Tag Archives: friends

Oh my, I didn’t expect that I needed a disclaimer…….

When I started telling people I am trying to write a novel, most people were very excited for me. They ask the story line. They congratulate me on being brave enough to tackle writing a book. Some even offer to read chapters for me.

It’s all very fun.

But then, just the other day, a neighbor asked me, “soooooo, are the characters based on anyone I know?”

I was actually startled by the question. The Alligator Purse is most assuredly fiction. Neighbors, friends, and relatives need not worry.

But I guess this is something that all writers should consider when working on their books. People will start to get nervous that you might uncover some deep dark secret about them and reveal it to the world. Or that you will exaggerate their quirks for a laugh.

I personally cannot imagine writing a “tell-all” type book. That tabloid mentality does not appeal to me.

But that doesn’t make this t-shirt any less funny. 😎 You can get it on Amazon.

So, if you know me, don’t worry. You won’t be in my book. At least not on purpose. 😉

Unwritten part 2………………..

If you would like to read part 1, it is here.

We saw so much in India that we had never seen before. Some of it was absolutely amazing – the history, the people, and the beautiful children with charcoal lines painted around their dark eyes to keep evil from peering at them.

But a lot of what we saw sank in our gut like a meal riddled with hidden poison, so scrumptious in the consuming, so vile in the digesting and all of it leaving you sick for days. In some of the scarier moments, we saw a man beaten at the zoo, blind children begging in the middle of the night and the middle of the street, and children simply unattended. We saw a hoard of men lunging with lead pipes in hand toward the driver of a car sitting in line at a tool booth.

Once, when my friends came to visit, our car was stopped by a group of men on a dusty side road in the middle of truly nowhere. Our driver got out of the car and I feared for him and selfishly feared what would happen to us if something happened to him.

More than once, I saw a dead body strewn across the side of the road and completely ignored.

It’s hard to reconcile that. The very nonchalant way that someone can distract herself from a human being lying forgotten on the side of the road. Sometimes covered. Sometimes not. There are no reporters dreaming of headlines. No crowds of people gathering and gasping in disbelief. Mostly just people moving on – or moving around – busy with their own way, barely glancing over to see what happened other than to avoid the inconvenience of it all.

I always wondered who was at home waiting. Who did care that someone had stopped breathing through no fault of his own? What story would the family have to create with the absence of a caring witness?

Most of these memories simply dissipate into the haze. They fade and lose their sense of reality. In fact, unless you were armed with stacks of my own words right in front of me, it might be hard to convince even me that some of it truly happened. It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. But wait, maybe it did.

In most of those situations, I was eager to avoid danger and remove myself completely from acknowledging that anything dreadful was going on. Usually my kids were with me and I was trying to distract them so I would not have too much to explain later. I could busy myself with keeping them safe by keeping them unaware.

Words always failed me in those tenuous situations. I didn’t understand the “why” of what was happening any more than my children could and never found the strength to make sense of the different scenarios for my kids. So, if they could be preoccupied with counting people on a bus or looking for camels – so be it.

But there is always a moment when you can no longer pretend that you live in a world where suffering doesn’t fall like rain. There is always a memory you cannot escape or deny.

It happened to me right after a few of my friends and I decided to venture deep into Old Delhi. One of the best memories I have from my time in India was tainted and stained by one of the worst.

Many westerners are hesitant to travel into Old Delhi. But we were having none of that. Old Delhi is alive with all that India is about. It is a fascinating and wonderful corner that is best explored with open eyes, an adventurous spirit, and an old pair of shoes that can be thrown away later.

My friends and I donned colorful dupattas (scarves) and climbed the steps to the Jama Masjid mosque and removed our shoes and rang the bell at the Jain Temple letting the gods know we were there. We visited our favorite jeweler and his family and spoiled ourselves with shiny trinkets. We laughed that our new jewels were really for our kids and our grandkids and that we would just hold them in safe keeping until they were mature enough to have them.

We felt humbled by the seriousness of the students study and chants and prayers in the Fatepuri Mosque. We inhaled the dust and braved the stares of the male-dominated Spice Market, where we dined on delicious raw cashews and pistachios as we watched men bathe in buckets.

We enjoyed the Sikhs bowing in reverence as they entered their Gurdwara and admired their dedication to feed those who are hungry. We relished the fact that just up the street of Chandni Chowk was also the home to a Baptist Church and a Jain bird sanctuary. All of the world’s major religions had a presence on that street and we boasted how wonderful that was.

We moved on to the famed Karims restaurant and laughed as we asked for our sodas in cans and paper plates for our food, brave enough to eat the food but not brave enough to eat it off of their potentially uncleaned plates.

