Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi-Urging Action on Gun Control NOW!

Dear Nancy Pelosi,

I just read an article in the New York Times that you’re the head of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. It’s great that there is a task force, now I ask you and your colleagues to work harder. Maybe you’re all confused because you’ve read that nearly 52% of Americans want to protect gun ownership, according to a Pew Survey. I could see that you’d be worried that you all would alienate many Americans and it could affect your re-election campaigns. I know the more you all come out strong against gun control, the more it feeds money into the juggernaut that funds campaigns for your opponents. But maybe it’s time to say screw it and not rely on projected polls. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about political outcomes. Maybe it’s time that you and your colleagues on the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force keep at the task of enacting common sense gun laws at a Federal level. You could try to work on a narrative that still allows some Americans, perhaps those that have passed very strict background checks, for example, the right to own a gun. There is a middle ground as I see it. Personally, I’d like to see all guns eliminated from our society, there are other countries who have accomplished this without impacting freedom. But, I see the value in compromise. And right now we aren’t even compromising, or making any change.

I thought that the slaughter of 20 innocent children, and the destruction of a whole town’s soul, or dare I say our country’s soul, would have kept the momentum going. I watched the emotional pleas of the families who lost their dear children, the future lifeblood of our country, and I was so sure that we’d make some headway. But we didn’t, and I feel that we have let those children down. I feel like a fraud every time I tell my daughter she doesn’t have to worry about a shooting. I feel that I can’t speak out about my position because more and more people are beginning to get comfortable with the idea that protection of the 2nd Amendment trumps the safety and health of our nation. My anti-gun position has become a left-wing, libtard rant that has no merit. Every time there is a mass shooting all that happens is that we just numb ourselves because we can’t handle the idea that this IS the new normal. We live in a gun-toting country that allows the slaughter of parishioners in a church and a temple. We live in a country that allows families to be murdered watching a movie. And most despicable of all, we are no different than countries like Nigeria where terrorists target schools filled with children.

Please be a leader, rally the force of our voices. You aren’t hearing us speak out as much because we are lost, saddened and yes confused. Lead the way, it’s what you’re meant to do! If you need us to march the streets or sign millions of pages of petitions to pass the legislation that your task force has already written, we will! I felt compelled to write you before another mass shooting, or another gun battle erupts in the inner city streets, or another police shooting. Because my biggest fear is that I will also shut down and lose my will to speak out. I plan to share this on my social media channels as well. Hopefully, it can ignite others to write you and prove that we’re willing to stand against gun violence.



My Return to Life, Part 1

I just read about 1500 pages of contemporary literature in about 6 weeks. Beyond the sheer number of pages, I boast about this feat because it signifies that my brain is open to ideas, without barriers. I can feel it as I read, little globular brain cells soaking in the words, growing plump with new connections. I also enjoy the long almost meditative periods when my subconscious allow stories to pull me along in their spell. But a huge motivation is my own latent desire to write. As I read, I simultaneously enjoy the story and also pause along the way to dissect the force that is driving the narrative. Like any resurrected habit, at first, you have to fake it until you make it, and for a short bit I forced myself to fill in every possible moment of down time with a book. I made a concerted effort to reduce screen time and stopped binge watching serial TV, because I felt that I was losing my imagination, the images and words that clutter social media were adding nothing of value to my life. Reading voraciously is like any exercise, if the mind is out of shape it takes some patience before the words start to flow naturally. Of course, good writing helps, and once my reading chops are warmed up by one good book, I begin to search around for the next fix as quickly as possible to keep the lubricated gears in motion. It feels thrilling, I begin to notice more connections, catch phrases and my old habit of eavesdropping on conversations is tuned up searching for stories.

Since March I’ve been immersed in two huge epic serial novels by European writers that have both been touted as literary giants, if it sounds intimidating to ponder the idea to read a 3500 page, 6 volume fictional memoir believe me, it is at first.  Now my hours of commuting have been filled the close and strangely compelling writing of the mundane by Karl Ove Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante’s fiery world of womanhood. I’m going to start peeling away at Ferrante first and step into the land of Naples, which is one long tale of feminity and friendship, shame and courage. But I will be back to delve into the Nordic land of the introverted, chain-smoking, coffee guzzling world of Knausgaard at a later date–because I’m obsessed with him and his writing as well. Plus, I plan to follow his footsteps when he comes for a visit in May. Unfortunately, Ferrante in her pseudonymous, almost non-existence doesn’t allow for fans to follow her around.

