The burden of being a generalist

This post is not meant to be a confession and yet that’s exactly how it may come across to some. Let me start by unashamedly stating I am a hopeless generalist! I have too many passions to be able to devote all my life to one passion only.

Yet that does come with a fair amount of regret, since I am in great danger of completing half my life and having gained a specialty at nothing! To specialize at any field one needs years and years of devoted practice, but the end result is so admirable. A joy I may never experience.

Sometimes I wish I had spent all my years specializing one thing no matter what. My problem was never a lack of talent or focus, instead it was persistence. There are some fortunate souls who will find their calling early in life and persist with it for the rest of their lives. The blogging world is full of such talented folks.

A friend of mine, has a full time day job as an accountant but spends her weekends and evenings painting. She has been painting since she was five. Walking into her home is like stepping into Michelangelo’s studio. Her paintings are so professional she has had several successful exhibitions. One wonders if she is so good at her hobby how good she must be at her day time job which is still the source of her bread and butter.

A colleague of mine excels at interior home design. She has such a knack for buying cheap deals at garage sales and flea markets and then putting them together in the most amazing fashion. Her creativity is off the hook. She can create a chandelier out of old tea cups! My own mother has a green thumb like nobody else. Even in her early seventies she has converted an otherwise dry and pest infiltrated handkerchief garden into a Garden of Eden. Green plants abound not only her garden but her house and are growing out of fused bulbs, broken tea cups, and practically anything that will hold a handful of soil and her green magic.

So coming back to myself. I am troubled by absolute angst of having spent half my life and yet mastering nothing. This is not how I intended things to be a couple decades ago. My problem was not being devoid of talent. If I had no talent to boast of, that would be perfectly fine and acceptable. My problem is having a “little bit” of talent at almost a little of everything. I have tried my hand at painting, poetry, handiwork, fabric painting, gardening, cooking, pickling, kombucha making, doodling, blogging, photography and so much more. (One thing I admit never to have a talent for was singing. I can at best screech completely out of tune and never remember the lyrics.)

Being a Jack of all trades, master of none is not entirely a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine being a generalist if one aspires to be “regular” or “moderately talented” or in other words “average”. Does the word “average” send shudders down your back?

I know some people will even disagree with my assessment of equating a generalist to being “average”. Infact even though specialists have historically been sought after in Corporate America and have enjoyed some of the highest paying jobs, the market today is changing. Heck, it may even be the time of the underdogs as the CIO’s and CEO’s today are placing greater value at generalists than ever before. Generalists may in fact have become the missing ingredient to making a project successful as they have the vision to not only see the leaves and the branches of the tree but also the entire tree and even get a bird’s eye view at the forest.

Be that as it may, my fear of being a generalist is the mortal fear of dying in ubiquity and anonymity without ever having enjoyed a single ray of excellence. The joy of being labelled as “the best” at something no matter how small escapes me.

The blogosphere today is full of specialists and generalists. Are you a specialist or a generalist? Do you prefer one over the other? I invite you to share which group you belong to and what is your view on the matter?

Holy Chutney

Would you like to liven up a simple vegetarian meal with something tangy, spicy and super healthy? The best part is nothing could be quicker, simpler and more nutritious to whip up when you are on a time crunch. Not only is this Chutney recipe a great condiment to your meal but it is also really good for your colon health.

What you will need?

1 bunch Dill

1 bunch Cilantro

1 bunch Mint

Fresh ginger (add to taste)

2 lime

1 green chili

½ spoon sea salt

Optional: 1 garlic clove

Optional: 1 spoon honey

Chutney Time

15 minutes (including clean up and cutting herbs)

Method

Be sure to separate and clean the herbs by triple washing them in cold water. I usually don’t bother cutting off the stalks unless they are thick and stalky. But if they are tender and fresh they are chock full of antioxidants, so leave them on.

Throw all the herbs into your mixer and add ½ spoon of sea salt and the juice of two limes. You may need to add a couple spoons of water depending upon how thin or thick you like the consistency of your chutney. Limes and salt are going to make your chutney super tangy and delicious.

Grind the mixture well and empty into a glass container and voila your chutney is ready! One bite and you will know why I call it Holy Chutney.

Optional Steps: I usually don’t like to add garlic to this chutney but if it suits your fancy don’t hold back. You can also add a spoon of honey if you would like to have a sweet and tangy chutney.

Why it’s good for you?

All the ingredients in this chutney are so good for you they are medicinal. Except medicines don’t taste so good.

  • Limes are full of Vitamin C. Their health benefits include improving digestion, skin luster and weight loss besides other things.
  • Dill is good for digestion, insomnia, diarrhea and even cancer.
  • Mint is good for headache, indigestion, respiratory problems.
  • Cilantro is good for ulcers, digestion, constipation, anemia and menstrual disorders.

How to enjoy your chutney?

You can have a spoon or two of Holy chutney with any meal. Or simply spread some chutney and cheese on a whole wheat toast and enjoy!20160410_184518

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Everyone you meet is fighting a war

BeKindLast Friday, I was driving back home after an unusually bad day at work. My sole consolation was, “TGIF”, when I saw a beat up truck carrying a printed note on the side and back that read, “Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle of which you know nothing. Be kind to everyone you meet.”

I was touched by its profoundness. As it happens I had one of those days where you feel invisible, overlooked and unappreciated. Normally speaking I don’t let my environment get to me. But a series of bad days at work coupled with bad health got me in. Usually, I am the nice gal who lets other cars in front of me with a polite wave but today I was not having any of that. I was burned out, and all I wanted to do was go home and end the day which is when I saw the note. And then it occurred to me, “I am not alone in feeling the way I do”. We are all fighting our own demons and troubles in life.

When we meet people all too often we see a mask. The mask could be a well rehearsed image they are portraying or a judgment we slap on them based on their looks, mannerisms, behaviors and attire. But it is not truly who they are or everything they are. Too often when I am troubled or stressed I get into my “me against the world” modes. I am sure many other people behave like that which is probably why unhappy, stressed people are never fun to be around with (myself included). But if all of us are truly waging a war within why can’t we be more compassionate to each others troubles?

I feel part of the blame lies with the way we are taught to behave. We are taught always to sound positive and happy no matter what. Countless self help books talk about how in order to make a positive impression we should sound like we just tripped over a hundred dollar bill. It is little wonder then, that when we are feeling miserable we should want to hide our true feelings and shy away from human company. To seek the company of another compassionate soul in time of need, is therefore unthinkable because who would want to be with us when we are miserable? But it is no more plausible to be happy all the time just as it is to expect summer to last all year round. Even mother nature has her ups and downs.

Why does society always expect us to bear a positive face all the time? Why can’t we simply portray what we feel today? Why are we busy wearing masks and hiding our true feelings afraid of getting judged, when we are all feeling the same way? If the King is naked and we all know it, why can’t we just say it out aloud?

Seasons: A White Wedding

When Winter covers every nook and cranny in white it looks like Mother Nature herself has dressed to become a bride; what a sight to behold! These pictures were taken by a friend and bring to mind a grandiose White wedding thrown for a Snow queen or maybe Snow White? Who says fairy tales are for little girls?

Pictures courtesy Viraj Thakur

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Chandelier view of White Woods – Viraj Thakur

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Inspired by Photo Challenge

 

Barbie: More than a body?

Barbie new look

It seems Barbie has always made the headlines with her controversial body. She is a tall blonde with a body chiseled to perfection. As a child I found Barbie to be unparalleled in her beauty. It is little wonder that according to me being beautiful meant to have “fair” skin and beautiful kink free blonde hair. My best friend’s idea of beauty in contrast was simply being “skinny”.

Although Barbie alone can not solely  be blamed for our misplaced adulation, she along with her look-likes and the lack of diversity in the beauty industry had a fair share to play.

Over the years Barbie changed her dresses, professions and even skin tones but it is not until recently that she went through a complete eye opening transformation.

At the tender age of 56 Barbie has finally reincarnated into a more “realistic” body. Or 3 new bodies to be precise: curvy, tall & petite. They are still all gorgeous and very trendy. Finally a look little girls can see themselves reflected!

