Monday, July 21, 2014

Preachy nuggets

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Mini-Him is a year away from the all important 13. His rebellious streak has tagged along since his infancy, when putting him in diapers was next to impossible. Now, asking him to do anything is next to impossible. Infact, asking him not to argue does not seem to merit even a cursory acknowledgement. How can one argue endlessly, getting lost in verbal mazes, and trapping oneself in one's own arguments? So much so, that I feel compelled to rescue him from the clutches of yet another illogical bit of self-defense. He just has to say something to everything. And that is increasing my grey hair population.

Despite all of this, sweetness and caring remain his underlying qualities...even if they show less and less through the frown on his suddenly angular face.

I've been trying to explain/direct/order/suggest/non-verbally indicate the important things that he needs to attend to daily. This summer break marks his first foray into the kitchen for reasons other than placing a food request, slamming a plate in the sink, or helping himself to an overdose of chile-limon Lays, one of the only two junk food items we allow him.

So we started out making very simple pasta. We had store bought sauce too...didn't want to scare off a possible chef with chopping and simmering. We thought to go the Sandra Lee way and keep it semi home-made. Which suits Mini-Him just fine. He was adorably unsure near the stove. We started with the basics. Learning how to turn on/off the knobs, with a hundred safety instructions. How to boil water...more safety...how to put everything he needs where it is reachable...and all those super organized actions that I cannot claim myself.

It went well and he did well...he learned how to salt foods, how much is "just right" for seasoning, how to use an oven mitt etc. Every so often he had to be warned not to fling his long arms about trying emphasize his point too close to the pasta pot. And to cut back on the drama. The pasta was eminently edible.

Once done, he just left to eat it by the comp, reading comic books. The dishes and splattered backsplash beckoned.

It was infuriating and I had to work at calming myself down...because he is only 12. And this was his first time. And he is much better than I was at that age. I knew enough to pop bread into a toaster.

I've been on his case ever since. Because I think we've been remiss. We've never told him the consequences of  "just leaving" things as they are. We threw in some more bits of preaching for good measure. The poor kid is well and truly saturated with advice. He won't look me in the eye and stated that a nutella sandwich is all he wants for dinner.

Still...those preachy nuggets were important.
Image 1*

Don't leave a mess for some else to clean up. If you don't want to waste your time with it, then make sure whoever is cleaning up your mess is either well compensated, or in total agreement with how important your time is over theirs...maybe you have an exam...or maybe you're late for an appointment. You're handing over your job...basically.

Drama has a time and place. Not everyone has the bandwidth or kitchen space for verbal and physical drama. Hand flinging/wringing with spot jumping and expressions that take away from the moment are to be held back; maybe brought forward when your favorite team is doing badly.

Look people in the eye, wait for a satisfactory end to a conversation before going back to your 
Ipad. 
You hate being dismissed before you've said your piece right? It is true of everyone! It is easier to figure out if someone is ready to end the conversation if you're watching their face. Easy to tell what a person is if you look them in the eye. And it will be infinitely easier for people to reach out and trust you if you can look at them and meet their eye! If you're in a hurry, say so. Most of the time the video clip you're raring to get back to can wait!

Staying organized saves time in the long run. I'd get a stylish shoe thrown effectively at my head if the ladies from college who are my dear friends read this one. But I've discovered through messes and repeated explanations/exclamations and my own frustration, that NOTHING beats organization. No sense in promoting anything else, and disguising inefficiency as organized chaos. It does allow for more gracious living. And Mini-Him being my child, is learning this the hard way.

Listening is everything. Folks say a lot. And it behooves us to listen. For their sake, and our own. Nothing is accomplished if everyone is talking all the time. And if everyone is arguing all the time.

A No is a No. Where did we go wrong with this one? Why is NO infused with shades of gray? How can stop mean go a little further? And how did "put that down now" become "5 minutes more? for the next half an hour??"

