How 10 Years Fly. Or Don’t.

When I was young and naive (and if you were catching me in my twenties), probably drunk, I used to roll my eyes when my parents or other people older than 25 said things like, “Holy shit! Time goes by so fast!” or crap like “Carpe Diem.” (Except when Robin Williams says it in Dead Poet’s Society, because then it was profound.)

For me, time stood still for so much of the earlier part of my life. I was so busy trying to escape whatever purgatory I was running from, that I was always yearning to leap ahead to the next chapter. I didn’t want to carpe anything. Nothing. Nada. You can shove your carpe where the sun don’t shine, I would think.

I had places to go, dear friends. And whatever was meant to be seized was always around the corner. Never what I was breathing or living in that moment.

And then I hit my thirties. And I felt like everything sped up like when you fast forward your DVR. Marriage. Selling homes. Buying our house. Having two kids. Managing careers. And I finally GOT how fast time goes by, but I still hadn’t mastered the art of living in the moments that were flying right past me.

I can’t tell you how quickly this past decade has flown by. But you know how I mentioned the whole fast forward button on your DVR earlier? Well, in so many ways, I feel like I was in that mode where I was in such a rush to get past all the commercials that I missed a lot of the main parts of the plot. I didn’t carpe shit, my friends.

I think about this because today is John and my tenth anniversary. Ten years have gone by since we got married in a multi-cultural, multi-ceremony day that we shared with some of our closest friends and family. I look back at pictures of us on our wedding day and I think, “Shit, we looked so young!” But then I also think, “Man, we were totally clueless.”

me and john dancing



That day went by in a blur of music, family, friends, laughter, TONS of food and lots of dancing. I don’t think I remember much, but I do remember thinking, “Thank God we can finally go on our honeymoon!” See? Always looking for what comes next.

And so the days passed. In 2006, we moved into our new home and a year or so later, we brought our first hellion, I mean, child, into the world.

Shaila came. She saw. She pooped.

And we were in love.

shaila baby


And I remember that new love. That overwhelming, all consuming kind of love where you heart might burst. But I also remember the exhaustion. And we stumbled through the days, trying to keep things together at home and at work and we missed more of her smiles than I’d like to imagine.

day nico was born

Before we knew it, Nico decided to join us. And all I remember was wanting him OUT OF MY BELLY. This is me the day we had him. I had an appointment with my OB/GYN and I wore makeup to show them that I had not, in fact spent most of my pregnancy in pajamas and muumuus. (I don’t think they were fooled).

Apparently, Nico and I were on the same wavelength. He came 3 weeks early.

And before I knew it, our peanut was his own little person, equipped with a personality that could make anyone smile (except, our very short lived au pair from Hungary, Agota. She didn’t really smile very much though).

peanut and john

And so there were four. And we were complete.

But a funny thing happened along the way.

You see, life got kind of overwhelming. And for the first time in my life, I couldn’t carry the weight of being overwhelmed.

I buckled. I battled depression. John and I tried to work through some of the cracks that were becoming apparent in our relationship. But there were days where we would both throw our hands up in despair and look at each other, each thinking the same thing.

“Oh no. Don’t go putting this on me. This is ALL you.”

And those kinds of conversations were, as one might expect, extremely constructive and totally made us appreciate each other more.

And I continued to be a Facebook fool, posting idyllic pictures of us, as long as my hair looked nice in them. You couldn’t see any cracks in those pictures.


But there were cracks. I know, because John and I both bled a little during these years when the shards cut through our skin.

But somehow, despite almost letting those cracks become something much, much greater, we were able to carpe our relationship.

And I am so, so very glad that we did. We seized the shit out of it.

So here we are. Ten years later. And I can’t really explain why or how, but I finally feel like I know how to enjoy what I have and what I know and what I breathe and who I have beside me each step of the way.

We do not live a picture perfect life. But I’m beginning to realize that the beauty in our pictures lies in our imperfections and how we embrace each other’s as a family.


It’s been ten amazing, tumultuous, passionate, crazy, hectic, magical, disruptive, serendipitous years since John and I married. And I can’t hit rewind on any of those moments, but I am finally learning to love them all.

So, without further ado…

Happy Anniversary, John!

I have no idea what the next ten years brings us, but I can’t wait to find out. And just FYI, John, if you’re up for a little less drama, I’m totally on board with that.

All my love,


P.S. All the really pretty pictures that are professionally done on this site are courtesy of our friends at Tell Chronicles.

Adventures With My Racist Bus Driver

mean bus driverI was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I looked down at the somewhat less than stylish clothes I was able to pick up from T.J. Maxx with the small budget my parents had set us aside for “back to school”, knowing that whatever I had just wasn’t going to cut it. I had watched “Pretty in Pink.” I knew what I was in for.

It was the early nineties and it was my first day of school at Rutgers Prep, a stark departure from the public high school most of my friends would be attending. I had applied for an academic scholarship and after multiple rounds of tests and behavioral interviews – wonder of all wonders – I won a spot at the school. My parents wouldn’t have to pay any tuition for my time there, as long as I maintained my grades, but they would have to carry the burden of buying all my textbooks and buying me a whole new prep school ready wardrobe.

They kept their first half of the bargain, I’ll give them that. The wardrobe idea never really gelled with them. Let’s just say that I was not prepared for the J.Crew and Land’s End clad wardrobes of my classmates. This girl was no longer in Kansas.