In a world where plus size women are finally taking center stage as supermodels (consider Robyn Lawley, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine) this was a much appreciated and needed change. So then why the big hue and cry about Mattel updating the look of their cash cow product: Barbie?

The critics are playing down Mattel’s effort to make Barbie more realistic as a “ploy” to increase sales. So what’s the problem with that? Even if Mattel is diversifying to save a dying brand, albeit late in the game the intent is not unkind, the time is ripe and the new look is outstanding. So thumbs up to the new Fashionista Barbie’s.

Now what about Ken? Will he be sporting a 6 pack beer belly and a receding hairline soon? Or maybe just a slightly more rounded personality?

Ken

It was a grey day

GreyDayIt was yet another cold and cloudy day. Sometimes in the thick of winters one gets so resigned to dull weather, it feels it will never be sunny and beautiful again. Unfortunately that’s how it felt today. I am dying for the warm summer to melt the day and warm up my mood. Meanwhile I can’t help but remind myself how every season has an important role to play and how it too must be enjoyed for its sake. Here is a list of 10 wonderful things you can do on a cold, grey day to brighten your mood:

  1. Watch an old flick while wrapped up in bed – I feel the best part of winters is the license to watch your favorite movie while wrapped in a warm blanket and sipping a hot cup of cocoa.
  2. Eat Mac & Cheese – Comfort food is another blessing that winters offer in plenty. My favorite Mac and Cheese recipe includes Brussels sprouts and Panko bread crumbs and is listed below. But I also love to make hearty soups and have them for dinner with a loaf of garlic bread.
  3. Wrap up in a warm jacket and go for a walk – Don’t forget to catch up on Vitamin D by going for walk in the afternoon. It can do your mood loads of good.
  4. Go skiing – When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
  5. Throw a potluck party – I love potlucks. It is so much fun to sample and savor all the variety of foods you get at a potluck party. The weather may be too cold to venture outside but inside your house or at a friend’s house it is always warm, and the conversation is always engaging.
  6. Read a good book – This one is similar to #1. The idea is to cozy up with your favorite book or movie.
  7. Rake a warm fire and enjoy a cup of warm toddy – Winter is an excellent time to spike up romance by raking a fire and enjoying your favorite drink. Although I myself never like whiskey and am trying to stay away from alcohol, a friend gave me this recipe some time back. A toddy is easy to brew. Pour hot water into mug and steep tea for 2-3 minutes. Remove tea bag and add honey.  Stir. Pour in whiskey, add squeeze of lemon and enjoy.
  8. Pamper yourself with hot oil massage – This is a really simple way to pamper yourself and your tresses. They will look beautiful the next day and when they bounce with shine you will be so glad you did it. Mix almond, olive and castor oil in equal parts in a bottle. Heat lightly in microwave till it is lukewarm to touch and apply in hair. Keep massaging the oil in with your finger tips. For best results leave it overnight but be sure to cover your pillow case. You will look like the Pantene girls the next day, I promise!
  9. Engage in your hobby – Do you like to paint, write, cook? Whatever your hobby is, engage in it. It is a sure shot way to spike up the feel-good hormones.
  10. Catch up on your zzz’s – When the weather is dull and it gets dark early, it is easy to want to settle for bed early. An excellent idea! Just remember to stay away from TV, internet, iphone and all technology unless you want to be counting sheep.

Mac and Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces mild white cheddar cheese, grated and divided
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cored, and very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saute pan or high-sided skillet set over medium heat. When butter is melted and frothy, add flour and whisk until smooth and begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly pour in warm milk, a little at a time, whisking vigorously, until all the milk is incorporated and mixture is smooth. Don’t worry if the mixture gets oddly chunky for a bit, just keep adding milk a little bit at a time and whisking constantly to break up the chunks.
  • Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking regularly, until sauce bubbles and has thickened slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper. Slowly add cheeses, a handful at a time, whisking until melted before adding more. Add all but 1/2 cup of cheese (set this aside for sprinkling on top). Stir in macaroni and sliced Brussels sprouts until evenly coated.
  • Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and breadcrumbs over top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until filling is bubbling, then broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

 

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San Diego – New Year at Gas Lamp District

The Gaslamp District provides a vibrant, youthful and rich experience to visitors. Only a short two hours drive from Los Angeles, this place offers a round-the-clock party atmosphere with plenty of bars, restaurants and dive bars to chose from. It extends from Broadway to Harbor Drive, and from 4th to 6th Avenue, covering 16½ blocks. It includes 94 historic buildings, some that were constructed as far back as the Victorian era and are in excellent condition and still in use even today. We visited the Gas Lamp district for New Year’s eve and I was able to catch some of the decorations and festivities on my camera. I have added some personal observations on the places we visited as well as historical references where applicable. Enjoy the e-visit!

The district was so named after the Gas lamps that were used in the late 19th century.

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Gas lamp district Gateway

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Notice the Gas Lamps

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The infamous Coyote Ugly Salon

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The Coyote Ugly Saloon was first started in New York and gained National attention after Hollywood decided to bring this bar to the world map with “Coyote Ugly” movie starring  Piper Perabo and Maria Bello. Apparently the bar is not famous for its excellent service and whatever you do don’t ask for a glass of water here!

 

Dick’s last resort eatery is infamous for its rude servers who dish out fattening fries, sandwiches, Burgers with Beer and serve it with plenty of saucy remarks. I am not kidding! This place is actually famous for its “Service with Sarcasm” slogan. The place is actually fun and there is plenty of memorabilia to check out while you enjoy your food. Just go in with good humor. The servers were not rude at all but fun and helpful.

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Dick’s last resort restaurant

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Garage Kitchen + Bar

The name of this place is inspired by its history. Garage Kitchen and Bar used to be an actual Garage called “Carriage works” built in 1890 and housed buggies and wagons. Today it houses a vibrant atmosphere, good food and excellent service. Definitely recommend their Kale salad and Roasted Garlic Hummus with cured olives. They also have tons of beer on tap.

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The Garage Lounge

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I took a picture of this toy as it reminded me of my childhood. Monchhichi was a toy I always wanted as a kid. Sure enough I bought it as an adult!

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Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a quick Chocolate fix

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Wish you all a very Happy New Year. Have an excellent 2016!

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Antiquated

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I love visiting Antique stores for their sheer nostalgic value. Some of the items are even before my time and I cannot but help look at random objects and wonder the history of the object. Who was the original owner? Did they enjoy using that article? What was their story? What was happening in the world at that time? Every object for sale is more of a story and less of an object. Here are 3 pictures of the Stars Antique Market in Hermosa Beach. There are tons of stories here to collect and savor.

Photo Challenge: Now

Here is wishing you all a very Merry X-Mas and a Happy New Year. Since this week’s challenge is all about the “Now and here” I thought it only be appropriate to catch a little of the Christmas cheer on lens. The Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights in Torrance California are famous for streets and streets of decorated lights. Hundreds of cars pass by the neighborhood every hour to check these lights out and one has to be really talented to be able to drive and aim for pictures.

Since it is really cold and breezy outside, some houses even sell hot chocolates, popcorn, water and even churros! I am sure many of your neighborhoods do something similar? I tried to catch some of the holiday cheer driving past the neighborhood, though it was hard to do justice. Enjoy!

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2015 Retrospective

RetrospectiveAs 2015 draws to a close one cannot help but look back at everything exciting and not so exciting that the year had to offer. At a global level 2015 brought in its wake major news highlights such as Discovery of Water on Mars, Queen Elizabeth reaching a milestone year, rebirth of Stars Wars as well as some rather heartbreaking incidents such as the Paris attacks, Migrant crisis, Financial collapse of Greece and of course Nepal earthquake to name just a few.

At a personal level 2015 has brought me some triumphs and few eye-opening failures. I feel adversities and failures bring with them an opportunity to learn and grow. In my career front despite my best effort I felt very overlooked and unappreciated. But this has given me the awareness to improve my skills to an extent that would make them impossible to be overlooked in future.

So coming back to my blog ubecute. Ubecute too has had to learn from its 2015 setbacks. Ubecute was started in 2014 which was an excellent first year. In its first year (2014) Ubecute had received over 14, 299 views and had a total of 137 published posts.

