Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013 Transforms

Looking back at 2013, it's a year of transformations.
For myself, I started in one place with a specific mindset, but somewhere tracks changed and I ended up in a different place. It's definitely better, but not what I imagined in January.

It hasn't been easy since there were lots of dark moments during the year, and one was especially painful as it was related to a young person close to us. However, that traumatic experience too led us to a place of transformation and hope.

Lesson 1 - Believe in the Positive

I attribute a lot of the transformations this year to the power of positive visualization. I finally read "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne, after seeing it lying next to me at the library. I had avoided the hype years ago and decided to pick it up.

The biggest message is to believe the desired state exists now. I'm a pretty positive person, but the difference was believing in the change. I was writing down the things I wanted, but the Secret is to believe you already have them. That was something different for me, and felt it was effective.

I learned to dream big too. I remember 20 years ago, I couldn't dream big at all. I was in such a tunnel and couldn't look beyond forwards and backwards. Now, I'm in a place where I could see left and right, but I didn't know there was an up. So, it's a matter of lifting the ceiling and seeing new possiblities.

Lesson 2 - Expect Change

The only thing consistent is life is change. We can't rely on consistency as much as we think we can. Life changing events can occur and we should not assume our lives can't change instantly. We use building blocks to stack pieces of our lives together and it doesn't take much to knock over the tower. However, we pick up the blocks and build a tower again. When that tower does topple, we have to look at which pieces will build the strongest foundation for us. It's not always the ones we think.

Lesson 3 - Look Beyond Your Belly Button
Stop the navel gazing and bemoaning your life. See what you have in your life. There were days when I was stessed, and I was grateful for a colleague who made a funny joke and made me laugh. It's not all bad. Really.

I'm full of hope and optimism for 2014 and know the lessons of the previous year will help ground us.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Echoes from The Sound of Music

There’s been a bit of an uproar lately with country/pop/American Idol star Carrie Underwood tackling the role of Maria in a televised stage version of “Sound of Music” This has generated such a dialogue among fans, and unfortunately hate tweets for Carrie.

“The Sound of Music” is such a culturally iconic movie and it has a sense of sacredness about it. It’s not just in the US, but globally.

  • If at any time someone needs to depict the most uplifting and positive portrayal of Hollywood, flash to Maria spinning her skirts to the “Hills are Alive” with that amazing pan of the open space.  
  • In Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things,” the main characters are at a viewing of the movie when a critical event occurs. I always remember how Maria and the children were described having “peppermint voices” in contrast to the harsh realities for the characters in the book.
  • We sang the songs in school, learned about Rogers & Hammerstein in music classes. Now that I’m thinking about it, I had done a report in elementary school on Rogers & Hammerstein and sketched the scenes from the movie.  My father had the double record album and there were movie stills and as a child, I gazed at this forever wondering about the Von Trapp children. I wonder how many future puppeteers were inspired by this movie.

We visited Austria years ago by car from Germany. We drove through beautiful landscapes and we gasped at the breathtaking mountains. I kept gushing “Wow, I feel like I’m in the Sound of Music.” When we arrived in Salzburg, Austria, we hit the Sound of Music mecca. I had forgotten that Salzburg is where the story took place and the movie captured all of the local elements. There was church, the gardens, the mountains.. and Salzburg knows this. They offer full and half day tours to see all the sites where the movie was filmed. 

While walking around the town, I came across small beautiful flowers along a hedge. I realized they were Edelweiss, clean and white. I took few steps further and entered the garden of the Dwarves. I started telling my husband, “This is it! this is it! This is where the kids marched and stepped to the top of the staircase!” It was like I had been there in a previous life.

When my daughter was 3 years old, I thought it’d be fun to play this movie for her alongside the TeleTubbies and Disney movies. She loved it so much that she wanted to watch it every day for 3 weeks. Every. Day. For three weeks. Let that sink in.

The first few times, we would sit  to watch, and friends would walk in and sit down too. When we got tired, she threw tantrums. She wanted specific scenes.  She kept crying “when he has a haircut!” and I replied no one gets haircuts.  We realized that when Maria first enters the house to meet the children, my daughter thought it was the father (with a haircut) who opened the door, not realizing it was the butler. Once we drove by an old cathedral in NY and she asked if Maria was there. When she was about 6 or so, we went to see a local stage production. During the show, when Maria and Captain came back from their honeymoon, she asked if Maria had “a baby in her tummy now.” Yes, SOM raises other family issues we never thought about.

