Friday, January 25, 2013

The Capital Letters Behind Your Name

So the other day in a casual conversation with parents over a lunch outing, the topic of education comes out with something or rather to do with what it is that I am doing with my life.

My mom basically declares that she has no idea what I studied for the past decade.

I admit I have earned multiple degrees which are not exactly part of a streamlined process. Nevertheless, the exchange went something like this (not in English, I should add):

Me: “What do you mean you don’t know what I studied?”

Mom: “I know you went to school for all those years, but whenever someone asks me for what, I have to say I don’t know.”

Me: “Are you kidding me?”

At this point lots of things go through my mind as I am forcing myself to stay calm and patient about this. After all, my parents are immigrants (just like me).

The question of “What are you doing with your life?” is not the same as one typically asks when they want to communicate disappointment or lack of understanding as to how a perfectly good kid turned out so failing unsuccessful in their professional life.

To my parents, that literally means, what are you doing? What do you do at work as a Business Analyst, or a Staff Attorney, or a Researcher, or a Human Resources Manager? These position titles are foreign to them. Industry terms like branding, litigation, prospects or employee engagement programs might as well be alien speak from Mars.

They know nothing about the higher education system in the United States. They’re lucky (boasting here) that they never had to fill out a FAFSA or request an application for a private student loan. I’m not even mentioning having to make the choice of which institution will yield the most successful results for my child. I did it all on my own.

Once it was clear that I no longer wanted to be a starving architect to follow in my dad's footsteps, they never had to worry about what major I wanted to study or what that meant for my employment prospects or personal sanity and social status. We all (me and my parents) attended at least two of the following graduations. However, BBA, JD, LLM, MPA are just a bunch of letters to them. To be fair many folks including non-immigrants also don’t know what some of these stand for.

During that sudden declaration from my mom, however, I couldn’t help but try to backtrack my life in the past ten years at 16x speed to remember a glimpse of at least a statement or a discussion about my educational pursuits and the clearly reasoned purpose for them. In my mind, I had a few of those conversations and announcements. Apparently, my mom had none.

In this speed memory track, what I realized, however, was that all she meant was that it was about time that she knew something about it. May be she just didn’t want to bother me with these “silly” questions before (typical of her thinking), but she really wanted to know.

After 10 years of holding on to those questions, can I really blame her for wanting to find out already once and for all? Even if it was for the sake of having an answer to that very important question any parent is asked: “What does your child do for a living?”

So forceful patience turned into,”O.K. let’s have a fun lesson in this.”

I proceeded to explain each and every degree, decipher each and every capital letter and hopefully brought her up to speed with even a glimpse of some future plans. She was beaming like one proud mama. And that has made all the difference.

I should quiz her soon. May be a pop quiz? :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Who’s in need of a fresh start?

I can just feel it.

The beginning of the year! 2013 baby! We made it through the end of the world! Woohoo! Time to begin the new calendar! Make it the way we want it. Let’s make our own rules from now on!

2012 is now history. The weird spring like weather in the middle of January is the present. Fresh new stuff, bald, beautiful and courageous, is the future! Any new year should feel just like this one.

Can you tell that I’m excited about this year? I am! I really can’t pin point with certainty as to what brought on these feelings. Yet, I am!

So far, nothing major has changed except for this feeling. It feels exactly like that moment when you open a window to let in some fresh air, or step out of the NYC subway to get the first morning sun reflections from the skyscrapers. It feels new, in the midst of many old and same stuff.

I am starting to see it all around me as well. One friend started “My Running Experiment” inspiring many friends and acquaintances to start running this year, may be even do a marathon. 5k? 10k? You betcha! She will be running in the NYC Marathon this year!

Another friend confessed that he has been baking this whole weekend. For not reason what so ever. I call that a great new hobby! Now all he needs is to keep taking pictures, writing about it, may be even setting up a blog or a facebook page. I will definitely be a fan!

What are you doing this new year?!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What a welcome to Northern California!

My fellow visitor and I gasped at the fluffy colorful loofas lying gently on top of the thick cotton towels, one for each guest, stacked on the pillow of freshly pulled out linen, pillows and an animal print cover. We tried to argue about taking over the bedroom, but failed. We most arduously tried not to wake up too early, not to be too loud in the mornings, and to close all doors as to not let the breeze through. The little hassles of communal living were a fresh change of priorities.