2015 however envisaged a damper 6,881 views only with only a total of 60 posts. The fault clearly lies on the frequency, number and possibly the quality of posts published. It is evident that to have a well-oiled blog one needs to publish quality posts periodically at fixed intervals. Lesson Learned boss!

In the end, allow me to wrap it up with some of Ubecute’s highlights in the last two years. I was visiting the Stats page on WordPress and picked out 3 of my most viewed posts. I then picked out 3 of my least visited posts that I actually love but received few views. Feel free to take a quick walk with me in the memory lane by reading some of these most/least visited posts in the last two years. Enjoy!

Top 3 most viewed posts that I really enjoyed writing:

Naked as the Maple Tree – 2,350 views (A poem in which I compared myself to …yes you guessed it…a Maple tree)

Review on Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis – 250 views (A personal take on Tracy’s exercise video called Metamorphosis)

Serene Goa – 200 views (I loved this article as it was full of pictures from my last visit of Goa. In my view Goa is an underrated and inexpensive vacation destination. So if you are looking for one check this article out and feel free to reach me if you need any suggestions on visiting Goa)

Top 3 Least viewed that I hoped would not be collecting cobwebs:

The power of small: I honestly enjoyed writing this article on how small efforts make big changes and have life changing effects. In my personal experience I found that some of my biggest successes have been envisioned out of tiny efforts made over a period of time.

I sold my Sister – A poem about a child selling her younger sister. Although the poem is not autobiographical in nature it evoked some deep emotions from readers and I loved all the comments and feedback I received.

But no Cigar – This was a short story about a well-known diabolical character. I generally never write humorous short stories, so this was something new for me.  It is a quick and witty read so I hope you will enjoy it.

Coffee Date

CoffeeIt seems November is the month for coffee dates with friends! Well not really but it may as well be, since Cheri Lucas Rowlands created a prompt to write about a coffee date with a friend. The rules are simple: basically pretend you are having a coffee date with a friend and “share any details you’d like and include as many as you want, as long as you begin each with If we were having coffee right now... “

I loved the prompt and immediately drafted the post below. If you too like the prompt then feel free to get your creative juices flowing by drafting a post and publishing on your blog. Feel free to pingback if you like.

Dear Friend,

It’s been such a long time since we met for a coffee and talked. I have so much to tell you and catch up with you.

If we were having coffee right now, I could tell you that last month I completed an amazing trek to the bottom of Grand Canyon all the way to Phantom Ranch and back. And what lovely sceneries I caught on camera. Some of these pictures will soon be published on National Geographic! I will be posting links on my blog shortly.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that two weeks ago, I ran a triathlon and helped raise $6000/= for Cancer Relief. I would tell you that that’s not all. I am planning to raise twice as much for the Homeless by the end of this year.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I have decided to take a yearlong break from work to go backpacking around the world. I have decided to leave my humble yet comfortable life to live out of a backpack, eat peanuts and rice, and wear recycled clothes as long as I can get to soak the world like a sponge. I would promise to write a post every day documenting everything I see and discover!

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you, I have finally decided to climb the Mount Everest. Yes the Mount Everest! I have already started to train intensively for it.

If we were having coffee right now I could tell you all this and more but I will not. I will not, because I would be lying. I have lived my entire life in the safe lane. I am not brave or daring enough to trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Besides it is so forbiddingly hot that it is way out of my comfort zone. Snakes, lizards and mice creep me out. Yes I know I suck, but I am sorry that’s who I am. I am scared of heights, hot temperatures, reptiles and rodents.

I have frequently donated to several charities but never made an effort to raise notable sums for any. And oh how I wish I had the guts to leave my job and go and travel for a whole year! Discovering the world with a child’s eyes and catching it on a camera! But there again I am to disappoint you and above all myself. I like to play it safe, so safe that I may be missing out on life and I know it.

I am scared of heights so I would never be climbing the Mount Everest even though the very thought of scaling the heights of the forbidding peak excites every cell in my body.

Instead, if you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would tell you that just now I am trying to figure out the meaning of life sitting on my couch in the comfort of my home. And it refuses to make sense. I read the news and feel for the millions of homeless refugees as well as the families of the innocent people who lost their lives in the Paris attacks. I am trying so hard to make sense out of the chaos and sorrow but cannot. What could I say to justify the senselessness of it? What dire lessons are we to learn out of such madness that would justify all the human suffering?

If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee. I would tell you I am sorry. I am sorry I am not more exciting and spunky. I can’t just get up and leave and do what I really want to. Instead I do what I should. I pay my bills, go to work, eat healthy and basically walk the line. That’s how I have always been and that’s who I will be. I am a thinker yet I have not solved any major puzzles of life.

If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would instead tell you my life is simple and monotonous where one day easily bleeds into another. But for that I am truly grateful. I cannot thank my stars enough for its comforting predictability. What’s worse is I know there are millions who would give anything to have half of what I or you take for granted every day.

If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would instead tell you that even though climbing the Everest sounds mind bogglingly exciting to me I would never ever do it. I would never do it not because I am scared, but because I am not convinced it matters. Life offers enough challenges every day. I don’t need to climb 30,000 feet above sea level to discover them. You might say it’s an excuse but I am not here to prove you wrong.

If you were to truly take time out to meet me for coffee, I would tell you I am boring and ordinary in every way. If you can distinguish me from any other Jane Doe you met today on the bus stop, subway, coffee shop, grocery line, then I would be truly impressed with you.

If you still care to meet me for a coffee I will be sitting right here without any pretense, waiting with an open heart. And maybe I will just listen!

Ted Kooser’s words

Flying

Ted Kooser is one of my favorite contemporary poets. His poems are profound ruminations on life while the subjects of discussion are usually mundane objects like a painting, book, tattoo etc. While his words spread like butter on a warm toast and feel equally natural. Here is one of his many wonderful poems reading which makes you feel like you are floating a few inches above the ground. Enjoy!

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser
Published in “Flying at Night”

Love Letter to life

Heart

Dear Life,

How are you doing? I am sorry I haven’t been answering your phone calls lately. The other day you knocked on my door and I pretended to be out. When you turned around to leave, it almost sucked the breath out of my soul. I needed some time to think about us. I just want to clarify that this is not a break-up letter, even if it reads like one. See I am not yet done loving you. You were, are and always will be dearer to me than anything else in the world. I am only writing to you so you can understand how you make me feel. Maybe once you learn what it is you are doing wrong, you will change your ways?

Yea, I know we have been flirting, fighting, making up and most of all disappointing each other for a long time. But now I am done playing these games with you. I am also done fighting with you because you are just too strong for me. I have bruised knuckles and knees to prove. The last time I fought you, I ended up rolled over in a corner; flattened out like dough. And then just when I was ready to give up, you came back around placating me like you do. You embraced, kissed, and sang to me and suddenly the sun shone brighter, and the world tasted sweeter than Nutella. Suddenly my world was an ice cream truck playing “The Mister softee” jingle.

I know I am play-doh in your hands. You reward me with your love just as unexpectedly as you punish and chastise me. But it’s when you ignore me that I hate the most. It’s like I am suddenly invisible to you. Without you, I am a mouse running aimlessly inside a wheel.

But who am I to complain? The truth is I need you more than you need me. Without you I am nothing. Heck without you, I don’t even exist. You on the other hand have countless lovers. You have kissed just as many into existence as you have put to bed (six feet under). For you my darling are life incarnate! You are the mountains, oceans, skies, birds, bees, animals and humans. Everything that lives is you and nothing that does not is not. You are past, present and future. To live is to love you. And dear life, I do!

Yours faithfully,

Me.

The “Write” Nook

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

WriteNook

When it comes to writing there is no better place to start than in your own mind. Yet, I have read so many articles on accomplished writers sharing their personal stories on what gets their creative juices flowing and almost all of them recommend having a designated area to write; a shrine, a sacred place. They recommend using it strictly for creative writing and not desecrating it for any non creative activities.