I knew that one of the biggest changes for me was that I was going to get picked up every day at my house on a bus that would ultimately deliver me to school which was roughly an hour away. I waited for the bus to arrive at my house, wondering what kinds of new friends I would be making.

As the short bus made it’s way up my driveway, I waited eagerly with a bright smile for the door to open, ready to greet my new friends. The door swung open and I took my first step onto that bus, not knowing exactly what I was in for.

A bleached blonde with a heavy fake tan sat in the driver’s seat smacking her large wad of gum. She looked me over a few times, up and down, taking in my inventory of my not so classy skirt I got on the clearance rack at K-Mart. I bet she was wondering if she had one too.

I tried to maintain eye contact with her throughout her intense scrutiny of me, but it was a little discombobulating with all of her shiny layers of teal blue eyeliner and matching mascara.

She pulled out her pad, “Ok, so, which one are you?” Her accent bled Jersey. I don’t know what that means, but I imagined it involved spaghetti sauce.

“I’m Kiran.”

“Kir-WHAT?!” She asked/yelled in what I would later learn was just her way.

“Kiran. Like the Japanese beer.” She looked at me blankly. Yeah she probably didn’t like too many international brews was my guess. But I tried anyway, “Oh, it’s Kirin, Kirin, Kirin, when you’re beerin’, beerin’, beerin’.”

She looked blankly at me and I felt a little deflated that she did not know this song, after all something about her blue eyeliner and the raspiness of that voice made me sure that she liked her beer.

I turned around to take my seat. Since the school went from K – 12, there were kids of all ages on the bus. I found a single two seater and was about to breathe a sigh of relief as if I had passed some test, when she turned back to me and said, “Honey, my name is Sheryl. And don’t you forget it.” With a flash of what smelled like Charlie perfume, she spun her head back to front position.

I was unsure why I would forget it, but I had a feeling that Sheryl had a whole lexicon of language that I would become familiar with.

There was a boy on the bus named Jeremy who had been going to Rutgers Prep for a long time. He was quite wealthy and came from a different social strata than I did which he liked to point out whenever he could. Jeremy was one of those guys who was just a natural asshole when he was younger. The kind of guy who always knew who felt weak and how to demoralize that person. I am sure (ish?) that he is a lovely person now. But back then he was kind of a douchebag.

Sheryl of the bleached blonde hair and Jeremy struck up a relationship almost immediately. They may have been separated by all sorts of socio-economic boundaries, but they had one thing in common. They were jackasses. They could smell and abuse fear in a way that only the most alpha bullies can.

I recall one day, Sheryl having a really loud conversation with Jeremy. She sounded drunk, but I don’t think she ever was. She just said such stupid shit sometimes that you just kinda hoped she might be drunk? At least for her own sake, if not for all the children she was driving all over Central Jersey.

“You know what I like about you Jeremy?” Sheryl asked. “Even though you’re Jewish…”

I cringed inwardly. In my limited experience, I knew that usually when one starts out a sentence this way, it does not end well.

“…well, you’re just different. I mean, you’re a Jew and all. But you’re not like a really, Jewy-Jew. I can’t freaking stand Jewey Jews. They’re almost bad as the Hindis and the Goddamn Islamicists.”

Since I was pretty sure from pictures that Sheryl had shown us of her husband, that he could have been a Skinhead, I kept my own thoughts to myself on that matter.

Sheryl could run hot. She could run cold. She could pick you up with the biggest smile on her face or she could pick you up and tell you to shut up, “because I’m on the rag and I’m hemorrhaging out a Cabbage Patch doll here.”

The younger kids tried not to look too scared.

One day, Sheryl was feeling nostalgic and wanted to play us some of her favorite songs on the long ride to Rutgers Prep. I think the playlist that day went something like this:

1. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

2. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

3. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

4. Hot for Teacher – Van Halen

5. Stroke Me – Billy Squire

6. Paradise by the Dashboard Lights – Meatloaf

The only reason we were even able to get a little Meatloaf was because one of us pointed out that it was really weird that one of the kindergarteners seemed to know all the words to “Stroke Me.”

Sheryl wasn’t always all bad. She’d smile so wide with her bubble gum pink glossed lips and remind you that there was warmth in her. Like the time when I was feeling bad about a recent haircut I got and Sheryl tried to cheer me up.

“Look, I mean, I ain’t gonna fuckin’ lie to ya. It looks like shit. But it will grow back. And besides! You’re pretty for an Indian. Most Indians I know are butt ugly! But, you got it going on girl!”

“I mean, look at you,” She expanded. “You don’t wear no dot on your head. And I mean, what is that? Is that dot surgically implanted on your mom’s head or something? Damn, fuck, I bet that hurts!”

One day she saw my older brother, who was temporarily living with us at the time, running. “Damn, Kiran. You’re brother is pretty cute. I don’t see many Indian guys I would do. But your brother – um hmm.”

I tried not to puke in my mouth as Jeremy, the not so Jew-ey Jew laughed along with Sheryl.

Meanwhile, back at home, my parents started wondering why I had started cursing like a sailor. The word “fuck” seemed to enter my language without any prompting, as in, “Would you pass me the fucking mayonnaise?” This seemed odd to them since this new behavior seemed to coincide exactly with when I started going to private school. After all, wasn’t private school supposed to create a safer environment for me?

Over the year, Sheryl would come up with some real gems on her thoughts on race in America.

Like, when the one hit wonder, Gerardo, came out with the song “Rico Suave.”