I haven’t met a more eager to please hostess (other than my mom), as she opened a container of home-made, first time cooked, crepes which were delish with neatly cut strawberries and blackberries organized in their own tiny plastic containers. She most willingly made us eggs, as we prefer, and laid out two kinds of bread. A whole pan of chocolate brownie was waiting patiently for our first bite. Let’s not forget the numerous choices of earl grey and fruity teas in silky bags. And this was only our first breakfast!

Our hosts were generous with their time, gas (for the car) and attention. The first day of the weekend was spent eyeing the first glimpses of the Pacific waves and aviation history.

In light of the drizzle we opted for the bond movie and were busy discussing the best candidate for the ideal James Bond (past, present and future).

We lucked out with blue skies peering through the grey morning clouds as we headed to discover just some of San Francisco for Day Two. With fancy Philz coffee in hand we debated on the art of ever present murals throughout the city.

After greeting the Buddha of the Japanese Tea Garden we indulged in some rice cakes and other treats.

A group photo (of 4) was attempted with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

We tried to communicate with the swans of the Palace of Fine Arts, but we clearly did not know the language. The City Lights Book store landmark was a pleasant cultural diversion for the soul and mind. The lively chat of movies at Bella over house red wine and house made pasta was a smile-full finish to that evening.

The vast ocean skyline, breeze and friendly seagulls and squirrels welcomed us to Monterey on Day Three. After much shopping done, we headed for our try of local sushi. As always our eyes were too hungry for our stomachs and someone had to eat the leftovers.

For the finale of Day Four and a special Birthday celebration for my fellow visitor we opted for the vineyards of Napa Valley. The day officially started with the cultural clashes of dishes and tastes and a happy palate at a downtown Napa bruncherie. Prolonging the day’s festivities was held at an even more local castle where an émigré from Sienna (as in Italy) chatted us through our wine tastings.

Finally, the birthday girl had a chance to be embarrassed and blow out the birthday candle caught in a panna cotta of a busy tapas restaurant.

In just four short days, five wine tastings, over 12 Yelp check-ins, hundreds of miles driven, hundreds of dollars spent during shopping, thousands of miles spent flying it was a most lovely weekend and welcome to our hosts' first marital home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"The good old Soviet times..."

When I was about 10, like any kid at that age I wanted my very own bike. I was tired of having to borrow one for just one ride around the block from neighbors. So at 5 feet tall, with my curls in tow, and big pleading eyes, I declared my demands to my parents.

But this was not just any kind of bike that I wanted, this was the supreme hot item of the then Soviet Union: the “Аист” (~Aist, translates to Stork (I have no idea how they came up with that name).

This is a famous brand manufacturing bikes since 1947. They seem to be popular even to this day. At the time, I and anyone my age who did not have one, almost salivated at the site of it as an odd kid with a blaze expression strolled passed on one.

So how does one go about getting something one wants in the Soviet Union?

Well one way was with the help of someone’s favor. Since my parents did not intend to pull any connections for such a child’s whim, I was left with waiting.

Waiting and calling the store. Every day. Waiting to see if they received any additional shipments because there was only one bike store in the entire city, and they were out. This went on for the whole summer. Can you imagine how long of a wait that is for a ten year old? A whole summer waiting for a bike?

Well, my patience ran out. Otherwise, my attention became focused on something else, and I stopped calling. I stopped waiting. Eventually I forgot about it. A little over a year after that, there was no Soviet Union. A year after that, my family moved to the United States.

Where am I going with this?

20 years later. Déjà vu. I have been patiently waiting for my birthday to get a gift card to get an iPhone 4s. While my demands may have grown more particular, as I would only want this phone and only in white, the process does not seem to have changed.

After spending some time at an ATT retail location, the outcome was this: I paid for and technically bought a black iPhone 4s, but I will be waiting for the white one to be received in stock at which point I will exchange the black one for the white one.

