Politics

Do You Want to Build a Gay Snowman?

frozen imageThe other day, a friend of mine pointed me to a blog post that she wanted a second opinion on. She had read the post and asked herself afterwards,  “Is this woman bat shit crazy? Or, is it me?”

After reading the post and wondering why on earth some people choose to blog and reveal such crazy, I assured her that she was not the one with the issue for disagreeing with the blog, in spite of the number of comments applauding the author. I also told my friend that if she was crazy, then I was full on LOCO. Yes. In all caps.

Rather than send you to the post and have you contribute any page views to this woman’s blog or her ego, I will summarize the basis for this gem of internet published work.

In her post, she argues that the song “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen is about coming out and therefore, should not be supported or shown to kids because that’s not how Jesus would roll.

She then went on to write all the lyrics out and expanded on her theory in a torrent of words that were filled with homophobia, hate and ignorance. Shrouded in lots of Christianity.

If you know me at all, you know that at first I got irate. Angry. Really, really annoyed that viewpoints like this are shared with such condescension. That some people feel it’s alright to condone intolerance and hatred by arguing “But God wants it that way!” to close their argument.

I read through some of the comment storm and it was torturous. She got a lot of “Right on, sister!” and “Holla!” type of feedback from many who went on to quote some passage of the Bible to strengthen their argument.

I had to shut it down because I was getting so pissed off.

Why? It doesn’t take much to have a blog. A monkey could have a blog. In fact, a monkey could have written a better blog, I think. At least one that was slightly less hateful. So, it’s not like this person’s opinion should really matter to me. She had no qualifications she could point to other than being Christian and loving Jesus. I am not Christian, but I  found myself deeply offended for the non-homophobic, loving and accepting ones who might be a whole lot less inclined to believe that Frozen is a work of gay propaganda. I also found myself deeply offended for Jesus who doesn’t deserve that kind of company.

I am also just annoyed because whenever I watch that movie from now on, I will think of her stupid post. (Sorry if I have ruined it for any of you as well).

I know at the end of the day, not everyone will embrace or accept homosexuality. I get that. I understand that there will always be some confinement around beliefs that even time and more societal acceptance will not break down. It doesn’t make me happy but I am a realist. Haters are gonna hate.

If the movie Frozen is really about brainwashing kids into accepting someone’s sexual orientation, even if it might be different than their own, I will play it on repeat once it’s out on DVD. I will belt out the songs and teach my kids all the words and then sing some more, well beyond when they cover their tiny little ears and beg me to stop.

Haters are gonna hate, but if I’ve done anything right, my kids won’t be one of them.

P.S. I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

P.P.S. Except when it’s wrong.

XO,

Kiran

Bonbon Break

There’s Some Scary at Scary Mommy

I wrote a post yesterday about how I feel about recent gun violence in America. It’s over at Scary Mommy today. I want to make a few points clear:

1) My post does NOT call for the disarmament of Americans.

2) My reference to technology is to bring the discussion back to the point of perspective. We keep going back to the 2nd Amendment as if it is infallible or impossible to believe that it needs to be revisited. I am not suggesting the revocation of the law, but for us to evaluate what that means under the context in which we live.

3) Yes, driving a car without a license is illegal in all states, despite the Twitter storm that tried to tell me otherwise. For the guys who were on my back yesterday trolling the guncontrol hashtag on Twitter, if you have found some nuanced way under some provisional law where you can operate a vehicle without a license and not have the vehicle registered, congratulations. Those are not the guidelines most Americans live under.

And I don’t know many cops who would pull someone over and say, “Oh, you don’t have a license? Don’t worry. I just need your Passport. You only need a license to buy booze anyway.

4) This post does not in any way imply that we DON’T have a mental health situation on our hands in America. Proper mental health care, support and evaluation are a necessary component to a healthy society. We have a LOT of problems in America that contribute to crime. This post is strictly talking about what kind of regulation and enforcement should be in place around guns.

5) I believe that people should have the right to own guns for self-defense, protection and hunting. That is not being contested. What I am asking you to do is to set aside the guns for a moment and ask what the limits are to keep society safe and civilized. To keep our children safe. If you really believe that arming every American is the answer, I ask you to tell me what your vision is for this country. For our children.

Tell me with a straight face that you believe that’s what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

If anyone tells me that Thomas Jefferson’s vision was for us to applaud the idea of a Rambo nation in America, that person is clearly not familiar with anything about TJ, the founder of my Alma Mater, UVA.

6) Since Newtown, I have heard people call the massacre a “ploy” by the Federal government. I have seen a man who saved children that day being called an actor and a pedophile by gun control advocates. I have seen parents grieve but I feel like their grief is tarnished by those who are so extreme to call this a conspiracy.

I mean, I can’t even believe I have to write this, it’s so completely ridiculous.

I don’t know much about you people, but I have feeling a lot of you are part of the discussion over at Scary Mommy.

Thank you for confirming what I have thought.

I really should be scared. We all should.

My post was written with the knowledge that even if I just asked why we don’t call for greater regulation and enforcement around gun laws, that I would get a lot of opposition. That my words might be twisted or misinterpreted.

It happens.

Excuse me. It happened.

You’re either here because you agree. Or you’re here because you have issue with my sentiments.

In either case, thank you for visiting.

Before you comment I ask you to read this incredibly important piece. Wrestling With Details of Noah Pozner’s Killing. It’s a hard piece to read. One person in the article said, “I didn’t need to read that” about the kind of detail that was shared about what the guns actually physically did to the kids in Newtown. And what their bodies looked like when the parents wanted to cradle them in their arms.

We can handle the inconvenience of reading that. Just like those children had the horrifying inconvenience of living that and like their tormented parents have to remember after seeing that.

Every American needs to know what that means before they weigh in.

Kiran

Stop. Drop. And Play Dead.

The other day (okay, a few weeks ago), I was working out at the gym, taking a break between sets during an intense leg workout. Well, let’s be honest. It was a leg workout, made intense by the fact that it involved work.