“He is so fucking hot. I mean, he’s a Puerto Rican but he’s not too, ‘Spick-y’ if you know what I mean.”

Like when she saw my mom wearing a sari.

“Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. I’m down with that shit. I could be down with wearing one of those rags wrapped around me as long as nobody made me tie a turban to my head.”

One might wonder why nobody complained to their parents or to the school. After all, we were late to school every day. Sheryl would sometimes drive around in circles if a song she liked came on as we got closer to school.

“You all are cool with this, right?” she would bark at us, giving us the blue eye-lined stink eye.

“Oh, we’re fine.” We would nod along.

The truth was, we were all scared shitless of Sheryl. Not only was she our chain smoking, shit talking, bullying, racist bus driver, but she knew where we all lived. The combination somehow seemed lethal.

I had started dreading the thought of going to school every day. My adjustment at Rutgers Prep was going a lot better than I thought it would. I stumbled every once in a while since Jeremy wasn’t the only entitled asshole in the place. But for the most part, I had started making friends and loved my teachers.

The school was fine. It was great, actually. It was sitting on that bus for two hours every day that scared the living daylights out of me.

And unbeknownst to me, the ride with Sheryl was only just beginning.

More on this adventure in my next blog post.

Would You Be Mine? Could You Be Mine?

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 11.36.53 AMWon’t you be my neighbor?

I have the words to Mr. Roger’s timeless song at the forefront of my mind these days. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Tim Madigan, an esteemed journalist who became friends with Fred Rogers during a very difficult time in his life. Tim was at one of those low points that I believe most people encounter in their lives at some point, perhaps in a different form.

For Tim, the low point was his battles with a deep depression and what seemed like an imminent divorce. During this time, he looked to his friend, Fred Rogers for counsel and most importantly, acceptance.

In his book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, Tim explains the bond he had with this man who so many of us remember fondly from our childhood. (Well, for me, I remembered him fondly, but I wasn’t so crazy about those puppets. They freaked me out a little.)

Back to Tim. As he was contemplating getting a divorce, a divorce that he was driving, he wrote a letter to Mr. Rogers and asked him if he could still accept his friendship and forgive him as a man who would make this life changing step.

Mr. Rogers wrote him a long letter back, but the words that captured me the most sprung out at me from the first paragraph.

“Please know that I will never forsake you, that I will never be disappointed with you, that I would never stop loving you.”

I will never forsake you.

What a powerful thing to say. And what a powerful gift to receive from someone you love and admire.

I often think of the shame and hurt we carry in our lives due to the disappointments we feel. These disappointments might be ones we believe our family, friends and employers feel towards us. Or they might be deeply buried disappointments we feel for ourselves.

This shame and these disappointments build over time. And they place an unfair burden on all of us – one so heavy to hold that we sometimes fall beneath the weight of it. I have fallen before. In some ways, I believe many of us are continually looking for ways to get back up, because that weight can feel constant. The burden can be tremendous.

But imagine that your life was one where you were given the gift of acceptance by all the people you love and care for. Imagine that you took the stance that you would not place judgement and plant more seeds of shame for the people that you love in your life. What a gift that would be? What better gift could you give?

Human beings are prone to criticize. We are wired to look for how things can be improved, enhanced, fixed, made to shine more. We don’t stand still and accept things for what they are, because we know that the 2.0 version of it is just around the corner.

We do the same things with the people in our lives. We do it to our parents, to our children, to our friends and to our employees. We often do it without even realizing that we are doing it, because it’s what we know. We have watched our parents, teachers and spouses do it to us. And ultimately we learn that it’s what we do with our children and loved ones.

But just imagine, for just a minute, what it would feel like to know that despite your imperfections, despite your perceived shortcomings, or mistakes, or disappointments, that you knew that without question you were accepted, loved. And never forsaken.

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

I believe we already belong to each other in a way. And we are here on this crazy planet to help each other navigate through the highs and the lows of life. I believe each of us would feel a freedom in living without armor and realizing that we can’t control what others accept about us, but we can give acceptance and love freely and without fear. Our lives would be so much better for it.

I thank Mr. Rogers for his wisdom and his open heartedness. For teaching us about civility, grace and acceptance. He lived wholeheartedly, which is obvious from the words he used with Tim.

His words remind me of one of the most important responsibilities we all have. Think of the gift you can give to people in your life. Whether it’s in the form of forgiveness, acceptance, or just opening yourself to listen. You have that power and you have the ability to impact someone’s life today.

I will never forsake you, friends. As I hope you will never forsake me.

Peace and light.


Can You Picture This?

I look at the picture, disappointed. Wait … it is just the angle, or am I starting to get a double chin? When did the circles under my eyes get so pronounced? Shit. Are my arms really that big? Well, at least my hair looks good, I think, until… I notice that the single strands of grey have multiplied and my decision of what to do with my roots is becoming something I have to address.

Sooner rather than later.

“Can you take another one?” I ask. “And can you make my face look less, um, round this time?” Asking for small miracles is something I am good at. I know though that photographers can only do so much with the raw materials they are working with.

As the years go by, I have become exceedingly critical of the way I look in photographs. As someone who always used to feel comfortable in front of a camera and even went so far as to dabble in some light commercial modeling in my youth, it’s strange feeling completely uncomfortable in front of the lens. I no longer know how to present that carefree smile. My mouth almost trembles as it tries to mimic what used to be my natural expression. The pictures that result seem forced somehow. Unnatural.

And in my mind, altogether unflattering.