As for me, I haven’t even spelled “a” of accomplished. I neither have a sacred “write” place nor a sacred ritual that will get the juices flowing. I wish creativity were as simple as opening a faucet! But it is not. Instead It is hours and hours of practice, writing and rewriting. It is opening your soul to the world fully knowing that it can be ridiculed, shredded apart or worse still overlooked!

So what is my favorite writing nook? I tend to write anywhere; tucked in bed watching Television (yes, that is very distracting), at the dining table (also distracting), or just making mental notes (yes, I have lost a lot of potential ideas by virtue of relying totally on memory). Unfortunately, I don’t own a private study, and have no designated nook of my own where I commence writing.

But if I had the luxury of having my own study I know exactly what it would look like. It would have a sign on the door reading, “Enter at your own risk, ye who dares to enter”. My study would have a large ivory colored table with drawers and filing cabinets. I would use the cabinets to save my unfinished drafts, cut outs, and newspaper clippings. The walls would be covered with photographs of beautiful places and life caught on lens. It would also have a couch that I can lounge on when I am tired of sitting at my desk. There would be a slight disarray to my ideal study as I feel too much organization is the enemy of creativity. Alas for now, my “write” nook consists of the space between myself and my laptop!

Fortunately enough writing is engrossing enough for me that I can easily shut off the world and can write comfortably anywhere! As a child I used to paint a lot. I would get so engrossed in my work that I would paint nonstop for hours without remembering to eat or drink. Although I have severe ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), when it comes to writing my ADD evaporates like a puff of black smoke.

Most writers find that waking up in the morning to write is especially valuable. While that makes sense (since your mind is at its peak performance in the morning) it somehow never worked for me. I usually write at night after preparing dinner and cleaning up. My biggest writing foe is also my biggest weakness: the idiot box. Whenever I have the courage to shut the TV out of my evenings, I can save time to write.

I know I have written a nice piece when I get goosebumps reading it out aloud. My “write nook” or a lack thereof is probably markedly different from yours (I hope for your sake!). So what’s your favorite space and ritual to write? Do you have a preferred time of the day when you like to put pen to paper? Do you have any other writing nuances? Give me the skinny on your “write nook” and “write stuff”.

Prose Poem: “I don’t like poetry”

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Whoever says, “I don’t like poetry” is a liar. Poetry exists everywhere. It’s in sunrise, nightfall, rain and thunder as much as it is in a mundane book, bed, mantelpiece or window. It’s in a new born babe’s first cry as it is in a flurry of birds shearing through the skies like jets on 4th of July. Whoever says “I don’t like poetry” has never really listened to the random sounds that make up words that make up languages that make monkeys human. He has never been swept by a mother’s eyes brimming with an ocean of love, nor admired old lover’s holding hands, holding canes crossing the road of life.

But if he truly has never seen nor experienced any of that, he hasn’t yet lived, nor loved. Pity the man who has neither lived nor loved. For if he did, he would never have said, “I don’t like poetry!”

Room for improvement

“There’s always room for improvement, it’s the biggest room in the house.” – By Louise Heath

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I am a strong believer of continuous self-improvement, because what you are born with is God’s gift to you but what you make of yourself is your gift to God.

At the end of each year, I create a list of goals for next year. Some people prefer writing their goals on their birthdays since it is a different kind of a new year. You can do whatever works for you. But since my birthday falls right in the smacking center of the year (30th June), I find that I use my birthday to reassess my achievements and ponder on my goals. Looking back, I feel the most productive years have been those in which I achieved at least 80% of my goals. To be honest, I never realized all my goals just because life is so fluid and one’s goals need to be adjusted with the changing demands life places. Also, I tend to be overzealous while creating my goals.

If you are one of the over-achievers then you constantly not only achieve your goals but go over and beyond. Some people believe writing their goals down every day helps them stay motivated and keep their goals fresh in their mind. I write my goals once and then visit them a few times through the year. I feel that just keeping goals in the sub-conscious is enough.

Yesterday I found an old diary of mine, that I used to write 15 years ago. Surprisingly enough I happened to flip open a page where I had written what I would like to achieve and who I would like to be when I grow up and I had called the list “My Dream Self”. I was so pleasantly shocked to realize that I have achieved all the things my “dream self” was going to achieve. Sounds ambitious? Not really, I have heard a lot of my colleagues and friends make similar claims. It has probably something to do with the “law of attraction” or the concept of attracting one’s destiny. When we want something badly enough we end up attracting it. Sadly enough the outcome may not always be happy. Just because we wanted it and got it does not mean it is good for us or it would make us happy. But that is subject matter for another day.

In some ways I feel it is better not to be completely satisfied ever. If you are easily satisfied with who you are and what you have, you will not persist to achieve more. In order to create the best version of yourself, the hunger to constantly improve should persist. I am not recommending being unhappy or ungrateful for what you have. On the contrary, I am recommending the awareness that what you have is the best you can have today and be grateful for that, but also realize that it can and will get better if you continue to endeavor harder.

So about my goals for 2016? Sorry, I cannot share my entire list of goals as some are a bit personal but here are a few. If you already have had a chance to write your goals for next year then feel free to share a few. If not, may I recommend taking some time in the coming weeks and writing down everything you want to achieve next year?

My Goals for 2016

1)   Read 10 new Poetry anthologies in 2016

2)   Revise 30 of my own favorite poems

3)   Write at least 2 posts a week

4)   Workout 6 days a week (long walks count)

5)   Eat healthily (more salads, smoothies, soups and other healthy cooked foods)

6)   Learn a new recipe every week (salads and soups count)

7)   Spend more time with family and friends

8)   Do something nice for someone every day (anybody else besides myself)

9)   Allow myself no more than 3 days of TV a week (right now I watch TV every day!!)

10)   Visit a new place every month. It does not have to be any place special a fair, library, coffee shop…will do just fine!

11)   Always stay positive (I know this is easier said than done, but I think just attempting to be positive is half the job done!)

Hope

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If you have seen your own house burn to ashes, and your life’s work undone in a matter of hours then you have probably entered the darkest, deepest recesses of your heart. Doves and Peacocks don’t live in these dark corners. Skies are perennially dark. Nights are so cold you think you will not survive to see the day. And yet you do! A tiny flicker of light burning in a hearth several houses down keeps you warm through the night.  Sooner or later, the tide turns and a new day bursts. The garden of your heart blossoms with spring once more. Thank God for the flicker of hope that waivers but never dies.

Prose Poem: Lazy Sunday

I love this room with its king-size bed, decked with blue-green cushions that call my name in colored tones of embroidered silk. This room with its tall windows, and the sun stealing in through gaps between wooden lattices, casting ribbons of bright yellow on my hardwood floor. It’s hard to tear out of its delicious embrace every morning at six. And head out into a cold world for another busy day at 405. How I long for the comforting parlance of this room while at work buried under piles of deadlines. I count my week backwards until Sunday, when I too can burrow deep and leave the world behind like squirrels, moles and gophers do. Today, I shall draw the blinds longer and burrow deeper. Today I enjoy a lazy Sunday.

Lazy Sunday inspired by DailyPost Prompt

Things I like

Here are a few of my favorite things:). Feel free to share a few of your own or let me know if we have any in common?

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  1. Enjoying my morning cup of tea, while casually skimming The Shape magazine.
  2. Watching Humming birds suck lilies in my garden
  3. Waking up unwillingly only to realize it’s a long weekend
  4. Preparing for a long vacation; the anticipation is always the best!
  5. Sighting a pair of dolphins while walking on the beach
  6. Calling mom and dad and having a great conversation
  7. Sitting at a shack in Goa with mom and dad next to me
  8. Watching a matinee with a large popcorn and coke
  9. Reading a big book in two days (because I am such a slow reader)
  10. Eating yogurt and cucumber sandwiches on a sunny afternoon with homemade lemonade
  11. Getting my hair professionally blow dried (I look like the Pantene girl for a day)
  12. Reading Ted Kooser’s “The beaded purse” and crying my eyes out. I know that’s a weird thing to like. But sometimes I need to be cathartic!
  13. Watching my favorite show back to back. Like Game of Thrones!
  14. Enjoying an excellent book of poetry with a glass of white wine; preferably Pinot Grigio
  15. When my dog listens to my “sit” command even if for the duration of the treat being offered to him

Writing 101: Why I write?