It was one of those days where everything clicked. We learned, we laughed, and we wore ourselves out. Our glow grew with every stop – the spirituality, the friendship, and the jewelry.

On the way to the car, we continued to marvel at the sights, sounds, and smells of Old Delhi. The alleys were alive with crazy electrical wires hanging from every single building serving as balance beams for the monkeys who danced across them over our heads. We did our own dance over unknown splats on the crackling walkway and tried to identify what each might be. Ultimately, we decided some mysteries were better left unsolved.

We kept pace with the men and animals pushing and pulling carts and women covered in veils. Children coming home from school and merchants delivering their wares. Spices that made us sneeze a little, then gag. Brides shopping for invitations. Incense burning right around the corner from the used auto parts shop rich with its own smells of rubber and grease.

Old Delhi was vibrant in a way that my neighborhood in the Unites States never could be.  And whenever I visited this part of Delhi, I always tempted time by staying for just one minute more. There was forever a window that had not been seen before or a corner that had not yet been turned.

As time dripped away, we realized we had better hurry and bustled to the car in a little bit of a panic that we might be late for school pickup. We got in the car and immediately started calling the different school offices to be sure they knew we were on the way – explaining that just this time, we would be just a smidge later than normal. “Traffic is horrible,” we said and winked at each other while holding our hands just right so that our new rings reflected the sun streaming in the window.

As I was putting my phone down and sinking into my seat, I looked around at the busyness on the street. It was chaotic and endless. It was hard to pick out a single scene and soak it in.

But then just over to my left, a man came into focus. There was no reason, really, that I should be drawn to him. He was defined in the same dusty, brown haze as the foggy air that surrounded him. He wore a simple and stale, used-to-be-white robe and was standing in the middle of the road. In between traffic and blinks, he could have easily disappeared. He looked drunk and obviously wanted something. Help.

But it was not immediately obvious just how truly desperate he was. You can unfortunately and intentionally become numb to the desperation in India a little too quickly. Even with the biggest most generous heart, the realization that you simply cannot help everyone graciously lends you an excuse to ignore someone who is clearly struggling.

My friends were still on their phones and I am pretty certain that they never even saw what happened next. I do not know how my driver could have possibly missed it but he showered me with the gift of never discussing it.

As traffic slowed, the man in the middle of the road slowly began lifting the skirt of his tattered robe.

At first, I only saw his bare and wrinkled feet. His toes seemed to be bent in half from holding on too tightly to the melting asphalt. Then he revealed his far too skinny ankles. Followed by his knotted and bent knees. His skin was ashen and taut, stretched tightly over bones that were very likely brittle and deteriorating. They were bones that had probably never tasted milk. Maybe they had never even had the chance to be strong enough to allow him to hold up his slight frame with pride and determination. With hope.

It took me a few seconds to fully comprehend what he was doing. To really understand. To allow myself to believe I wasn’t just imagining it. But not enough time to distract myself from it. To delve into conversation and disappear.

With his skirt fully lifted, I finally realized what he was doing. This man had taken straw-colored raffia, or maybe it was old rope, and tied it around one of his testicles. His testicle had swollen to nearly the size of a basketball. He would lift his robe to show the passerbys how profoundly he needed help. Their help.

How are you supposed to respond to that? How do you digest that? How do you explain it? What are you supposed to do?

How do you say, from an air conditioned car with a full belly and new rings on your fingers, that you are not going to stop?

We drove away but I can never forget his face. His destruction.

This time I think I was so stunned that I could not act. Even if I had thought to empty my purse at his feet, I could not have done it. I was frozen. I never even turned my head away. Our eyes met as we were rolling away and he just looked at me as if to say, “Yes, my dear, you are seeing exactly what you think you are seeing and what are you going to do with it?”

I sat in disbelief that I totally and completely ignored a man who had intentionally mangled part of himself beyond all recognition. His marketing plan was to be the most disfigured – the most in need. And even that was not working.

I still am not quite sure what I am supposed to do with his image. I am not sure how to handle this experience. What to do with it.

Who really cares what this man across an ocean did. How does it relate to life here and now? I am not really sure. But I know I don’t want to forget it. Well, that will be easy enough because I cannot forget him.

But what now?

What I Didn’t Know Then………

My parenting journey is a long, long way from being complete. But, even though I know I have a lot to learn, I do feel wiser than I used to think I was. Huh? Yeah, I have (finally) learned some things that make my parenting life easier.

One of the most important things that I have realized is that my children keep my worry chest busy enough. I don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about how little Johnny’s parents handle Johnny. And I can cross my fingers that Johnny’s parents won’t have an opinion about my parenting – but that is simply a waste of time. As a parent you will be criticized by other parents. Don’t take it personally. It is just your turn. Someone else will get a turn soon enough.