I don’t know what triggered the thought, but as I finished taking a sip from my water bottle, I remember thinking to myself,

“If a shooter were to walk in right now and start shooting up this place, would I have anywhere to hide? Where is the emergency exit? Do I know how to play dead?”

Not so bizarre. Not anymore.

I find myself thinking about those things more and more these days. I don’t think it’s hubris – I’ve never been one to be paranoid about protecting my life. I will jump on a trans-Atlantic flight, go on the most daredevil, heart-pounding roller-coaster and can go on a passionate carbohydrate binge that would have me banned from South Beach forever.

When I was in elementary school, we did fire and safety drills all the time. Every year, the firemen would come in and reiterate the same message about how the real dangers of fire were not in the flames, initially, but in the fumes.

“Stop! Drop! And ROLL!” We were taught and we would have to demonstrate one by one that we knew how to do the roll.

“Roll away from the smoke!” The firemen would indicate where the fake smoke was coming from.

And we would have to get on the floor and roll down the hallway or the pavement, with our arms pressed against our sides.

And now I wonder if I am supposed to be teaching my children how to play, “Stop. Drop. And play dead” instead.

Reality Check.

I watched the news the day of the Newtown shooting from my office. When I first saw word of the gun shooting online, it had estimated two dead. When I was leaving the office to grab lunch and passed by the TV, my heart dropped when I saw the revised numbers.

A few of my colleagues were standing with me and one of them said, “Yeah, just watch the gun control freaks have a field day with this one.”

My idea of field day is quite different than anything I saw in the news that day or in the following weeks about what happened in Newtown. See, having a field day involves doing things like a 50 yard dash or playing tug of war. Jumping towards a finish line in a potato sack.

It doesn’t involve children being slaughtered to death.

“It’s not guns that kill people!” my co-worker explained. “People kill people.”

Yeah. No shit, Sherlock. People kill people. Usually with guns.

Of course there are other weapons and other means to kill. But that doesn’t mean that anything has the power of an assault weapon of the caliber used in Newtown.

So call me a freak. But first call me an American.

I am an American. Born and raised on this soil, I am proud of my country. I’m a patriot. I love my country. Like most things I love, like my husband, my children, my family, my friends and even myself – I love my country, not with the false belief that it is perfect. I am under no illusions that my country is perfect.

A blind love is never a healthy love, you see.

Being a patriot to this country is not just in honoring those who fight in the name of this country. It’s not standing with a hand on my heart during the pledge or even the fact that I often cry during the National Anthem.

Being a patriot to this country also means acknowledging the imperfections that tarnish the soil that we love. It means acknowledging that what was done to the Native Americans in a quest to drive them away from their homes was a travesty. It means acknowledging the stains of our own intolerance in the Japanese internment camps that were a part of this land.

“This lands was made for you and me.” It’s a beautiful song. But it’s hardly one that we have always sung together.

Being an American patriot means acknowledging that slavery existed in this country even while the Founding Fathers were writing a document that we immortalize with reverence.  There was a time when American fought against American in this land because of the difference in opinion that we could “own” the bodies of other men and women. Our fellow brothers and sisters. It means recognizing that segregation in this country existed until just a few decades ago.

So I’m an American. I love this country but I won’t ignore the flaws of our past and look at anything in our history or any document in our history as beyond questioning.  As unquestionable or perfect in any way.

The Founding Fathers. They were mortals. They wrote the Constitution under the crushing pressure of trying to obtain freedom from England.

They were people who made mistakes. They were people who did not have a crystal ball. They were Renaissance men, the lot of them, yet they had no concept of things like the Industrial Revolution. They never imagined cars. They didn’t ever foresee large vessels that could fly across oceans in the air or do the same things in the deepest recesses of our oceans.

They never saw a television. They never saw a man walk on the moon. They never imagined the mass production and unethical means in which we would harvest our animals. They never had the internet. Or a phone. Or electricity.

They owned muskets. They had harpoons.

Muskets, people.

They never imagined gang wars. They never saw the technology that could create guns that could kill so many people so quickly. They never saw an AK-47 blow someone’s head off. They never imagined the number of civilian deaths, that would take place and grow each year on American soil

I will tell you one thing. They never imagined Columbine. They never imagined Newtown.

“Don’t take away my Second Amendment freedoms!”

Settle down. First of all, let’s stop looking at this as religious scripture. And stop attacking anyone who asks if guns should not be better regulated in this country. Well, if the laws we have are not enforced, then we don’t need more laws. We need enforcement and we need laws that make sense.

I feel like we are sitting at a critical juncture as a country. There will be another shooting. There might be another Newtown. There is just a sense of when, how, where? that I feel smothers us like a blanket.

I just want to know why I feel like the moment I question better regulation, people feel like their rights to own guns are being threatened? Hey, nobody’s saying you can’t hunt. Nobody’s saying you can’t own guns for self-defense. Heck, keep your arsenal for your hypothetical militia.

We have a problem here. An epidemic, if you will. Why is proper licensing of guns not considered acceptable? Why are more stringent licensing practices not being issued?

I keep hearing, “Well people will get guns without licenses!”

Probably. But it will be illegal and they should be penalized under the law. A person cannot legally drive in this country without getting a license. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t driving illegally every day. But that’s no excuse to stop overseeing it.

And why do we do that? Why do we require driver’s licenses? Because we like waiting online at the DMV? Because we like the way we look in the pictures? Does anyone actually like to go through the process of car inspections, vehicle registrations and wasting half a day at the DMV. Every stupid year? For every vehicle you own?

No. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass is what it is. But you do it. And it makes sense.

We do it because we know the power we hold behind the wheel. We know that we can kill, we can destroy, we can maim if we don’t know what we’re doing.

So why then? Why, why would we allow people to own guns without the appropriate training? Without appropriate documentation of what guns are where? And if it’s because we are going to talk about the people needing a way to raise a militia against the government, the people who are raging about wanting to have a right to raise a militia are usually the people I would NEVER want to see raise a militia.

That’s right. You people scare me.

