A Coffee, A Flirt, and Secret Friends: Writing My Novel

laptop

I struggle to see my laptop screen, and I’m sweating in the sun wrapping around me through the glass wall at Starbucks.  A couple of women in tennis skirts are sitting at the table beside me, gossiping about booster club politics and a friend, whose teenage son was busted for drinking.  I recognize them from one sports team or another.  Or maybe it’s “meet-and-greet” at school last fall.  It doesn’t matter.  They are part of the mom collective around here.  They all blend.

“Do you think he’ll lose his scholarship?”

“I don’t know, but if he were my son…”

“Well, look at the role models he had.  His parents gave him no limits…”

Gag.

Wishing I had some earbuds to block out the jabber, I keep my eyes fixed on the screen.  I’ve only just recently gotten up the courage to set up writing shop here, out in public, for prying eyes to see.  I loathe the isolation of writing in my office, and at long last, I’m out of the closet.  Inhaling the sweet, bitter aroma around me, I focus myself.

I am an author.

Unpublished, yes.  Aspiring, no.

I don’t aspire.  I do.

As I type, I feel the eyes of my local admirer on me from his usual corner.  He’s a handsome black man, with silver hair, and warm eyes.  A fixture here.  The first time I saw him, I was waiting for my caramel macchiato at the counter and he came up to me out of the blue.

“I’m Jerry.  How are you?”

“Good, how are you?”  Where is that coffee?

“I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are.  It’s a pleasure to see you here every morning.”

Forcing my mouth closed, and willing the flush away from my cheeks, I smiled politely.

“Um, thank you.”

What else could I say?  I’m a mom.  This sort of things doesn’t happen to me.  Ever.

He nodded and walked back to his chair in the corner, and went back to his paper.

Weird.  But pretty cool.

We still don’t know each other, but I say hello to him every morning now.  And wonder what his story might be.  But, I don’t ask.  He nods from his corner, shaded from the sun, and goes back to his paper with a smile.

So, without looking up at Jerry, I sip my drink and work on my novel.  Over the past two years, I’ve meandered through this story, getting to know my characters and discovering their lives in secrecy.  Soccer mom by day, fatigued wordsmith by night.

Jennifer, I wrote her into existence, and she is now a person in my life.  She is prettier than I, more wounded than I, and the sheer thought of my daily visits with her ever ending make me sad.

And Roshan.  Oh, my Roshan.  He was born from the taps on my keyboard, but really already existed long before that.  He teeters on the edge of two worlds and of sanity, and I want to save him, but I don’t know if I can.

And now, they stare back at me from the screen, pleading for me to pull them out into the light. They are about…

Saris. Fast cars. Sandalwood paste. Jack Daniels.

They are raw. They are real…to me only.  But not for long.

I keep my fingers tapping, polishing their world, crawling to the finish line carefully.  The sun has faded to a late morning glow, and the Jerry-the-man-in-the-corner is talking politics with a guy dressed in sweats and reading glasses hanging from his neck.  Neither one of them is drinking coffee.

Soon I’ll have to pack up and volunteer for center time at school.  I will close my laptop and Jennifer and Roshan will go back into hiding.  I’ll go back to quizzing spelling words and driving to soccer practice in the bright, setting sun.  Until one day soon,  neither they, nor I, will hide again.

Share Button

Be a Parent, Not a Friend: How to Say No to Your Kids

No more

Photo credit http://sharpmindmarketing.com/

As I plucked a family-sized box of Cheerios from the grocery store shelf yesterday afternoon, a shrill noise came up behind me and I jumped so much, the box jerked from my hand to the floor.  Rounding the corner was a woman with hair falling from her ponytail, pushing a cart with one hand and pulling a toddler with the other.

“But, I want it!”

“Honey, I know you do.  But, it’s almost dinner time, and you just had a cookie.”

“I. Want. It!”

“Honey, yes, but it’s not good for you to have too many sweets.  What about these?  These are good for you?”

“I. Want.  It!”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother wipe a tear from her eye.  No doubt this had been going on the whole time they had been shopping.  I pitied her, because I’ve been there so many times.  Being a parent can suck.  But I rooted for her.