As a parent, you only have to follow your heart and intuition and do what you believe is right for your kids.  Even if it is in direct conflict with what other parents are doing or not doing. Trust your gut.

Along those lines, trust your kids instincts, too. It’s definitely hard when your kids don’t necessarily want to play with the children of your friends. But forcing friendships isn’t any easier. It makes for stressful play dates and stressful mommies. And moms can be friends even when kids aren’t.

Sooner than you can even imagine, your little munchkins will be in school all day and you can connect with your friends over lunch. Steering clear of uncomfortable friendships will be much more important for your kiddos later in life. A little practice at articulating how they feel is a good, good thing – even if it makes us uncomfortable because they might not come across as being “nice”. Allowing them to trust their instincts will help them to follow through on those feelings when you aren’t right there.

Teaching kids to be gracious is extremely important but being nice at their own expense might not be such a great lesson to learn.

Another little tidbit that I personally learned the hard way is that words don’t taste so good going back down. Never (yep, never) say “I would never ……… ” Or even worse, “My child would never…….” Because guess what happens next? I will give you one guess. 😉

Yes, my youngest child has a cell phone and has played the Xbox game Call of Duty (maybe even more than once) – and she has seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies. Are you asking, “isn’t she only 9?” Maybe.

Are you now asking if I swore that Harry Potter was way too dark for my son when he was 9 and that 9 was ridiculously young for any type of personal electronics? Maybe. Possibly. Burp. So sorry, please pardon me.

And seriously, you simply cannot make your child faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, or any other “er”. But the good news is that they are fabulous just as they are. Most children learn to read. Most children talk. Most children walk. When they hit about third grade, it has pretty much leveled out. The rock stars aren’t rocking as hard and the average-to-slow kids are catching up. The early readers are reading, but so are the late bloomers. Pretty much everyone has given up diapers and pacifiers. And hard work begins to matter as much as, if not more than, natural ability. And don’t go bringing up the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. You know what I mean.

And speaking of reading. It is important to read with your children because it is fun to do it. They love the attention you give them when you share a book with them. It does help them learn to read. But it is not so important for you to stress out about teaching them to read. They will learn to read. (If you don’t believe me, reread the paragraph above. Oh yea, that’s me talking too. Sorry. Ask a parent of an older child. Oh, you don’t know about that yet? Please keep reading.)

It’s also extremely helpful for you to have adult friends with older kids. They have a better perspective on what is really important to worry about with smaller children. And they will tell you what is important to know about school and classes and teams and all the stuff you will be dealing with in the next phase of parenting.  They will be gentle with you because they have been there but they might laugh a tiny bit – don’t worry, they are not being critical – it’s just that they are remembering when. And their kids can babysit for you. Bonus.

I personally feel (and no, I am not a teacher, doctor, or educator – so this is just my opinion) that the single most important thing you can teach your kids is confidence. If your kids feel safe trying something new no matter how it turns out, they will always be successful. If they are not intimidated by people, places, or activities, they have a tremendous advantage. Tremendous. Children who are smart but are afraid of failure will face more challenges than those children who are “average” but brave and confident. Children need to know that their parents will love them no matter what. And parents, we need to love our children no matter what. Home should be a safe place to fall. And get up and fall. Again. And again. Always. Every time.

When our children are learning to walk, we encourage them to stumble and tumble. We let them go boom on the concrete and bump off of coffee tables. Even when they fall and cry, we say “get back up, you can do it.” We don’t say, “why didn’t you walk better?” We are proud and we smile and we hold out both hands and we hug them tightly. That should never, ever change.

Not too long ago I read a passage that went something like …. intelligence is not measured best when children know what to do, it is measured best by how children respond when they do not know what to do. (Yes, I wish I knew who said it – but I don’t -sorry.)

And when you are proud, tread lightly on the bragging. If you believe you have an exceptional child and you are sharing how fabulous your child is with another parent, please keep in mind that they most likely feel that their child is (at least) equally as exceptional as your little superstar.

Hey, I never said this parenting stuff was easy. It’s all a tricky balance.

I actually had a parent try to convince me that her child was better at the dentist than my child was. I started to defend how well my child handled the dentist when I quickly realized how nuts the conversation was. Seriously? We are competing over who handles the dentist better? Really. I am quite sure there are more important quandaries to tackle.I don’t know like civil unrest in Libya – Tsunamis in Japan – poverty anywhere – the civil unrest in my laundry room. Blah Blah Blah.