What does the ATT rep tell me when I call today to check status? “We don’ t have it in stock yet, call back tomorrow.” Waiting. Again. Having to call, every day. Again.

Communism, shmonunism.

That’s the moral of the story (with the added touch of the “Аист” and the “good old times” nostalgia.)

It looked something like this:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Table for one, please.

I smiled across the table, even though there was no one there to see it. Do you really need to smile only for others? I think once in a while, you deserve to smile just for yourself. No, I had not gone crazy. I had, however, enjoyed minutes of solitude, as I was eating out all by myself for dinner this evening. And I loved every moment of it.

What is wrong with dining by yourself? Is it really such a taboo? I’ve come to realize that there are some things that I took for granted as a single person. Things I now miss. Sometimes. Going to the movies by myself is one of those things. Having dinner alone at a restaurant, is another. I’ve always felt empowered by these activities. Perhaps because I felt I was being different. I am one of those social butterflies and so finding a dinner date was never a problem. Once in a while, however, I just simply didn’t want one.

Now that I am far from single, there is even a higher feeling of empowerment. An enlightenment? A luxury, even. How often do you find yourself surrounded by no one particular? (The staff and other patrons of the restaurant do not count). I am surrounded by people, decisions, activities, to do lists, to accomplish lists, to follow up lists, to pay lists, all the time. Having that “me” time is simply priceless.

I still found myself asking (and I’m sure whoever is reading this does also): “Why would I go to dinner by myself if I have a perfectly good husband at home waiting for me?” Indeed, why would I? Because none of my friends picked up the phone when I called them? No, that’s not it. Simply. Why not?

I enjoy moments of solitude. Does that make me an insane person? I don’t think so. If anything I am probably at the height of saneness. I sometimes even wonder whether I would make for a good bald monk in a bright red robe. A realization of the fact that I just like to be by myself once in a while is a simple acceptance. I feel lighter thinking about it.

And for a moment I even felt like I needed to make a point out of checking my phone, or reading a book, or looking through my huge bag finding some odd thing or another. I needed something that would say that I’m busy, even if I’m by myself. But why? Why can’t I just get lost in my own thoughts? And so I did. Call it a free therapy session. Well I guess it wasn’t totally free since I still had to pay for the food, but you get the gist.

I even tried overhearing other people’s conversations. You know, something to do. It’s quite easy when you’re by yourself. Especially when you have a phone or kindle, or in my case a notepad that you make it look like you’re playing with as you’re waiting for the food to arrive. It just wasn’t very interesting. (At least those conversations at that time weren’t very interesting to me.)

My only challenge then was actually ordering food for one. It is truly a challenge because whenever I am out with people or another person, we always share. So how much food should I order just for my individual self? Inevitably, I ordered a little more than I could handle. You live and learn.

For those that are concerned that I left my husband at home hungry. No worries. I took food to go, just for him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The spirits of festivities are here!

It is that time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which I think only happens in the United States ("that time of year" that is). I am excited! Aren’t you?

Hold on to your shopping bags, and let the festivities begin.

Many people who are not catholic, or religious, or “American” (i.e., the immigrants – my favorite peoples) say that it is their favorite time of the year. How can you NOT love it!?

Lights are popping up on rooftops. Store displays are complete with a mix of Christmas and Chanukah decorations. Luminous trees are peaking in from windows. Rows of green fur and that forest pine cone smell are lining up the sidewalks.

There are tons and tons of commercials with that holiday theme of snow, red cars, shopping, shopping and more shopping. There’s the Victoria’s Secret show that makes most women of America skip breakfast, lunch and dinner the day after. Did you get your angel wear yet?

There are also the Hallmark and Lifetime channels that turn into a 24/7 operation of cozy, get under the blanket and have some hot chocolate movies. It is as if this is the only time of year that families and loved ones reunite. It is the only magical time of year where people suddenly start living the life they’ve always wanted, but now they realize that nothing is happier than the life they’ve lived all along.

What makes this time of year even more festive is all the birthdays. Mom’s birthday, friend’s birthday, friend of a friend birthday, toddler twins of a friend birthday, etc. You get the point.

