may find uncomfortable.

A few of my white friends said “thank you” to me as they noticed I was marching. I get it, but I don’t want to be thanked. I don’t want to have to stand in front of City Hall, shedding tears as a mother wailed over the deaths of her sons. When you said “thank you,” I understood your sentiment. I think you want to do something but don’t know how? Instead of thanks, I’d rather if you’d join me at a rally exercising your protected right to assemble peacefully and demand justice together. We can listen, find new ways to engage. We can raise our fists together in defiance and anger, shaking them with fierce agitation against violence.

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Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland Ca

Some of you may say, you call this peaceful? How can your anger bring peace? Why would you shut down streets and freeways and inconvenience others? This is no way to make allies, your angering and annoying others. Or maybe you think some of the speeches from the movement have a negative tone or sound scary, or incite violence. It might freak  you out out to hear ideas like ending the police, revolution, black self-determination, anti-capitalism and that’s a good thing. It should freak you out to learn that we have an unjust system!

I get why this all sounds too much, but we just had another really frightening week of violence in the US and I’m at a point where I want to shake things up, I want to something. I figure a little anger and outrage is due and this is why I marched on the streets of my city. Luckily a friend reached out on Facebook when she noticed I was interested and a protest buddy was exactly the last little push I needed to get off my butt. Like many, I have held back my actions because felt confused, maybe even a little complacent and cynical. This is about black lives. Not privileged Asian-American lives. Do I have a right to speak out, or to hold up my fist? Am I’m co-opting a movement? Am I’m just trying to attend a march to feel good, or assuage my guilt or sing “We Shall Overcome?”

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Oscar Grant Plaza, Oakland

Some of this may be true, and I’ve struggled with many conflicting thoughts the past few nights, rallying and marching in Oakland and San Francisco. And to those of us who have guilt in any form, what is the point of feeling badly it if we don’t act? Why would I sit home giving in to my pathetic guilt. The very least I can do is show up in solidarity, not expect thank you’s and stand with humility when facing my privilege. These have not been easy events, and I’m still coming to terms with what I can do. But like I said, I went to listen and learn. And I learned that the mostly young activists are pouring out their hearts, they’re tearing their souls open asking all of us, to feel outraged, to get out of our safe little houses hiding behind social media and act now. I also learned real quick that these protests are not about feel good messages that only serve to make you feel warm and fuzzy but don’t address inequality, racism, and injustice. You can’t fight for change in a corrupted and ugly system and hope it stays positive, especially when the negative is so grave. Of course, Martin Luther King Jr, said it best:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

You may worry that protesting and demanding change, revolution, pointing out the rigged system during this election cycle is not so convenient. It would be better for us if we could share positive vibes, so we don’t upturn the apple cart. I’ve also heard the argument that protestors are fomenting Donald Trump’s supporters. I recognize this tactic as means to keep voices muted. And furthermore, I feel strongly that if we don’t protest, if we don’t speak truth to power RIGHT NOW, we are obediently allowing his narrative to take hold. I recognize what is at stake, and the train has already left the station, we have the potential as a Nation to elect a very dangerous man to the highest office in the land. This threat is exactly why mobilization is utterly essential, now more than ever. The finger has ALWAYS been pointed at protestors, because of course, those in charge (the media, politicians, government, police) want quiet obedience.

Civil disobedience, as I put it to the audience, was not the problem, despite the warnings of some that it threatened social stability, that it led to anarchy. The greatest danger, I argued, was civil obedience, the submission of individual conscience to governmental authority. Such obedience led to the horrors we saw in totalitarian states, and in liberal states it led to the public’s acceptance of war whenever the so-called democratic government decided on it…

In such a world, the rule of law maintains things as they are. Therefore, to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern black did, as antiwar protesters did.― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times

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San Francisco City Hall

 