I write to make sense of all my jumbled thoughts. I write to make sense of myself. To become a better version of myself. Whenever I am feeling embittered and jaded about life, I know I need to go back to my table and just write. I also write to leave a little of myself behind. Yes, in that respect writing is a very narcissistic desire for me.

But is it not the same reason why the rest of you great people architect skyscrapers, build bridges, write songs, concoct your own perfect curries or raise beautiful children? I have done none of that and therefore I write. I am both narcissistic and insanely hopeful that when I am long gone, someone on the World Wide Web would still care to read my words and feel connected to me. That’s why I write!

What do you envy?

Day 1: What was the one toy that a friend had that you wished you had when you were little?

When I was about six years old my father was transferred to Germany, Frankfurt for a period of three years. The flight to Germany was my first experience being in a Boeing 747. My mother told me that planes were the fastest way to cover long distances and I absolutely would not believe her. “Look” I pointed out at the plane’s wings, “This plane is just standing still, it’s not going anywhere. We will never get to Germany at this rate.”

Getting acclimatized in Germany could not have been easy even for a young child as it was so different from India. The clothes we brought with us soon felt completely useless in Germany’s subzero degree winters. And the first thing we did was buy winter gear. School was very foreign. Being painfully shy, I never made too many friends. Most of my friends were imaginary; most not all. Andreas was one of my few flesh and blood friends.

Andreas was a dimple faced, rosy cheeked, blonde haired boy. Have you ever read Archie comics? Imagine Archie as a 6 year old boy and that’s how Andreas looked except he was blond. We got along instantly. I loved visiting his home. His room was filled with so many toys and pets, he barely had room to store them.

His room was an overflowing mess of stuffed toys, musical instruments, games, robots, books, legos and so many other random toys. But what I truly envied him for were his pets. Andreas had two dogs: Tiffy (a tiny German Spitz) and Odell (medium sized Pomeranian).  Tiffy was the feistiest and tiniest dog I had ever seen. She belonged to Andreas’s mom and did not appreciate anybody touching her. She was cute as a button and feisty as a monster. Odell on the other hand was the friendliest, kindest dog I ever met. He was an old zen soul in a dog’s body. Odell would follow Andreas and me everywhere. Andreas also had a temperature controlled aquarium with gold fish. And a tiny white hamster that enjoyed abode in a luxurious cage with tubes, tunnels and a wheel for running. Andreas had a small garden outside with a medium sized Turtle. Although the turtle was allowed to roam freely in the garden during the daytime, it was never hard to catch him. He would always find him pretty much in the same area we left him in the morning.

Andreas’ pets were all so much fun to watch and play with. I loved all his animals so much I would have given my right hand for them. As soon as I would come back from school, I would finish my homework so mom would let me go and play with Andreas.

Unfortunately soon after we left Germany I lost touch with him. Several decades later I still wonder how he is and where he is. And most importantly how great it would be to reconnect with him and learn of all his experiences since! So here is to Andreas, my blue eyed, blonde friend, “Thanks for being such a great sport and letting me play with all your toys and animals. Thanks for sharing your world and never asking anything back. But above all thanks for being a bud!”

So tell me your story. Did you have a friend who had a toy that you envied?

add your November NaBloPoMo posts

Gang Rapes in Delhi: A growing curse

The rise of rapes in India is as much of a politicized topic as it is controversial and tabooed. We do not want to accept that the plight of women in general in India is at best: second class. Yes, you see a handful of bright young women climbing the corporate ladder, joining the army and becoming doctors and scientists yet the vast majority of Indian women stay deprived of basic human rights that their male counterparts take for granted.

Even today discussing unjust treatments meted to women including rapes, eve teasing, passing lewd comments, dowry, child infanticide and bride burning are tabooed. It is the elephant in the room that everyone would rather ignore.

To be honest this is also a very unusual topic for Ubecute to undertake as well, as Ubecute is all about enjoying and pursuing the happiness and beauty in life. However to accept and appreciate beauty is to be aware of the ugliness and the darkness that also exists in the same world. It would be a sham if Ubecute failed to acknowledge the gross cruelty and injustice that is meted to so many among us. To close one’s eyes against evil does not make it go away.

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The controversial topic of rapes in India is nothing new and has been dealt by countless news agencies and bloggers. A simple google search will reveal the hard fact that 93 women are being raped in India every single day. Yet some people claim that India has the lowest per capita rate of rape; a claim that is perhaps equally dismissive of the reality as it is misleading. These are only reported cases of rape. Some claim that as few as 1 to 10 percent of rapes are actually reported.

And for some reason, Delhi seems to be the crime city of Rapes in India. According to the Guardian, India has been hit by a wave of sexual violence – particularly gang rapes, citing the case of the 51 year old Danish tourist who was gang raped, robbed and beaten in Delhi. Despite the stringent laws and rallying after Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi, the rape cases continue to rise: from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013!

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Picture of pending cases : Courtesy Tribune

It saddens me to see that this is the Delhi I grew up and loved! It is the same city where Gurudwaras and Temples offer Langars or free food to the poor every day. And the city where people assemble every morning in community parks to practice yoga free of cost. This is also the capital city of the country which hosts the government’s legislature, executive and judiciary arms of the government. There is so much history and glory associated to this city that it is deplorable that it has become the hot bed of some of the worst crimes done to women. Why is it that despite all the economic growth in the past decades India fails to provide its women a safe and equally privileged environment as males?

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Truth be told, most women in Delhi have experienced some form of eve teasing. Having grown up in Delhi, I speak from experience. Even as a child I was subject to lewd comments from uncouth men. Nor have I forgotten the unexpected nabbing and jabbing of feminine parts while using public transportation, which left you as stunned and violated. I remember growing up in Delhi, I had invented a style of walking on busy streets, which would save me from such perverse people. I would walk with my hands crossed in front of me and my shoulders as far wide as possible so nobody could jab me from the side or the front. I recently saw a documentary in which other girls were explaining doing similar things to protect themselves. I would come home and never tell my parents about what happened for fear of worrying them. The saddest part of it all was that I assumed it was normal. And I was not unique in thinking that way. Women in Delhi constantly feel the pangs of lewd comments and eve teasing and take it in their stride as no “big deal”.

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Yet eve teasing is one thing and rapes are something else. Not for a moment do I mean to place them in the same category or claim to understand the agony of rape victims. So why do so many cases go unreported?

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Many women who go through abuse are in not in a position to speak against their perpetrators. The abusers may well be their husbands, close relatives, family friends, neighbors and many of these women may be very poor with little standing in society. Plus there is so much social stigma associated with it. There are those brave women who have spoken up only to get further abused and persecuted. Their families have retained the social stigma for the rest of their lives. Why are victims made to feel like offenders?

I believe part of the problem lies with the way children are schooled in India. Thinking back of school days I am saddened to remember that we were given “state of class” education in Math, Sciences and Languages but never really taught sex education. We did not have hot lines where girls from abusive families could call for help. If this is state of some of the best English medium schools then the problem is tenfold in Government funded schools.

While the Government continues to create stringent laws and make verbal promises to be doing everything in its power, crimes against Women continue to grow.

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It’s disheartening to see a country that builds temples to worship its Female goddesses will witness some of the worst cruelties against women.

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Of course rapes happen in Developed countries including USA. But the difference is the outlook towards the victims. To be raped in India in some cases is being stigmatized more than having committed a crime! Also rapes in USA are fortunately on decline which is an excellent trend, while they continue to rise in India!

Some people point that the root of this evil actually lies in the new found liberty of women who go to schools and offices thereby creating an opportunity for culprits to prey on them. Others point to India’s acute gender imbalance, caste system and entrenched patriarchal culture. Perhaps the worst excuse is the one provided by some Conservatives who claim “western influences”, may be contributing to this! Until people stop searching for a reason in the victim to somehow having attracted the rape, things will never change!