One thing I noticed during our 3 week SOM marathon, the children in the movie acted extremely well. They were crisp in their delivery, and even when there was no dialogue, their expressions were on target. The story is very tight, and the music is absolutely creative, which make this film so durable.

Question on the Plot

I do have one qualm with the overall storyline. The youngest child is 5 years old, which means the mother had died at the most 5 years prior. We understand the father has issues resolving his grief and opted for repression and denial as coping mechanism. Other than the 2 younger children (aged 5 and 7), everyone should have reasonable memories of mother and the happier times when the house was full of music. It seems they all just erased the mother. Of course it's cleaner to remove the references to mother, and let Maria step forward without handling baggage of the previous relationship. Otherwise, this turns into an issue of “Nannies Gone Wild.”


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adventures in Roller Blading and Parenting

She got a pair for Christmas and after few exchanges for sizes and styles, we were all set. We strapped on all the protective gear to knees, elbows and wrists. We figured out how to adjust the skates. We're ready to roll!

At first, she didn't know what to do and asked me to walk in front and be pulled along.

I said, "No way. Move your feet. Push off and glide." Why would we get blades -- so I can pull her along? She hobbled with one foot in front of the other out of the garage and onto the driveway.

My heart stopped whenever she faltered. I warned her of rocks and imperfections in the asphalt. She would laugh, but teetered backwards with squeals. However, my arm was always there to catch her around the waist or the shoulder until she gains her balance.

She did her stumbled up a little slope on the driveway. When she went on the decline, she picked up speed. She had good momentum going and was excited. She didn't need help. Her head was up and arms in a ready stance and she was moving quicker than I was.

That's when I said, "No you're not controlling it. You're just going with momentum."

I pulled her back and forced her to slow down and move her feet. I reminded her she didn't know how to stop so it wasn't good to keep going until she crashed into car or the house.

While teaching a 12-year-old to roller blade, I felt like every metaphor and aphorism about motherhood was coming alive at that moment.

1. Parents are there to catch you. She can move confidently knowing I'm right there when she wobbles backwards.

2. Parents are not there to pull you along. You've got to push off on your own and move your own feet.

3. Parents are going to pull you back when you're just going downhill, riding on pure momentum and speed, and not your own volition or skill. It's exciting for just a few moments, but you'll crash into something.

4. Parents will get beat up. My right foot was run over by the blades, I was kicked in the right shin and my arms were scratched from holding her up by all those velcro pads. But like everything else, you keep on doing what your doing to get kid moving.

We just had one session in the driveway and I'm confident she'll do well in no time.

Next challenge -- pull out my roller blades from the basement where they were buried 12 years ago!

Monday, May 27, 2013

"The Great Gatsby" Review

As a fan of Baz Lurhmann's "Moulin Rouge," "Romeo + Juliet" and "Strictly Ballroom," I was excited to see this movie. As someone who's been obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories and the  20's and 30's for the past year (reading Anais Nin & Henry Miller right now), I was thrilled to step into this era and writing.

I have to make the disclaimer that I haven't read "The Great Gatsby" since Mr. Boyd's 10th grade English class. And, frankly, I didn't like it back then. Daisy Buchanan seemed like one of the worst heroines in literature - fluffy, flighty and shallow. Jay Gatsby seemed too stuffy and repressed to be "great."  I was confused by the end scene with the cars and hit and run. I think we might have watched the Robert Redford version in school, and I don't think that helped.

With that said, I enjoyed the movie. I adore Carey Mulligan from "An Education," and she helped Daisy become a multi-layered and complex character. We could understand her struggle with conforming to demands of society and accepting her own emotions. Leonardo was intense and vulnerable as Gatsby, which made him more than the aloof shadow lurking in the windows. And, Tobey Maguire. Please. He's perfect. Though the unshaven writer at the typewriter harkened images Ewan MacGregor in "Moulin Rouge," but that's the director's actions.

