The Tree!

Our tree!

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Daddy helps her put the high ones up

It is a tradition in our home to go out to a Christmas tree farm and get a fresh cut tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving. My husband loves this tradition, and it may very well be his favorite part of being married to an American Girl. We both love Douglas Fir for its full shape and wonderful scent. Many people have switched to the convenience of an artificial plastic tree. In the long run it is cheaper, saves time, and no mess. I will never switch to an artificial tree. This is no judgment on anyone that has one. I just love a fresh tree. The smell is intoxicating to me.

At night or in the early morning I love coming out in to the living-room with the tree all lit up. I sit and drink coffee or chai and just adsorb the aroma and the beauty of the tree. I feel a sense of peace and happiness wash over me. I just love a Christmas tree! I am so happy that my daughter and husband do as well. I made cinnamon rolls and hot chai and pizza for dinner. We had alot of fun decorating the tree. facebook-1950

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She loves Ornaments just as much as mommy and daddy

My husband is the perfectionist. Every light and ornament must be perfectly placed! he spends hours stepping back and checking the view. Nasreen loves the put the ornaments all in one little cluster at the bottom of the tree and is so proud of her accomplishment. Daddy quietly moves them to a better location when she has looked away.

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Stole an Elf from the North Pole 🙂

Makes me laugh every time

Our sweet little nativity piece

This year we bought a few new pieces. Many of our ornaments broke in the move. I especially love this santa we got. He is on a spring and when you shake him a little he does a big fat santa hula type movment, it crack me up. I also got a little nativity scene. I really hope to find a larger one, as a child I loved looking at the nativity scene. The Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, animals, and wise men. They filled my mind with so much thought. It sure feels like Christmas in the Rallhan household 🙂

I am Thankful

As Thanksgiving Day approaches and I get busy with the cooking and the preparations for the big meal at my moms, I want to take a moment to write about some of the many things that I am thankful in my life!

My beautiful family

My wonderful husband and daughter, always there for me!

1.GOOD HEALTH. I am so thankful beyond words for my family’s health. To be honest it is something that I take for granted. I am working on getting healthier and eating better and getting out and moving the body that God gave me.  I watch commercials about children with different types of illnesses and I pray to God for those children and pray that my child never becomes so ill. Good health is really something to be thankful for.

2. Family I am blessed with a beautiful large family. I have 7 brothers and sisters. Tons of nieces and nephews, wonderful sister in laws. I have a wonderful family in india from my husbands side as well. This year my grandmother passed away and we learned that my brother and sister in law are blessed to be pregnant with another child! Life goes on and keeps going. I am thankful for my husband and daughter and their constant love and presence in my life. It is through all this love that life has meaning. 

Family around dinner, so thankful for good food.

3. Food: I am thankful for the abundance and variety of food that we are blessed to have. So much of the world goes hungry everyday. I am committed to bring healthy food into our house and be thankful for every bite. 

4. Friends: I am so thankful for the friends that I have in my life. I do not have a large amount of people I call “friends”, but the ones that I do have are really quite wonderful. You know who you are!!  You are there for me through the ups and downs of life; making me laugh, letting me rant, and always being there when I needed you. Some are geographically close others are further away, but your presence is always felt in my life. Some of my closest friends are people that I have never even “met” in person. Women that I have met though my social media group for mixed Indian couples and together we have created real friendships. I want to thank all these wonderful people in my life, near and far! 

So happy to NOT be living in snow anymore

5. Weather: After living in Michigan for one year and experiencing the worse snowy winter in more than four decades I am so thankful to be back in the mild climate of California. I will never take for granted the weather again. I only pray that California gets the rain that it needs to get us out of the horrible drought that it hitting this region.  

6. Technology: These days Facebook and the overuse of phones has given technology a bad reputation. The truth is technology is a tool.  I live apart from a lot of my family and Facebook and the internet has kept me connected to all of them. We do not get to see our family in India, Maryland, Texas, or even Los Angles that often. Facebook, email, and skype keeps us all connected in each others lives! I am so thankful to get to be connected to my family and friends even though they are so far away from me.

7. Safety! : I am so thankful that on a daily basis we are relatively safe. There is a large portion of the World, including the United States, that life can be taken so quickly. Where children are killed by bombs and bullets. Where lives end in senseless violence and children grow up with an unending fear! I am so grateful beyond any words that we live in a place of relative safety. I pray for peace in the world.

I know I can not possibly list everything that I am thankful in my life in this short post! I am so thankful for the people and things in my life that make it better and worth living. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

What does it mean to be married?

What does it mean to be married? There are many romanticized concepts of marriage involving ideas like “one true love” and “destiny”.  These ideas are sweet and great for movies, novels, and inspiring legends of old. The reality of marriage is really quite basic. A marriage is a union.

