Tag Archives: life

Book Review – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot…..

It’s over at A Reason To Read.……..

www.amazon.com

 

Insert (Your Passion Here)…….

This blog has had a writing tilt lately. Most of what I am writing about applies to everything I want to accomplish as a writer. But truly, you can insert your own passion here.

Today I am focused on being focused. It’s hard. To commit to anything. And make it a habit.

I have a friend who was in a position of tremendous influence and a lot of people were asking a lot of things of her. She is a kind, generous, and enthusiastic person. She doesn’t like saying no. She loves making a difference.

I asked her how she picked.

She said she simply established five priorities and if the requests didn’t fall into one of those categories, she had to say no.

Did I mention that she is also wise? There really is only so much you can do.

So this morning I am going to establish my priority list.

Family/Close Friends
Writing a Novel and this blog
Living Faithfully/Responding with love
Being Healthier
Not saying yes to things that don’t fit this list

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t love to do some things that aren’t on this list. I would and I will do some things that aren’t on this list. But I have to focus. And limit those distractions that don’t lead me where I want to be. And I have to do it Right Now.

I have a tremendous opportunity to submit a synopsis to a literary agent this week. And I am psyching myself out of it. I have started it four times and never get out of paragraph one. So I need to limit my distractions, believe I can do it, and just simply get it done.

Wish me luck – pretty please!

Oops – I forgot one – Momastery….

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the blogs I have been following. I completely forgot about Momastery – which is actually ridiculous because Glennon is all sorts of awesomesauce.

Glennon is a fabulous writer who puts thoughts like this into real sentences…

“I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is, too.”

Glennon is  a recovering alcoholic and bulimic and a recovering mother and wife. She doesn’t pretend that parenting isn’t easy and she celebrates that it’s not impossible.

She has a tremendous sense of humor and isn’t one bit afraid to say what she really thinks.And it’s extra loverly that what she thinks is pretty fair and balanced and full of compassion and acceptance. What I love most about her is that she turns thoughts upside down and inside out before she spits them out. Plus she coordinates very generous things for people in real need.

AnyMomastery, I am honestly a little late in joining the bandwagon but if you haven’t seen her work, check it out soon.

Two Book Reviews……….

Happy New Year dear blog readers!

I know I have not posted in a while – but I have been busy reading. You can see my latest book reviews over at A Reason To Read or by clicking the links below. Enjoy!

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life by
Nava Atlas….

and

    The Wayward Life and Times of a Dipsy Doodle Dandy By John Peaker

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.

Uh-Oh……

I just received this email from a reader – one I know through the blog-o-sphere and through a mutual friend – one who has been complimentary in the past and is (or at least was) a loyal reader. So I am sharing it with you just in case you have the same concerns.

Hi A Reason to Write
Hope you are well. Just read another post by you.

I hope I am not the only one saying this but I feel your posts have changed a bit lately ever since you have come back to the the States. I miss the humor in your posts and I feel that there is a tongue in cheek attitude in your posts. I know you have mentioned in your previous posts somewhere that you are not trying to demean or belittle life in India. But why do I always feel that you are doing just that? I may be wrong and want to give it the benefit of the doubt. India is India and US is US..there is no comparison, period! You called India a third world country once. India is no more a third world country! In one of your posts, not too long ago, one of the things was people leaving their kids alone on the streets…are these things not happening in the US? India is still a very young country as compared to the US and the progress it has made in this short time is remarkable. I do not think it is  fair to compare these two countries. We should compare apples to apples!

I shared my views with a few like minded people who read your blog on my request. It made me sad to read what was being projected to people who are not familiar with life in India and its rich culture.

Please know that I am not upset. I am just sharing my thoughts with you. Pinky swear! 🙂

Where to begin. Yikes. First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ending with humor – at least I know you aren’t ready to form a picket line in front of my blog – just yet. 😉
Then I would add, that my blog should never be judged just on simply one post. No blog should be. As you say, India has a rich culture and history and I tout that often in my posts.

Then I would like to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this post warrants a re-read.
I will readily admit to being sarcastic. I am and it’s extremely likely that I will continue to be.

And this post is just that.

But it is in no way a criticism of India.

I have always contended that there is no right and wrong – simply differences. Shopping and cooking and driving in India and the U.S. are hardly similar in any way. I benefited from having staff in India because it saved me a lot of time. And I am grateful that there are so many conveniences in the U.S. that equally make my life easier but we might have taken it too far when we sell shredded cheese and premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Do I use them? Sure – happily. Do I need them? I would argue no – not even for a second. I even said in my post that my American readers should continue reading just to be reminded of what we take for granted on a daily basis.

Basically what I will say is that this post is more about the excesses in America than any deficiencies I saw in India. I think it is ludicrous that we have 18 different ways to buy cheddar cheese – although I am grateful we do – it’s a tad bit excessive. I don’t ever argue that America is perfect – of course it isn’t. Neither is India broken. There are just things that do not make complete sense through my western eyes.  A continuous thread throughout all of my posts is all that I learned in India and how grateful I am for the experience for me and for my family. I did not love everything about India – but I loved most of it. We have been blessed beyond measure to see that the world is so different and that every place offers tremendous stories and experiences.