One of the saddest cases to storm the country happened in May 2014, when two village girls 14 and 16 were gang raped in a backward village of Katra Sadatgunj in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. They were allegedly raped by the boys of a neighboring village. While the plight of the girls was pathetic, my heart went out to their parents. Especially the father who sat on his haunches crying his heart out. He was showing a workbook of his daughter who was the only girl in his entire family to go to school.  The mother of one of the girls said her daughter wanted to grow up and do “something more than just get married”. They wanted to study and get a job. While there are so many reasons for why this crime happened the truth remains…it happened! And that is enough. The father will never see the joy of her daughter (the only literate child in his family) graduating, or growing up to get a job, or getting married and having kids. Instead he will see her raped, beaten and hanged to a tree.

Later in November 2014 a new story would surface claiming the girls were never really raped and murdered but had decided to go to the fields in the middle of the night to relieve themselves and for suspicious reasons hanged themselves to death. The reason for suicide was inconclusive. Apparently it’s easier to claim an issue does not exist than to fix it!

If I started to name individual cases of brutality and injustice against woman in India, this would become a very long article. I am writing this post for the thousands of nameless women who continue to feel subjugated by their own people. I don’t know how things will change. I have no bitter pill or solution to offer. Despite of all the rallying and advancement the much needed change has not yet happened. It behooves us to first accept the reality that enough has not yet been done. Even one women raped anywhere in the world, is one too many!

Year’s end

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Red Doors are closing in on

parched leaves, studding the sidewalks.

We have crossed out yet another season

on our kitty calendar and dressed the meager

backyard in ghoulish rags.

The procession of witches and ghouls

too shall pass and not much else will happen.

Some birds will be washed down with wine and

“thank you’s” and then forgotten.

Gifts shall be found and unwrapped under plastic trees

while a tired old man escapes a make-belief chimney!

We shall cast aside our hopes

and wait with abated breath for next year with

butterflies in our eyes. Nothing much ever happens.

(Extra)ordinary

There is so much beauty in the ordinary and so much ordinary in the Beautiful. Beauty lies in the perception of the beholder. But finding the “extra” in ordinary is what makes life beautiful!

Dirt path showing the hilly neighborhood in Palos Verdes, CA

Dirt path showing the hilly neighborhood in Palos Verdes, CA

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Walking path on hills of Palos Verdes, CA

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Another sunny day in California, Santa Monica Beach, CA

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Egret enjoying her lazy afternoon whilst eyeing fish?

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Aah the beautiful Canals in Venice, CA

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One Lonely Palm tree against the silhouette of the ocean and the skies. I always feel so sorry for these lonely trees stranded so far from their family…

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Slightly lost local or a curious tourist? Who knows? But where better to be be lost than here!

Grandma’s face…

Faces are like complex metaphors

to life,

Happy like a child’s

first solo bicycle ride,

Or grim like Patty the parrot

buried in the backyard,

Treacherous like frozen ice

on your doorstep,

or innocent like a ticklish cackle.

Faces are like dreams

altering reality, and

reality altering dreams.

Playing my life in reverse

I see a fanfare of

faces.

Yours is a face I see over and over.

Your skin so light as if bleached by time

And your silver hair so thin

I can feel The ebb and flow of blood

in your scalp.

In my dream you are always wobbling

toward me unsteady like a ship

wavering side to side.

School’s just out and I am running to you

with outstretched arms eager to run into your

embrace like a hungry seagull.

But then like always

I wake up.

If faces are like metaphors, then

the memory of yours is like a quilt;

warming me

with it’s comforting  familiarity.

I pull it over me like a tent

and sleep in its dream-like embrace.

Prose Poetry: Under my Skin

Prose poetry at a glance: A prose poem is any piece of verse written using the normal typography of prose, while maintaining elements of poetry, like rhythm, imagery, metaphors etc. Here is my contribution.


Under my skin:

She has a tendency to get under my skin. I try to shroud myself under the cloak of propriety. But she spots me. Ushers me to the coffee shop and calls out for “A tall Blonde with milk and Dostoevsky”. Then devours a donut and washes it down with Milton. Her words sizzle like ice on embers of coal and I vaporize like a puff of black magic. The book club was just an excuse. She has infected me like a parasite and spread irreversibly through my blood. Then slapping Dostoevsky on the table she says, “Pain is all pervasive. Love is redemption”.

Coffee

An Imperfect Limerick: Stay

You lick me with your foul breath every morning,

You greet me with such adulatory fawning,

Yet once in a while I wish you would just leave me alone,

Be without your furry tail, dewy nose and your doggie bone,

But “Stay”. Without you my friend life would be barkless and boring.

Ziggy&Me

Photo Challenge: Natural Boundaries

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Man has set so many boundaries; be it the barbed wire protecting one’s private property or the well patrolled country borders. Even the houses we build are meant to set boundaries from our neighbors. No matter how strong these human boundaries maybe, the boundaries that nature sets are insurmountable.

Self Help: How to overcome depression forever

Life is a mixed bag of both sweet and rotten fruits for everyone. But sometimes it can feel like you were given a bigger share of the rotten. The challenges and ordeals life throws can leave you feeling spent and hopeless. After all, in the face of incessant hardships it is only human to feel demoralized and dejected.AbbottKinney1

But if life has you feeling run over then continuing to feel sorry for yourself will only make matters worse. There are positive steps you can take that will change the game entirely and put your life back on track. The good news is that it is never too late to change your mindset and circumstances. Here are some easy ways to heal:

  1. Acknowledge your pain: To achieve freedom from pain it is first important to understand what ails you. A lot of people feel depressed out of loneliness, poverty, competition, and physical ill health. Others feel miserable because they are trapped in a toxic relationship and are unable to find a way out. Whatever your case may be, the first step to cure is always to understand the root cause. However, if your depression has no particular known cause then try probing your subconscious with this simple trick. Sit in meditation and clear your mind of all positive and negative thoughts or simply listen to some relaxing music. Then take a pen and paper, and write down 10 things that are making you unhappy. If you have more than 10, then just keep writing to your heart’s content (empty all the pain out on paper) but make sure to number them appropriately. Then focus on the list of things that make you unhappy and further write down 10 ways you can either eliminate or avoid them. You obviously cannot eliminate all toxic relationships (e.g. a rebellious teenage child or an annoying aunt) but you can find creative ways to improve your relationships. If nothing works then you will want to find ways to distance yourself emotionally.
  2. Make small changes: Focus on the list of action items you created above and focus on just one or two. See if you can do just one thing a day no matter how small. If your health bothers you then do one thing to improve it today. If your relationship with your teenage son is bothering you, see if you can have face to face talk. If your Aunt is always taunting you about not visiting her often enough, then see if you can set a reasonable schedule to visit her which will work for both of you. But focus on one or two constructive ways to improve your situation today. If there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, then learn to accept it. Time will eventually heal pain.
  3. Make health a priority: A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. If you are already in tip-top shape than that much more power to you. For the rest of us we can all make small changes to improve and keep our health in the best shape possible. If possible join a gym. If you cannot afford a gym, then start your day with a brisk walk and observe the world with a child’s eyes. Notice the birds playing in the trees, or the dew settled on the green grass or the clear skies. Seek joy in the simpler things in life. Make an effort to eat healthy. It is easy to fall into a habit of eating comfort food when you are feeling blue. But this habit can become hazardous over a long period of time. Try making simple, nutritious meals. Make small changes by inculcating more greens, grains and fruits on a daily basis.
  4. Be grateful: Gratitude is one of the best medicines to depression as it changes one’s focus from “the have not’s” to “the have’s”. While it is easy to look at everything we do not have, it is far more rewarding to focus on the things we have and offer genuine gratitude. Kindness starts at home. Be kind and grateful to your parents, partner, friends, children, pets and colleagues. Find some time to send them a card, or call or text them with a simple “thank you” message. This alone will improve your relationships. This will not only change your perception but also alter their perception of you.
  5. Offer Charity: This may be so counter intuitive. When you are ailing and need help, it is hard to think of others. Yet when you focus on helping others you take away the focus from yourself and your own pain. You look at people who are less fortunate than yourself and realize how much you have to be grateful for. Also helping other people releases mood enhancing endorphins.
  6. Inculcate a hobby: Hobbies are not just for kids. They are equally important for grown-ups. If you have a hobby then find time to work on it every day or as often as you can. This will give you a feeling of fulfillment, accomplishment and joy. If you don’t have a passion, find something you can enjoy. Maybe it is something you did as a child but just don’t have time to do it anymore? If you enjoy reading books, then join a book club. Meeting like-minded people and sharing views helps take mind off your problems. If you enjoy photography then invest in a reasonable camera and take a picture a day. If you enjoy writing then start a blog. If you enjoy gardening then get a few plants and decorate your home. Get the drift?
  7. Set aside time for you every week: The worst possible situation is to find yourself in a place where one day dwindles into another. If you have a hard time remembering what you did yesterday or what you will do tomorrow then you may be in a bad place mentally. Each day is a new day to fulfill your dreams and promises. No matter how small. Set some time every week to focus on yourself. Write down your goals and plan on fulfilling them. You don’t have to come up with flamboyant plans. You can use the time to simply organize your bookshelf, or clear some clutter in the garage. Or pamper yourself with a facial or go to the cinema and enjoy a movie. Make time to invest in yourself every week.
  8. Do not participate in office politics: Sometimes vicious cycles are created by simply participating in vicious activities. If you are unhappy at work, participating in company politics will only make it worse. Venting about difficult colleagues or bosses can sound like a good idea to vent out at the moment, but it will only make you more miserable. And usually will come back to haunt you and cause you to lose credibility in the eyes of your peers and management. If people are participating in politics around you, try to stay disengaged. In the long run, you will gain more friends and build respect.
  9. Change your attitude: Whether the glass is half empty or half full depends upon the way you look at it. Perception is everything. And yet, it too can be adjusted. Find positive viewpoints in every situation. See also positive in people. People are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. We are all motivated by our own inner needs. Learn to see these needs impartially and try to forgive others for their faults. When something bad happens to you, try not to focus on what has happened but how you can fix it. Try putting things into perspective. Will this matter an year from today? Read positive books by motivational writers such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie. If necessary read them over and over again. The mind can be stubborn but loves repetition.
  10. Consult an expert: If nothing else works then seek the help of an expert. Look up for a psychiatrist or see if you can join a support group. Build a strong network of friends and family who would be willing to see you through difficult times. Offer them love and gratitude in return and be there for them.