There are a lot of birthdays, including my own. And I am going ice-skating, in NYC, in the park, with the huge center piece of a Christmas tree, surrounded by hundreds of crafty, smoky, glamorous, luminous, put a smile on your face booths. Yep, it’s Bryant Park. Can you think of a better way to celebrate?

Then, after all this, we get to ring in the New Year. I can’t believe 2012 is just around the corner, just as I squeeze in a post for November!

Friday, October 14, 2011


At any given point in time as I am taking my beautiful walk across City Hall Park I am full of anticipating of an Aleph opening up and me plunging into it with a beautiful stranger whose energies match mine. If you’re confused, it’s OK. You must not have had the chance to pick up the #6 NY Times Best Seller yet.

I only even know this word, Aleph, because I just finished reading Paulo Coehlo’s most recent book, Aleph. And I am still confused as to what exactly it is and how it all goes down.

As I quickly Google the word and refer to my ultimate primary source of knowledge, Aleph is essentially, a letter, number, term, etc. meaning different but similar things in various ancient and modern languages and sciences. No great, or at least helpful, insight there.

Very little of the official origin of the term was included in the book. The author chooses to maintain the term within spiritual lessons of the book. So the following may as well serve as a book review.

First, a little pompous are we? The author’s main character is THE AUTHOR! (Oh how we love thyselves!). Everything the main ‘character’ experiences is presumably and implied so, was experienced by the author about 5 years prior to when I purchased the book. This includes world renowned book distribution chains, publishers and editors in every country, readers eager to meet their beloved author and get invited to private suppers and requests for personal visits by Russian Presidents. Oh, and of course, a beautiful young Russian woman was just so madly in love with the author (about 30 years her senior). This was the kind of love in as much as a woman can love a man. And yet the man resisted because he loved her like the river. (NO COMMENT NECESSARY, INSERT SOUND HERE {_________})

Second, I am so jealous of the author's, main character's opportunity to take the seven time zone trip through Russia, from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian railway. (NOTE TO ADD ON MY LIFE'S TO DO LIST!!)

Mostly, however, the focus of my curiosity is the aleph (Aleph?) business. In my own words, as I understand from the book, Aleph is a spiritual phenomenon (or what I have come to conclude, at least a delusion) that has comfortably settled with many followers and believers. Imagine you’re walking and then suddenly you think you’re crazy while feeling anxious, excited and afraid at the same time because you keep seeing images from your past many centuries ago. (I have to mention that there is no hitting on the head involved).

Although I am not sure how accurately it works since it does not seem like you’ll be randomly transported to the age of the cave men. More likely it will be the time when you do something really really really bad, and can’t forgive yourself and need the person who you hurt or didn’t save, or worse, to forgive you. (Remember the Witchhunts, or better yet, The Tudors?) You need their forgiveness desperately.

How is that different from the present problems, you say? I am not sure. This must have been somewhat prior to forgive and forget. Or is it forgive but not forget? I always confuse the two.

Anywho, the Aleph, gives you the ability to understand that there is no separate past, present and future. We are all a combined energy(?) of our past, our present and our future. I wonder what the Jetsons or the Flinstones have to say about that?

Point well taken, enjoy life, breath in the sounds of nature, stay in the moment; but the explanation did seem a bit too far out there. I still can’t get the image of falling into a black hole out of my mind, perhaps it’s the Alice (in Wonderland) in me.

There is certainly a pro-feminist/humanist undertone that underlines the history of oppression of women for no good reason. (The witchhunt.) There was also an example of the 'shaman' (just Google it) who were initially all women being the spiritual leaders due to their intuition. Neverthless, the men's tendency of seeking power has finally overtaken that role to the point that only men are allowed during certain ceremonies. The joke is on the men, however, since women just do the same ceremonies right across the lake. (Finish reading the book!)

But still, as I quote from above: "Oh, and of course, a beautiful young Russian woman was just so madly in love with the author (about 30 years her senior). This was the kind of love in as much as a woman can love a man. And yet the man resisted because he loved her like the river."

Finally, I realized that some Paulo Coehlo books are certainly more my cup of tea then the others. Unfortunately this one, the Aleph, was one of the others. I had very much enjoyed Eleven Minutes, however, which keeps persisting to stay on my favorite books list.