And to this you say to me, what does a protest accomplish? You know you’re just pointing out the divide, you’re allowing the other side to use your arguments against you, giving fuel to their agenda. Bruce Hartford, a veteran of the civil rights movement defines “The purpose of Nonviolent Resistance is to affect peoples’ thinking and build political movements for social change.” And using this definition, I’d say that the current protests are achieving this objective. Haven’t you heard more about police shootings against blacks, seen more videos showing injustice, or seen more cops arraigned than ever before? Even if these cops are not getting convicted, we’re at least getting them to face a trial, and convictions will happen in due time. To overturn laws and policies that created a racist criminal justice system will take many years, a lot of protesting, direct action, debate, and re-framing. Part of what is making the change is the long hard work of activists directly engaging in civil disobedience, protests, social media campaigns. Yes, yes yes, it brings out the dark side, it’s angry, ugly, no fun, icky, and uncomfortable. And this is why I marched, why I had to get elbow to elbow with my neighbors and hear the words for myself, out in the open under a foggy sky. I took part to feel some of this;

In some circumstances and for some people, taking part in direct action is a profound expression of defiance and courage, for others it can sometimes be a living rejection of the conformist societal norms that previously governed their lives. In some instances, nonviolent protest can be life-changing affirmation of dignity and self-worth — I AM a Man — and a living experience and expression of human solidarity — I Am Not Alone. And, of course, actively planning and participating in a protest provides a depth of political education that no leaflet, speech, article or manifesto can match. –Bruce Hartford, The Onion Theory of Nonviolent Protest

So please, don’t thank me, join with me instead. At this point, I feel I haven’t done enough. If you’re thanking me, I know you have it in you to get on your feet! Marching and rallying is actionable, hopeful and hard (as it should be). If you’re worried or sad about all that is happening you can do something. At least lend support to those on the streets, rather than criticize or believe the inaccurate portrayals of protesters being rabid, angry, frothing, vandals that are out for destruction. You should go out once and see for yourself. I’m here to be a friend, and I’m sure there are others. Ask for a hand and we can face these challenges as a united front against injustice. Staying quiet is no longer an option.

Lessons from The Writer’s Studio and Completing Goals

Woman writer2I did it! I finished 10 weeks of The Writer’s Studio workshop. I had to go back and count them up and yup I have 10 new stories. Now I have nurtured a mini-collection of healthy seedlings–starts to short stories or dare I say chapters in a novel. As I mentioned in this post, I was filled with trepidation about starting (and finishing) yet another workshop. In the past, I’ve struggled with workshops, unable to process feedback without inciting more self-destruction. I would feel angry that fellow classmates did not understand my intentions. The stand-out authors in class became a source of judgment and comparison, rather than healthy competition. I would read exemplary writing and kick myself for not doing as well and began to spiral in self-doubt. What came next is obvious, I would lose the energy to write, my ideas began to stagnate, eventually settling into debilitating writer’s block. I never asked for help or ever tried to reach out. I would just stop writing, skip one class, then another and slowly fade away. The self-defeat would feed more distraction from the very thing I have always desired in life–to write stories.

This time around, I gave myself one goal, to simply finish every assignment and never skip a class. Not to expect Nobel-prize winning narrative, oohs and awws over dozens of well-turned sentences and standing ovations. I just had to complete every assignment, in earnest. But most importantly I had to show up, week after week, ready to listen and learn. At first, 10 weeks seemed a long stretch and I was concerned about keeping up momentum. I am VERY guilty of starting off strong and petering out by the end. But it flew by. The best part, I never missed a single class, never “called it in” and I felt energized the entire time. It’s hard to put in words the immense feeling of pride I have for achieving my simple goal, but on the night of the 10th class I felt elated. I might as well have gotten a call that I won a Pulitzer Prize, Booker Award and National Book Award all on the same day. (Yes I know this is impossible, they are not announced at same time, just go with my metaphor please).lady writing

However, there were some positive side affects to my goal, changes that I didn’t expect, huge tweaks to my creative process. Because of the time I spent, huge mental blocks have been cleared. New ideas and perspectives have been forged. Aside from perfect attendance, here are some of the unexpected lessons I’ve gained in the past 10 weeks:

1. An idea is only the first step-I learned not to get over-confident just because I had an idea for a story. The seed still has to be harvested and the work has just begun. An idea invites us to sit down, open a notebook, turn on the computer and begin typing. An idea is a tiny fraction of the whole process. It’s only the start. Ideas are everywhere; what I have learned is how to begin to make them alive.