Come on!  Say it!  I know you can.  Just say…

“Okay, sweetie, go ahead.  I guess one won’t hurt.”  She swept the little girl into the seat of the cart, ripped open a bag of cookies, and inserted one into the child’s open hand.  The mother avoided my gaze as they rolled past me, but the little girl smiled at me with soft brown goo and chocolate specks all over her lips.

…No.

Another one bites the dust.

“No” is a dying word among parents today.  Parenting books advise parents to redirect young kids rather than tell them no, because of the negative connotation of the word.  And I agree with that tactic as a first line of attack. But even young kids develop the skills of a lawyer (or terrorist).  And by the time they are teenagers, they know exactly how long it will take you to give in.  The problem is, by the teen years, the stakes are much higher than cookies.  We’re talking sex, and drugs and alcohol…we’re talking their lives.

I’m guilty of giving in, of trying to keep my kids happy.  And of just wanting them to like me!  But, I’m here to tell you that it is okay to say no to your kids.  In fact, it is your duty. Do you think you can do it?

Decide on your rules and be consistent

Know where you stand on issues.  Are you okay with your ten year old playing violent video games?  Will you let your teenage daughter stay out until midnight? Reflect on your own upbringing.  Do you come from a culture where parents are the ultimate authority, or one where the kids rule the roost?  Ask other parents how they deal with issues, then determine your stance.  Write it down.  This way, when an issue arises with your kid, your confidence and consistency will be apparent to your kid.

Listen to your kid

Let your kid explain what they want and why they want it.  Use active listening skills.  So your teenager says, “I want to go to Bobby’s house tonight.  Susie’s parents are cool and are letting her go.” Hear her out.  Even if you know that Bobby is popular because his parents go to sleep at 9:00 with the liquor cabinet unlocked, say, “I hear going to Bobby’s house tonight is important, and you hope we will let you go because Susie’s parents are letting her go.”  Keep emotion out of it.  Just let her know that you are hearing her pleas.

Express your decision

Tell your kid your decision with a brief explanation.  Keep emotion and judgment of others out of it. Don’t say Susie’s parents are bad parents for letting her go. Whether you say no to a new Barbie or no to Bobby’s party, it is what it is. Stay firm.

Do not engage

This is the hardest part.  When the gnashing of teeth and shrill shrieks of despair begin, show no fear. Do not negotiate with a terrorist.  I’ve learned the hard way, that if you justify your decision at this point, your kid is not going to miraculously perk up and say, “Why, thank you for protecting me, parent!  I love you.”  Your kid will latch onto your words, and pull you into the depths of anger, of glares, of tears, and of venom.  Don’t take the bait.  If your kid says, “I hate you,” go in another room to wipe your tears.

I have struggled with this myself with my kids, but I believe it or not, I actually heard these words from one my older sons just last week.

“Thank you for being a little strict. It kept me out of trouble.”

Do you agree? Do you think I’m full of it?  I want to hear what you think!

Share Button

My South Asian Parent Story

150-Chase at home 015

When I was a new wife and mom, more years ago than I’d like to count, I wandered the self-help aisles of bookstores almost weekly.  I guess I was a typical newbie at everything family, and needed support and guidance in how to deal with cultural differences, living with a man and all of his manly, loud football watching ways, and eventually the insanity of raising babies.

So, I paged through countless books until they were dog-eared and falling apart.  Remember books?  Dead trees bound into pages, with no hyperlinks or videos embedded in the text. Feeling old?

In modern times, young’uns and, ahem, mature folks, have the web to walk them through all of life’s stages, and I’m thrilled to be one of SAP-Icon-Bluethose providing some of that support.  I recently contributed to South Asian Parent, which is a resource site for women with a South Asian connection. I love the site, because it not only supports women with a South Asian connection in honoring their culture, but also shares information on universal women’s issues, like parenting, relationships, and self-care.

On the site, I share the beginning of my journey into cross-cultural life, the story which many of you already know. My husband and I have figured out our way unique way to blend our cultures and family I am excited about reaching more women now and really look forward to being a part of open and honest discussions with readers.  You don’t have to be South Asian to enjoy the site.  Jump on over there!