Greet visitors, neighbors and others who acknowledge you with more than a cursory nod before rushing off into video game heaven.  We're trying to rigidly enforce this one. By "rigidly enforcing", I mean that we are applying consequences and taking the sacred hours of video-gaming. Yes. No boorish behavior is allowed. People are to be treated with respect. Your moods, excitement and everything are important, but the moment you are required to interact with another creature, your attention is to be all "there." He is required to spend thirty minutes in the company of visitors, ask polite questions, listen patiently, and then ask to be allowed to go. At which point we let him go. If he has done his job. Also, he HAS to watch his mouth! How controversial can a 12 year old get?!

There have been a couple more since I started writing this two days ago. And I'm afraid he will zone us out. I think he is zoning us out. But it hit me that he probably will stay another 5-6 years at home before heading to college. We all (Mini-Him too) don't have as much time as we thought we did. We've said everything over and over for ages. But we're getting to a point when he can't be just anyway. He would have to accept the preachy nuggets. The hypocrisy needs to be ignored! Yes I was messy! And no...he cannot be. So there. Who said I was fair?!
**Image 2

I hope for Mini-Him to be a gracious, put together member of society. Someone who can listen and yet, stand up for what he believes in. Someone who can make it no matter what is thrown at him, and someone who can plan a course toward living his ambitions, what ever they morph into, from the current graphic artist/physicist and comic strip writer combo.

I'm tired just thinking about it. I need my ginger tea.

*Image 1 credit - "Chaos Order Post-it Papers Show Disorganized or Ordered" by Stuart Miles through www.freedigitalphotos.net

**Image 2 credit - "Herbal Tea On White Background" by phasinphoto through www.freedigitalphotos.net





Monday, July 14, 2014

Unscramble within

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The truth behind our comforting lies stays cloaked in fear. The fear forms a whiteboard against which we present our ideas, hopes...a refracting surface. A place to point to if anyone asks about ambition, hopes and dreams. A collage of "would be's if not for...".It allows us to pretend for ages. A lifetime if the need to look within stays unexamined and untended.

I've been able to pontificate about this for ages. But I realized when writing my wish list, and more importantly working on the fashion forward article and the follow up guest post by my friend and fellow blogger Shabana Feroze, that I am such a giant clucking chicken when it comes to facing ridicule and negative opinion. I knew it and tried to make the fear smaller than what it was. In short, I tried to fake it till I made it...but the only thing fake was my smile of unconcern, and secret attempts to stay on every contradictory person's good side.

by adamr through www.freedigitalphotos.net
And while I wrote about hopes for visiting Kiribati and Montana, and my hopes for a fashion redemption, I realized that the only factor that kept me from feeling better about my life in general was my "over conformist" attitude. Especially when every fiber within rebels against everything. No wonder my children are so contrary. I think I've been a mass of knots for ages. And when wondering about fashion choices, every choice I struggled against, and every decision I made was put through a mental council...a council made up of all the people in my life who would be unhappy with my choices.

Do you know the feeling? That feeling you get when you're being judged and held accountable for doing what you wanted to do? If you're a conformist who hates being one, you know what I'm talking about. The stomach dropping fear, surging rage and going hot and cold at once. Yeah. It can get that bad!

Now, I'm trying to breathe and stretch and twist it all out. Every little bit of discomfort and angst that makes a comfortable home in my body is being breathed out. Every time I ease into an asana, I put all my latent hopes into my body, and breathe out everything that is holding me back.

There will never be the perfect time to speak my mind, wear that dress I've hoped to, say what I meant to, write another book, or...yes...practice yoga.

It seems crystal clear to me, as clear as the popping in my hip indicating a long road ahead to true yogi-hood, that there is no perfect time to quieten enough to hear my own voice. The one that is constantly drowned in others' cacophony.

It must be now.

Image credit : "Beautiful Woman Practive Yoga On River in Nature by adamr through www.freedigitalphotos.net

Friday, July 11, 2014

All U Pear Ladies...Fashion sense wish come true! Thanks Shabana Feroze!

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So when I wrote my wishlist series, I put down a wish to be fashion forward. The stylish and motivated Shabana Feroze of the vibrant Silver Kick Diaries  read my wish/rant. She said that she would help me wrap my head around concepts for my body type. We went about it in a systematic way. She asked me about what exactly bothers me about my body, what goes through my head when I attempt to pick out clothes, and what exactly the discomfort entails.