I don’t know what will happen if I am at that gym in a middle of a workout and a gunman comes in raging. I haven’t thought through that yet. But I know that I think about my children every day. And my friends’ children. And my neighbors’ children.

And I’m not ready to teach them to stop, drop and play dead.

Something needs to change.

Her Name Was Jyoti

Mourners at a candlelight vigil
Photo – latimes.com

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

She is bleeding profusely. The flash of headlights rushing by barely registers and she can hear the screams from her friend, who seems to be asking for help. He sounds like a broken record. She vaguely remembers them beating him, and trying to call the police on her mobile phone. That was before they had snatched the phone from her hands and moved on to her.

Another pair of headlights goes by, even faster this this time, her friend’s shouts growing weaker. She knows his last pleas are ignored as she feels a layer of dirt and rocks kick off the tires of the passing vehicle and hit her tender skin in a light hailstorm of earth. She wanders in and out of consciousness, barely aware of time. The minutes seem like hours, the hours feel like days.

Yesterday feels like it was a lifetime ago.

She thinks of her family. She tries to find comfort in the things she loves. Her movies. Her friends. She and her friend were just coming back from seeing “The Life of Pi,” one of her favorite books. She won’t let her mind go back to what happened after that. Somewhere between when she boarded the bus and when they threw her and her friend out of the bus. She can’t think about what just happened to her and the men who did it to her. Each memory feels like another wound, another blow, another thrust.

Into nothingness.

The world goes black.

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

She is struggling to breathe, not realizing that she is slowly dying. Inside she feels like she might be dead already. At one point, as the men handed her off from one to the other, she had stopped fighting. She could never win, physically, this she knew. She had heard the men encouraging each other, congratulating each other after each had their turn with her. She had felt their flesh and the the unyielding stabs of the metal stick they had violated her with.

She wanders in and out of blackness. Is this it? Is this how it ends? she thinks. I am someone’s sister. I am someone’s daughter. I am someone’s friend. I had thought that maybe one day, I would be someone’s wife. Someone’s mother. Someone’s grandmother.

I was not supposed to die like this, she thinks. Not like this. Not today. As someone’s nobody. That much she knows. That much they cannot take away from her. She knows she is worth more than this, that this is not her shame. 

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

Her insides have been crushed by the iron rod that was ruthlessly thrust into her again and again and again. Several organs have been ruptured and damaged, which explains the flood of blood surrounding her,  surrounding her naked body. The police will finally come, though there is some confusion about how to get her to the hospital it seems, and discussion of whose jurisdiction this falls into. She can hear the sirens and her friend yelling, “Bachao! Bachao!” (Save us. Save us) and someone seems to finally have heard. She does not know that by the time she makes it to the hospital it will be too late. Two hours too late to prevent her death.

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

Her name is Jyoti.

And it was NOT her day to die.

******************************

The media has been covering the brutal murder and rape that occurred in New Delhi last week and took the life of a 23 year old woman. The woman’s father has decided to come out and publicly announce to the world that he is not ashamed to tell the world his daughter’s name. He wants her to be known as more than the woman who was gang-raped and killed in New Delhi. He wants to give other rape victim’s the courage to step forward to reveal their identities and to not live in shame of the crimes committed against them, not BY them.

The woman’s name is Jyoti Singh Pandey. She was 23 years old.

This piece is a work of fiction. None of us will ever know Jyoti’s thoughts or the terror she went through on that night. It is a torment that no woman should ever bear. When the official death of this woman, this CHILD, was announced last week, not only did her family mourn. Strangers from around the world mourned and grieved with them.

They grieved for a nameless woman.

And now we grieve for a girl with a name. Below is an image of Jyoti’s father who came forward to announce that his daughter’s name should be known.

 

There is something about the look in his eyes that I feel has haunted me since I saw his face in the article by The Mirror yesterday. They speak of a grief in this world that no man or woman should have to bear. I pray for Jyoti’s family that they will find a way to honor her memory and that seeing Jyoti’s name will bring other victims forwards. I pray that her friend recovers and can live his life without being forever haunted by the horror of that night.

I pray that this tragedy sparks a revolution in this world. Let nobody shy away from railing against the injustice of these travesties.

Every rape victim on this earth is somebody’s everything.

It is little wonder that rape is one of the least-reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety.” – Freda Adler

In memory and honor of Jyoti Singh Pandey. R.I.P.

Small Things With Great Love

This has been a confusing weekend. An emotional one. In the wake of Friday’s tragedy, I think many Americans are living in a mixed state of grief, pain, shock, anger and fear. As more stories emerge that give us a small glimpse into what unfolded for the children and teachers inside the school walls, each new detail has been like another shard of glass piercing our collective hearts.

My own reaction when this happened was a deep and utter grief for the families who have been impacted by the tragedy. Because I know that the pain does not end with the passing of 26 citizens of this world. It does not end with the families, the friends and neighbors of those who have died. It does not end with the hundreds of children who were brought to safety and survived. It will not end with the children who were hidden in closets to protect them from the killer on the other side of the door.

My grief was replaced by a need to ask WHY? Like so many, I want to find answers. It’s clear from details that have emerged that the young man who did this, this irreversible thing, was just a baby himself at the age of 20. And that he was extremely troubled and battling his own demons with a history of mental illness.

Americans are a practical people. We want to look for solutions. We all like to be fixers, I think. The problem is that the solutions we all discuss are a part of something much more complex. The solutions we point to are often fairly one dimensional and alone, will not solve the problem. Some of us point to guns. Some of us point to a lack of mental illness programs for the individuals and families who live with the reality of it every day. We can point to an entertainment industry that glamorizes violence and a gun culture that perpetuates that Americans have a “God given right” to wield weapons that can kill with the ferocity we saw on Friday.

As if God would want us wielding semi-automatic weapons. God sure does “give” in mysterious ways.

I don’t know the whys and I don’t know the solution. I think many of us want to talk about it, NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT in our own way try to understand how to prevent this again, so there is not another school, mall or movie theater in the news next week.