Parenting will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. You will bleed love for your kids and, at some point, one of  your beloveds will stand at the top of the stairs and scream at the top of their lungs that they hate you. And they will mean it. For a little while at least. But not forever. And you will cry and laugh and love and fear and rejoice more than you ever have before. Put that seatbelt on. It’s going to be a fabulously bumpy ride.

Fleeting…………….

A friend of mine in Delhi died this week – unexpectedly in her sleep. She is unfortunately the second person I know this week who died – young – unexpectedly in her sleep. Both women left behind husbands and children and family and friends who are having a hard time believing that their loved ones are really gone.

Their deaths are a big reminder that our time here on earth is fleeting and that we better pay attention to how we spend it. India taught me that but I have been slowly letting myself forget it. Yes, shame on me.

Repatriation (returning home after living abroad) is an interesting experience. A lot stays the same and a lot changes. And finding out how you fit back into all of it is as wonderful as it is challenging.

Lately, I have been a little too caught up in some things that really don’t matter in the big ole grand scheme of things.They certainly aren’t things I would choose to spend my last bit of energy in life being consumed with. And, I know we all do it, get caught up in things, but still…..

One of the ladies who died has been getting a lot of posts on Facebook. One of her friends wrote this….

“Never take your friends for granted.  Hold your friends close to your heart cause you might wake up one day and realize that you have lost a diamond while you were too busy collecting stones.”

It is a lovely reminder to not take anything for granted………..especially friends……….especially life.

Where to even begin………

My friends left this morning to go back to the United States. It is impossible to believe that two weeks can actually go by in the blink of an eye – but it did. It was amazing to have them here – we laughed, we cried, we shopped, and we ate our way through a good bit of India. It was fun to rediscover what I had begun to take for granted. We rode the night train and we zip-lined and we even stayed in a palace. I have so much to share – it will probably take weeks to tell you all of it – brace yourself!

But here is how I spent the morning of my birthday with two dear friends and a face that only a mother could love…

I can’t thank them enough for coming and they say they can’t thank me enough for “letting” them come. I begged them to come almost every day for a year – so if they call that “letting” them come, so be it. It was definitely a win-win!

It happens…………..

Yesterday was a very fun day – I hosted a luncheon and invited the people I just don’t get to see enough of over for lunch. I really miss having friends over and it was a nice trip down normal lane – well at least it was supposed to be.

I dumbed it way down and used my grandmother’s very best china Walmart plastic plates. Even the flowers were in exquisite crystal vases plastic cups. We had good old fashioned tacos and seven-layer dip and cornbread and all sorts of toppings. My poor cook was beside himself that we weren’t going to have any Indian food, so he threw in some delicious Indian appetizers. Apparently he has been holding out on me – I had no idea that breaded and fried broccoli was Indian food or in his repertoire. Yummy. Especially when dipped in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing – yep, I brought that from home. Along with the taco seasoning mix and the pecans for pecan pie.

Most expats have a running joke/understanding that nothing is simple here and sometimes (often) it is harder to accomplish things here than it is back home. Some of that might be a little bit of the “grass is greener” (or right now, the snow is whiter) but some of it is simply r.e.a.l.i.t.y. And the hardest part is that you just cannot anticipate where the stumbling blocks are going to be.

Bring on the luncheon. Most things went so smoothly that I should have known there would have been other problems. First of all, the people who work for me were fantastic. They worked their arses right off. Several people asked me who my caterer was – that was a huge compliment to them. Yeah for them and me! The second thing was the flowers. The flower walla opens early – I did not anticipate that and it was a welcome treat. Normally businesses do not open here until around 11am and with everyone coming at 12:30ish, I was worried we’d be cutting that close. Plus the flowers were so inexpensive, extremely fragrant, and absolutely fabulous. Bonus. Bonus.

But then, as I was riding home from school, our driver informed me that we were out of water. Completely out. Yes, that presents an interesting wrinkle when you have 25 people coming over for lunch and lots of wine. He had several theories as to what might have happened. Either there was a leak. Or our cook doesn’t like the guard and was setting him up for being fired because it was odd that of all the days this could happen yesterday would be the day. Or our guard didn’t like our cook and the reverse was happening.  Or the guard just forgot to fill the tank and it was simply an accident. I personally think Mr. Hatfield saw the tables being delivered, realized we were having a party which probably meant more noise, and so he snuck over the fence and turned the spicket on and drained the tank dry overnight. Or. Or. Or. There are more conspiracy theories about this than there are about the shooting of JFK.

Just a side note. Every night at 5pm and every morning at 5am the guard must turn on the water to fill the tank. We have a pretty large tank so for it to completely empty means that it was not filled several times. Or that there is a very big leak. Neither is a great scenario when you are hosting a lunch.