I wrote her a long email explaining many things. I am my own psychoanalyst (in jest...) and told her exactly what bothered my mind when I looked at clothes, and exactly what made me uncomfortable. She has addressed everything that is relevant and has done an outstanding job of it! Thank you Shabana! I'm so glad to be sharing this on my blog and have one wish off the wish list!

I LOVE Shabana's well organized and informative guide. Practical tips too, given my mad mad life! For more inspiration and style tips, do visit the Silver Kick Diaries

Shabana's guest post : 


Anne’s Dressing issues

I know Anne has been struggling with dressing/ styling herself for some time, so I decided to help her out. I asked her to send me her most pertinent style issues via email. Since they’re quite a few, I’ve addressed them one by one in this post. The objective is not just to help Anne, but also to hopefully help other women like Anne who are busy, young, mothers who sometimes struggle with shopping and finding their style. These are the major concerns I gathered from her email:

She doesn’t want to “look ‘posey’ or overdressed or stand out.
She has a “tendency to gravitate toward safe colors, dull colors, nothing dramatic.
Her hips are wider than her bust.
She loves sleeveless clothes but has stretch marks on her arms.
Outfit options and transitioning from formal to casual.
Suitable jewelry she can wear around the toddler as he tends to grab it.
Make up options for a busy mom-on-the-go who has dark circles from lack of sleep.

So let’s begin.

She doesn’t want to “look ‘posey’ or overdressed or stand out.
I do agree with her when she says she doesn’t want to look ‘posey’, because posing implies trying to be someone you’re not. The entire concept of dressing well is to look more like who you are. You dress up to bring your uniqueness and personality through. It’s a way of letting people know who you are without having said a word. And if you learn how to do that well, you WILL stand out, but in your own quietly confident way. And you’ll love it.

She has a “tendency to gravitate toward safe colors, dull colors, nothing dramatic
Obviously, you want color in your wardrobe. So all you need to do is go shopping, and try on colored clothes to see what suits you. I’m not even going to get into all the jazz about what colors work for which complexion, because that would just be too overwhelming at this point. Just go to your favourite shop, pick up clothes in the colors you think are oh-so-beeeyootiful, tell the voice in your head that’s telling you they’re too bold for you to shut up, and try them on. Some gorgeous colors may not look that great against your skin tone but some will take your breath away. Even if the clothes themselves don’t suit you, don’t worry, at least you’ll know what colors do. If you want, make a note in your phone or a notebook about which shades looked good on you. Or discreetly take a picture of the shade. And since you already have a wardrobe full of ‘neutrals’-  black, beige, gray, you can easily pair any color with these.

Her hips are wider than her bust.
Anne is a typical ‘pear’ shape- where the hips are wide than the bust and make the silhouette look bottom-heavy. This means that she has a problem in selecting pants and maintaining a balanced silhouette. But not to worry, there’s always a solution.

Tops/ Blouses:

a.      You need to bring the attention away from the bottom half of the body, so tops with interesting embellishments on the neck, or with wide or scoop necks will do the trick. Pussybow tops look great and are available everywhere now.


b.      Look for slightly loose tops that end just above your hips. This will create balance by adding a bit of a bulk to the top half while also covering any belly bulges.


c.      The interest can also be shifted to the sleeves. Look for blouses that have different lengths of sleeves or bell sleeves, bat wing sleeves, etc. 


d.      Choose tops in different colors and prints. 


2.      Skirts:
A-line skirts are your best bet. They not only cover up your hips, but also look elegant. Look for ones that end just below the knee for the most flattering look. Avoid pencil skirts. Unless you want to look like Kim Kardashian. ;)
3.      Pants:
Boot-cut jeans, straight pants and even flared jeans are for you. Wide-leg pants are popular now. What I’d really recommend are Pajama Pants. They’re wide leg, but usually come in a natural material like cotton and linen, and have an elasticated belt. Great for busy moms. All these pants will balance out the width of your hips and thighs. But stay away from the really wide-leg or palazzo pants. Not practical if you’re running around with a toddler on your hip. Also avoid skinny jeans and capri pants. Remember that you want to slim the bottom half and bring the eye to the top half, so get pants and skirts in dark colors like black, navy and charcoal gray. 


