Friday, January 29, 2016

Parental Control for Parents

Cultivating cross-cultural diversity sometimes seems as easy and natural as making Russian salad by following an old family recipe. Each ingredient contributes its own unique flavor and texture while bringing the best out of the rest.  The outcome is delightful and worth every bit of effort. 

Other times cross-cultural living can be as tricky as assembling a nuclear bomb while blindfolded. When the bomb explodes, it's usually in the shape of your own head!

Still other times, this bi-focal life is downright hilarious. When you add the multi-generational layer to the cross-cultural mix, things can get quite out of control.

Case in point - back in December, I purchased a Kindle Fire for my parents as a Christmas present. It’s been my mom’s long-standing desire to have Skype and unlimited access to communicating with yours truly and her grand-kids on this side of the ocean. We understood that it would be a stretch for my technologically challenged parents to navigate a tablet, but the deal was too great to pass, and time was on our side. Practicing their touch-screen skills while under our roof would surely help them get a hang of it.

The gift was unwrapped, the beginner enthusiasm was off the charts. We hugged and kissed and toasted to the future unfettered intergalactic communication. We were off to a really good start.

I encouraged them to take every chance to play with it until they feel comfortable using at least it’s basic features.

Few days ago, I took our son to his violin lesson, and left my parents at home. While I was away my e-mail got flooded with Appstore purchase order confirmations... 

Client for imo? 

Slot Galaxy? 



Not all free, mind you. I was about to jump on our son, the usual suspect, for downloading all these useless apps, but he had an alibi.  He was with me!

When I got home, my mom was beaming, Kindle in hand.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Amazon customer service, cancelling the orders, cleaning out the app mess, in a word, re-defining "Parental Controls". The Amazon Customer Service guy got a kick out of the last bit.

Ha, ha, ha... he said, Parental Control… but for PARENTS!

At least I know they feel comfortable with Kindle now... or, maybe, not quite yet.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Diversify Me!

Much is being said about diversity these days. If some are choosing to forgo the night of glamour and boycott the Oscars this year, you know it’s a big deal.  As it should be.

In an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, Will Smith said that diversity is America’s superpower.  I couldn’t agree more - that is, with slight modification (in the name of diversity :-)).

Diversity is anyone’s superpower!

We all know it. We are better together than alone.

And yet, when pain happens, when injustice happens, when misunderstandings, disappointments and heartbreaks happen, when our emotions hijack our reasoning powers, we either lash out in anger and frustration or withdraw to our self-protective shells and claim isolation as our old trusted friend.

If nobody ever told you, here it is: Diversity is also painful. Diversity hurts too.

I recall how envious I was few weeks ago as I was listening to my friends sharing about their family visits over Christmas break.  They kept those close encounters to roughly 4 to 10 days.  Anything beyond that was simply too much to handle. Actually, the 10 day relative-togetherness stint was too much to handle for one family. 

Most of us nod our heads in silent agreement.  We know what they are talking about!

I process this information inside my permanently deformed bilingual/bi-cultural brain and can’t help but marvel.  We are talking here about family members, people of the same language, same socio-economic background, and same white Anglo-Saxon culture, often similar upbringing. And we can’t handle them beyond this carefully measured teaspoonful of time.  

What then can we expect when we consider larger North-American and even global culture?

Living cross-culturally for the past 20+ years, and having my non-English-speaking parents live with us during winter months on several different occasions has taught me one thing.

Diversity talk is easy.

Diversity life is HARD.  Really, at times it’s excruciating. For everyone involved.  Nobody goes scotch free. Everyone's scarred.

Day in, day out, it’s challenging to live with a constant questioning of your beliefs, assumptions and even core values.  Those things most of us take for granted as self-evident truth and an essence of our personal identity. 

Until somebody comes along and challenges this truth with their own perception of ‘self-evident truth’.

Practicing organic bi-cultural, bi-lingual, real-time 24-7 mini version of diversity under our roof became to me a microcosm of what our society is dealing with at large. Such gritty, unedited life quickly dispels much cherished romantic notions of living together happily ever-after. When these notions wear off, each of us is left with some hard-to-stomach truths which most of us would rather keep asnooze.  

As hard and humbling as these truths may be, they are something like birth-pangs of new, genuinely better, truly diversified life. Not just some illusory version of it.  

It may take a midwife or two.  

It may take a little – or a lot! – of pushing, and some crying, even wailing out!

But if nothing else comes of it, you and I will come out on the other side a gentler and kinder person. 

Less dogmatic and self-righteous.  

Better listeners.  

More attentive and truly present. 

Maybe even a tad more forgiving! A smidgen more humble.  

Then, and only then, we might be sufficiently suited to roll up our sleeves and start hammering out organic diversity not just on Oscar nights but every night.  

Not just in Hollywood, but in our neighborhood.  

Perhaps even in church.

Now that would be a cosmic miracle in its own merit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sugarplums for the Soul

We put away Christmas last weekend.  Wrapped up baby Jesus in Bounty paper towels, stuffed the angels next to a glittery star and red-nosed Rudolf into a box next to all the other boxes stacked inside our attic where Christmas sleeps in our household until late November. The giant tree which occupied about a third of our living space is laid to rest in something akin to a coffin shoved against the back wall of the garage.

Our house is stripped of all the artificial evergreens, tinsels and trinkets that somehow got attached to our faith in the scandalous Almighty God who came to live among us, stinky diapers and all.