2. Begin by writing an intention for the story-The Writer’s Studio process includes writing a prologue before we begin creating the story. This can be a short statement that includes the type of persona narrator (ex. first person-present tense), types of techniques (such as playing with time) and objective of the story. I also began to think about the characters and their back-story and relationships to each other, so I had some guidance. When I would stray or felt stuck, I would read my prologue and it helped me get back to the story. This is a very useful technique, one that will stay with me as I write.

3. Writer’s block is an opportunity to try new techniques-Of course I had writer’s block, even if an idea sparked right away in class. For the first assignment, I wanted to write about marriage and kept getting stumped. My idea had a personal elements and it felt hard to get on paper. So I decided to write in the voice of a male character, something I had never done before. It was liberating because I could explain the situation in a totally fictionalized manner, however I wanted. Later I learned I practiced a writer’s trick without even knowing it.

4. Readers need a break from bleakness and caustic tone-This is a big one for me. Many of the stories I have yet to write are bleak–drug addiction, abuse, mental illness, failed relationships–and what I have come to learn is that readers (and the writer) need space. It’s not that writing about difficult emotions is taboo, but being heavy handed, negative and dark for pages upon pages makes it tiring for readers to stay engaged. Techniques such as adding dialogue, surrealism, abstract sounds, humor or simply changing point of view allow the reader a chance to take a breath. When I experimented with these tricks, I felt I had better responses to very emotional stories.

5. Don’t avoid your personal identity-Until this class, I have NEVER written characters of Indian descent, maybe I thought they were in my head, but I would give them Western names, talk about American ideals and culture. My characters did not reflect my full identity and this left out a huge part of my story. I felt comfortable talking about others, but this tactic kept me away from the richness of my own blended heritage. I finally wrote a story about a mother and daughter, named Ritu and Meera. I was able to get deep with the theme of culture clash, because I have lived this and know the way an Indian mother would think or react. It’s mind boggling to me, that I have never written this story. I feel open to a very large portal of personal material. These characters are not Lindsey and Michelle (yes at first I gave them these names) they are Ritu and Meera.

6. Editing is where art begins to shine-As I mentioned above, an idea is just the first step. With the first 2 assignments, I gave myself little time to edit, mainly because I was so sure my idea would just pour onto pages in perfect form. (Silly me). Procrastination, gave me little time to edit and I only whizzed through a draft to catch typos. The third assignment was to write a scene focusing on setting and I forced myself to start early. Immediately, I wanted to write about a man and his peach orchard. I gave myself a full 5 days to write. I spent more time hacking away weak adjectives, choosing obtuse words to describe a world of mud and trees and peaches, through sounds, smells and touch. I worked to create movement, following the man as he walked around to check his crop. I deleted his thoughts and showed his character through actions. I learned to push myself further, strengthen and hone. I realized something obvious, good writing does not happen in one draft.(Yes, you can say duh). It takes time to make art.

7. Feedback is a positive thing-Last but not least, the act of giving and receiving feedback. First off, we all hammered out themes, techniques and the style of each piece out loud in front of a silenced author. I quickly learned to focus on the prologue and point out the strength of the piece. Nobody in our group was negative, we all were encouraging. If we there were places to improve, we pointed to it as an opening to expand the story. Not as something bad, or wrong. The mostly positive feedback, helped me get over my lack of confidence and I began to feel safe and willing to experiment outside of my comfort zone. I believe strongly, that to put down any art in the beginning phase is negligent. We all seemed to really enjoy something in every piece. For me, this kept me alive and not afraid to write. I think this is the trick to The Writer’s Studio method and kept me from falling off the wagon.

mechanical-writing1I hope this inspires all of you to keep on with your writing or art. I am beyond energized. Now that I have an idea, I know that is just step one. I have begun to create my own process and can’t wait to share my stories with more readers and continue working on my craft. I have signed up for another 10 week session and I can’t wait.

Fighting the Battle Against Terrorized Parenting

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Yesterday at dusk, my daughter wanted to ride her bike up and down our driveway. She is well trained and stays within the boundaries of her cement confine. As I was cleaning the house, with the front door wide open and all the blinds up for maximum exposure, I kept poking my head out almost every minute calling for her response. I am sure she smelled my fear. Sometimes she would ring her bell and other times she would cheerfully reply, “I am right here”! She didn’t question why I kept calling. I reminded her not to talk to strangers. She said okay. After about 10 minutes, I think she gave up. It made me think of the freedom I used to have, riding around with my friends, without ever being called home, without a single parent on guard. I wondered if she felt annoyed, or thought she did something wrong. But I felt better after she was inside and promised a bike ride the next day, together of course. With my eyes peeled for any danger, for creeps in cars and backyard prisons.