Remember there is no such thing as a quick fix to most problems in life. Most known quick fixes like medications, drugs and alcohol only mask the problem today, but make matters exponentially worse in the long run. Instead try to become your own best friend and make small but consistent efforts to heal yourself both mentally and physically. Good Luck!

OMG! WTF! Don’t LOL …but Social Media speak is like killing me!

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IMHO (In my humble opinion) all this social media speak like “OMG”, “WTF”, “LOL”, “ROFL” is really gone way out of hand. DAE (Does anyone else) feel that way, or is it just me? It feels like people don’t talk to each other F2F (face to face) anymore. People only text. And when they text they abbreviate. WTF! *Shudder*

What’s more if you are not fluent in Social-speak you may be deemed “uncool” by your kids and they may even LOL at you! If you don’t even own a Smart phone …well then forget about it!

I can’t even count the number of dinners I have gone to in the past few years, where everybody was sitting over a dinner table busy texting rather than talking to each other. It felt like the only words that were shared were on their smart phones in abbreviated codes. I wonder if these same people would later go back home and have a proper chat over their smart phones? And how far will this culture of no face to face communication go? Will people go on dates and communicate over texts?

I am not sure what I hate more. The fact that social media threatens to create an anti-social society incapable of communicating with each other in person or that it has created an unoriginal language of hashtags and abbreviations? ADD much?

BTAIM (be that as it may), Social Media is here to stay, like it or not. Personally, I think it does not do us any favor to lose the social aspect in an already supercilious society.

But I want you to tell me what you really think about all this incessant texting? Forget what your kids will say or how you may be shunned at work. Now is the time to speak up in favor or against Social Speak.

Ok, I GTG but Like drop me a line and be my BFF forever!

Home is where the Homies are…

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I have a curious case of Homebody-ness. I love my Home above all things. When everybody is dressing up to go for a night out, I chose to stay at home and “just chill”. Interestingly enough I have moved so many times in the past 15 years, that I have even lost count of how many homes I have had.

When I was a student I lived in a dorm, then shared an apartment with other students, then moved back to dorm and then lived with a wonderful Greek lady as her paying guest. Then as soon as I got a job I rented an apartment but changed my jobs and cities several times each time moving into a new location close to work.

Finally, after 15 years of leading a gypsy life, I now own a small but comfortable home with my husband and dog. Yet, no matter where I may have lived; be it a room small enough to be a closet or my own house; each of the dorm room/home share/apartments have been HOME to me.

Today, when I reach home, my heart flutters for joy not just seeing the welcoming comforts of my home but my husband and my little dog Ziggy. Ziggy bounces around me as soon as I reach home, until he has my full attention for the next few minutes. And it just makes me feel so special.

If you were to ask 5 things that make my home mine, they would be:

  1. My hubbie – self explanatory
  2. My dog Ziggy – see above
  3. My kitchen – I love to cook and love to decorate my kitchen and it’s well lighted box window with small pieces of Art. When I reach home I stand there for a few minutes enjoying a snack or rummaging the refrigerator looking for dinner inspiration.
  4. My couch – My couch and I have a love and hate relationship. I hate that I love it so much. I have wasted countless evenings and weekends just sitting on it doing nothing but flipping channels. It’s quite sad really. But truth be told it feels awesome to be able to do just that!
  5. My jammies – Reaching home really means donning my jammies. Nothing says comfort better than a pair of well worn pyjamas. It tells you, you are home.

Of course I love my home and its rooms, its walls decorated with memories and family photos. But above all home would not be home without my homies! God bless!

Schön macher, Schnell macher

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I was only six years old when my parents moved to Frankfurt, Germany. We spent three wonderful years there and to this day I harbor memories of beautiful Germany and the friends we made. Frankfurt was a beautiful, scenic and most of all a kid friendly place.

There were government funded youth clubs for children that offered after school activities to children of all ages, called “Jungendhausen”. The aim of these youth clubs was to promote creativity, art and workmanship in children while keeping them engaged and out of trouble…I guess!

I and my sister would go there every day after school and spend hours building or “basteln”. I remember making lamps out of a ballon and paper, toys out of wood, stone and clay and much more. The hours spent in the Jungendhausen under the supervision of the teachers were the highlight of my day.

One such day I remember my teacher calling me and my sister out as “Schön macher und Schnell Macher”.

“Schön macher” in German stands for a person who does beautiful work. My sister being a perfectionist and a few years older to me had the art for chiselling wood or stone into the most artistic shapes, which is why my teacher called her “Schön macher”. I on the other hand was all about “quantity”. I did not care much for detail. The fish I carved out of limestone had a vague resemblance to a fish but could have been an eye, the dog looked more like a cat and the clay shoe house was almost falling over its side. Get the drift? The Jungendhaus had a display window to show case all the art work made by children. It is no surprise that my sister’s artwork made it into the window many a times and mine would never reach its epoch glory.

Decades later I am reminded of what my teacher said, “Schön macher und Schnell Macher”. And I wonder which is better? Is it better to be a Schön macher and spend hours laboring on a piece of writing to perfection? Or is it better to be “Schnell Macher” and churn out greater volume?

Ofcourse this brings us to the ever debated topic of Quantity versus Quality? I am a bit equivocal on the matter and believe they both have their pros and cons. For instance when it come to blessings, I would rather have more but when it comes to friends I would rather have quality.

But are the lines between the two always black and white when it comes to writing? The craft of Writing is all about writing more and writing often and more importantly: rewriting.

I guess good writing is almost like a marriage of quantity and quality. If we marry the two we would probably end up with a supermodel child called “Quan-lity”.

Quan-lity would be the art of producing high quality written material in great volume.

But that is easier said than done. How do you strike the perfect balance to achieve a piece of prose or poetry that offers unrivalled quan-lity? If you were training someone to be a better writer would you err on the side of quality or quantity? Or would you insist on finding the perfect balance. If so, how do you strike the perfect balance?