So I shy away from the camera. I shy away from the flash. If it’s not captured on a digital medium, maybe everyone can ignore those extra pounds that have seemed to creep up on me. They can act as if the lines around my mouth are not there.

Perhaps if I don’t take any pictures, I can remain the glossy image from my past, where Photoshop wasn’t a word that needed to be part of my vocabulary.

I think about the many times I make myself absent when there is a camera around. Pictures of my children and my husband abound, but in my mind, there was always a reason to justify my absence.

I can’t take a picture with my hair looking like this!

I didn’t have time to do my makeup.

Talk to me after I lose some weight. Then snap away.

I toy with the idea that the image I can’t confront of myself is that of me aging. I think there is some truth to this. But at the crux of it is also something deeper. It’s the fact that I never give myself any lenience to be less than perfect. Commemorating my imperfection by capturing it on camera is something I can’t easily do.

My kids will look back at the way I have documented our lives and they will know that special attention was taken to capture them at every age. They will see pictures of themselves where their hair was rumpled, their outfits were mismatched, they were covered in chocolate. And what they will see reflected in these pictures is the love we held for them as we stood on the other side of the lens, capturing these moments.

My kids will not see the mother they are most familiar with in the regular pictures of our lives. They will see the pictures that at some point I deemed acceptable enough to share on Facebook. The shiny, polished images where I look remotely like the former me I don’t want to let go of from my past.

The image they won’t see years from now is the mom I am most days. It’s not the mommy in the yoga pants with her hair swept up in a messy ponytail with the traces of exhaustion in her eyes. It’s not the mommy who is vulnerable, less than perfect, less than anything that has been deemed acceptable to share on social media.

And I think to myself, how can I let their memories of me and what I capture be so different, so separate? How can I let myself not allow the reality of who I truly am to them merge with the recordings of me that they will have, long after I am gone, to confirm the memories they hold of me?

And I also think to myself, “Crap!” The mommy I am memorializing for them isn’t human. She’s spent time on her makeup, her hair shines and she’s coiffed to perfection. She’s not real. She’s NOT the me that they are used to seeing.

Perfect Mommy versus Real Mommy. Perfect Mommy may be a lot prettier, but ultimately she seems a whole lot more flat than the mother they have become accustomed to. While she may shine in her glossiness, well, she also kind of sucks. Because here are some of the things that the imaginary Perfect Mommy I allow to be revealed on anyone’s news feed would NEVER do.

Perfect Mommy will never:

Show any signs of the stress of being a full time working mom while attempting to be an engaged parent and spouse.

Embrace the extra pounds and padding that come from living a life more fully, with my priorities on my children and not on the hours logged at the gym.

Be caught DEAD without mascara.

Wear yoga pants. All day and every day.

Have boogers on the shoulder of her shirt, the kind which were wiped there while she was holding her kids tightly to let them have a good cry.

And most importantly.

She’ll never exist. Not really.

I try to stress so much to my children that they are perfect, unique and wonderful so they can grow up to be balanced, self- actualized individuals. But the messages I send them are conflicted and hypocritical. Sure, they love me just as I am. Yet, I seem to want to wash away the existence of the mom they carry in their heart. Replace her with a two dimensional facade.

In my harshness in the way I look at myself, the biggest disservice I am doing is to my children. The life I am documenting for them is one where I shine for them in a way that simply does not align to reality. It won’t tell them years from now that mommy wasn’t always 100% pulled together, that mommy put more time and attention into things other than her appearance and that mommy sometimes struggled with depression so heavy that she didn’t have the energy to pull on more than, well, yoga pants. That mommy exists too and while she may not be as pretty, she should not be edited out of their lives.

I have come to the realization, however delayed, that our best memories are not the ones that always capture us in our best light, they are the ones that are grounded in the true lives we lead. They have not been Photoshopped to make them more appealing, their very authenticity is what makes them so special to us.

This mother is making a promise that I will make myself more present in the memories I have the power to craft for my children.  Their reality and the mementos I leave them need to be rooted in the truth, not in a fantasy. Perhaps they will learn then that true beauty is rooted in accepting and embracing our realities.


Lean into Glass Ceilings: Letter to My Daughter


469900_10150901616128562_1456999965_oDear Shaila,

I have always leaned in. Long before Sheryl Sandberg penned the book about how women could excel in the workplace without giving into the double standards. I was leaning in. Before Sandburg espoused about the challenge that so often impact women as we approach the duality of balancing motherhood with our careers, I was leaning in.

Sure, I didn’t know it. I just thought I had bad posture. But I was leaning in so far forward that I’m surprised I didn’t fall smack on my face. To be fair, that only happened a few times in college and it was because alcohol was present when I was leaning. So the lesson learned is do not drink unless you are sitting in a recliner or at least an upright chair.

Really, the lesson is just don’t drink.

Ok. Ok. You can have Sprite.

Without understanding at the core what was driving me, I sought perfection in all that I did. I wanted to be the first kid to learn the times table by heart. I wanted to be the fastest girl in my class. I wanted to beat the boys. At everything. I wanted to get the best grades in the class. I wanted to make it to the spelling bee for my school every year. I wanted…

I just wanted. To be the best, the brightest, the hardest working and while I may not have understood it deeply at the time, I wanted to be all those things while also earning respect and feeling appreciated.

Those things mattered to me.

They mattered to me when I won a competitive academic scholarship into one of the best private high schools in New Jersey. They mattered to me when I made the decision to rescind my scholarship a year later because I was too much of a public school student at heart.