Some marriages are based on mutual love, where the couple chooses each other. While other individuals have their partner chosen for them by their parents and family; this is the case with arranged marriages.

Why do we marry? Love and affection can be achieved through dating, no need to tie the knot. A marriage is also not meant to create children, because as we all know it is the sexual act not the marriage ceremony that produces offspring. Unmarried couples live together and share financial responsibility, so that’s not the reason.

To take all the romanticism out of the idea of marriage, the reason we marry is because marriage is a social/religious convention. It is what is considered proper and deemed correct by most people in  society.  Dating is meant to transition to engagement and then to marriage. In the case of arranged marriages the phase of dating is skipped and the couple goes straight to engagement to marriage.  The term dating is considered slightly juvenile. The titles of Boyfriend/Girlfriend sound inferior to the terms of Husband/Wife. The concept of marriage is considered sacred and important in society.

Why does society and religion dictate that a couple should formally announce their commitment to each other? Stability! A marriage, whether religious or civic is a legal union. It is viewed by the government and the church as an agreement. A clear commitment to stay together.

Look at Western Wedding vows. Commitment is riddled throughout it!

“ I,  ”your name” take you,” spouse name” to be my lawfully wedded(husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

WOW!, until death, now that’s something I can plan a future around!

The reasons I married are no different then what I described above. The honest answer; I loved him and wanted to spend my life with him. It was not enough to me to just be dating; I wanted his future tied to mine formally. I wanted that agreement in writing. I wanted to know I could plan my life with him and that one disagreement could not end it all so suddenly. I also wanted the rights and legal privileges of marriage. A legal marriage requires a formal divorce, which included a huge stack of paperwork, lawyers, and a headache. I was secretly hoping that the thought of the process of divorce would make us realize the disagreement was really not that bad. I married for stability.

Did you know that people are generally happier being married then being single. Many studies have been done on the topic of happiness in marriage versus happiness being single. Here are the results from the Pew Research Center; 43% of married respondents reported that they were “very happy,” compared to 24 % of unmarried individuals. Stability and a sense of security are directly tied to one’s ability to achieve happiness. Having an idea about the future and being able to plan for it gives a person a sense of meaning and control of their lives. Marriage with all of its ups and downs is still a very formal union at its core. It gives the individual a sense of stability.

When you marry another individual you tie yourself to their life. Your future is combined with theirs. Your plans must include this individual. You must also communicate your plans, actions, spending, and general movements to this other individual. At times you may have to compromise on something that you may want. In my opinion the secret to a happy marriage is finding an individual with similar values and goals.  The more similar the values and goals in the marriage the less compromises that are needed to be made.

Honestly marriage is not for everyone. If you are the type of person that needs complete autonomy in life, marriage may really not be for you.  To put it quite basically you lose some freedom being married. Someone else has an impact on your life. This can be frustrating at times. Having to factor in another person, their goals, their family, their emotional background all into something you are trying to complete is challenging. This is especially true for finances, raising children, and career planning. If the two individuals are not on the same page on those issues, then that relationship is doomed to be a difficult one.

Marriage is really quite beautiful. Marriage is a union of two people. Two people that love and support each other. Two people that are bound together by experience and habit. I have only been married four years, but I cannot think of life without my husband in it. My everyday habits are formed around our relationship and its history.

A marriage is a process. Most people assume you are married when you finish your vows at the wedding ceremony. The reality is the longer you are married, the more married you become in each other’s lives. The more connected you become to each other, the stronger the union becomes. This is especially true if the couple has endured obstacles and came out stronger on the other side.

In my experience marriage is not the romanized concept of true love and destiny. A marriage is just two simple people trying to make a future together. Two people bound together by a promise. Two people tied together by a history and mutual love. Two people working towards a dream. It takes some work. There are good days and bad. When all is said and done having a partner to travel through this journey of life really is quite beautiful.

Masala Guilt

In this blog I have talked a lot about my experience of being a gorri women married to a Punjabi Indian man. I have talked about how I feel, what I go through, the good and the bad. Today I am writing about the effect of our masala union on my husband. 

My husband’s life plan before he met me was to come to the United States to do his masters degree. He thought that he may work a year and then go back to India with a leg up on the employment world. His parents did not want to see him go to the United States. They begged him not to go! He is their only son. They are a very close family.

He never planned to spend his life in the United States. He had planned to go back and take care of his aging parents. He wanted to make good money so that his family could be more comfortable and have the better things in life. His father and mother both worked for the Government, so they were very much middle class. My husband wanted more for them. He went to the United States to help him achieve that goal.

My husband is very Punjabi. He loves his culture and his country. He loves his food and traditions. He misses the music and the simple chance to speak Punjabi. He loves the United States but Punjab will always be his home.

When we met and started dating and than decided to marry it changed his entire plan. He was living in the United States with an American wife and an American born child. He started a career in the United States. Thoughts of going back to India suddenly seemed unlikely. 