No more twinkling lights. No more egg-nog induced coma. No parties. No concerts. No cute Christmas plays.

All that is left now are bare walls, cleared out cabinet surfaces and empty floor space.

And us.

The plain, old us, unaided by staged photos, seasonal excitement, hype and ambiance fueled magic.

I look around, not sure if I can handle it.

This ordinary, grayish, bean-soup kind of day.

I feel as if a warm fuzzy coat was stripped off of me and I am left half-naked, off-centered, like a shivering addict going through withdrawal.

It’s not like I set out to feed my soul a steady diet of sugarplums at the beginning of the season.

But when all the sugarplums are suddenly gone, I wonder if any soul can thrive on a diet of sugarplums alone?

Can a soul even survive on sugarplums alone?

I stand in the middle of the room, taking in this empty, this Christmas-shaped void, savoring its gritty texture.

Perhaps it’s not what I want, but deep down I know it’s what I need.

What are you going to put there where the tree used to be? There is all this empty space now… My parents look at me, ready to pounce into large furniture moving action.

But, before their question is asked, I know it's already been answered in another universe.

I think I’ll leave it empty… I want to keep it empty for now...

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Year of Good Enough

I roll the two words on my tongue, savoring their un-entangled meaning.

For someone who is so natural at finding faults, detecting imperfections, pointing out mistakes, it’s really hard to accept life as-is. To find good.  To say, This is good, and really mean it.

It’s hard to say a heart-felt, grateful, content ‘enough’ in the world whose moto is Never stop improving. When there is always something better, bigger, newer...

When each of us is experiencing pressure – as much from the inside as from the outside – to pursue the more and the better.

Better homes and gardens. Better job. Better marriage. Better children. 

The better you!

Trimmer. Healthier. More organized. More spiritual. More time in studying God’s Word. More time in prayer. More generous. More humble. More selfless, more serving….

More like Jesus!

As if as we add years to our lives we are not discovering ...

...the more we know Him...

...the more we know...

 we are nothing like Him!

But caught in that whirlwind pursuit of the better and the more, I tend to woefully overlook the good I already have. All the good that already IS.

In the endless pull for more, I fail to recognize when I've reached (and passed!) the point of satisfaction. To sense when truly it’s enough. 

Indeed, it’s plenty!

And, like a delicious meal, if I keep eating beyond being satisfied isn't going to make me enjoy my food more.
Eventually, it may make me feel quite miserable!

It appears that in life sometimes this more, this better, well-meaning as it may be, doesn’t really add anything of true value. More often than not, it detracts from our ability to enjoy the goodness in life that already is... from our ability to see that there is already enough goodness in our lives as is...

And, right now, that's good enough for me. 

Nothing we do can improve on God. Proverbs 10:22b

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Year of Doom

As if failure to select the Word for the Year isn't horrible enough, I grace the beginning of 2016. with yet another dismal shortcoming.  In all the craziness of our three-ring circus,  January pounced on me like a crouching tiger before I was able to formulate my New Year’s resolution!

No Word for the Year. No New Year’s Resolution. Does it get any more pathetic than that?

2016. must be the Year of Doom, I conclude.

 My whole year is ruined and it has barely started!

Whatcha writing about?, my husband leans over my shoulder while I glower at the screen of the laptop.  He is one of those people who doesn’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, for which I forgive him every single year.

The Word of the Year, and how I failed miserably to select a word that will be my loadstar…

And what exactly is this ‘Word of the Year’?, he interrupts before I get too carried away.

I look at him, debating whether I should slap him or hug him.

And in that space in-between, I relax a little.  I breathe a little. And it finally dawns on me that despite all the busyness, chaos and lack of margin; despite the missing Word of the Year, and unarticulated New Year’s Resolution, the 2016. has actually been off to a pretty good start.

Perhaps not a brand new beginning.  Not a fresh start, but more of a cascading overflow of a narrative already in progress.

And, at this time, that’s good enough for me.

In fact, when I really think of it, it’s not just good-enough.

It’s actually good.

And it’s enough.

Monday, January 04, 2016

And the Word of the Year is...

A friend sent me a Happy New Year e-mail and included her Word of the Year choice, accompanied with a lovely explanation as to why this particular word was selected. It was beautiful, and spiritual, and simply perfect.

A Word of the Year!!, I thought, a sudden wave of panic sloshing over my already overwhelmed brain. Damn it! I don’t have a word for 2016!!!

Our lives have been very, very full since Baba’s and Deda’s arrived.  With countless cross-cultural, mulit-generational idiosyncrasies, there has been little brain (or any other!) space for reflective, much less proactive meditation. Our days have blurred into weeks, weeks into an entire month. The ball on Time’s Square has come and gone, all the confetti already swept off the New York City streets.

Yet, my Word for the Year basket remained empty!

That’s not a way to start a New Year. At least not for a writer.

Writers know the power of the words.  Well-chosen word can accomplish a lot more than much thoughtless busyness or rambling. I consider it not only my privilege but also my honorable duty to the rest of humanity to bring focus and clarity to life by hand-picking with laser-sharp precision a single word out of 1,025,109.8 words that currently exist in English language according to Global Language Monitor
But here we are, the 2016. shamelessly marching on, and still not a single word – out of all those aforementioned 1,025,109.8 - anywhere near my life’s horizon. 

Writer or not, I feel like a total loser.