They mattered to me when I spent laborious hours trying to transform myself from a mediocre jogger into a legitimate runner, one who would later be a Captain of the Cross Country team in High School.

They mattered to me when I worked my little hiny off in High School (Yes, little. I was doing a lot of cardio, see above) to fulfill my dream of going to my reach college, The University of Virginia. All the arduous hours I spent practicing for the SAT and years of passionately reading and studying had helped me pave that road.

Leaning in mattered to me during the trials and tribulations of college, but perhaps during this time in my life, I will concede that I relaxed a little and learned for the first time that I could also lean back. That I could breathe a little. That I wasn’t meant to be an automaton striving for the next best thing always. I think the fact that I did start drinking and also dating when I went to college may have had something to do with my more relaxed stance on leaning. I mean, I still leaned, but maybe it was more like a slouch?

Again, lesson learned. Don’t drink. Also, you can slouch sometimes, but not with boys.

That brief respite was just that though – a respite. The leaning in began aggressively again after University as I paved a way for myself in technology consulting when Accenture first opened its doors to me after college. I found myself working my way up the corporate ladder – sometimes making small jumps and other times, large leaps. I changed companies a few times, but I was always hell bent on growing.

I was leaning in so far that I was like a downhill skier. I think you would have been proud. Especially since Mommy can’t ski!

Over the course of the years, I got married, because that’s just what you did. Don’t get me wrong, I love your father very much. But the idea that I could be “complete” in some way without being married was just not how it was generally done.

So me and your daddy went all “Jerry Maguire” (One day you will understand. There is some mild nudity so you will have to wait) and “completed” each other. But I quickly realized I wasn’t complete. I was in a job that I was no longer going to grow in and so I decided to take a leap of faith and join a burgeoning start up.

I worked my butt off, to put it bluntly, my dear. Because you and Nico were not yet here, I could work some crazy hours and travel to Europe for last minute meetings at the drop of a hat. (Or Dallas. Yeah, most of the time Dallas.) During this time, I found myself on a fast path to growth that further continued after my company was acquired multiple times.

You came along and then your brother. Sure, things changed. Of course – they had to. But we managed and got the help we needed while both your father and I pursued the opportunities we felt were best for us and you guys.

Then came the BOOM. In 2011, something happened to me professionally which threw me for a massive loop. Suddenly, my fast track path had a roadblock thrown in the way and I could do nothing to move it. I felt powerless and not at all the the strong woman I had always been, nothing like the girl who used to beat boys at the 100 yard dash in the playground.

Professionally, I retreated a little. I took some time to lean back and evaluate what I needed and what I was looking for. I briefly took a role at a software company as the Director of Consulting, only to realize that the company didn’t just want me to proverbially lean in – they wanted me to work myself to death in the process and forget the fact that I had you and Nico at home. I was there very briefly, but just to give you an idea, within a five week period, I had earned around 30,000 miles on United Airlines. And not the kind of miles you earn by spending money.

I couldn’t function like that. That wasn’t leaning in – that was just losing me. And you guys.

(They also just weren’t very nice. One day, we’ll talk about how important it is for you to be kind to people if you manage them. Yes, lean in all you want, but never do it by treading on those around you. Kindness matters, even at work.)

I shortly thereafter found my footing again and then Sheryl Sandberg wrote that gosh darn, Lean In book and I knew I couldn’t just throw away the years and years of consulting, software and management experience that I had amassed.

So I rejoined corporate America, working for a company where many knew me, where I was known for delivering excellent work and had worked closely with members of the leadership team.

And then a funny thing happened, Shaila. Well, not funny like “ha ha.” More funny like, WTF? (Just so you know, that means “Why’s That Funny?”).

I found that no matter how hard I tried to lean in, that for the first time in my life, I could feel very firm hands pushing me upright again. Almost pushing me to lean back. Encouraging me to not look at the path forward but to be happy with where I was and maybe even take some steps back.

And I reached up in the air and for the first time in my life, I felt it.

Knock, knock.

Are you GD kidding me? (GD stands for “Good Dog”).

The glass ceiling. The one I’d heard so much about but never really encountered myself. There it was, taunting me with its steadfast smugness while I watched others being escorted around its enclosures.

The thing was, Shaila, I was still that girl in elementary school who wanted to be it all. The one who wanted to achieve great things and dream as big as my dreams would allow me to.

I felt like for the first time in my life, I was being told that my dreams were too big for me. And that I should dream smaller.

It hurt me, Shaila. I felt demoralized in a way I hadn’t for a long time. I started to doubt who I was and what I was capable of. The realization that there was no longer a seat at the table for me, the one that Sheryl tells us to so boldly take, stung. I couldn’t sleep at night and it really impacted my emotional well-being.

I guess what I’m getting at is this. There may come a time in your life when all you want to do is lean in. You may be fully revved up and ready to go. You may have all the experience, all the tools and all the talent you need and yet …

When you lean in to push that door open, it may remain locked. And you’ll be all like, “That miserable SOB!” (That means “Sister or Brother”).

Here’s what I want you to do. Never forget who you are. Never for one second. Be the girl who leans in and pound and pound on that door till it opens for you. Don’t worry if you’re knocking too loud. Sometimes, we women have to use our voices to be heard above all the other BS we’re being told. (BS means “Baloney Sandwiches”. Baloney is a processed meat. We’ll discuss another day).