I never aspired to become a helicopter parent, on the contrary I wanted to be autonomous and supportive, without being over-bearing. I try to give her space, I try to keep my nose in a book at the playground, letting her figure out the social scene and the scary slide on her own. But I can never concentrate as I am worried about every moment she plays. This is not enjoyable, but I am a terrorized mother, thinking about predators, bombs, rapists, gunshots, basement dungeons, girls chained up, pedophiles with cameras, stabbings, snatchings and killings.

This week I have hit the close button of a news story more than once, reading about the horrors of the poor women held captive in Cleveland for 10 years boggles my mind, makes angry and wounds my heart. I find no pleasure in horrific details. This afternoon, a friend posted something about a man making a soundproof dungeon like some torture chamber from a Stieg Larrson novel. Apparently, this would be child torturer was caught before he committed a crime. I skimmed but caught too many scary details, they made my heart race. I know there is an argument that being aware of such things, reading details and understanding the mind of predators is valuable information for parents. More than once, I have been called a wimp by family members who say it’s essential to know how sick people work so we can stay on guard and keep our children informed. But I feel it’s my job to keep my child a bit protected from horror, to filter out as much negativity as possible. My husband and I believe she should enjoy the world and know that a very large portion of society is kind and just (even though her mother is still afraid). We are not shielding her from reality, we will always tell the truth. So I try to suck in fear for her, keeping a vigilant eye. The details don’t help me stay calm and collected. Children have a perceptible sense something is wrong. Memories of my parent’s hushed whispers talking about The Night Stalker or The Hillside Strangler still freak me out.

Recently, my preschooler asked me if a shooter killed little kids in a school. I took a deep breath and said yes. Obviously she heard something about the Newtown tragedy from someone at school, since I tried to keep a tight lid on any whispering at home. Lying was not the answer, she would know the difference. I held her in my lap and promised she was safe at school. Then we talked about all the nice teachers and John the principal. I said they were always here to protect all of you. She smiled and agreed that her teachers loved all the kids. They would not let a shooter come into the school. We hugged for a long time. I wasn’t sure of the total truth of our heart-to heart. It’s mostly true, but not really a “promise-promise”. This is a tough conversation to have with an astute 5 year old, as she will press on with more questions, despite her own fear. But this is where I stand, trying be as honest without totally freaking her out. I am here to let her know that there are some bad people, but all the good people in her life work hard to protect her from harm. This I know is true.

bikeshadow2But what I truly wish is she could ride her bike outside with a pack of kids, laughing and screaming. It was at this age, around 5 that I wandered about all day long, with my 3 year old sister in tow. Now maybe this was not the best idea, but nothing ever happened to any of us. On the contrary, we had adventures, used our imaginations, got exercise, scraped our knees, lost bikes, got in scuffles and ran across busy streets to buy candy with change we swiped from our parents. It was the time of our lives, the stuff of golden memories. And there were evil things happening in 1978-1985. I recall a story about a missing Asian girl, her body found stuffed in a garbage can. I lived through the McMartin Preschool trial, the longest running child-molestation case in US History. My mom told me that the evil people at the pre-school used puppets to trick the kids into doing bad things. I didn’t understand but was very bothered by this image. As an adult, I learned about the coerced testimony of the pre-school accusers and I mourned the wasted moments lost to fear. We were told never to go into anyone’s house, a rule we rarely ever broke. Inside a house was a boring place, made only for rainy days and sleepovers. We wanted to play outside, squeezing every last ray of sun, ignoring the flicker of the streetlights, delaying dinner for as long as possible. We rode for blocks around the neighborhood, hours of freedom before dreaded homework and bedtime.