Perhaps we don’t know the answer today. On our solutions, as a country we are strongly divided. We all want to protect our children but we have different views on how to achieve that and what “fixing this” means. Heck, we can’t even agree on what “this” is.

Nothing will bring back the children that died on Friday. Nothing we write on Facebook. Nothing we say in disagreements on Twitter. Nothing we discuss in heated voices by the water cooler. Hugging our children will give us comfort. But again, it doesn’t change the fact that there are parents who will never have that chance again.

Perhaps in our grief and our collective humanity, we can honor those who are gone with something more than anger. There has been too much anger.

The faces of those who died on Friday will be at the forefront of the American conscience for a while, as they should be. The images of the beautiful young children and heroic faculty that died will haunt us for some time.

But in the midst of the horror emerge stories that should remind us of the largest lesson here. Humanity.

The bravery of the school custodian who ran up and down the halls trying to warn the teachers.

The fearlessness of the school secretary who turned on the school intercom to warn everyone that there was a shooter in the building.

The teachers who hid their kids in bathrooms and closets and calmed them down with books, crayon and paper. One, protecting her students by physically placing herself in front of them, acting like a shield, when the gunman shot her.

The cafeteria workers who hid the kids out of sight and locked all the cafeteria doors.

The Principal who ran head on to confront the shooter.

The kid who offered to protect his class and lead them out of the school, because he “knew karate.

There are about 15 days left till the end of the year. I know this doesn’t count as “paying it forward” but it’s close. I think it’s time we honor and recognize that we are tied together and bound by something more important than our views on guns, solutions and our politics.

Humanity.

I plan to do it by participating in a movement to perform 26 acts of kindness to honor each of the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary that day. You can follow the movement on Twitter under the hashtags #20Acts (for those honoring the children) and #26Acts. I am going with 26. Because if the courageous staff had not responded the way they did that day, even more children would be dead.

Why do we need a movement to be kind? Shouldn’t we just naturally be kind? you might ask. Of course. YES. But I would like to perform these acts with each victim in my heart. It’s my way of honoring their spirit and lighting a candle with and for each of the sparks they have created.

So, who is in? If you are, consider sharing this post or just spread the word on Facebook.

Let’s do this thing.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”- Mother Teresa

Post script 12/18/2012: Since writing this post, I did discover that journalist, Ann Curry (@anncurry) had and was the inspiration for this movement. I just want to say thank you to her for having the grace and vision to start something like this. And I know this is a post about love and shit, but to the Executives at the Today show who decided she should not stay on? How do ya like them apples?

Kind of bitter, huh?

Oh and for anyone who is complaining about the movement saying people should be kind every day? Yes, we get it. But this helps with healing. I am inspired following that hashtag. Also, people are asking for ideas on some inexpensive ways to be kind. Here are a few that I picked up on the #26acts hashtag:

1) Give 26 unsuspecting people a flower with a tag on the bottom with each of the victim’s names. Or don’t put the names. Just do that in your heart.

2) If you are buying coffee, buy the coffee for the lady or man in front of you. Merry Christmas! Hope they like their Macchiato!

3) Tell people you love who you don’t normally “appreciate” the way you should why they rock.

4) Reach out to a teacher who you loved as a kid and send them a wish for the holidays and a thank you for what they did.

5) Tell your children’s teachers how much you appreciate them.

6) Send an email to the Today show and remind them why they should never have fired Ann Curry. Donkeys.

7) Make a nice dinner for a homeless person.

Anyway, just wanted to add this. If you have any inexpensive ideas, make sure to tweet them with the hashtag #26acts, or comment here and I will get them up.

Muchos besos.

Give a Little Bit

Never judge a book by it’s cover.

We all know the expression. The meaning is clear. A book which is beautifully bound, with a richly decorated exterior may be the one that grabs our attention. It may be the one we pick up and bring over to the cash register to buy.

Only to come home and find that the pages inside are hollow. The story and the characters are shallow and one dimensional. And you realize how much better off you might have been picking the other book that you had held in your hands for that short moment, but dismissed because it lacked the shinier, less sparkly cover.

I try not to judge my books that way. Most of my favorite books have nothing compelling on the cover. I have learned over the years how to follow my instincts in picking out what to read. Sometimes the barest of covers are the perfect hiding places for stories of substance.

Yet I somehow have not learned to do the same with people. While I pride myself on not being a very judgmental person, I still rely on first impressions too often.

It’s not so much about whether someone is pretty or not pretty. Glamorous or not.

I tend to look at how someone presents themselves and without realizing it, assign them to some non-formalized class system in my mind. Rich vs. poor. Privileged vs. unprivileged. Educated vs. uneducated. Easy life vs. tough life.

Over the years, I have learned that my first impressions are terribly… off. And that our covers don’t allow people to see a fraction of the many chapters that comprise our lives. I have mistaken shyness or reserve on a young woman as snobbery and elitism, only to now to now be able to count that woman is one of my best friends. I have mistaken over-friendliness as genuine warmth and friendship only to find a bitter coldness when it retreats.

I worked at a large technology company for many years. There was a young executive there who was a bit of a rock star. He was highly respected within the company and people knew his name. When I met him, he gave off an air of affluence to me and it was easy for me to compartmentalize him into those simplistic categories I mentioned above. It was clear to me that he must have grown up as a child of privilege. If not privilege, well… at least the middle class.

These are assumptions that are easy to make in the workplace and often times, we don’t know our colleagues well enough to go back more than the last few chapters. Rarely do we ask them to go back to earlier chapters and tell us how their story first started.

And so it just shows how much I know. And how faulty my impressions of people can be. Chris, the executive I mentioned, posted this story on Facebook the other day and I wanted to share it with the readers of Masala Chica.

In 1978, there was a family of 3 (single mom and two boys – 9 & 8) living in a small town in northern Arizona. Because of the grip that alcoholism had on the life of this family – the mother did not work and relied on family and the welfare system to care for her family. Often the money received from the government was used to feed her addiction – when you take money from an already tight budget to purchase alcohol – it makes a horrible situation simply unfathomable.

