Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So close to becoming “That Mom”

 There I was, lip quivering, tears threatening the burst the levees, face to face with my twins' Kindergarten Teacher on Parent Orientation Night five days before the first student day.  I was tip toeing ever so close to the fine line of sanity that separates the cool moms from those referred by educational professionals as “that mom”.  How did this happen???

Back it up way before the onset of those first-day-of-school jitters - you know, the anxiety!  The worrying!  The lamenting of where the time went!  Actually, I’m talking about myself here.  My kids?  Oh, they would be fine.  Aside from the forced posing for photos while waiting for the grand entrance of the bus ...

... and being bummed about the end of the “good life” that was summer vacation, they were optimistically ready to go nonetheless.

Way, way back in the spring, I had made the polite request at Kindergarten registration for my twins to attend the same classroom.  Admittedly, I thought it be a good fit all around.  They’d have each other for support and with their older brother entering Third Grade, I’d be that less scattered around the school and more available to volunteer.  It all sounded so simple, so uncomplicated.

Sometime one hot, humid late August day, I returned from my fabulous trip at the Econo Lodge to find the teacher assignment letters amongst the week’s worth of mail.  Hmm.  My twins were not together as politely requested.  Okay, call the school leave a message.  It’s a simple fix, just swap one over and be done with it … or so I thought.

I called the school back after not hearing from them.  Here’s where I learned something new.  A lot of people call the school the week before the start and that doesn’t make for a very pleasant secretary.  As if I was at a deli counter, I was relegated to being 11th in line and dismissed for the day.  Gulp!  Feeling tense but pleased with my ability to speak up, I eagerly awaited my phone call that my request had been granted – thank you very much.

Oh, the school called the next day alright – only it was the Guidance Counselor wondering about “the issue” I was having.  I replied confidently with the statement, “There’s nothing wrong with the two of them!”  (Now, as I was occupied with this phone call, my daughter was applying butterfly stamps up the front of her chest.  She had gotten the idea from seeing a segment on tattooed Olympians featuring one of the synchronized swimmers from Russia.  I wanted my children to watch the Olympics to see how hard work and determination paid off.  They seemed more impressed with the featured story on “tatts” – nice!)

Anyway, through my blubbering I managed to win over the Guidance Counselor who went to the secretary (remember her? Miss Take-a-number?) to process my request of the same classroom.  And, of course, #11 hadn’t been called yet and I would have to get back in line and wait.  

Meanwhile, I began to question my original request.  What if I was doing my twins emotional harm forcing them to be together in half day Kindergarten?  What kind of mother am I?  Was I only thinking of myself having to meet with two teachers for conferences instead of three?  Oh the questions.  Oh the self-doubt.  Oh the mixed messages on the internet.  Why did I meddle?  I could have left things be.  What was so wrong with that?

The day of the Parent Orientation night, I had not heard from the school.  Of course, I didn’t.  Remember back in the spring how I thought it was going to be so simple, so uncomplicated?  I called the school with a lump in my throat and finally, got an answer.  “Oh, we didn’t call you?”  No, no you didn’t.  Just sitting around freaking out waiting for my number!  I didn’t say that exactly, but I think my silence spoke volumes.

It doesn’t end.  Yes, my twins were now together in the same classroom with the same experienced, enthusiastic teacher as my older son had.  But, when I told my daughter she would be together with her twin, she wasn’t quite as pleased as I had anticipated.  She ran to her room screaming, “Nooooo!” 

So, there I was on Parent Orientation Night, meeting with my twins' Kindergarten teacher, trying so desperately not to fulfill my prophecy of becoming “that mom” – the one always calling the school and complaining and making ridiculous requests and then changing her mind – that one.  And here’s what brought me ultimately to tears:  My twin’s teacher is herself a twin, she has a fraternal twin sister!  She knows all about twins because she has first hand experience living it!    

The first day of school came happily – well, my third grader wouldn’t agree since he knew it was back to doing homework – but it was a happy day.  And yes, there were some quirks like the afternoon Kindergarten bus running an hour late and my husband and I having to drive our twins to school.  