At any rate, my husband’s office was on it. A water tank was ordered to come at 11am.

I also rented tables and chairs so that everyone would have a place to sit down. That all went super smoothly this time too. Which was great because it did not go so smoothly this time. They delivered the tables the night before and came back to set them up at 10am. Smooth. Smooth. The tables were even level – not a given. The tables don’t look so great when they deliver them, but they do clean up nice.

However, there were clouds looming in the sky. Dark, heavy clouds.

One thing I have noticed here is that a lot of events are planned for outside and there is never any mention of a rain date. (In the U.S., there is almost always a rain date for an outside event.) But in India, unless it is monsoon season, it n.e.v.e.r. rains here. Unless I am hosting a party outside. 😉 Then rain it must.

As the guests start to arrive the clouds get darker. And then it starts to rain – sprinkle really – so we quickly move two tables inside and three tables under the carport.

And you guessed it, the water tanker had not arrived.

So, I have too much water outside where I very much did not want it and not any water inside where I very much do want it.

I had to announce to the guests that there was no water inside and that they could use the bathroom but please just throw the toilet paper in the trash can. And the toilets don’t work the same here as in the U.S.  My toilets back home can still function without running water – you just replace the water in the tank on the back and wallah. Here – not so much. I thought I was going to go all Tim the Toolman Taylor on everyone and show them just how this was not going to be a problem. Ha. I put water in the tank and it immediately drained out. Hmpf. But by the way, there were plenty of hand wipes for hand washing. Thank God Martha Stewart was not invited. Or Katie Couric. They would have been very unimpressed.

The water tanker it seemed was stuck in traffic. Now this is exactly what makes living here hard. There were about 4 different versions of why the water tanker was late. One – it was stuck in traffic. Two – it was actually not stuck in traffic but was not allowed to enter the neighborhood between 11am and 2pm. Three – no one actually remembered to order it so they made up the traffic story to cover up their mistake. Four – the driver was abducted by aliens. So when you don’t really know why something is not happening, it is very difficult to fix it. Short of renting a space ship to Mars, we just had to deal with the reality of no water. And my guests were so gracious – they just rolled with it and filled their glasses a little less full.

The sun ended up making a star studded appearance and we were able to actually eat outside. That was fantastic!

I was not able to get the mister in the picture to sign a waiver so plese do not use his picture. 😎 Yes he is a funny guy.

All in all it was a fantastic day. The food was yummy, the flowers were beautiful, and the company was divine. And the water tanker came just as everyone was leaving. Perfecto!

Freezing but still warm…………………

One of the hardest thing about living in India is that we really don’t have a neighborhood. Let me correct that – we live in a neighborhood – but we don’t have a neighborhood feeling. There are no sidewalks, really nowhere to ride bikes, kids don’t play outside, and worst of all, really we don’t have any friends in the hood – especially not life-long friends. That means not many play dates and no spontaneous happy hours in the driveway.  No ordering pizza at the last minute and staying out way past sundown. No running through the sprinkler and chalking the driveway. No basketball in the court where dads can school their kids in just exactly how to play the game. We don’t even run into each other when taking out the trash (the trash wala comes in the gate and collects our garbage) or when checking the mail (it’s all delivered to hubby’s office). We don’t bump into friends at the gas station (our driver fills up the car) or at the grocery store (they really don’t exist).

So, yesterday was pure heaven. Each of the kids had a friend spend the night. The house was loud and a mess – think play dough meets paint meets cheese puffs meets hot chocolate with marshmallows. We ordered pizza and made waffles and eggs and bacon. My kids are still young enough that they will sometimes still play in groups of various ages of kids. Yesterday was full of that awesome synchronicity. Eight year olds and twelve year olds (with every age in between) played and danced and laughed together for the entire day with thankfully very little fighting.

Then they got an idea. As they called it – a great idea.

Yeah – uh oh.

They decided that it would be a lot of fun to have a bake sale. Excuse me?