Last night, I finished “A Story with No Name” or Book 2 of the Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I rushed through the last 40 pages and before it was too late and I sadly realized  had only two pages left. I was a tiny bit panicked and mostly sad because I wanted the story to slow down since I didn’t have Book 3 handy and I felt a manic moment of abandonment as  I closed the book. I’ve become emotionally attached to the friendship and twisting and turning tales of Lenu and Lila, and I felt I couldn’t stop following them through their childhoods in the rough streets of post-war Naples, to their sexual and intellectual awakenings and then onto motherhood. But more simply, I just want to know what happened to both women, I needed to learn how their friendship survived or crumbled, I wanted to know if they were happy or sad, if they have money, success, happiness and if in the end they were comfortable. Even as I was reading there were times when Lenu stopped herself from visiting Lila and I want to cry to her and reach into the book and say, “No! Go see your friend, she needs you, don’t be petty, you need her friendship too.” This is the power Ferrante (or whomever she is, although I’m certain a woman wrote these books) her energy, her words, the passion, there is no editing or slowing down, its long paragraphs of grief and energy, page after page pulls you into what is intuitively honest emotions. Nothing is trite. There is little that is superfluous and there is a lack of sentimental descriptions of setting and yet through the thoughts, emotions, ruminations of these two women I can still see Naples, Italy. There is an outline that is filled with the stories fo the neighborhood and I can see shabbily dressed children and basic buildings that are made of stone, where women work all day, men push carts of fruit, teenagers flirt, and the streets are filled with heat and sweat and tears. It’s not said so much or even described but as a reader I can feel the presence of the scenery. This is the magic of these stories. Yet through it all, I’m in the middle of their story, I never want to leave Lenu or Lila’s side, I fear the day that I will have no more pages to read and I will have to let them go. At the same time, I’m struck by the underlying message, the difficulty and brutality that face women as they navigate through a male-centric world, where choices are limited and risks are high. At first, one can think this story seems to have been told, haven’t we heard of the sad affairs of women that come from poverty? Why does this story of Lenu and Lila has me captivated, disgusted, emotionally wrought and concerned for their lives? As Rachel Donadio said in her review in The New York Review of Books:

To those of us fully entangled in the Ferrante universe, participants in this Greek chorus, who have come to care about these characters as much as we care about some people in our actual lives, to those of us who have come to scrutinize the world and ourselves all the more intensely for having read these unforgettable books, her latest report could not have arrived soon enough.

And here is what I feel, a fire has ignited within. It reminds to sit and write down what I have experienced, it doesn’t matter what elements of craft is used, or metaphor or figuring out the arch or symbolism or magical realism or any such literary device. I just need to sit and write my own story as a way to exorcise everything that is clogged within, because it’s truly creating a cancer, a block, a hateful feeling that can shadow days at a time. I feel that all I have left to face is a blank page, and to realize I have plenty of words and ideas to fills its daunting whiteness. I bookmarked the following page from Ferrante because it hit a nerve and one that also ties back to Knausgaard–this idea of writing as an art of destruction–and I know I have plenty of shame to destroy.

One morning, I bought a graph-paper notebook and began to write, in the third person, about what had happened to me that night on the beach near Barano. Then, still in third person, I wrote what happened to me on Ischia. Then I wrote a little about Naples and the neighborhood. Then I changed names and places and situtions. Then I imagined a dark force crouching in the life of the protagonist, an entity that had the capacity to weld the world around, with the colors of the flame of a blowtorch: a blue-violet dome where everything went well for her, shooting sparks, but that soon came apart, breaking up into meaningless gray fragments. I spent twenty days writing this story, a period during which I saw no one, I went out only to eat. Finally I reread some pages, I didn’t like them, and I forgot about it. But I found that I was calmer, as if the shame had passed from me to the notebook. I went back into the world, I quickly finished my thesis, I saw Pietro again.

One Hour Poetry: Mommy–The Grumpy Hag

This morning I remember,

tiny birds outside my window

with enormous chirps

that rang in my head

throughout the night

or perhaps at sunrise 

I really couldn’t say

and I was chosen 

by a nocturnal house-fly

whose only orbit was my head

as it buzzed in my ear

my arms were sent swatting

and then at some point 

in the midst of night

The Child crawls into bed

she starts in cuddling

and ends up kicking

and now my true desire

is to sleep all the day

o! how i yearn for coffee

that i had given up

and my husband 

who somehow slept 

through all the fun

graciously hands me a cup.

Flash Fiction: Seven Year Old’s Story of a Broken Heart Ignored

LA MIRADA, CALIFORINA- Teachers at La Granada Elementary, a local public school, said they experienced a mystifying event yesterday as the parents of a seven-year old student failed to show up for the school’s Annual Book Festival, missing an opportunity to listen to their daughter read an original story titled “The Broken-Hearted Girl.”