By the late afternoon, I was greeted by three happy faces running off the school bus.  And in the end, that’s all that really matters!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome Destiny Allison and a Guest Post: Living Your Passion

Destiny Allison is an artist, a business woman and a writer.  Her work is collected by public institutions and private individuals internationally.  In addition to her numerous awards for excellence in art, she was also recently named Santa Fe Business Woman of the year for 2011.

In addition to being a full time artist, she is also a managing partner in La Tienda at Eldorado — a commercial complex, community center, and arts center in Santa Fe, NM.   She is represented in prominent galleries across the country and owns her own gallery, Destiny Allison Fine Art, located at La Tienda.

Allison’s first love was writing.  Her first poems were published while she was a child and she received numerous awards during adolescence.  The story of how she became a visual artist is told in her book, Shaping Destiny: A quest for meaning in art and life.  While her focus over the last 20 years has been primarily on sculpture, Allison also paints on steel using acids and natural oxidation, and in acrylics.

The eloquence of Allison's language dates back to her childhood when art was constantly discussed and debated by her father, a writer, and her mother, a painter. Born and raised in Santa Fe, N.M., Allison moved to Boston after college where she worked as a freelance journalist while raising her three children. It was there that she discovered her voice through sculpture. Predominantly self-taught, Allison apprenticed at a bronze foundry in Massachusetts, and later taught sculpture at the Attleboro Museum of Art and the Fuller Museum of Art, both in Massachusetts. In 1997, Allison returned to Santa Fe where she currently resides.

“Living Your Passion” by Destiny Allison

In a fit of anger I slammed my hand against my desk and shouted, “Can you PLEASE turn down the TV?”  The boys jumped and a minute later the movie was no longer blaring.  It was, in fact, so quiet I could hear another of my sons shooting zombies on his X-box and my husband on the phone with his mother in another part of the house. 

I gave up finishing the blog post I was writing, poured a glass of wine and settled myself into a rain-damp chair on the back patio.  I had just started enjoy a peaceful moment when a car pulled up in front of the barn.  My dogs took off after the perceived intruder, barking at full volume all the way down the hill.   I held my wine glass in both hands and blinked, trying to stop the tears from falling. Inside the big, beautiful, noisy life I had created, there was no room left for me.

My husband got off the phone and followed me outside.  His warm, blue eyes darkened with concern when he saw my face.  “It’s nothing,” I said, wiping the tears away.  He reached for my hand and we watched the dogs bounding back toward us.  “Anything I can do?” he asked.  I managed a small smile before responding. “There’s just been a lot of stress lately and sometimes the noise really gets to me.  I’m fine.” 

He nodded, and was quiet for a few minutes.  Then he suggested that I take the spare bedroom at the back of the house and turn it into an office.  I shook my head.  If I did that, I would spend time in there that could be spent with him and we wouldn’t have a guest room for the occasional visitors we so enjoyed.  He pushed me a little, but I was obstinate.  I didn’t need a room of my own.   

A few days later, a man called my gallery about a painting.  He said he didn’t have money to buy it, but he had a beautiful antique cabinet that had been his pride and joy for years. He was passionate about my work and wanted to know if I would trade with him.

I went to see the cabinet.  He was right.  It was beautiful -- heavy, rich and intricately carved.  I wanted the trade, not so much because I wanted the piece but because of how much he wanted my painting. Still, the cabinet was huge and I didn’t know where I would put it. 

For almost two weeks, I pictured it in different locations.  I measured walls and even moved some furniture around before concluding it wouldn’t fit in my home.  I stalled, avoiding his phone calls and leaving his emails unopened on my computer.  I really didn’t want to disappoint him.

Then it hit me.  If I turned the guest room into an office, I could take out the bed and bring in the cabinet.  Giddy with excitement, I left my studio early to begin the process.  Over the next few days, I replaced the rug and bought new curtains.  I moved my favorite art objects into my space and filled a vase with silk flowers.  I brought in candles, a computer, and my music library.  As the room neared completion, I heard myself telling people that I was as important as everyone else in my life.  It was a novel concept that spawned a new discipline, reignited my passion and changed my world.