And if you keep knocking and nobody lets you in? Well, darling. It’s not your door. That’s all there is to it.

I don’t know whether you will decide to lean in on motherhood and stay at home with your children and give them some of the things that I was unable to give you in my desire to stay the professional course. But if you do decide to go back to the workplace, remember the following:

If you want something badly enough, you will most likely have to fight for it. Leaning in is not always going to give you what you need.

No matter how badly you might want something, there is always another path forward. You can’t lean in to stone. Course correct and find another path where people will support you and embrace your dreams.

If you knock on that door and it doesn’t open, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something for you on the other side. It just means you picked the wrong door.

Always carry yourself with integrity and kindness. At the end of the day, no promotion matters more than your character.

Glass ceilings were meant to be broken.

I know this was long, but I hope one day it means something to you when you’re ready to understand it.



The Truth About My Blog

View More: I first started blogging in 2009, I remember loving the freedom I felt from writing and sharing my words. Sure, maybe I wasn’t a published author in the traditional sense, and I was willing to table and maybe set aside that dream. But for the first time in many years, I felt a new found freedom in my words filling my screen as they poured out of me in enormous gusts of relief and revelation. When I started to build connections with people, who also shared their own stories with me and trusted me with glimpses into their own lives, I felt like I had stepped into something very special.

Since 2009, I have been both very active as a blogger while being completely invisible at other times. I have not always had the time, the energy or the wherewithal to share some of the rougher times of my life. I admire bloggers who can put their lives fully out there, but I am also always contemplating the price I pay any time I reveal something about myself online.

Will this affect my family?

Will this hurt someone I care for in any way?

Can this be misconstrued in a way I can’t recognize right now?

Will this impact my professional life?

And so during these times, I find that I retreat. I write quietly in journals that nobody but me sees and I hold tightly to my burdens and some joys, which are not always for me to share with the world. During those times, I may not feel the sense of relief and revelation that I do when I blog, but in a conscious effort to keep the questions above in mind, I choose to keep certain things at bay in my public writing.

That being said, I did learn somewhere along the way within my journey that the pieces I most admired from other writers took bravery to share. And I thought about what kind of writing I myself wanted to put out there. Sure, I wanted to be witty, well-written, introspective and wise. But more than anything, I wanted my writing to be brave. Bold. To mean something – not just to my readers, but to myself. If I had to dig so deep to find the words that meant so much to me, I wanted the sharing to matter. In some ways, I wanted to feel less alone with my feelings and perhaps let others who were going through what I was going through know that they were not alone. That connection was always a huge motivator for me.

Last year, I wrote a post on my blog where I dug a little deeper than I planned. I must have written the post in less than ten minutes, when all was said and done. I titled the post, Love on the Rocks and shared in detail some of the ups and downs of my own marriage, which at one point found itself floundering so painfully, that John and I had almost decided to give up on it. In the post itself, I had used pictures of my own family that were taken by a family friend.

I received an overwhelming amount of support from my own readers when I shared that post. Many people empathized and shared their own stories of relationships that did not always survive the tide. I was deeply moved by the responses I received and perhaps for that reason, I always felt very strongly about that post. To me, it was the brave that I was striving to capture. Recklessly honest? Yes. Completely authentic? Every single word.

Without thinking much of it, I suggested it to my friend, Jill Smokler, of Scary Mommy. Jill is a good friend of mine and is always looking for good content to share on her site. I love working with Jill and when she said she wanted to run it, I did a little jig and told her to go for it. It didn’t fit the mold of many of the other pieces she runs and I was happy that she wanted to run it for what it was.

When Scary Mommy published my piece, I was happy to see that the piece was intact and that they had even kept one of our family pictures within the piece, which I felt marked it as my own on a site where so many authors share content. There was one change that was made and that was to the title. Instead of calling the piece, “Love on the Rocks,” the title had been changed by one of Jill’s staff to “Why I Decided Not to Divorce My Husband.”

I thought about contacting Jill and asking her to change the title and I know she would have had I asked, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal and that I was over-thinking it. It gave me pause though because the new title implied that:

a) I made a unilateral decision to not divorce my husband, when in reality, we both journeyed down that path together;


b) There could be some implication by some that my post was anti-divorce.

Sure enough, on a site such as Jill’s, my post got a great deal of exposure. (She has almost 1,000,000 Facebook likes. Just to give you perspective, I have less than 5,000 and anytime I post anything, someone else drops off my page. Let us be clear that she is in the big leagues. I don’t know enough baseball analogies for this to make sense, but to say I am the little league team from a small town in middle America might be appropriate).

The piece wasn’t particularly controversial. Not that I ever had seen it that way. And again, while the majority of the feedback I received was positive and open-minded, that piece unleashed a great deal of vitriol towards me that I had never expected.

Many people took great offense to the fact that I said, “Marriage is hard. It is DAMN hard.”

The response to that came in a lot of different forms, but if I could summarize this very common sentiment, it would sound like this:

“Marriage is NOT hard. My marriage is easy. It’s hard when people aren’t meant to be together.”

“You’re probably going to get divorced anyway.”

“It’s hard when you are not me and I literally shit rainbows. Nothing is hard for me.”

My favorite response of all was this one:

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 10.19.44 PMYes, I am fairly certain she was saying that about me. I will not call her any names other than to say, she’s spunky, eh?