Each year at the end of April teachers between first and fifth grades choose exemplarily examples of fiction writing and then laminate and bind the stories to create original novels.

As part of the Annual Book Festival a child from each grade is specially selected to read their stories out loud at an assembly as the entire school listens. Parents are always invited and were reminded repeatedly in the school bulletin and received letters pinned to the jackets of their children.

The seven-year is a second grade student and has attended the school since kindergarten. According to the other students in her class, she often told her teacher that she would grow up to write stories about true love and magic. Her friends also described how she created make-believe plays following the adventures of an orphaned brother and sister whose mother spoke to them from the clouds.

Teachers at La Granada report that this young student is not very talented in much, aside from language and reading. In the past, when they mentioned this to her parents, they became furious and demanded the teachers force her to learn more math. One teacher conveyed that her parents were worried about her employment options, certain she wouldn’t amount to anything if she kept up writing stories.

The school has a history of perfect attendance by all parents, as this event highlights the achievements of elementary school literary arts. The principal related that she could not remember another time when both parents were absent from such a high-profile event at the school. According to her, the students work diligently to create their original works and decorate the auditorium with paper cut outs of their favorite books ranging from “Ramona the Pest” to “Stuart Little.”

One teacher commented, “This young girl is very brave but I could see her big brown eyes scan the audience every couple of seconds almost trying to will her parent’s arrival. I felt terrible as she stood alone and read her story about a girl with a broken heart, who found love in a land ruled by kids that lived on candy.”

Later in the day, the young girl took a picture holding her heart-shaped book, made of pink construction paper with broken jagged line through the center. In it she is standing alone, in patched jeans and frizzy hair, except for the very tall principal who has placed her hand on the child’s bony shoulder. Both of them are smiling in the picture, but in the opinion of this author the child’s eyes seem to have a questioningly, distant look, her thoughts lost deep within the pools of her moist brown eyes.

According to unnamed witnesses at the scene, the young novelist was escorted to the front office after the assembly was over. The school secretary admitted she gave the child a piece of hard candy as she waited for someone to pick her up.

Her mother arrived 15 minutes after the school had closed for the day. It is reported that the secretary walked with the seven-year old to the car and told her mother about her daughter’s special achievement.

At this time the school has not learned why their young student didn’t receive any support on such an important day. Her parents could not be reached for comment. But teachers at the school mentioned they hoped the young girl would continue writing. It is widely reported that making up stories is the one time this particular seven-year old breaks into an idyllic smile.

A Turban is a Beacon of Love


In the rough and tumble of Oakland, CA, a place where violence can take hold, a grandparent-like 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 of them in a silly way. The man has a somewhat messy white beard, with the crooked gait of old age. His wife drapes her soft chunni properly over her head and shoulders and adjusts it without skipping a beat. I long to say Satsriakal, a traditional Punjabi greeting. I long to hug them. But all I do is amble behind, with a watchful eye, somehow silently securing their safety as they board the shuttle. But they know what they are doing and always seem safe. The world is alright.

Today I heard about the hate crime against Piara Singh, a Sikh man brutally beaten in Fresno, CA and I immediately think of the nameless couple walking around the park. On my morning commute, I’m 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 wish there I could create a clandestine shield and protect them from my emanating fear and track their moves without interrupting their routine. Maybe their children have warned them to stay home. This rational thought fills me with a wave of remorse. It’d be such a loss. 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.

They are grandparents, walking outside temples, finding refuge in a world that can be isolating and 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 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 grandparents, 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

Then learn more about everyone.

About an extrovert going introvert-ish.


In the past few months, I’ve been rekindling a friendship with an old companion I had previously ignored for some time. Sitting in front of a blank page is my refuge, I cannot wait to return. My solitary friendship–writing prose, preferably alone, sometimes in silence other times with carefully curated playlists, allows me to feel safe. I feel like a lone caterpillar. In this bubble I create my own stories, words and characters. Nobody bothers me, makes me feel nervous, or paranoid. I don’t have to “figure anyone out.” I can make things up, or not. I can quote what I like, say what I need. I get some feedback from others, that is necessary, I know. I can chop away dead wood. There is no pressure to perform. This friend is what I make of it and we can be happy, angry, laugh or cry together. I kind of want nothing else right now. A solitary cabin in the woods for a month is seriously calling me, even to be away from loved ones would be bearable for a short time. (Yes, I am bookmarking every writer’s retreat known, I just need more time to build some chops).