As far as India being a third world country. This is truly, truly a fascinating debate to me. Once before, someone adamantly argued that India is not a third world country. Certainly many people in India live well. There is no doubt about that. And there is a lot of opulence in India. However, the majority of India’s citizens don’t have real and guaranteed access to water, permanent shelter, education, and some level of health care. Throw in some pretty high infant mortality rates and you have got some development issues. But don’t just listen to my big fat opinion –

Wikipedia says this:
“The term ‘Third World’ arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or not moving at all with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world.”

Many people will say that India is a “developing” third world country. That’s probably more fair and I will start using that term from now on. And you make a good point. India’s government is still young – there is a lot of growing to do. But the elephant in the room is the waste and abuse that happens in the Indian government that often results in the unnecessary suffering of so many people. Again, is America perfect? Absolutely not. Of course not. We have our own wastes and abuses and not everyone is getting an equal share of the pot.

Part of what has been so hard for me in returning to America is leaving the images of India behind. I too often allow myself to forget that people are suffering – all over the world. How do I throw away bread crusts when children are starving (and yes, not just in India, in America too)? Now I put my crusts and stale bread out for the birds and squirrels. I know it won’t change a thing in the world but at least I am wasting less. That feels better.

I think Americans allow ourselves to be self-absorbed and protect ourselves from the reality of the sufferings of others – and, to be fair, I can point that same self-absorbed finger at Indians too. We all put on our jewelry and drive our gas hogs and live in our houses that are unnecessarily big and melt our shredded cheese and simply allow ourselves to ignore that, for the most part, even on a bad day, others have it much, much worse.

I struggle with how to become a more global citizen and how to have more of an impact in helping others – and that struggle is a direct result of my life in India. I can no longer pretend that life in Northern Virginia is the norm. It’s certainly great but it is not the experience of most of the world. I struggle with how to do something everyday to make someone else’s life better. I am failing miserably in that regard but I am trying.

And I am afraid this blog will continue to contain comparisons between life in India and life in America. It’s all I know and I am not willing to add another experience to my repertoire – at least not yet.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I never want to offend anyone – but unfortunately, the minute you hit publish on the internet, you are very much in danger of doing just that. And remember that I am mostly talking to myself – the fact that anyone is coming along for the journey continues to amaze me. I am at least glad you felt comfortable in sharing your disagreement and disappointment with me and my words. That is one thing that India and America do have in common. Democracy is a beautiful thing.

Lived there, done that…………..

Since we have been home, we have been catching up on some great t.v. Yesterday I saw an ad for this new NBC Show – Outsourced. The new comedy will be on Thursday nights starting in the fall. It looks like it has the real potential to be very funny. Of course, they will have to maintain a very careful balance so that the show is also not insulting. What I hope they don’t miss is the “life outside of the office” experience. Frankly, I think they need a writer who has actually lived it, perhaps a blogger with a bunch of material (already) in the queue, maybe a blogger who has over 100k hits on her beloved blog, perhaps someone with a sense of humor about how different life can be ……. hmmmmmmmmmmmm ……. maybe they will be calling me soon. 😉

Anyone have any contacts at NBC? If so, please feel free to pass them along.

A river runs through it…………..

Bangkok was a whirlwind and, unfortunately, although we saw a lot, we left a lot unseen. Some things we just ran out of time to see. Some things we simply chose to leave unseen. We had heard about the floating markets – had heard that they were once active trading centers and super fun but are now mostly tourist traps. So we opted out of the official floating market tour and instead rented a boat to take us on a roll down the river.

Honestly, the thought of being “stuck” on a boat in a crowded market where vendors hawk their wares try to gently coerce you into buying only the most beautiful trinkets that you really want with no escape route and no bathroom just did not appeal to me. And we have found that we are not buying that much stuff. There are a few things we want to get but most of Asia seems to have the same kind of trinkets – wooden elephants, chess games, hair accessories, and the like. We are kind of  at the point of “been there, done that, don’t even want the t-shirt”.

So, we said no to the floating market and yes to the canal. It was all kinds of loverly and I feel like we got to see the more secluded side of Bangkok. You may have realized this already – but I am what you might call geography challenged. I had absolutely no idea that a river runs through Bangkok. Duh.

We rode on a boat like this.  In fact, we rode on this boat.

Temples lined the canal. And each one was just as intricate as the next.

This is the view from the main thoroughfare and either I was drunk (was not) or the buildings look crooked.

Then we hung a right into the canal.

It was like a window opened to a whole new world. You could just tell life stories just happen here. Everyday stories of everyday life. Day in and day out routines that just happen over and over again without much thought or planning. Life periodically rocked by sickness, travels, visitors, spiritual revelations, new discoveries, birth, and death. Full circle life lived through generations of family after family simply repeating the same cycles as their parents did before them and only occasionally stretching to break long-held traditions.

I could have sat on this boat for hours and just watched the stories unfold – or imagined them to be much grander than they probably most often are. It was really a fantastic place. “It’s a Small World” in Disney could have been modeled after this canal. Except that this canal was exceptionally quiet. The most noticeable thing to me was that is was so peaceful. Quaint and quiet and peaceful. Deep cleansing breath kind of peaceful.