“Try, Try, Try again…” Mantra for success or bottomless failure?

As a child I was extremely fond of reading proverbs and popular sayings. They are perfect fodder for inspiration and self-fulfillment. But sayings have an inherent weakness; they often suffer from oversimplification. Maybe they should come with a list of exception clauses like “If…Else” Statements that computer programmers embed in their code to account for all situations?

Take for example the famous saying “Try, Try again…” Anybody who is over the age of ten has probably heard that saying. It has become the mantra of as many successful people as it has for unsuccessful people around the world. So deep rooted is it in our minds that we accept it unquestioningly and accept that the secret to success is to try, try again. But is that always the case?

Penned by Thomas H. Palmer in his “Teacher’s Manual”, this saying was made popular by W.E. Hickson in around 1840-1852. In its unaltered form it goes:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

My issue with this saying is not that it suggests trying your best in accomplishing a task, or never giving up. My issue with it is that it does not offer a stop-loss order or that it does not take other factors into account that also contribute to success.

Know when to stop and cut your losses: In the investment world a stop-loss order is designed to limit an investor’s loss on a security position. It is a safety net to save the investor and the market from incurring limitless losses. Likewise, in life too, it is important for any person to realize when he hits that stop-loss order before spending the rest of his life on a doomed project.

The question is: “Try, Try again” but until when? According to this old adage, the answer is: Never. Is that truly a reasonable advice? What if the failure ends up hurting yourself and those around you?  How far do you go on a failed project before you realize it is time to cut your losses?

For instance how long would you pursue an abusive relationship? Is it fair to say if your husband beats you, you may be able to change him by continuing to live with him and sustaining abuse? Should you continue living with him until he realizes he should not beat you? Clearly, that is not the case. Trying to persevere in this case would only be suicidal to your physical and mental well-being.

Unfortunately, Success in life cannot be guaranteed simply by trying. When we fail repeatedly or get hurt trying, it may be a good warning sign for us to stop and rethink our strategy.

Have realistic goals: The secret of being successful is not just to keep doing whatever you are doing, but to make smart, well informed decisions about what it is you will persevere to do in the first place. For instance, I am a very bad singer…I am practically tone deaf. Ask my husband he has had to endure my vocal talents or lack thereof! If I decided to become the best singer in the nation despite the fact that I have no natural talent for singing, could I do it? What if I persevered to devote my whole life to improving my vocal talents? I know even then, at best I could become a mediocre singer. But would I ever become the best singer? That is an unrealistic goal to start with and no measure of attempts would change the fact that I do not have any talent for singing. Instead my time may be better invested in something I was more suited for.Fatladysinging

Don’t go against nature: What happens when a swimmer swims against the ocean currents? Try as he may, he will eventually get defeated by the powerful oceanic currents. It is in his favor to try to swim with the currents not against them. Sometimes when you endeavor to go against the fabric of nature you are bound to experience failure.

Is it not childish to think you will succeed at a task, just by virtue of doing the same thing over and over again? A child standing at the shores of an ocean may think he may be able to plug the ocean if only he threw enough pebbles into it… but what a waste of time and energy that would be?

Know when circumstances are against you:

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When I was a child my mother used to tell me the story of the frog that jumped into a pail of milk, which was too high for it to jump out of. So the frog tried hard to swim out, and all his kicking ended up turning the milk into butter. The frog was eventually able to jump over the butter and out of the pail. This is an excellent story designed to bring the point: repetitive hard work will yield results. But will it always?

Let’s consider for a moment the frog had instead jumped into quicksand instead of milk. Would all the fighting and kicking have yielded similar results?

When circumstances are against you and you are caught in a vicious cycle of failures then it is important to know when to call quits and break the cycle before it breaks you.

In conclusion: My point is simple. In order to succeed you need a lot more than careless, unplanned, unfocused effort. I want to bring the point home, with one last story written by Acharya Mahapragya.

It is about a man who needed to make an urgent trip to a neighboring village. In his hurry he grabbed a lamp and left in the thick of the night. When he reached the forest on his way he realized to his dismay that the lamp was broken and would not light up, hard as he tried. He was tired, frustrated and annoyed with the lamp and so he cursed it all along the way. By the time he reached his destination he was tired and severely bruised (having fallen over stones and shrubs). The next morning found him in great shock when he finally realized that he had reached the wrong village and that his lamp was not a lamp after all.

It was an empty bird cage! In the heat of the moment he had picked up an empty bird cage lying in his home and walked off. While the story sounds funny and silly it is not completely untrue. Haven’t we all been that man at some point in our lives? Haven’t we all embarked on a journey of sorts with unrealistic expectations? The man expected a bird cage to shed light, and try as he did it was unable to offer any light, since it is not in the nature of a birdcage to offer light.

Try, try again is an acceptable mantra only as long as you know when to stop and try something else! Otherwise it will guide you to a life of bottomless failure.

7 reasons why poets suck; are you one of them?

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Are you a fledgling poet and an extremely “good” one at that but wondering why you are unable to keep the circle of friends you once enjoyed? Do well-meaning friends always have an excuse to avoid your lunch invitation? Are more and more members of your family enacting the Cheshire cat on the dinner table as you roll out your book of poems?  Do you constantly hear yourself talking to voicemails or phone lines going dead?

Then it is time to take this quiz. If you have answer “yes” to 3 or more points, chances are you are one of the dreaded poets people love to hate. *Scary music*

  1. You Lie constantly: You have the constant, incurable need to fabricate lofty, soaring descriptions out of every day mundane events. The innocent barbeque at your friend’s backyard becomes a playground for the Greek Gods all complete with Hermes, Zeus and Aphrodite playing tags. Washing your hair resembles the Niagara Falls thundering down your head. Picking the weeds from your handkerchief garden reminds you of the prairies complete with fairies and pixies…Get the drift? Then my friend you suffer from poetic exaggeration. Give yourself a point.
  1. You have no place for the ordinary: The chief protagonists in your poem are in a constant state of euphoria even if all they are doing is passing gas. There is absolutely no such thing as an “ordinary” day. The synonym for boring is ordinary and ordinary does not belong in your poems because poetry is all about life extraordinaire. Correct? Give yourself a point.
  1. You are time blind: Time blindness is a major sickness many amateur poets suffer from. You basically only recognize two time zones: Dusk and Dawn. The sun is in an eternal state rising or setting. Ours must be the busiest planet in the Galaxy, with people constantly racing to either go to bed or wake up! Give yourself a point and underline it.
  2. You suffer from the curious case of adjectivitis. This is a very common and unfortunate disease that most poets and writers suffer from. If you are constantly dishing out adjectives like Santa dishing out toys on 25th of December than you suffer from adjectivitis. It’s Nasty! Do you often catch yourself adding meaningless adjectives such as “bright day”, “dark night”, “hushed whisper”, “tall palm trees”…? Be honest now, you know you have done it…
  3. You are guilty of Necromancy: Are you constantly invoking the Greek Gods to do your dishes, or take the dog for a walk? Some poets think poetry is all about the exotic and the more Greek Gods they invite to their living room and share their cheap $6.00 Chardonnay, the better their poem becomes. No, No, No please let the Gods rest in peace, unless there is a genuine reason to invoke them from their resting heavens! Give yourself a point my friend.
  1. You rhyme on a dime: If you think the idea of creating music in poetry is to rhyme at any cost then my friend you are creating another reason for the rest of the world to hate us. Rhymes make up for great nursery rhymes but don’t rhyme on a dime on somebody else’s time! Give yourself a point.
  2. You are “Killing me softly” with trite sentimentality: If you catch yourself explaining your pain or sorrow with trite words such as “pain”, “sorrow”, “tear drops” and “shattered shards of your heart” then give yourself a point. Good poets stay away from expressing their sentiments in trite language instead they paint a picture. Stop crying “tears of blood” instead give yourself a point, you have earned it!

If you have answered “yes” to at least 3 out of the 7 points then you have committed the Deadly sin of writing boring poetry. You suck as a poet.

But fear not, you are in good company with “yours truly” who has pleaded guilty on all counts. And may the souls of all who died listening to our poetry rest in peace! Amen.