Since I claimed my space, I am two thirds of the way through a novel I didn’t know was in me.  My eyes twinkle, I kiss my husband more often, and the noises of my world don’t bother me anymore. I am on fire.  I bounce up and down with excitement when my husband gets home and I can finally share the day’s progress with him.  My kids are engaged in the story and suggest plot twists and characters.  Home, again, is my favorite place.  The dishes aren’t always done.  There are piles of laundry and un-swept floors, but nobody cares.  When I am happy, my family is too. 

The trade, passion for passion, was worth more than my collector’s money ever could have been.  It gave me a new avenue for creativity, a quiet space for my heart to expand, and a room for me to be quiet. When I was willing to exchange a piece of art for a piece of furniture, I balanced my life, fed my soul and regained my peace of mind.  

Thank you, Destiny Allison, for your inspiring guest post.  You have motivated me to rethink a corner of my bedtime where my desk sits (as I don't have a spare bedroom that isn't occupied by a child).  Now, I only need to break the bad news to my husband that he needs to hang shelves and I'll be on my way!

If you are interested in following Destiny’s blog tour, check out the Tour Launch on The Muffin:

Destiny Allison is the author of Shaping Destiny. 

Shaping Destiny is the inspiring story of Allison’s life from the creation of her first sculpture to her acceptance into a prominent Santa Fe art gallery.  The book, which recounts her journey from traditional female roles to self-actualization and independence, is told with three voices: the emotional, the intellectual and the instructional.  Though she had no formal training, Allison moved quickly from small, Plasticine clay sculptures to an apprenticeship at a foundry to teaching in a small museum. Along the way, the author wrestled with shedding and then reclaiming family. To add to the extended metaphor binding her story to the theory and language of sculpture, Allison infuses an ample dose of popular philosophy in lessons culled from childhood days spent with her father. The 22 lessons at the beginning of each chapter intend to guide readers’ passage through the complexities of  clay and life; each lesson works with the idea that art is a process, as is life.

Link to the ebook:

Video book trailer:
Video of Book Launch with Author Reading:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Love Comes Later

Love Comes Later           
by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar 

I always enjoy a peek into other cultures through the experiences of a fictional character.  Almost always I am fascinated by the differences and reminded that underneath it all, we all have the same basic needs.  Love Comes Later describes characters that are vibrant, realistic and in pursuit of a need that transcends all cultural identities, happiness.  Of course, happiness, as it often seems, comes at a price.

A Description and A Review (all rolled into one):

The story begins with Abdulla learning that his wife (who also happens to be his first cousin and newly pregnant) had been killed in a car accident, the number one cause of death on his country.    Abdulla is from Qatar, a sovereign Arab state and small peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf.  His Muslim family arranges marriages with the ambition of keeping the family’s bloodlines unified.  (On a side note, I was reminded of Jeff Foxworthy’s one liner, “If you go to a family reunion to get a date, you might be a redneck.”) 

Abdulla had loved his first wife, Fatima, and never wants to marry again.  His family isn’t buying it and arranges another marriage to another cousin, Hind.  At this point, the glossary of terms located at the end of the book may prove helpful as the author incorporates many unfamiliar terms and Qatari phrases.  After an engagement ceremony, Hind plans her escape to study in London for a year.  It seems she’s not a fan of the arranged marriage family commitment, either. 

The story follows Hind to London where she befriends a fellow student, Sangita, who is an American with an Indian background.  Against the rules of her culture, Hind takes on Sangita as her roommate and a wonderful friendship ensues.  But then, Sangita’s brother, Ravi, shows up one day and here’s where the story gets juicy.   So, Hind, such a rule breaker, runs off with Ravi to India for a week or two.  But, the arranged wedding date is looming closer and Abdulla, unsure if he wants to proceed with it, decides to take an unannounced trip to London to see Hind.  Instead, Sangita greets him and tries in vain to keep Abdulla in the dark about the whereabouts of his fiancĂ©.  Meanwhile, the Summer Olympics are going on (as they were while I was reading this story which was so cool!) and Sangita shows Abdulla a good time around London.  Perhaps she shows him too good of a time.  Hind, who finally got the urgent message to return back to London, walks in on Abdulla and Sangita in a compromising position - if you know what I mean.  