I don’t know how many page views Scary Mommy got for that post but I know it was shared on Facebook almost 100K times. The next weekend, HuffPost Parents re-shared Scary Mommy’s link to the article on their Facebook page and a picture of John, Nico and me found its way to several of our friends’ and colleagues’ news feeds with the whole, “Yeah, She Didn’t Divorce Her Husband” title. We had a few, “John is this story about you or are you just a stock model?” kind of questions, because all of his friends know John also moonlights as a part time tooth model.

Sometimes you don’t know which posts will strike a chord for someone. It may not even have been the chord you meant to strike. Some readers of the post on Scary Mommy must have not read my full article, because some thought my post was anti-divorce, which it never was intended to be.

The connection. The sharing. The discussion. The debate. I thrill to these things.

The hateful words. The lack of attempt to really read the post. The quick desire to pigeon hole the author of a short post. I do not thrill to this. In fact, is it 5 o’clock somewhere?

But I would not give it up and I would not change who I am on this journey. I want to continue to write pieces that are brave and that may be hard to share and I’m ready to take my fair share of criticism if that’s what sharing my ideas warrants. But I won’t retreat because people don’t like what I have to say.

I have more to write about this piece and my intent, but you will have to wait for that tomorrow. In that post, I’d like to write about how all relationships are complex in their own ways – be it with a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend or just one of the many people we are intertwined with on this journey of life. It’s called life, my friends. And I know very few people for which it’s always that easy.

The biggest contention people had with my post was the whole, “Marriage is hard” bit. I would further assert that it is not just marriage that is hard, but any relationship that presents challenges. Perhaps I AM “an asshole” and I really just don’t know how to live peacefully with anyone, but any relationship that has meant something to me in my life has gone through highs and lows. I always delight in the highs but without the lows I wouldn’t know the glory of and beauty of the highs at all.

I wish you and the ones you love smooth sailing always, but if you ever go through a rocky patch in a relationship and for one second you don’t know if your ship is going to course correct, just know that I understand. And I am here, without judgement, to say – you will find the path you were meant to take back to shore.



P.S. Despite my fair share of not so great comments on Scary Mommy, I am very appreciative to Jill and team for continually offering a platform for writers like me to get my words out to a broader audience. If you have not liked them already on Facebook, check it out!

The Colors in Her Rainbow

I had been out of town for a short work trip when my daughter, Shaila, told me what was upsetting her. I could hear that something was bothering my seven year old as she told me the details of her school day. Yes, her teacher had liked her Christmas present. Yes, she was being a good girl. Yes, she was excited about Winter break.

It was only after a little more prodding and handing off the phone to my husband, who was also accompanying me on this trip, that we were able to get at what was really bothering her.

“Um, Daddy?”
“Yes, Honey?”
“Um, well, today at school? My friend, Kylie* told me she doesn’t like brown people.”

John looked up at me and I could hear him weighing his words as he chose carefully what to say to our daughter, next.

“Yeah. She said she doesn’t like brown people. And she especially doesn’t like Nico because he is REALLY dark.”

Shaila’s five year old younger brother, Nico, is certainly a darker shade of brown than my daughter, but I so rarely think about it that it made me catch my breath to hear of someone’s distaste for my sweet, little son.

Because he is too brown. Too dark. Not white enough.

My heart caught in my chest and shortened my breath. I am not an idiot. I knew this day was coming at some point. I knew that one day my kids would be told, however innocently, that they were not good enough or on the other side of right, because of their skin.

When I got back on the phone with Shaila, I said the first thing that came to mind.

“Honey, you know that no matter what color a person’s skin is, we are all equal.”

“I know that, Mommy,” she said.

“And no matter what someone might say to you, you can never judge anybody based on the color of their skin.” I said this absolutely, allowing no room for argument.

“I know that too, Mommy. I’m just really sad,” she said, despondently.

My heart broke for her as I thought about the weight of those words on her little shoulders. Words that made her feel inferior. Words about her brother that made her confused and hurt.

“No matter what anyone ever says to you, you have to know that the color of your skin doesn’t mean anything about what kind of person you are. And I want you to know that no matter what you might feel, and what Kylie’s words made you feel, she is the one with the problem. Not you. NOT you.”

I couldn’t see her over the phone but I imagined her resigned nod.

“When I get home, we’ll talk more about this, ok? I know that you know this, but you should never like someone or dislike someone because of what they look like or because they are different from you.”

“I know that, Mommy,” she sounded stronger when she said it this time.

I wanted to say more, but I could feel my voice cracking and my composure going a little. We hung up with me assuring her that I loved her. But I wished that I had been there on this day to help her through this experience alongside her.

My kids are five and seven years old. Sadly, this isn’t the first time they have even heard words of prejudice or intolerance. Less than two years ago, while they had been playing in our front yard, a group of young boys walked up to both of my children mocking them with the words in a mangled Indian accent, “Hurry, hurry – get your curry!” Both of my kids had just looked confused, but unbeknownst to the boys, I had heard their words and their laughter as they continued down the street.

At the time, my son was three and my daughter was five. The dagger in my heart didn’t draw blood, though it felt like it had.

I had to think carefully about the words my husband and I say to our daughter about this situation. The same way I am going to think carefully about how I might approach this with my daughter’s teacher, to make her aware of the words that were used in her classroom a few days ago and how they dampened my daughter’s spirit. I know the school already messages very strongly about inclusion and embracing differences, and I am certain she would want to know that this took place.