Baz Lurhmann definitely made this movie grand and visually enticing. By the way, I'm grateful there was a non-3D version of the film. I'm sick of 3D movies and frustrated with "Life of Pi" for being 3D. Yes, it's wonderful creative challenge for all, but it's a major headache and I feel distanced from the screen. The movie wasn't as crazy as "Moulin Rouge," but still captivating. I did like the soundtrack and especially the Jay-Z added a pulse to certain scenes.

The parties were definitely lavish, but perhaps Lurhmann should've consulted Real Housewife Adrienne Maloof for outrageous party ideas.

By the way, the Daisy Buchanan fashion collection is amazing. Of course, I learn now it's all Prada. I wanted to reach through the screen and grab her jewelry and dresses! The one with the white crystals she wore to the party was genius and sublime. And, the overall theme of this movie is extramarital connections.

For Bollywood fans, Amitabh's appearance is quite short. So, don't go expecting a lot of screentime. But, as always, he delivers.

Returning to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I'm even more in awe of him. A story that is almost 100 years old is still luring and charming audiences. The story is the backbone of this movie, while everything else is its interpretation by the actors and the directors. 

Parental Comments
So, now that my daughter is 12 and this movie is rated PG-13, she's informed me that her friends have seen the movie and are reading the book. Well, bravo to the friends reading the book in 6th grade. I would have recommended they start with another Scott Fitzgerald story like "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" or something with less complex characters.

As for the movie, there are party scenes that are not appropriate for the tweens. I don't know if they would fully grasp the inference of "humping noises" in another room, but the overindulgence of alcohol, drugs and promiscuity is obvious in those party scenes.

Personally, I don't see the value of this movie being seen by a younger audience. My message to my daughter is that movies and books will always be there. They're not going away, and when you get older you'll get more out of them. There are books I read in my early 20's that are more meaningful now in my 40's.

It's hard when you're young to be patient and wait for the future. It's hard to know your friends have seen a movie that you can't see. However, as  parent, I don't want to be pushed by Hollywood, media or other parents who do not have the same beliefs I do. I know my parents would not have allowed us to watch this when I was in 6th grade; we were told to leave the room during "Three's Company." We'll just put this movie on hold for another few years and watch it after she reads "Gatsby" in school.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The F Word - Feminism

This week we watched the documentary on PBS "Makers: Women Who Make America" and the videos can be found online. It's about 3 hours and I think I only caught part of it, so I'm excited the rest are online. My daughter did not watch it with me, but I'll have her watch this.

For me, I had a feminist awakening in college with my women's studies classes, which clearly defined situations. While watching this documentary, I remembered all these women from history, as well as the history we lived. I loved seeing Pat Schroeder's biography and miss her voice from the political arena today. It was inspiring to see this video because it reminds us of how recent the women's movement is in historical terms and the advancements that happened quickly. Once one  door was opened, others could follow through swiftly.

I'm proud to be a feminist and it comes down to a single idea: Feminism is giving women the choice to do what they want with their lives and not as it is decreed for them by society. If they'd like to be full time homemaker/stay at home mother, go for it. If they want to run a company or start their own business, they can. If they'd like to join the military and fly fighter jets, they should. It's their choice of how they want to live their life. That's it.

I'm dismayed by the next generation of young women who say "I'm not a feminism, but.." and they live their life enjoying the benefits of feminist movement. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, says she's not a feminist. It's ironic when she's the female engineer and corporate executive. The early feminist movement fought hard for women to be accepted into science programs (there were limited quotas for women's admission). Plus, it was a challenge to be acknowledged seriously in the workplace. I don't know where she comes up with the "militant" feminists and "chip on shoulder" statement. Seriously, I'm not sure where she's seeing that - maybe there was an overly aggressive Women's Studies student in her dorm? I think we were all overly enthusiastic when we finally understood. By making this kind of statement, she's playing into the stereotype that feminists are militant and she's distancing herself from "those type of women". This is a crucial move on her part because it's doesn't threaten men. Maybe it's her own survival technique.

Frankly, "well behaved women seldom made history." Women had to be stronger and louder to be heard. Of course that made them "militant" and "lesbians" and "sluts" and any other name men could use to denegrate women to their "role."