So here the family was on Christmas Eve – with the exception of a couple boxes of generic macaroni and cheese – there wasn’t anything else in the cupboard. There was no tree, no Christmas lights, not stockings hanging, no reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, no Christmas ham, no opening of a present before bed – just another night. The boys had learned throughout their life not to say anything or ask for anything because it would make their mother feel bad and that would only mean that the drinking would escalate and depression would often lead to much worse things. So the boys went to bed – with empty stomachs, empty dreams and an empty reality. That night the younger brother asked the older brother why Santa Claus wouldn’t visit them – the older brother did his best to comfort the younger brother and they finally went to sleep.

In normal homes, on Christmas morning the children are awake first thing in the morning often before the sun even rises to see what magic is ready for them underneath their Christmas tree. In this small trailer – these young boys slept on the floor because they had no beds and with the trailer being drafty and cold – they often slept in – huddled around an electric space heater. This Christmas morning, when they finally did get up – they walked out of their bedroom and something simply magical had taken place. In their small living room – there was a complete Christmas Tree – lights, decorations, tinsel, tree skirt, candy canes – the works. There were boxes wrapped with their names on it. There were stockings filled with treats and tooth brushes and combs and socks. They had clothes, shoes, coats. There were toy machine guns – you know the kind where you keep pulling the trigger to get the machine gun sound. The fridge and cupboards were full of food. There was two bicycles for the boys. Santa had indeed found this small family and had brought hope to a desperate reality. There was just a simple note that read – “Merry Christmas – Love Santa”. The reason that I know this story so well is that I was that older brother. To this day – I do not know who was responsible for this amazing gift of hope. But it did in fact change my life and has touched me every year as I think back.

I would encourage all of us to take time this holiday season to help provide some hope to those that are less fortunate than ourselves. It is hard to give to adults who you know are going to most likely use the money to feed an addiction – but we all need to remember that the children that are in these families did not choose this lifestyle and they have no options; they are where they are because of the poor decisions of the adults who are responsible for them. Please take some time and find opportunities to provide for these children and families this holiday season. Whether you take a few cans of food from your cupboard for a food drive, take a name from an Angel tree to buy needed gifts (shoes, bedding, clothing, etc), whether you become a secret Santa for a child who is in foster care (where you provide these children with necessities, sleeping bags, a sleeping cot, clothing, etc) (remember that the families that take children in for foster care are not given money to provide gifts – so they are very limited in what they can do for these children as well), whether you take some time to actually adopt an entire family this holiday season – please do something. It will bring the spirit of the holidays into your home and hearts like no Christmas Story, Christmas Carol, Sleigh Ride or Holiday Party can.

****

I want to thank Chris for sharing this story.

I did not know Chris’s journey. I did not know the beginnings of his story. I see a successful man today and I am sad to say that I made some assumptions about what his life must have been like. Privileged. Easy.

That can’t be farther from the truth.

The roads we all took to get to here, wherever HERE is in our lives, are all vastly different. We can look at each other and assume we know enough of each others’ stories, because we have read the synopsis and the reviews on the covers of the books. But there are stories that often remain untold, chapters that have been overlooked.

I feel like there is a growing lack of empathy towards people who are enduring true financial challenges – challenges like how will I feed my kids tomorrow? It extends not just to the poor, but to the homeless, with the most apathy directed towards the individuals on welfare in America. In the minds of many, most of these people have made their own beds and they are generally somebody else. But sometimes, somebody else looks a lot like you. Somebody else looks like me. Your neighbor.

We all have the power to help co-author the chapters of the lives of others. Not just on Christmas, though if this is one time where you heart is open to giving in a year, consider opening it fully now.

Based on the letter Chris shared, I believe that the kindness he received that day helped give him hope. Helped a nine year old boy get through some really hard times. It was by far not the only thing, but it did help inspire him as he became the American success story that he is today.

Help change someone’s tomorrow.

And make tomorrow amazing.

No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank



A Girl With a Book

My daughter, Shaila, has been reading a lot lately. She is reading earlier than I was as a kid, just halfway through Kindergarten. I don’t remember doing much reading until the first grade. Watching her explore words and sounds and hearing her stumble over sentences as she turns the pages of her books brings back vivid memories of finally breaking that impenetrable code. You start out unsure, your steps a little timid as you first start stringing vowels and consonants together. Pretty soon, you are running. Before you know it, flying.

Like magic. But better.

As she reads to me right now, I know she is in those early phases. She stops frequently and looks at me and says, “Mommy, am I doing good?” To which I reply with a proud nod and a small kiss on the forehead, sometimes too overcome with emotion to even say the words.

But I do that a lot too. “Wow! You’re doing so well!” I say, watching her trying to hide her proud smile so it becomes a little smirk instead. It reaches her eyes and I can see it. She takes a second to find her spot again before she moves forward. A little more confident this time.

These are exciting times for her. I can kind of tell that of my two kids, she is going to be the one who is going to find that incredible joy in learning. I think Nico will too, but I think he will define success with a different sort of metric – how many kids he made laugh that day or how well he can burp or fart on command.

The big things.

I am an incredibly lucky person. These are not things I take for granted in life. Throughout my life, I have been encouraged to learn, to push, to succeed, to learn from my falls, to beat the boys and to kick ass and take some names on the way there. My Indian parents may have been traditional in a lot of ways, but they never lead me to believe that there were boundaries around my mind. Around where it could take me.

What a gift?

Really.

I look at my daughter sometimes and wonder if and when she will understand the opportunities she has in this life. When she storms off from the kitchen yelling, “This is no fair. YOU are no fair!” because she didn’t get another piece of Starburst, I wonder if she knows how different life could be.

I know she doesn’t. And to a certain extent, I don’t think she will ever get it. I don’t know how many of us really get it. I have seen how different my own life could be in my own world travels. I know how startlingly different my own opportunities could have been. If I had been born into another family, another religion, another country or another government. Despite these things, I often find myself not contemplating how lucky I am, but focusing instead on all the areas my life is lacking.