Enjoying this type of solitude is very new to me, in the past I have always thought I enjoyed  having tons of people around. I was a typical extrovert, dying for validation. I was told (but partly believed) I had good “people skills”. I could strike up a conversation with anyone, I knew how to “work the room” with ease. Friends, people, co-workers were abound, almost everywhere I turned it seemed. But I don’t enjoy this “skill” as much, figuring out interactions with humans beings is exhausting work and my amazing talent may have been overblown. Lately, I have failed miserably in the human interaction game. I admit, right now I am raw. I feel a bit ravaged by monitoring, creating, assessing, understanding, analyzing, caring, loving and fostering relationships with people. I also want to protect my energy. I can easily get lost, pouring myself into friendships, adjusting to co-workers, figuring out how to deal with family. I want this energy to myself, right now I need it to fuel my writing. Its not to give away to others.

hermit_crab_dardanus_in_trochus_shell_IMG_2414So I sound like a grumpy ole hermit, this is true and I am cool with it. But the people that have stayed in my life don’t cause me this angst. We can always pick up from where we left off, I can ask for help, laugh and enjoy the world in their company. I have been mourning the loss of a few key people, some family that was close, but for now I see no path to reconciliation. Making space for my writing keeps my mind from wandering into the trap of conversation with the difficult people in my life. Then there are all the interactions that trouble me the greatest, artificial group dynamics at work, school and society. Here is where I really get into trouble and usually falter. My daughter’s school has been in full swing, almost nearing the end and its taken me this long to barely start connecting with other parents. Part of it had been my busy schedule, but the other part has been my own nervousness and lack of skill dealing with what I call the “adult world.”  I am still treading lightly, hooking onto families whose children play closely with my daughter, luckily they have all been easy and outgoing. I see the close bonds other parents have made with each other, asking about family members and jobs and I am nowhere near this level of commitment. But I can’t strive to fit in right now. I know it will grow, she is on to kindergarten with many of the same kids, so friendships will come together naturally. But the intense pressure this world puts on community, friends, being outgoing, being involved is so distracting to me these days.

mushy brainAgain, its about energy consumption, I am not willing to let go of my valuable time right now. I have learned this lesson from the past, my large network of acquaintances simply  provided a very fun distraction. Obviously I was not willing to focus on writing anyhow. When I did try, I felt so antsy, fidgeting my way through a paragraph or a half a sheet of journal paper, finally relenting and running out to play. Living in a city, where adult playgrounds are concentrated in rows of bars, clubs and restaurants made it tremendously easy to lose track of time and place. In fact, it didn’t even matter if I went into a bar alone, I would always find a “friend” in a moment’s notice, talking about almost anything, thinking to myself “ah this would make a great story” but never actually writing anything down. (Thank goodness so much of this time is still rattling around in my somewhat mushy brain).

I still enjoy going out, down to about once a month from 6-7 days a week. I try to avoid new conversation with strangers, I get my quarterly run down of my friend’s lives, we complain and reminisce. I don’t need much more than this. A date night with my husband is a time we don’t want to spend with others. Just the two of us, it happens so rarely, its an unstated rule that we don’t want to share.

All I am noticing, is that I like to be alone. Really figuring out people takes too much energy for me to enjoy any longer. An obvious exception to this is anyone in my inner circle, particularly my husband and daughter and very close friends. I expect harmony from friendships and family, not constant struggle. I abhor drama. Conflict tears me apart and my idealistic and overly optimistic viewpoint (yes I am an eager optimist despite my hermity ways) always lead to intense heartache. Then I lose time feeling sad. The other day, I laughed to myself thinking that I simply had a people problem, nothing more.

I enjoy letting my imagination roam. In my little apartment alone, I find warmth and camaraderie that I can trust. Even when my inner critic tries to rage inside, screaming about the lunacy of writing, I know how to shut her up. I just start typing. I re-read a draft, write down ideas, sift through pictures, take more pictures, walk to a coffee shop and write in my journal.

pencils 2Where I find little trust is with others. I know it may serve me well to gather like minded souls, luckily I already have a few in my life, but perhaps a conclave of writers could be a useful source of energy. I am working to build this group, slowly, with a discerning eye. Negative people, distractions, enabling buddies are not needed at this time. And here is the thing, I don’t need much right now, except to focus on writing stories. Learning the tricks of writing is filled with enough challenge and reward to keep  me going for a long time, I am sure. Writing is a solitary world that is unconfined to time and space. I have only recently stumbled upon this energy. It can thrust you into a world without your control. In this world, I can be dark and moody. I can go where I need, explore a topic, choose my art as I see fit. This is not filtering content or writing just to fill a word count, I do this for almost no particular reason except to fulfill my need to write.

The only pang of regret I carry in this moment is not starting this journey sooner. I mean really writing in earnest, not prancing around the edges. The get your hands dirty–in gerunds and adverbs, imagery, adjectives, poetry and words, narrative and tone and mood and space–type of writing. The fun stuff. All alone in my expansive imagination.

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