When the next generation of women say they don't believe in feminism or think the world is just for all, they need to pick themselves up and walk over to another part of the world. Wait a second. Actually, sexism is still alive and well in the US. We saw that on the night of the Oscars with Seth MacFarlane's jokes about women's bodies and sexuality; there are a ton of articles out there but here is link to one that talks about "sexism fatigue"and how we don't even notice it. It was unacceptable and offensive, especially for a show. Unfortunately people thought he was funny because he had that charming smile on his face. (We were extremely offended by the 'boob song' when we have a 12 year old daughter watching the show. I thought Oscars were supposed to be family friendly?)

One of the sites/organizations that I follow regularly is Miss Representation. The film itself is astounding and enlightening (I saw this on OWN, but it's a must-see for all, men and women). I saw  films in college about portrayal of women's bodies in the media, and I believe I did a paper or two about this topic. However, this film made me realize that it hasn't changed much in 20 years and has potentially gotten worse. Now, as a parent, it's more alarming to see the sexism and "sexuality for sale" in the media.

Even though we're progressing socially, professionally, and academically, there are still reminders around us that we're still being considered "the other" and not part of the whole.

In one breath we can say we've come a long way, but the struggle is not over. Women are still held hostage by religion, by economic conditions and by political strife in different parts of the world. Like Hillary Clinton said, "women's rights are human rights" and should be treated as such.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Name It

With Quvenzhane Wallis coming into the spotlight, she brought her complex name into the media spotlight. There's been some discussions about media dubbing her "Little Q" to her directly. This shouldn't be a big thing when Jennifer Lawrence is now J Law, and you have Brangelina. On the other hand, here's one article about the importance of your name and owning it.The author brings forth this quote:

“Give your daughters difficult names,” Warsan Shire wrote. “Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right … Give your children difficult names, so the world may learn how to unfurl its tongue in the direction of our stolen languages.”

Well, I'm one daughter who received a difficult name. Growing up in the US, when the substitute or new teacher paused while reading the attendance, I knew it was my name. It's fairly easy once you've understood how it's pronounced. Ye, I've heard all sorts of variations - Ashoni, Ashina, Ashanti, Sheena. When people asked if I had a nickname, I always said no. "Ash" reminded me of a plate of dirty cigarette ashes. In the digital age, I've accepted the nickname Ash or Ashi since it's easier to type.

Indians tend to call me Ashwini, since Ashini is so unique. So, my first comment is "no W". It's a fine name, but just not mine. So, they're just as confused with my name and usually call me Ashwini anyway.

Professionally, I haven't had any noticeable issues with my name. When I introduce myself on calls, I usually say "I'm Ashini, etc." I've learned to take a pause because some people thought it was Mashini. Recently I acknowledged a client who said my name perfectly out of the gate. He joked that he noticed one of the other team members calling me all sorts of variations on my name. When that happens, I take it as a flaw on the person's side - not mine. I have no problems saying my name.

With that said, I've had fake names in my back pocket if I don't feel like spelling or explaining my name to the hostess at the restaurant who just needs to put my name down or the barrista who has to write on a cup. I used to use "Ashley" or "Jeeni" (off my maiden name Jani). When I got married, I hijacked my husband's nickname of "Sandy" since I know I've started acknowledging that one when the hostess calls us.

Last week, I noticed something unusual for me. I was travelling for work and was asked by the Starbucks barrista holding a cup and marker, "Can I have your name?" I responded "AJ" and that worked. I loved it! I don't know where it came from. Those are my initials for about 3/4 my life, so it makes sense. However, it was buried and just came out when I was away from home and alone.

So, thanks for allowing me to indulge in my own name for a bit. But I think that's my response to 'give your daughter's difficult names". You may give her the name, but how she chooses to wear it will be up to her.

On that note, I love that Annika has been specific about the pronounciation of her name since she was little. She's Annika - rhymes with Monica and Hannukah. She's been called Ann-ika or A-nika, which are common pronounciations. Then, she surprised us by using "Nikki" as a avatar names.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lyrics Gone Wild

I started blogging when my daughter was 4 and I captured all those delightful moments of being 5 and a princess. Now, she's on the brink of 12. We're entering a new phase of everything!

She's into the boy band One Direction. I don't mind them - cute British boys with fun haircuts and their lyrics are inspiring for young girls.