Me: You do realize it is below freezing outside right?
Bear: Yeah – so
Me: Please say yes and not yeah. And enlighten me, who do you think is going to buy things? Bake sales are usually in the warm weather.
Bear: If we go to the pool, people will be running by there.
Me: With their wallets? If they are running, they may not want sweets.
Bear: Oh – but cars go by too. Lots of cars. It’s a busy street.
Me: What are you going to sell?
Bear: Can we make cookies?
Me: Honey, we don’t have flour – remember we haven’t lived here in 6 months. Your options are what we might call limited.
Bear: I’ll be right back.
Me: (to myself) good heavens.
Bear: We have brownie mix.
Me: Okay – you know they will get cold – possibly frozen right?
Bear: That’s fine, we’ll wrap them in foil.
Flower: We want to make something.
Me: What do you want to?
Flower: What is there?
Me: Yeah – I am not getting that involved in this – you go look and find out. Report back to me when you figure something out.
Angel: Do we have lemonade? We want to sell something too.
Me: (no longer to myself) oh good heavens. Sweetie – we don’t have lemonade. That is really a summertime drink. There is ice on the ground here. It’s cold.
Bear: We are going to make hot chocolate too. (Nice that he fed off his sister’s idea and stole the thunder right out from under her.)
Angel: Hey.
Me: What are you going to put that in?
Bear: The lemonade pitcher.
Angel: No fair. We need the pitcher for lemonade.
Me: Bear, that isn’t going to keep it warm – you cannot call it hot chocolate.
Angel, we don’t have lemonade -why don’t you and your friend make art work.
Bear: fine
Angel: fine
Flower: chocolate covered pretzels
Me: I really want to see a marketing plan before I decide if this is a go.
Bear: You always tell us to try new things. That there is no sense in not trying. Why is this any different?
Me: You are confusing me with a mother who encourages her children. Are you sure that was me?
Bear: Yes.
Flower: Pretty sure.
Me: Dang.

So they made brownies, chocolate covered pretzels, hot chocolate, and artwork. They carried the table and chairs and blankets and goodies up to the pool. They made signs. And they had customers (not all of them relatives). One of my friends bought a play dough eyeball from Angel – and she paid $10 for it and insisted they all split the profits. Yes, she has forever cemented her place in my heart.

They actually lasted about an hour and a half before they realized that 22 degrees is really pretty cold.

They walked away with red noses, about $20 (to be split 7 ways), and memories that will warm their hearts on even the coldest of days.

Tonight we are hosting a New Years Eve party for the families of many of our friends. Pray for me.

Happy 2010.

Rock on………….

Did you know there was a Hard Rock Cafe in Delhi? Me either – until now. YAHOOO!

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We went with some friends and had real nachos

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and potato skins

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And what we had all gone there to try – hamburgers.

The menu described a hamburger with your choice of 4 slices of cheese.

Now we’re talking! When the waiter came over, I asked what my choices were.

Cheddar.

And?

Cheddar.

The menu says “choice of cheeses”. See there is an “s”on the end. That means more than one choice, right?

Yes, cheddar.

Okay, I will have cheddar. All four slices of it.

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I did not think the burger was that amazing – I am partial to Five Guys – but everyone else thoroughly enjoyed theirs. I did, however, nearly lick the plate of potato skins clean. Everyone living here will want to know if this is a “real” burger. I don’t know. It depends on who you ask and what your definition of a “real” burger is.

Also on the menu is cheesecake. The cheesecake I have had in India isn’t exactly what I am used to. But you can bet your grahamcracker crust that I am going back to try it. Next time I won’t waste so much stomach room on the hamburger. It will be appetizers and desserts for me. And, yes, I meant those to be plural.

I usually look for the lessons in life – and here is what I learned at Hard Rock:

It is not a good idea to wear pants that fit just right when going to eat yourself silly. Baggy pants with string waistband strongly encouraged – accompanied by a shirt that does not need to be tucked in.

Oh yeah, and there was also this:

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But how are you………..

This is how a lot of emails from my friends end – your blog is great – but how are you, really?

That is a tricky question. Most of you know, I would not have picked to move to India. The decision came about quickly and it was a big surprise. I knew from the first moment of hearing the possibility that it would be a great adventure for our family and that we would never regret coming to Delhi. I realized that was true. And then I threw up.

This has been a wonderful career move for number one hubby. He loves his job and he loves having our family close together. I love that too. I am very proud of him and it is amazing to watch him thrive.

There are certainly challenges that I did not expect. India is considered a hardship post by the U.S. government and most private companies. I can agree with that. A big challenge for me – being a terrible creature of habit – is that nothing is really predictable. Just because you found kick arse goldfish crackers and nacho cheese Doritos at the market this week, does not mean anything for next week. Living in India is like investing in the stock market. Past performance is not a measure of future success.

I miss my family and dear friends terribly. I hate being away from them. H.a.t.e. it. Period. This is the biggest challenge for me. And I so miss my little cat Queso.

We have celebrated 4 birthdays here and it was difficult at best not to have my family here with us. Easter and Thanksgiving will not be easy either.

I miss my shower with never-ending hot water and double shower heads. I miss my kick-arse washer and dryer. I miss my double oven. I miss my office filled with paper and embellishments with a window that looks out at trees. I miss Taco Bell and Cheesecake Factory and Chick-Fil-A. I miss soft towels that smell like a spring rain.