4.      Dresses:
Again, like the skirts, go for A-line or even Empire-cut. Choose silky materials that will skim over your beautiful curves instead of unflattering ones like clingy jersey. And remember to look for embellishments at the top half, and/ or interesting sleeves. Wrap-around dresses are fantastic for pears.


5.      Jackets:
Get more jackets! These help to balance your silhouette. Just steer clear from those that end at your waist. Slightly longer ones that end just above the hips will flatter your shape.  

6.      Accessories:
Scarves are great for you. They can be worn in multiple ways and they keep the attention to the top half. If you want to wear a belt, make sure it’s a thin one.

7.      Shoes:
If you don’t have super-wide feet like mine, try pointed shoes. They elongate the legs. Heels are great for your body type. Wear them if you’re comfortable in them and you’re not standing for too long or running around with the toddler.


 Outfit options and transitioning from formal to casual.
Once you have a few of the basic items that look good on you, it’s all about mixing and matching and taking the look from formal to casual or vice versa. For example, a pretty printed wrap-around dress can be worn to pick the kids from school. At night throw a smart jacket, accessories and heels on for dinner with your hubby and his coworkers. Or a pussy bow blouse worn with an A-line skirt for a PTA meeting, and change the skirt to boot-cut jeans for dinner out with the hubs and kids.

She loves sleeveless clothes but has stretch marks on her arms.

I asked Anne to send me a picture of these and it turns out, the stretch marks are barely noticeable! Really, ladies, we’re not perfect, and that’s okay!

Suitable jewelry she can wear around the toddler as he tends to grab it.
Since the baby would pull on grab-able pieces like earrings, may I suggest flat plate-like statement necklaces? These lie flat on your collar-bone and chest, look great with most tops and add interest to your neckline and outfit. And I’m sure the toddler’s tiny hands wouldn’t be able to grab it. Bonus: You can wear small studs in your ears that match the necklace instead of dangly earrings that the baby can pull off and hurt you. Try cuffs for your wrists. Basically, experiment with jewelry that you think wouldn’t be easy for the baby to pull.





    Make up options for a busy mom-on-the-go who has dark circles from lack of sleep.
Two words: Concealer and lipstick. These two make-up items can instantly make you look fresher. Choose lippies in bold colors like deep pinks and reds, to brighten up the face. If you wear lip gloss, please, throw it away, you’re not a teenager any more. And if possible, try adding an eyelash curler and mascara to your make-up routine. But if that’s too much, stick with the concealer and lipstick. Don’t leave home without applying these. It’s amazing how dabbing just these two on can make you look and feel more confident.

My last tip: 
Take a good friend on your next shopping trip, and let her pick stuff for you to try on. Don’t censor her or tell her not to pick that blouse from the rack because that is so not your style, just try it on. Go through the entire shop, letting her pick out tons of clothes. {Or do it yourself, if you’re brave.} You never know what ‘Aha!’ style moment you hit on while trying something on. Seeing how the material, color and cut looks on you, you’ll start realizing what looks horrendous on you and what makes you look like a goddess. And once you know how to dress like a goddess, just never stop.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Give and Give, Take and Take

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The balance between give and take does not seem to exist by minute. Or hour. Or days...and it seems to me at this frustrating moment, not in years either. I do believe in the universal law of checks and balances, and often pray/hope that I won't have to wait another lifetime to acquire the good, by which time, I'm sure I would not remember or even know that it is "the good from giving" that I am being gifted. If I won't even be me, how does it matter?

And I think, this last is the point of all our personal/religious/rationalist theories...that in the end, it shouldn't matter. And that the checks and balances exist but may not be ours to witness. Or ours to benefit from.
It would then mean that we're a species as connected as we are separate. I refuse to believe that humanity evolved and continues to evolve (devolve?) at random. And at some point, what happens to one, trickles down/sideways/thru time warps etc to happen to all of us.