It was a world of laughter,
A world of tears.
It’s a world of hopes,
And a world of fears.
There’s so much that we share,
That it’s time we’re aware,
It’s a small world after all.

There is just one moon,
And one golden sun.
And a smile means,
Friendship to every one.
Though the mountains divide,
And the oceans are wide,
It’s a small world after all.

What’s it really like………..

This is the most common question I have been getting since we came back to the U.S.

Describing India in contrast to the U.S. is nearly impossible. It is an amazing place – full of culture, history, and fascinating people. It is also so very different from everything I am used to. Some of those differences weren’t even clear to me until I returned home.

Some of the things that are so very different really have nothing to do with India – but encompass more the differences between living in a house and an apartment. My husband has always wanted to live in a city – rather than the suburbs. That is what we are doing. I don’t care for it. It is hard to be in a 3-bedroom flat when you are very used to a 3-level home with a yard and a drive way and friends all over the place. There were times I frankly felt a little claustrophobic.

Doing homework is hard when you have 3 kids and no where to go. Having friends over is hard when you just don’t have the room to entertain. The kids in India don’t really seem to be outside playing a lot. I am not sure why – but we just don’t see it that often.

Having staff sounds like a great gig if you can get it. But again – if you aren’t used to it – well, it is also a big adjustment. I don’t like explaining everything to other people when I am used to doing it myself. But I like going into the closet and pulling out an ironed shirt that I had nothing to do with getting cleaned – if only they would wash it and iron it somewhere else. Cooking and cleaning might be a little difficult to accomplish somewhere else – but that would be nice too.

We have two people who work in our house. And after some trial and (some very big) error, we have people that are a really good fit for us. But it is still someone in your house – your little house.  I calculated that our staff works for us for almost 80 hours a week. They work hard and they work almost the entire time they are there – really only rarely stopping for tea. So that is 80 hours of work I do not have to do. Yes, I am very thankful for that!

One thing my husband always says is that there are nice people everywhere. That is true. I have met some kind and generous people who I hope I will be friends with for the rest of my life. I have met some people who are more interesting than I will ever be. The expats who live in India are adventurous and smart people. They soak in the world.

I am writing delicately on this one – but parenting is different in India. And on this issue, I am talking mostly about expat parenting because that is what I have been exposed to. Some of the parents I have met depend on their staff a lot. Drivers drive kids to and from parties. Not everyone is that concerned with meeting the parents on the other end. Ayahs (babysitters) supervise play dates. This is all about comfort level and, again, if you are used to it, surely this is easier. But I cannot let go of my parenting long enough to enjoy this benefit of India. I like being the one to take my kids places and I want to meet the parents any where I might be dropping them off. I know this is all about balance and I am a little heavy on the side of caution. But it is who I am and I do not want to let India change that part of me.

And this is not the friends that I have surrounded myself with. I gravitate toward people who think more like me. I roll like that.

The expat children I have met are confident and outgoing. They all seem to find their niche and thrive in their own circles. They are comfortable talking with adults and don’t seem too affected by moving around the world. They are impressive in that regard. They will surely accomplish great things. On the down side, some of them are a little entitled. I mean, really, if you have a driver, a cook, a house cleaner, a gardener, and an ayah – yeah, you might feel a little more than special. But a lot of parents I have met work hard to keep their kids on an even keel.

I have written a lot about shopping. Haggling is fun. Very fun. But I do miss Target and Costco and the grocery store. It is just so convenient in the U.S. But I have gotten some very fun Indian items that I probably would never have found in the U.S. – even at World Market – and I negotiated good prices for them.

The best way I can think to describe  living in India is that it is like living in the U.S. about 30 or 40 years ago.

People do not have answering machines – well, I guess technically they have human answering machines. Everyone has a cell phone but nobody leaves messages. It’s all about texting. I stink at texting so it takes me a really long time to do it. I am usually about half-way thru my message when the person I am calling calls me back. Augh.

I am not used to electricity and water being sporadically available. Although we are really fortunate that we will have not been inconvenienced by the outages.

And I know many Indians are not thrilled with the portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire – but honestly – it is a dirty place. Pollution is abundant and it is dusty and in many places, very dirty. You see people working hard to sweep the streets and move the garbage – but there is just so much of it. There are lovely places that are not dirty – in fact, they are meticulously maintained. But there is a hazy sky almost everyday. It’s just not what I am used to.

Delhi is less organized than my little corner of the U.S. And India is less predictable. Which makes everyday interesting. You really, truly never know what you might see.

In some ways I feel we are living in a little bubble of expats. We really spend most of our time on the school campus. Most of our activities are there. We have not met that many Indian families. The Indian people we have met thru number one hubby’s work are delightful and kind. They are generous with their support and thoughtfulness. They certainly have made me more comfortable about living in India.

So – what’s it really like – it’s very different. I miss all my routines and friends  and family and conveniences. I am enjoying my new friends and experiences. It’s a mix – it’s a great adventure that really makes me homesick.