I hear a lot about our loss freedom. Blame taxes and big government and Bloomberg’s nanny state. There are terrorist plots from foreign invaders. Religious zealots and their hatred for our ways. We worry about marathons, malls, schools and crowded places. True these are targets for maximum impact. Yet terror has already reached its stealthy tentacles into our homes. We choose to shuttle kids around in cars that are more prone to accidents than riding a bike in a park alone. We need websites, like http://www.walkbiketoschool.org to give us resources and tools for something we used to do without much thought. It’s a great idea, but we only stopped walking to school in one generation. Have we actually forgotten how to do this? We live in a free country, a democratic society and our kids don’t walk to school any longer. Instead I worry about the quiet houses on the block, who are they? Even the friendly neighbor, the one that could do no harm, may be the one. We have lost the battle in our own neighborhoods—chalk one up for fear.

As a parent, I live in constant fear and I don’t see a way out of it because it’s a validated emotion time and again. Am I going to be the first parent to let my child walk across the street to the park on her own? Go on a play-date with less than a one-to-one parent child ratio, absolutely not! I have experimented at the park, and every time I’ve pulled back another parent will start intervening, a cue I better get my nose out of my book or be deemed negligent. So there is no way my daughter will find that pack of kids running around our neighborhood. They don’t exist anyhow. She has been raised to find me standing right next to her so she can show me every new flip on the jungle gym. There is special triage for every tiny scratch, the type we would have ignored until they scabbed off our bodies. Tattling for every indiscretion is de rigueur. I’m the one who taught her not to use the words like-dumb, stupid, or hate–so I get to hear about every instance. She points out my own dalliance with harsh language. She is on guard too.

Then I think about the good stuff. I know my child better at this age than perhaps my parents ever have, they still struggle to understand me as an adult. I see how she interacts, trying to negotiate with other kids with her bossy ways and take charge attitude. Her trepidation is wrapped around the highest slides and the whizzing speeds of the merry-ground. But she has no fear walking up to little kids introducing herself with the confidence of a mini-senator. When she is older, I will “get it” when she has a leadership role, or says she is frustrated because she hasn’t been promoted to manager. Listening to her worries, I can remind of her innate personality to lead, the one I saw forming on the playground. Watching her climb higher on each rung of the twisty ladder, a huge improvement over last year, is moment we celebrate. Yay! You are a big girl now, look how high you can climb. The smile I see on her face are snatched nanoseconds of pleasure I will savor forever. The trust she has in my judgment is all I need. I am here for her, yes for every tiny little bump, using Band-Aids needlessly, I am always around.

But it does enrage me to think that I am a bit terrorized, mainly by insidious homegrown evil. Its like we have lost freedom at a very micro level, in our own streets and parks and homes. We seem to be wary, there is little trust and connection with the community at large. This is damaging to our society, not having support further exacerbates isolation, extending the cycles of violence. And then I worry, I should to do more than just being there for my child, focusing on her trusting smile. I try to foster connections wherever I can, but it takes a concerted effort, it’s not there for the taking. I am very grateful to my community of friends and family, but I am not sure if it’s enough. To think of solutions, feel so out of reach. Getting the neighborhood together, patrolling the streets, allowing our kids to cry over a boo-boo. I know I can start with little things, like getting over the past. It’s simply a bygone era, where a jumble of worn out kids dragged their bikes home under a dusky California sky, soothing their own scrapes and dreaming up silly games to play in neighborhood streets. Without a parent on watch. Such times are lost forever.bike shadow

Mommy. That’s not my name!

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It started off as NooNooBean, in utero. Just a name for my ever growing belly. Websites that track our progress, compare the fetus to fruits and vegetables. Starting off as a bean, an apple, pumpkin, an eight pound watermelon. When my little girl was born, I was in love. I recognized her round cheeks and distinct shape of her lips from my final ultrasound at 26 weeks. All smooshed up inside. A baby grows in a mother’s arms, the perfect shape to hold an infant. We both healed together and I loved this simple time. Soon babies begins to react to sounds and smiles. Cooing at everything. Legs kicking. It was about this time I made up the NooNooBee song, to the tune of Spiderman– cue the 1967 cartoon version, please!

NooNooBee, NooNoo Bee

Your the cutest NooNoo Bee

Can’t you fly in the sky

Don’t you cry NooNooBee

Lookout! Here comes a NooNooBee, yeah.

You’re just a NooooNooooBeeeeee!

I held up and flew her in the air and bounced her on my knees. We loved it. My husband thought I was a little nutty. He laughed, though slightly worried she would think her name was NooNooBee. Admittedly, I have been been calling her NooNooBee ever since. It just comes out, she is my little NooNooBee.