The other night at dinner, I was talking to John about a young woman who I find myself thinking about a lot lately. Malala Yousafzai. I found myself losing sight of where I was and forgetting that Shaila could spell for a minute.

“I mean, can you believe it? Taking on the T-A-L-I-B-A-N like that? She was only 11! She must have been so S-C-A-R-E-D. 11! Knowing that the T-A-L-I-B-A-N wanted her D-E-A-D,” I marveled at John.

“Mommy, who is dead?” Shaila asked.

John looked at me and shook his head. I guess now that she can spell, this isn’t table talk anymore.

But I wanted to answer Shaila. Because as I watch Shaila learn every day, I think more and more about what a young woman like Malala means in this world.

I think about her heart, I think about her recovery, I think about her bravery.

And I pray for her. And her family.

Malala looks a LOT like my niece, Haley, in this picture. My niece is 16. She loves the band One Direction. She is surrounded by friends and is a badass Volleyball player. She is a sensitive soul, and she is a good kid. A strong kid. I know she will do well in this life.

Her life is very different from Malala’s. As was mine. As will be my daughter’s.

When Malala was 11 years old, she started writing a blog where she exposed her views on living under Taliban rule and actively spoke about promoting education for girls in countries under Taliban rule. She was encouraged by her father to do this for BBC Urdu after another girl backed out. The girl’s family was rightfully scared of what the Taliban might do if they learned her identity.

Malala agreed to take on the task, the burden, the duty. Eleven years old. In Pakistan. This was in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2011, Malala stopped hiding her identity. She became a much more prominent activist and she, along with her father, spoke loudly against terrorism, knowing full well the potential for consequences. Death threats abounded. The Taliban made no secret that the girl was considered a threat to their view of Islam.

On her way home from school one day in 2012, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban. The gunman boarded her bus and asked for her by name. When he shot her, he left her for dead. The bullet went through her head, neck and ended at her shoulder. Had he known she was not dead, he surely would have shot her several more times.

This man. This man with a gun. Shooting an unarmed fourteen year old girl. Sometimes I wonder what has happened to this man. I wonder if he is able to sleep at night. But then I realize that after his mistake, the Taliban probably did not let him regret his misstep for long.

People the world over know Malala’s story. Most of you know Malala’s story. But for those of you who don’t, know this. In another show of this amazing girl’s strength, she managed to live. To survive.

How?

I don’t know all the details of her surgery, but her doctors were able to save her. I don’t know how, but I DO know that she was meant to live. That she has more chapters to write. This girl, who had the audacity to uphold her right to an education in the face of the Taliban and survive. She is not done yet.

And it’s in moments like this that I feel an overwhelming sense of clarity. I don’t always know how he works or why, but I do believe in God.

I believe in God when I see him clearly through the god like actions of his children.

This child.

Malala.

**

“Mommy? MOMMY?!”

I look up and Shaila is looking at me. We are still at dinner. My thoughts have wandered.

“Who is dead, Mommy? D-E-A-D. That spells dead,” she looks at me, no longer eating. I look over at John. He shakes his head. She is only five.

“Nobody, honey. I didn’t spell d-e-a-d. It was something else,” I say, changing the topic, while she looks on confused, both sad that she didn’t spell a word right while knowing that I am not being honest with her. And I am such a liar, such a fraud for saying this to her.

Shaila is five. Only six years younger than Malala was when she started this incredible journey.

Shaila is five years old, but she deserves the truth. My answer to my daughter is riddled with untruth. Malala may NOT be dead. Thank goodness she is not dead. But it’s not “nobody” that is dead. Many like her have been killed. Many like her will continue to die and live in fear if our children are not taught to embrace what they have. To recognize what children around this world are fighting for.

Dying for.

Tonight, Shaila will want to read me a story. Maybe it will be Cinderella. Maybe it will be The Little Mermaid.

But before she reads me that story tonight, I think that there is another one that maybe she should hear first. It starts out like this:

“Once upon a time, there was a girl.  A girl with a book.”

 

If you want to help further the cause of education for ALL of the children of this world, consider voting for Malala for Time’s Person of the Year award, which will be announced on Friday, December 14th. You can vote here.

Also, if you believe in this cause and the advancement of standing with these girls, these young women, consider liking this Facebook page and Blog – #Girlwithabook. The founders of this site have done an amazing job of bringing awareness to this cause and creating a community of people passionate about ending the battle.

The battle against our world’s children.

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” – U.S. President Bill Clinton, International Literacy Day 09/08/1994

 

My First Movie

When I was 6 years old, my parents thought it would be a great idea to bring me to the movie theater to watch this movie they knew I was absolutely dying to see.

Gandhi.

Yeah, I know. 3+ hours of Bollywood song and dance that would leave any kid tapping their toes and wanting to dance in the aisles.

Well, not exactly. But I am pretty sure that’s what they lead me to believe.

You rock, Ma and Papa. Really.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it starts with Ben Kingsley, an amazingly convincing Gandhi, being shot three times at point blank. At the time, I had no real idea of who this bald, little Indian man was, but I knew that I felt incredibly sad. There was something about his eyes that I will always remember, and no matter what roles Kingsley plays – a part of me will never be able to see past him as anything other than Gandhi.

Ben Kingsley

Interesting trivia: Did you know that Kingsley was actually born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji? I didn’t realize that he was half-Indian until a few years ago, but it kind of makes sense when you think how effortlessly he can play so many different roles. His looks are kind of borderless, if that makes sense.

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi

Anyway, I was sad. I was sad that this man, who I really knew nothing about, had died before the movie had even started. Great. So now I knew the ending. As the movie went on, I got even more sad when I discovered there were no songs.

What. The. Fudge? (I was only 6. I didn’t curse as much as I do now back then).

At intermission (another weird thing. Does anyone remember how long movies used to have intermissions? I am totally dating myself), my older brother, Sudhu Bhaiya, went off to get some snacks. This, now this, I was excited for.