But I realize that you can survive without the things that make life more comfortable. It’s the whole niceties v. necessities argument. And you can find new adventures without a dryer and a double oven that make those things seem not as important.

Although the basement where the kids can go when they you need a break is hard to live without.

And I do miss shopping at Target and Costco. I can live without shopping at those stores – I actually like the markets here – they are interesting and fun. But I miss the one stop shopping. And I really miss stores that open at 8am. Nothing here seems to open before 11am.

I miss driving myself. Although, I do not want to drive here – traffic is crazy! But there is freedom in a set of car keys and a drivers license.

I miss living on a cul-de-sac with a yard and trees and flowers. I miss kick ball in the court and a glass of wine on the front porch. I miss the crazy sleepovers we used to host with tacos for dinner and waffles for breakfast.

Connections are harder to make when everyone knows they will be moving at some point. So I guess I miss the sense of permanence.  There is comfort in believing that you will be friends with someone for a long time. I am not pointing fingers at others here at all – this is my issue – I find myself pulling back and being more hesitant to get involved because I know that people will be leaving – including me.

Old habits die hard and I just miss my routines.

However, there are a lot a things that balance out the things I miss.

The school is amazing. I have talked about it before so I won’t bore you with repeating myself. But my children are growing as learners in ways they might not have in the U.S. They are thinking in ways they have never thought before. There is a big emphasis here on creative thinking. I love that! The school also addresses my children as people and as students. In Flower’s conference, the teacher had as one of her goals to participate in the swimming program at the school. He has already gotten to know her very well and is fostering her growth inside the classroom and out. The teachers in the U.S. knew my kids very, very well – but the curriculum is just very different here. And by the way, I miss those U.S. teachers for a lot of reasons – they are fabulous in their own right.

Bear’s Humanities class is a mix of English and Social Studies. They have couches in his classroom and the kids “hang out” to learn. Bear actually asked me to go to the library with him the other day to help him pick out a book to read. After I got up off the floor from falling over – off to the library we went. He checked out two books.  I don’t think he has actually started reading either one of them yet – but, hey, baby steps.

Angel has been given differentiated instruction in math. It appears she has quite the creative problem solving little brain. It is not a surprise really because she plays a little game with herself where she creates an invention and then she talks about it for 45 minutes straight. The ideas truly pour out of her. It is nice to see that embraced at school.

Seeing that the world is not the bubble we knew has been good for all of us. There is so much here that is different and interesting. We are fortunate to be exposed to it.

Although Bear did ask when we could go back to not having anyone cook and clean and just “be” in our house. I had to explain to him that someone was cooking and cleaning and “being” in our house before. She just wasn’t get paid to do it. To which he replied “oh yeah”. I reminded him that “that would be me”.

I miss a quiet house with no one milling about. But I do not miss cooking, cleaning, or the laundry. See how complicated this all becomes?

Poverty has been hard on the eyes and much harder on the heart. I am working on a blog post to further explain and explore that. It should be coming soon. But it has made us all more appreciative of shoes and food and family. I am looking for a place to volunteer so that I can share my time with these children who have so little. But I want to be clear that many of these children have the biggest, most beautiful smiles. They are not miserable just not advantaged.

Number One Hubby has made some changes at his company that will help out some of the poorer people in Delhi. I feel really good about that.

It is dirty here and the pollution is unreal. We spent 5 hours at the pool the other day and got no suntan whatsoever. That might be good in the prevention of skin cancer – but I am worried about the lung cancer. But we got to spend 5 hours at the pool in the middle of March. That rocks.

I am not a super adventurous eater – so this has not been so much a culinary experience for me. But there are opportunities. And they serve beets here. I might be the only one in Virginia who actually eats beets – but I am in good company here! Yummy. And yesterday I tried red potatoes that had been skinned and rolled in sesame seeds. Holy potato, batman, they were fabulous!

We have seen Jaipur and we have seen the Taj Mahal. Both were amazing. And it makes me resolve to show my children more of the United States. They have not seen the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Mount Rushmore and a lot of other things. I hope to correct that.

We are also hoping to visit Thailand and Egypt and China. I never imagined in my wildest dreams we would even talk about doing any of that.

We are spending more time as a family. We eat dinner together every night. The practices at the school are all over by 6pm and they are all at the school. So there is no hustling from field to field. There are no drive-thru dinners. Yeah, that is a blessing and a curse.  We are certainly eating healthier meals. But remember, I miss me some Taco Bell.

I am loving this blog adventure and am thrilled to be writing again. It has been so long since I put my thoughts down and it is a treat to write almost every day. I continue to be absolutely amazed that so many people are following along. And I am confident that we will not lose the details that are making this journey so enjoyable.