"Hands Holding Anything" by m_bartosch
If I refuse to help someone/give of myself/put up with **** for the greater good today, I truly do not believe that I will suffer. I think that the suffering will be someone else's to bear...not mine. But down the generations, or in a life that superficially seems separate from mine, someone will bear the result of me holding back. No matter what reason I come up with.

And that's my conundrum for today, and has been for a while. How much can one keep giving, without making a martyr of oneself, without refueling to give that much more, and without it becoming their very identity?

"Charity Gave-a-lot? Ohhh she's always there for everyone. She has such a challenging home life yet she never thinks of herself. Only of everyone else!"

There's so much wrong with this. First, that Charity Gave-a-lot cares nothing for herself, or her home, but has enough resources for the rest of the world. And where is Charity getting the resources from, that she can't try to make it better at home first? Or even, try to make herself better? I understand when folks can't set things right at home because there are too many complexities involved. And giving to others eases some of the heaviness in the heart, and the soul. But where does one draw the line? Between Charity and the home, and Charity and the world? Because Charity can't give forever. Not unless she forgets herself and decides that it is not going to matter.

And that sooner or later, all that giving will return as good many times over, and she may not see it, or know it, but it will be there, and will be there because of her.

I'm not sure that I want to be Charity, or if I can make peace with my round-about view of things. I hope I can understand this "endless giving" in a way that is acceptable.

Maybe I just need to re-fuel; maybe I just need to let go of notions that no longer serve me. But first, there needs to be a balance. Between giving, and how much one is willing to let go of while expecting something in return.

Image credit " "Hands Holding Anything" by m_bartosch through www.freedigitalphotos.com

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A sucker for love stories because....

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I don't think I come across as a romantic person. I honestly don't think much of teddy bears bearing wands with candy hearts, and rose petals sprinkled on sheets or perfumed letters (do people do that stuff still?). I know folks who love those things and it's cute...but it is not me.

Still, I can't ever ignore a good love story. For someone who lives a very utilitarian life, the shades (not necessarily 50...umm...joke folks?) of love in a book brighten my own day. I don't imagine an Adonis with speaking golden eyes doing unprintable stuff to me. Nor do I imagine myself as a flirtatious seductress, intent on leading men to a literal and metaphorical precipice. I don't imagine said Adonis valiantly defending my honor, with his heart in the act. Nor do I imagine myself as someone who will tolerate all manner of nonsense waiting for Adonis' acceptance of his one true love/object of lust (the one and the same of course!).

But I do fall in love with the sentiment. Every time. The notion of love that makes each day easier to bear. The silly fights written with such dramatic flair that unfurl mysteries about each half of a couple, characteristics that are flawed and endearing, intimacy that they fight toward, against and for. All of it makes me view the world with less cynicism and much more hope.

I understand. How can the complexities of our time be nullified/bettered with silly love stories? They cannot. But what if the protagonists of the complexities had love stories of their own? Would their choices be different? The rage that fuels the madness rampant in the world today, perhaps, might have never morphed into itself if the capacity for such intensity had been tested with love. Everyone with an agenda borne of megalomania might have directed lives differently if only they could focus outside of themselves, lose themselves in another, and work toward maintaining what they cherish.

"Designed to Heart Shape" byBlack-HardArtstudio
Of course, nothing is as simple or as simplistic. Which is why I love romances. Because they bring it all down to something agreeable. A ton of love and sex versus a murder mystery with crazies on a killing spree with good folks getting a raw deal. I'd choose the love even in real life.

Not much intellectual stimulation there, I agree. But I'm a wuss enough to want to feel good after reading a book. So now I read romances, and travelogues, and how-to books, books on herbs and beauty remedies, and books on wars with love stories in them of course. Anything that will remind me about why I need to stay positive. It is for the good things in life; the stuff that we lose sight of so easily, when we get ensnared in complexities not of our own making.

Complexities that arise from other humans' love and desire starved hearts and minds! 

Image credit : "Designed To Heart Shape" by Black-HardArtstudio through www.freedigitalphotos.net