So, I won’t spoil the end.  I will say that the ending honors the main characters beautifully.  Also, there are dynamic supporting characters and a glimpse into the world of the Qatari women, from lavish lifestyles to full body coverings.      

The description provided by Robyn Chausse of WOW - Women on Writing sums up my feelings about this book perfectly: Love Comes Later is a thoughtful and entertaining look into cultural differences as we follow the story of Abdulla, Hind, Sangita and Ravi--four people struggling to balance personal happiness with tradition. A literary romantic rollercoaster you should definitely add to your summer reading pile.”
Kindle E-Book: 256 pages 
Published: July 2012
Genre: Literary Fiction 
Twitter Hashtag: #LCLQatar  

Love Comes Later is available at Amazon.

 About the Author:   

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was good in many ways, since that is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to making it her full-time gig. She has published three e-books this year: Mommy but Still Me, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, and Coloured and Other Stories. Since she joined the e-book revolution, she has dreamed in plotlines.

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, PhD
Twitter @moha_doah

Currently Mohana is working on a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf and a novel based in Qatar. She believes words can help us understand ourselves and others. Catch up on her latest via her blog

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Honeymoon Never Ends ... (wink, wink)

“I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”
6:30 a.m. -  I sleepily nestle against my husband and say in my deep, sexy morning voice, “Holy Shit!  What are you still doing here?”  Leaping from the bed while cursing the alarm he never set, my husband races around the house trying to make up lost time.  On his way out the door, I yell to his back, “Happy Anniversary!”

Don’t be jealous.  Not everyone is cut out to be living this large.  Oh, the good life!  The romance, the passion, the edge-of-your-seat excitement – it’s not for the faint-hearted. 

Already this morning, I’ve enjoyed the romantic repartee of my husband’s response from the foot of the driveway.  “That’s today?”  Be still my beating heart.  He has such a way with words.  And our three angelic children greeted me soon after his departure.  “Mom,” my daughter had sung my name.  She had wanted to inform me of the poetic ramblings of her older brother.  “He’s calling me ‘Poo Poo’ in whispers!” 

Tonight, we will celebrate our 14 years of marriage in style: at the community pool with the Cub Scouts.  My knight in shining armor has informed me that I will need to prepare and bring a baked good and that he would meet me there since he’s working late.  Perhaps a toddler can let loose a “#2” in the shallow end like at last year’s event- you know, to set the perfect ambiance.

And finally, in similar fashion to our resort-filled ten day honeymoon in Hawaii fourteen years ago, we are planning a getaway next week.  Our fabulous accommodations will be three nights in the Penthouse Suite of the Econo Lodge situated with scenic views of the Cracker Barrel along Route 1, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

The “honeymooners”:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Skimpy-clothed athletes and drama? Must be the Summer Olympics!

I cannot take my eyes off everything Summer Olympics London 2012.  It’s terrible.  I’m losing sleep.  I can’t focus on anything else.  I’m suddenly so worried about people I’ve never met and, in most cases, never knew existed before this week.  Will they win gold?  Will they have a spectacular wipe out?  Will their parents sitting in the stands survive the angst of watching their kid perform?  Will they have a “wardrobe malfunction”?     

Worst of all, I’ve adopted a sports commentator voice in my head whenever I attempt to accomplish any mundane task:  “If anyone can empty the dishwasher in world record time, it’s Audry Fryer.  Four years ago in Beijing, she missed the qualifiers by one hundredth of a tenth of a second.  The pressure’s on and this is her time to make Olympic history.  And, she’s off!  Oh, that’s going to be a deduction but she can make it up here if she sticks the landing …”   

Is it the skimpy-clothed athletes?  Is it the drama, the tears of joy and the weeping of defeat?  Is it the fact that I prefer to watch other people push their bodies to the extreme while I kick back on the couch with a bowl of ice cream?  Perhaps.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go watch a sport I’ve never cared about before today.  I’ll send you back to Bob Costas: “There you have it, another solid performance by blogger Audry Fryer.  Last week’s post about Fifty Shades of Grey collected over a hundred pageviews.  We’re still awaiting the results for this post.  Stay tuned.”