As you might recall, we also started yoga. We used to tease my dear sweet neighbor who loves yoga – but now we are eating our yoga mats. We enjoy it – especially now that we know our instructor has a sense of humor. He doesn’t mind us teasing each other during our sessions. Sometimes he even chuckles along.

So anyway, the long story short is that I am enjoying much of our adventure. There are pockets of time when I am a little down. But most of the time, I have my seat belt on and I am ready to go. And yes, seat belts are a very good idea in India.

Interview with a Vampire (or me me)……..

Okay, I am not really a vampire – but an interview with me just did not sound as interesting. In the blog world, there is this thing called a me me – it’s a little chance for readers to get to know more (than they ever wanted to know) about the blog author – that’s me, yes, me. Miss Grace got interviewed and now I get to play along. She asks the questions, and I answer.  Bear with me – this might require some thought – stand back in case my brain explodes from actual use, I cannot be held accountable for the splatter. What? If Walmart does not have to corral their shopping carts, why should I? Anymeme, here it goes.

1.  What’s your favorite non-blog website/place to waste time on the internet.

I am sadly a facebook addict. It has been very fun to connect with friends from long ago – I have even met a future friend from India. Now that is cool. I also read skim the Times of India. And I cannot tear myself away from the craft sites where I have wholesale accounts. It appears I have more than one dark addiction demon in my computer life. (Really though, the blog sites are my faves.)

And I cannot, will not forget about Skype. That is how the kids and I talk to number one hubby – for free – everyday. It is a little piece of communication addiction that I embrace.

2.  What material thing/place (not a person) do you think you’ll miss the most when you’re in India?

Hmmm. Since you said not a person, you left open the door for other creatures. I am going to say my little cat Queso. She sits with me at the computer almost every minute that I am here and gives me scratchy cat kisses. She also purrs really loud. It’s going to be hard to top that. But the place would be my neighborhood and my newly renovated house. I love them both and it is very hard to tear myself away from home. I will also miss my double oven. Apparently my new oven is a large toaster oven that actually sits on the counter.

I am also a horrible creature of habit. So, I will very much miss my very comfortable routines.

3.  What everyday thing do you wish you could eliminate from your life forever?

This one is easy. Laundry. And the cat litter. And dishes. Okay – I will just say chores in general. This elimination might actually occur in India. If I can put the control freak in me aside and let others (literally) do my dirty work. Oh yeah, and I would not mind throwing mean or manipulating people out with the trash. No time for that. Maybe they could be recycled. Hey, I guess that could happen in India too – I understand they believe in reincarnation.

4.  Describe the first date you ever went on (in your life).

It was with Donnie. We went with his parents to Godfather’s Pizza. They sat way across the restaurant (with a direct view of us). And we sat at our own booth. It was very uneventful. We went on this date while he was on a break from his long-time girlfriend. They got back together – they honestly probably got married. At least they should have.

My best date was when hubby beat me home from work and made dinner. He locked me out because he was not done ironing the table cloth yet. (He has never done it since – and I really wouldn’t want him to – it would ruin the memory of him frantically ironing my grandmother’s tablecloth while I am banging on the door to get in.) I don’t remember everything he made but I remember being so mad that he locked me out of my own house. Then I felt horrible. It was really great.

5.  If you had to have one song playing constantly on a loop in the background for the rest of your life, which one would be the least likely to make you want to kill yourself?

I have a hard time making choices – it’s easier to say what I don’t want than what I do want. (You should see me at the Cheesecake Factory with its 500-page menu – all the possibilities – I almost end up in a straight jacket every time.) I would not want the hookie pokie (although we did play it and dance to it at our wedding) or the macarena (I never learned out to do it). But I have learned from my parenting experience that any song played over and over is not a good thing. Repetition is the fastest way to ruin a love of musical things – be it Barney or Beethoven.  It would have to be something without words – but definitely not No More Words. Maybe it would be a cd of Queso purring. Or the theme song to St. Elmo’s Fire. My younger brother learned to play that on the piano for me because I loved the song so  much.

Okay now you have me thinking – it might be Picture by Kidd Rock and Sheryl Crow – I love the way they are both thinking about what they have given up and how sad they are not to be together – but I hate the way they refuse to admit it – then they finally do in the end. It reminds me to (try to) not take number one hubby for granted. Even if he locks me out of the house.

Your turn – Wanna play? Post a comment here saying so (you can still comment here if you don’t want questions). Include your email address if it’s not built into your commenting settings. I’ll send you some questions. Answer them on your blog, and pass it on.