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.

Sincerely,

Anita

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.

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

bikeshadow3

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 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!

mommymarta

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

 

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 www.saldef.org/learn-about-sikhs/

Then learn more about everyone.

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