This wasn’t the first time and I am fairly certain this won’t be the last time that my children encounter words of intolerance and ignorance. At the same time though, the world can be a brutal place and I know I would have to teach them this lesson at some point. I just wish that Shaila could have worn her rose-tinted glasses for a little longer.

I try to explain to my kids how boring this world would be if we all were the same. I am happy to say that I think they get that. You don’t have to be brown to understand what I felt that day my daughter related what happened to her at school. All the unique things we love about our children can also be the target of someone else’s disdain.

It’s up to us to remember as parents that we have to make them love and embrace those very differences which make them stand out today. For those differences are exceptional and need to be accepted, explored and held up proudly by our children. While they hurt, these character building experiences have to be handled in a way which won’t cause shame to our children, but makes them proud. In a way that makes them hold their heads up a little higher and backs a little straighter.

The world may not always give our children what we think they need, but we can always take what the world gives them and shape that experience for them so they can learn from it.

So bring it, world. We’re ready.

* Names have been changed to protect the young child that said this to my daughter.

Shaila Masala Chica

On Seeing Hard Things

I am going to be honest. I have not watched “12 Years a Slave.” I mean to. I really do. But every time it comes down to committing to watching it, I just can’t make myself do it.

I have also not watch “Django.” Or “The Kite Runner.” Or “Rabbit Wire Fence.” Really anything that will make me cry. Ugly, heaving cries.

By the way, did I ever tell you about the time I read “The Kite Runner”? I was on a plane from Washington Dulles to San Diego and I was almost 7 months pregnant. I add that last fact in only to make you think that my hormones might have lead to some of my response to that book. In truth, it probably would not have made much of a difference. I sobbed on the plane reading that book. Like, sobs that made the other passengers sitting next to me uncomfortable. I tried to muffle my sorrow, but the tears flowed like tiny rivers down my face, landing in smudgy little drops on the pages of the book as I read.

For months afterwards, my mind would replay certain scenes from that book and I would find myself fighting tears again. I would drift off to bed at night with the last thought being of the horrible child rape scene in the book.

That was just from reading a book.

I want to watch hard things. I really do. I want to watch movies that touch on the most horrible human brutality. I want to watch movies that show me the state of a world I don’t know, like “Hotel Rwanda.”

But then again. I don’t.

I am a very visual person. I don’t forget what I see. It’s why I can’t watch horror movies either. When I was 7, I saw the movie “Poltergeist.” To this day, I still can remember every graphic, twisted and disturbing scene from that movie. 7 was a long time ago. But my mind, and my heart, still hold on.

A few months ago, a good friend of mine posted something on Facebook about how important it is that people watch movies like “12 Years a Slave.” After all, we have a choice to watch a movie about it while fellow humans didn’t have a choice and had to actually live it. I understood exactly where she was coming from, but again, I knew that I wasn’t going to be sitting down any time soon with that movie.

I am a sensitive person. I do not think I am necessarily more sensitive than other people, the only thing I know how to explain is how I feel. When I watch a movie like that, it takes an emotional toll on me, one that I am not that quick to bounce back from. It weighs on me and exhausts me and pulls me down under the heavy weight of it. I feel helpless, I feel angry, I feel empathy, I feel pain. My heart wants to burst. And I sit there and my mind replays things. Again and again and again. The movie doesn’t end in my mind, even after the final credits have run.

I know that terrible atrocities occur every day in this world. But I can’t always watch and listen and read about them. I don’t want to go running towards the opposite end of the spectrum and sit with my feet up on the couch catching up on “The Kardashians” which munching on popcorn, but I do know that I have a threshold for how much human pain and suffering I can expose myself to before I start to become an emotional wreck who wants to be an activist for every social cause I feel any passion for.

When something like the horrible factory collapse happened in Bangladesh a year and a half ago happened, which left laborers basically dying in a massive coffin, people around the world were angry and sad. I was one of them. I cried and I imagined what it must have been like for the people in that building. I built stories in my mind about the children they undoubtedly left behind. I imagined “Slumdog Millionaire” type scenarios in my mind about what was to become of the orphaned children.

That’s how I process things. And in some ways, it is extreme.

You know, I know that in some ways I’m a coward. But I also think that I am very much a realist. I know how much I can emotionally take and process without putting myself in a state of paralysis.

Yesterday, the internet (ok, hardly) almost damn near broke because of Kim Kardashian’s ass being on display. And then it almost broke again (ok, not really) when photos of her entire naked body were revealed. And it’s kind of sad that there are so many things going on in this world that we should be talking about and addressing, but every person on the internet was most likely exposed to some aspect of Kimmy K.’s nudity yesterday.

I think our fascination with all the fluff is because we can’t, in my best Jack Nicholson voice, “handle the truth.” The truth is hard. The truth is scary. The truth is so much more painful to process sometimes then looking to see what the favorite reality star du jour is wearing (or not). Sometimes avoiding the truth is a result of pure apathy, but sometimes, it’s the exact opposite of apathy that makes people steer clear of it. Why should we talk about the impact of the Ebola scare on the rest of Africa when we can take about Blake Lively being pregnant? Why should we talk about the sex trade in Thailand when Rihanna is back on Instagram.

As I re-read this before I hit “publish” the thought that comes to me is that I really am going to make an effort to embrace watching emotionally challenging things, no matter how hard it might be. I think it’s okay to feel a little wounded and have your heart be more sore. It’s okay if you have to cry and push yourself a little harder to try to place yourself in someone’s very uncomfortable shoes. But…it’s also okay if you just can’t.

Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.” Barbara Kingsolver

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