Well, the time has come. I have a spunky little girl, going on 5. Just yesterday, she laid down the law. Mommy! I am NOT NooNooBee!

So here are The Rules:

1. NooBeeBee is only used at bedtime, when we are alone.

2. It is not to be used in front of her friends.

3. It is not to be used at other people’s homes.

4. I shouldn’t keep using it, even at home.

5. She is NooNooBee only to me.

I am proud of her, exerting her opinion, with a bit of compromise. She didn’t totally throw away her NooNooBeeness. I smiled, knowing she understood it was name that bonded us close.

Today, on Mother’s Day 2013. We are hanging out together, joined at hip, sometimes we cuddle and other times we get annoyed, only to cuddle again.

Last night we enjoyed an Internet Cat Video Festival in Downtown Oakland. I asked her to remember that all Mommy ever, ever, ever will want for Mother’s Day is to spend time together doing something fun and adventurous.

My mind flashed forward, I saw my little girl as a grown woman, needing to do her thing. Mother and daughter being silly at a festival, hiking in the woods, sailing in the sea, whatever suited our fancy. All moms’ really want is quality time, enjoying life with their kids. I know she will be busy, this is why I steal her time now. But just a day, fully together is all I will ever want. A card or flowers will not suffice.

 

WordPress Family Award

I have been very remiss. Long story short, I am officially over-booked with the goodness of life. This is not a complaint, I’m just slightly annoyed I haven’t kept up. Today I move forward. Funny thing, I’ve been keeping exciting news to myself. I’ve been nominated for a WordPress Family Award, by David, a prolific blogger (and dare I say new friend) about many things but mostly music on his blog Sounds Like Orange. David is usually the first to comment on many of my posts, has urged me along and now nominated me along with many other well-written blogs. I am very appreciative.

Take a look at the list of blogs, I am in great company and David is a very adept curator on many topics. Part of my procrastination is the fact that I am still trying to foster my own “family” of blogs. At this point I don’t have 10 but I am getting there. (Sorry, I am breaking one of the rules, for now).

Having support and followers is what this adventure is all about, after all. I still have a long way to go in creating my community and gaining some influence but I know I am onto something true. This award is a sign of progress. It means a lot to be read and to know people understand my voice. I have keep it silent for so long, only blabbing away in person. Removing self-consciousness, so I can say what I want, how I want, has been the first liberating step towards better writing. This self-consciousness had held me up for most of my life. Every word I have written since, moves me further away from this barrier. I am older now, I have gone through a lot and one thing I know, being concerned with what others think is a huge waste of time, talent and motivation. If I have enemies, detractors and conflict when I was caring so much about other’s opinions, why not just give up and be free?

So thank you all for the support, I have gotten emails, words of encouragement along the way and I have to say every tiny bit keeps me going. Don’t be shy, seriously writing can be solitary but in the end the words are meant to resonate with many people. So your feedback, encouragement and ideas are more than welcome.

Thank you all for Listening Hard.

A Turban is a Beacon of Love

thumbRNS-SIKHS-TURBAN080612In the rough and tumble of Oakland, CA, a place where violence can take hold-an elderly Sikh couple walk around my local park and use the free city shuttle almost every morning. They don’t talk to each other, they seem more intent on walking. Based on their simple clothing, the twists of his white cotton turban and the muted caramel brown salwar kameez worn by the woman, I would guess they have not been in the US for long. Their shoes give it away. Black, flat sandals with thick rubber treads, worn-in but built to last. These are not from Target or Macy’s, I have seen them in the Bazaars of Punjab.

These two, walk in peace, use the park and transportation available for all. Watching them gives me some comfort. I feel proud for them. The elderly man, has a somewhat messy white beard, with the crooked gait of old age. His wife drapes her soft chunni properly and adjusts it without skipping a step. I long to say Satsriakal, to hug them. But all I do is amble behind, with a watchful eye, silently securing their saftey as their board the shuttle. But they know what they are doing and always seem safe. The world is alright.