 

 

Share Button

Our Caribbean Cruise

DSC03677

My daughter and I are packing for a girls’ trip as I write. What shoes will we need?  How many bathing suits will we need?  She is a senior in high school, and this is going to be her big celebratory trip with friends, a tradition we try to keep for our kids.  We love to cruise, and I can’t wait to see some new ports of call, and share them when we get back home.

I’ll be burned to a crisp, and she’ll be a bronze beauty. So unfair!

So, I thought I’d share this post from 2013 when we took the whole gang on a cruise.  We have so much fun!

 

We started out our trip excitedly packing our cars to drive down to Florida.  And, yes, we have to take two cars everyone we travel for more than an hour’s ride.  Older teens rode in one car, with iTunes playlists ready to blast over the car speakers, and younger kids rode in the other, loaded up with DVDs to watch…the whole time…over and over…reciting the same lines…laughing each and every time.  There was bickering over too much talking, whose turn it was to pick the movie, and brothers crossing over into the other’s space, but overall, it was a peaceful ride.

Our little caravan braved torrential rain fall and flash flood warnings as we drove south through Georgia, but nine hours later, we arrived under clear skies in Florida.   Everyone giddy with anticipation, we checked in at the ship terminal, ready to explore the fun on the ship and ports in the Bahamas.  While waiting in line to check-in, my five year-old noticed a large group of Indians in line behind us.

“Mom, there’s Indian people over there.  We need to go say hi.  They’re our family.”

Cracking up, I replied, “Honey, not all Indians are related to us.  There’re millions of people from India.  They’re here for vacation, just like us.”

Perplexed, this sheltered Georgia child, tilted his head, looking confused.  The only Indians he has ever been around at home are related to us, or close family friends, so this was a new concept for him to absorb.  I turned to my husband and commented,

“We really have to get this child out more. This cruise will be good for him.”

We all gathered up our carry-on bags and bounced through the terminal like pinballs against escalator handrails and elevator doors, my husband leading our motley crew like a drill sergeant.  We crossed the threshold into the ship and finally got to unleash our gang into the fun that would ensue.

DSC03613

Over the course of the next four days, we mingled with crew members and passengers from all corners of the world.  The twins made friends with some Indian boys from Dubai, my husband found a new buddy who also came from South Africa, the older teens mingled with kids from New York, Washington state, and Canada.  There were a ton of Indian people on the ship, and that meant, not only did we get to eat at the huge buffets around  the ship, but we got to take advantage of the special Indian corner of the dining room, featuring comfort foods, like matter paneer and biryani.

DSC03634

The ports were a horizon-widening experience for the kids, as well.  In Nassau, we visited an exclusive resort, complete with multi-gazillion dollar yachts docked close by. But, we also drove through slums that reeked of raw sewage, where emaciated residents hung out on street corners.  We dined at a chain Tex-Mex restaurant, and walked pier where Nassau residents peddled conch shells and starfish. DSC03659

DSC03657

On the Royal Caribbean private island, Coco Cay, we visited the beach, where I played in the sand with my little boy, while the others rode the waves on jet skis.  Burying the little guy in the sand and building a huge sand castle with him were the high points of my day (Poor guy, the sun was so bright on his eyes…but he was happy).

While playing, I also people-watched.  We were surrounded by white southerners, Yanks from the U.S., African Americans, and, of course, Indians.  An older couple was parked on lounge chairs near ours, lounging under the shade of the palm trees.  The lady was fully clothed in a sari, and their grandchildren, frolicking in the water, wore shorts and tee shirts amongst kids in bikinis and swim trunks.  To each his own.

 

At the end of the cruise, we loaded our family back up into the cars, all of us exhausted from so much fun.  The kids slept the whole way home, and when we got home, dumped their suitcases out in the laundry room and our parent laundry duties began.  But, before we finished the first load of clothes, I excitedly popped the camera memory card into my laptop and relived the trip in pictures.

I can’t wait for us to do it again next year.  We’re going to cruise to another destination, though.

Does anyone have a suggestion?  I’d love to hear about awesome places you’ve been to with your kids.  Please post me some ideas!

 

Share Button