Until he comes back with those nasty ass black Twizzlers. For fudging real? I burst into tears when I realized my parents weren’t going to let me get the red ones instead. Did anyone like black licorice when they were 6? And that there were two more freaking hours left of this sad, sad movie. I didn’t understand much but I knew that the white people were being really mean to all the brown ones. All in all, kind of depressing for a 6 year old brown kid.

I don’t think even Gandhi would eat these

So I went to sleep and pretty much wrote the night off as an epic fail.

I obviously grew up. Gandhi came out in 1982, and there has been a lot of time for me to come to appreciate who Gandhi was, what a pivotal performance Kingsley gave in the role and how quickly the movie actually can go by when you appreciate the history and the magnitude of this small man. And if you are anything like me, you wonder how this small man could contain such an enormous heart and intellect.

It’s also amazing to think that he would go on to influence great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., his influence reaching not only his own countryman, but the world. Through some pretty fucking important shit, like the American Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. That’s a pretty big footprint for a man who often walked barefoot and who rarely went out with anything more than chappals (flip-flops) on his feet.

I know people throw out Gandhi quotes all the time on Facebook and Twitter and all that. I do that too, especially when I haven’t tweeted in a while and I need to feel like I said something smart that day (HINT: you usually can’t go wrong with a little Gandhi or Khalil Gibran. Throw in some Mother Teresa from time to time too). When I read his philosophies, I am blown away by how simple some of his statements are yet how powerful they can be. I also think about the controversy some of them must have stirred at the time and might continue to stir. Especially if taken out of the context of his own life and experience.

On Religion:

“God has no religion.”

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

“Seven Deadly Sins

Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice.”

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

“I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.”

“I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and that also that all had some error in them, and while I hold by my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we were Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu; but our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Christian a better Christian.”

On Life:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”

On Violence:

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

“They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

I don’t know. There are just too freaking many. I don’t know how this became a post about how fucking brilliant I think Gandhi was and how important I think it is that people still hear his words today. Do you want to know what this post was supposed to be about? Probably not, but if you have made it this far, you might as well know. It was supposed to be about whether I would be torturing my daughter Shaila (5) or not by bringing her to see Les Miserables on the big screen. But as I started writing it, the memory of that movie I saw so long ago popped into my head and I had to go with it. So I will get to Shaila and whether she can handle a little too much of John Valjean tomorrow.

Picture from veodesign.com

Is Gandhi someone whose life you have admired? What’s your favorite Gandhi quote? Who DOES inspire you?

 

How I Broke My Facebook Rules – Rule #9

“You’re doing it again,” John said accusingly when he got home from work on Friday night.

“Doing what again?” I asked.

“You’re getting into political debates on Facebook.” Oh, shit.

“Are you spying on me?” Marriages are built on trust, buddy.

THIS is exactly why I try to hide everything I do from him so we don’t lose that. Keeping a marriage alive is hard work, no shit.

“I can see it every time you responded to that stupid thread. When are you going to learn?” Um, NEVER.

Ok, so I’m busted. I knew exactly what he meant when he said, “that stupid thread.” After talking a good game in the post I wrote called Facebook Rules, the one where I expertly explain how to successfully navigate the muddy waters of Facebook without losing your mind (and your sanity), I have reverted back to old habits. As always, I am great at doling out the advice, but am not so good about following it myself.

The rule I primarily broke was, Rule #9 – Don’t get all political up in my Facebook grill, yo.

Now the premise of Rule #9 is that it’s important to not encourage or engage in aggressive behavior by writing inflammatory posts or comments regarding political parties and beliefs, etc. There is an implied aspect to Rule #9 as well, that if someone writes something which you find offensive, to walk away from it. That no good can come of it.

I know these things. I have written a primer on it. Yet, like a moth to a flame, a fraternity boy to a drunk sorority girl, Rihanna to Chris Brown – I get pulled towards these posts. Before I know it my fingers are click-clacking away at the keyboard and my jaw is clenched. I’m on fire. On a mission.

A mission to what, I do not know.

So what happened in that thread? I am going to simplify this as much as possible. A Facebook friend who does not support health care reform in the United States and openly opposes “Obamacare” posted some inflammatory things about it. Now, I don’t care if he opposes or believes in health care reform. What drew me to his post were two things.

1) The post was not true

2) He kept calling President Obama, “Hussein.” Which IS Obama’s middle name. But he repeatedly pointed it out – “Hey, from now on I am going to call him Hussein.” or “Watch me now – I can call him Hussein walking backwards!” or “Look, NO hands this time – Hussein!!!”

I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire so I just commented (politely, of course) with a link that explained what he was saying had been fabricated. He responded with another point, which again was not factual, so I once again sent him (yes, calmly. Gosh people) some links from respected news sources (Forbes.com is respected, right?), explaining how those points were NOT true either.

He then grudgingly acknowledged that what he shared was NOT true. However, his dislike for the plan and for the President justified why he felt comfortable sharing the link. He would not delete it because at the end of the day he still hates “Hussein” and liberals and his false post is therefore justified.

And then I said….

Well. Here’s the thing.

I know what I said. But I want to hear what you think I SHOULD have said.

Now, I don’t know care where you stand politically or on the policy in question. It’s not about who you voted for or why. Policy, Shmolicy.

Let’s pretend for a moment that NONE of that matters. Party lines don’t matter. Heck, maybe you are not even American as it seems many more of Masala Chica’s readers seem to be popping up around the globe.

Let go of all prejudices and political affiliations.

Breathe.

In and out.

Did you breathe? Seriously, I need you to be all Zen and shit when you comment.

How do you feel when people pass along fiction as fact? Especially knowingly? Do you think it’s different than when someone spreads misinformation because they haven’t done their research? In this day and age, is it acceptable to not do your homework with all of the information we have at our fingertips?

If fiction IS shared  to strengthen your OWN beliefs, do you support it? Do you see it as a necessity to push towards the greater goal of accomplishing what you believe in?

AND last, but certainly not least,

What do YOU hear when someone calls the President of the United States “Hussein”? 

If these questions sound simple, I ask you to still answer. I don’t think they are that simple but then again, I think my parents dropped me on my head a few times too many when I was a kid, so that’s not the best indicator.