Today I hear about the hate crime against Piara Singh an elderly Sikh who was brutally beaten in Fresno, CA and I immediatly think of the nameless couple walking around the park. I am on high watch. I want to be in the park first thing in the morning to make sure my secretly adopted PapaJi and BeJi can walk safely as they have been. I could hide away, to shield them from my emanating fear. Maybe their children have warned them to stay home. I hope not, I need to see their Sikh spirit, their courageous bravery rise to the occasion. Their morning constitutional in a busy city park, sitting on public transportation a silent protest against hatred and ignorance.

These are grandparents, walking outside temples, finding refuge in a world that can be isolating, they seek to connect to their religion and culture. This recent hate crime, and all others that are directed at Sikhs, prove we have much further to go in this country to create unity and to accept that the “other” is a neighbor, friend, coworker and classmate. A turban is a symbol of devotion to a spiritual and cultural identity, that of a Punjabi Sikh. This outward difference is where it ends, our souls, hearts and connection to community and family translate similarly between all citizens. But in this world we don’t foster this idea very broadly. The media thrives on alienation and propaganda and their thirst for an enemy simply creates more innocent victims.

My prayer tonight is that we strive to find connections in the sameness of our internal selves, to look past visual and cultural differences and bond over what we all have in common. Blood and bones, light and dark. The outward vessel is just marker, a slight variation that uses a tiny fraction of DNA.

I will always keep an eye out. But I pay special attention to Sikhs, especially the elderly, who should be respected as our most tangible connection to the past.

My heart goes out to all affected by hate. I suppose we all share this in common.

I invite you to learn more about Sikhs please visit www.saldef.org/learn-about-sikhs/

Then learn more about everyone.

A Galaxy of Unrealistic Dreams

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I know I gave myself a challenge. A post a day the entire month of May. I have my ears open for topics that shift perceptions, ideas that inspire change in attitudes, kill off old habits and upend outmoded thinking. My intention is to celebrate change, inciting motivation in myself. An act of doing rather than dreaming. But I have already hit a wall. Becoming paralyzed with the reality that I may be nuts and may never achieve my dreams. At some point, I wont be unencumbered with all this time to nurture ideas. Trust me, I am soaking in every minute. Walks, daily meditation, reading, movie watching, writing fiction, writing a blog, slight networking, making healthy meals, photography, volunteering at school, journaling and napping too. I should feel better right!?! Isn’t the Universe supposed to drop some profound gift, open a pathway, guide me to a new bright future. All my wounds will be mere scars. My failures will transform into a triumphant success. Seems ridiculous to even think this way. Maybe its a load crap? The Ophrahization of the society. Just follow your bliss the world will be yours. Nonsense. This is some serious work!

And now, today I feel stuck. So I tortured myself reading an article about a fancy pants writer girl, she is 44 but looks 30 with amazing flowing hair standing in front of a vintage Galaxie 500, a mother, a wife, a talented writer. Her home is my distant, not-possible fantasy, “a two-story American Craftsman house…austerely decorated with vintage furniture and an eclectic mix of art, including a painting of a self-possessed woman in an evening dress by the Social Realist artist Isaac Soyer that once hung in her grandparents’ Long Island home.” Rachel Kushner is her name and I even want to read her book, The Flamethrowers. I’m not jealous, just in awe of her success. She started UC Berkeley at 16. Then an MFA at Columbia. She was the oldest at 29. TWENTY-NINE! See, what am I thinking? I will be in my mid-forties, if I can even get into a program. Reading about her, makes my dreams– a published novel (notice I didn’t say “highly acclaimed” but I am lying if I said that wasn’t important) a nice house, degrees, confidence to finish and get noticed–seem fit for another person’s life.

They feel out of reach today. The monsters of doubt are always within, lurking to take center stage. Some days, I believe what they say. Taunting me in my dreams. How in the world will you ever write a novel? You just started in earnest at this age. Time has passed and you’ve lost your chance. You’ve squandered it away partying in San Francisco. Your talent is limited and your dreams don’t match reality. GET. OVER. IT. This ain’t gonna happen. Successful writers work very hard. They are highly trained. Their teachers are Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan. They get mentored and advised. They get invited to Iowa to write in retreats. You can’t just write on your own without help.

It tells me. Be prepared for life in a cubicle. It’s calling.

I might be going at this all wrong. Maybe I need to accept reality as it had been. There was nothing wrong with my life until now, I just had an attitude problem. I need to get over myself and put my big girl pants on and join the race. The sidelines are for spectators and losers.