One Direction: "What Makes You Beautiful":
You're insecure,
Don't know what for,
You're turning heads when you walk through the door,
Don't need make-up,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough..

In a time when there's a need for perfection and eating disorder, it's important to have a cute guy say that directly to you.

On the other hand, I'm greatly disturbed by the songs out there and the lyrics. I've told her for years that it's important to follow songs that have good lyrics. I point out unnecessary words that are repeated just for the sake of filling a song. Now, songs lyrics are just sexually edgy for no reason. I know we have the parental warnings on the rap and hard rock songs. Kids would have to find a way to obtain those to begin with. I'm focusing on songs that are played on Top 40 pop stations.

People say 'Don't let your kids listen to it" if you don't like it. Of course I can change the station in the car. But, I have no control over what the bus driver plays (usually just pop station) or what kids have on their iPods at lunch time. Or, the ice skating rink plays pop radio or a store at the mall. So, I was suprised early (3rd or 4th grade) by her knowledge of pop songs. And, now in 6th grade, I'm desperately trying to catch up and understand what's hip.

I know we had Madonna in my generation - the fuss over "Papa Don't Preach." But I think you could fairly focus on Madonna and George Michael for the hypersexual lyrics.

Here they come. Seemingly innocent pop stars. Songs that have a catchy rhythm, "good beat you can dance to," and it's on commerical radio and TV. The songs below are ubiquitous.

Marroon 5 and Christina Aguilera "Moves Like Jagger"
Take me by the tongue
And I'll know you
Kiss til you're drunk
And I'll show you
I've got the moves like Jagger.

Rihanna "S and M"
‘Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But chains and whips excite me.

Bruno Mars "Paradise"
Never had much faith in love or miracles
Never wanna put my heart on deny
But swimming in your world is something spiritual
I'm gonna get every time you spank the night

Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah
Cause you make feel like, I've been locked out of heaven

The Bruno Mars song disappointed me because I really like this song and Annika and I sang it together in the car. It has a old school Police feel to it, but really heart felt. I had a problem with the word "paradise" because it's 3 syllables and it should be 2 like "heaven," and we talked about it. And, I'm a dork who thought he was saying "your scent takes me to paradise", until I looked this up.

I would find some Nikki Minaj lyrics, but I really don't have time. She's just bawdy and rude, yet dresses like a cupcake which attracts young girls. I understand the artist's right to self expression, but when you've crossed over into the mainstream, pay attention. She's well aware toddlers are singing "Super Bass."

There's a small light in the tunnel of madness. We love Kidz Bop. We just downloaded the latest Kidz Bop and guess who's on there - Bruno Mars! So in "Paradise", they replace the words with G-rated lyrics like "your love takes me to paradise." Seriously, why couldn't they have done that in the first place? Bruno, you know it's going to be on the radio and your grandma and everyone is going to hear it.


Dignity Lost - Addendum

I forgot to add to my other post. There's a great quote by Gold Meir that's been coming to mind a lot recently.

“Once in cabinet we had to deal with the fact that there had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One minister …suggested a curfew; women should stay home after dark. I said, “But it’s the men who are attacking the women. If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay at home, not the women…”
- Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir

This says it all. Why are all women being punished due to the actions of a few men?

It's like the attitude that is rising now after - Don't tell women how not to get raped. Tell men not to rape. Understand where the root cause is and work on that. All we're doing is a putting a band aids on the wounds, but we need to take away the knives that are hurting.

I also was disturbed this week by an article written by a father of young girls. He's brought more issues to light and more fears, acknowledging the culture has changed for this generation. Technology has made it too easy and anonymous. The pop culture now has more open sexuality and graphic lyrics. (New post coming!)

However, reading this, my thoughts are "Where are the boys' parents in this?" Why are their alarms of conscience not ringing that this isn't right and girls should not be treated this way?  You can work on preventive measures for the girls, but you also need to take preventive measures by working with the boys from the time they're young. They're succumbing to peer pressures and losing their own moral compass.

One of the key judges of a character is what someone does when they think no one is watching. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do it. If you know you're better than that, you should act like it.

By the way, there's a brilliant video floating around from Modern Primate blog that is honest and real talk about the rape culture and young men. (Start at 2:00 to get to his real argument). I found it refreshing to hear a man just speak plainly about this.