Pro-What?

You’ve been getting really political lately” – My husband, in regards to my activity on Facebook, Twitter and yes, this blog.

When John told me this a few weeks ago, I was like “Really?” knowing in my heart (yes, this bleeding, left leaning heart) that he was right. “What do you mean?” wanting him to tell me so I understood what he means by “really political.” You know, versus just “slightly political.”

Well, you put up a link to a post that is obviously written with a liberal slant on your Facebook page and then you ask people for their thoughts.”

So? I am asking for an open discussion.”

Well you never put up a conservatively written link and ask for anybody’s feedback on that,” he countered.

This is, in fact, NOT true. I will put up posts from “out there” Republicans like O’Reilly. Or Ann Coulter. Even Glen Beck. Republicans who I really don’t believe speak for the moderate minded side of the party.

And then I sit back and call them names and talk about WHY they are wrong.

HMMM. It seems like my husband may have a good point.

I know that with blogging, unless you are writing a political blog, it’s best to stay away from touchy subjects like politics or religion. They teach you that in like Blogging 101.

So, sorry. What can I say? Oops?

I have a problem with getting a little too into politics. It’s an annoying habit that I have. Ever since I took a sick day in the 7th grade when Michael Dukakis lost the Presidential Election to George Bush, I have realized that I have issues.

But since I was twelve, I think I have matured a little bit in my political outlook. I have come to the realization that while I identify myself more as a Democrat (oh goodness, this is like blog suicide right now, isn’t it?), I have also come to terms with the fact that it’s not as black and white as that.

I also realize that while I support “the party line” on some issues, it is not always with the same cheerleader type of enthusiasm I may have in the past.

I think I just look at these issues differently now.

I attribute my change of opinion, or at least my questions regarding it, in large part to becoming a parent.

You’re Pro What?

Ever since I can remember, I have always said that I am “Pro-Choice.” I have resented that my stance on being “Pro-Choice” indicated that in some way, I was “Pro-Death.” I would get even more annoyed at that because it seemed like such a hypocrisy since many traditional Pro-Lifers support the death penalty.

Nobody has the right to tell me what to do with my body,” I have said. And I still say it. I don’t want anybody – my neighbor, my dentist, the grocery checkout lady or the guy in the U-Haul next to me who is driving a little too crazy – what I can do with my fingers, my toes, my esophagus, not to mention my uterus.

I also don’t want anyone telling my daughter what to do with her body either. EVER. Anybody who even tries to better BACK THE HELL OFF.

So What’s My Deal?

Prior to having a child of my own, if someone asked me when I believe that life begins, I used to respond fairly confidently with, “Somewhere between the second and third trimester.

Since having a child, my view has changed when someone asks me that question. I don’t always answer right away, because I don’t really feel that confident in my answer anymore. It seems at odds with the confidence with which I approach most of my beliefs. Unlike the old me, the post motherhood me believes that it starts right away.

Yup.

As soon as the bullet hits the target.

It’s weird writing it for me and seeing it in print, but it’s true. A part of me feels like I should be modifying this to say, “After the first trimester” or maybe even, “Once the heart starts beating.”

It’s just that, I remember the voracity with which I would read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” oddly one of the most mundane books in the world to read EXCEPT when you are pregnant. Then it becomes the most fascinating piece of literature in the world to read as you sift through the pages and hungrily absorb the details about your baby being the size of a pea, an avocado and other sized fruits and vegetables.

I remember feeling the exhaustion and the effects of both pregnancies almost immediately. And each pregnancy seemed to have it’s own stamp. As if each child was already making its mark, its imprint.

On me. Really, really early in the pregnancies.

Straddling a Fence?

So it sounds like on the one hand I don’t want anybody telling me or my fellow sisters in this world what we can do with our bodies. On the other hand, I know that the day I discovered I was pregnant each time, I stopped throwing back things like vodka martinis and expensive wine, NOT because of the calories.

Because they were bad for the baby. The one that was growing in my belly.

And yet….

I fear what would happen if our government were to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

I fear what happens when a woman or young child who is raped no longer has the right to regain control when control has completely been taken away from them.

I fear what happens when a woman finds herself in a situation where she has no other option and must seek a back alley abortion.

I fear what will happen to the many children, now brought into this world where a parent cannot support them or does not want to support them.

I fear what happens when a woman who is faced with the likelihood of death is not given the option to choose whether she can live. I am especially thinking of the death of the young woman in Ireland, Savita Halapannavar, who was declined a D&C a few weeks ago, even though there was no chance of her baby’s survival. 

I fear that something as scary and frightening as “rape” will one day be defined for me by a primarily male Congress. I laugh at the Tina Fey quote below, but it’s a truth that I don’t feel comfortable with.

I also fear that if you tell someone that they can only be granted an abortion if they have been “raped,” after it has been defined by the powers that be (see point above) that we will see a frightening number of “Salem Witch Trial” like accusations going down, on innocent people.

So Where the Heck Does that Leave Me?

Good question. I thought I may have lost you there. These are murky waters.

I am “Pro-Choice.” Not because I am “Pro-Death,” because I don’t believe in the opposite of the “Pro-Life” movement. Nobody who is Pro-Choice is against life.

The problem I have with overturning something like Roe vs. Wade is that I can’t count on absolutes. And I greatly fear consequences of looking at the world in absolutes.

The fears that I listed above would all be consequences of Roe vs. Wade.

In fact, both sides (Pro-Choice and Pro-Life) are looking at the value of life and protecting those lives. We are just looking at the issues with our own lenses.

We just don’t live in a world of absolutes. We never will. It’s not as easy as Life vs. Death. Choice vs. Death.

What happened in Ireland a few weeks ago should not and cannot be allowed to happen in this country. The thought of any woman being in the same situation as Savita Halapannavar and not having a choice between life or death is terrifying.

So I support choice. Not lightly.

Not lightly at ALL.

And as I write this post, I greatly even debate whether I have the guts to hit “Publish.”

Closing my eyes. Here goes.

Kiran

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MEET KIRAN

I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....

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