When his father became suddenly ill my husbands world fell apart. My husband had the make the choice of working to help pay for treatment or coming to India to say goodbye. The doctor had told him that his father would survive the cancer, but sadly he was sicker than we all thought. My husband left on a plane one day after hearing that his father was terminal. Sadly his father passed while my husband was still on the plane. He regrets this part of his life, and its hard for me not to feel guilty. If he had followed his plan and gone back to India after college he would have been there for his father. My husband has never really shaken off the guilt of not being there with his father when he needed him.

My husband lives in two countries. Physically here with my daughter and I in the United States. He is also mentally in India with his mom and sisters. On all of our computers we have both USA time and Indian time. He worries and stresses about their safety. India is not the best place in the world for two women living by themselves with no male in the home. His mom has chronic problems with her lungs from TB and asthma. Whenever she has an attack and my sister in law calls panicked at mamma ji not being able to breath we panic. We spend entire days and nights pacing and worrying not knowing what to do or how to help. It is a powerless feeling. 

We are in the process of sponsoring his mother to come here , which will take over a year, but the process of bringing his sister here is alot harder, and would take many years. We have even talked about moving to India. We spent some time there in the past and my husband knows how hard it would be for me to live there and be independent. Being a gorri in India, I was not able to be anonymous and independent on the streets. I do not know enough Punjabi and it would be hard. Its not impossible many expats do it, but it is not the life he wants all of us to live.

I admire my husband for his strength. He is the head of household of his family both in the United States and in India. For the most part everything goes smoothly, but when things go bad then it is heart breaking.  I look forward to the day that his mom can come here and we can be united as a family and my husband can finally live in one timezone.

I know that my husband made the choice to make his life in the United States. We discussed all of these issues when we were still dating. He is the one that decided to marry an American. I can not shake the feeling that by marrying me he went against all the dreams he had and his parents had for him. Maybe that is the reason that I work so hard to adapt to his culture, learn Punjabi, and cook the foods of his people.To make up for the guilt I have for separating him from his land and people. Everyday life is wonderful, it is just those days when I see that horrible lost helpless look on his face when something is going on at home, and all that guilt comes back.

To other Masala couples, Do you ever feel that their spouse is divided between their home with you and their home abroad? 

If you are living away from where your family is, do you feel the guilt living away from your family? 

Beautiful Fall Days

I love fall!! It is my favorite season, for its beautiful colors, fresh produce, holidays, food, and the chance to wear scarves and boots. I love the feeling of fall, it warms my heart. I am especially enjoying this season since moving back to California from Michigan. Fall is already over in Michigan, they have had their first snow fall. I honestly do not miss the snow at all, not even for a moment. Today Nasreen and I went to the park and I could not help but take some photos! I am so thankful to live in such a beautiful place. 

Masala Relationships: How do They Work?

Ever wonder what it take to make a Masala relationship work? What adjustments are needed from both people? 

Here are some reflections from my own masala marriage. 

Sometimes when I tell people that I am married to a man from India I get the reaction “ how does that work?” or “it sounds like it would be hard”. I always shrug off the comments with just a quick canned response, “ we make it work”.  If I were to stop and truly talk about the complexity of an inter-racial/inter-cultural/inter-religious marriage it would take a lot of time. The ultimate truth is it is hard! It’s worth it but it’s a challenge. If I had married and had kids with an American man, life may in fact be simpler. The reality is that I did in fact fall in love with, and married a man from India and with that union came many adjustments for both of us and our families.

My life has changed in so many different ways as a result of being married to a Punjabi. I have had to learn a new language, a whole new style of cooking, a new culture, a new religion, different clothes, new traditions and social beliefs. I have to keep a balance of my own beliefs and traditions while also embracing his. To ignore the stares from people, and standing out at Punjabi gatherings as the only Gorri ( American) in the room. The struggle to define my own identity while also creating a masala or mixed culture for our daughter. If I had been like so many of my friends and married an American I would most likely not have these struggles. No new language, religion, culture, or food to learn.

I would not trade my masala marriage for anything in this world. I do not resent having to learn and adapt to our unique relationship in fact I find it beautiful and I feel blessed. Blessed to live in two beautiful cultures and traditions. Blessed to learn a whole new style of cooking and a whole new language.  I feel blessed to raise our daughter with this unique multi-cultural identity.

In summary a masala marriage is difficult at times and requires effort that not everyone is ready for. It requires a person to be able to adjust and adapt. To be able to see the beauty in their own culture as well as their partner’s culture. To have a strong sense of personal identity and an accepting nature! To know what is most important to you, and to stand firm in your beliefs while also understanding the needs of your partner’s beliefs. To not lose ones self and feel resentment, but instead come out stronger.

A masala relationship is truly beautiful but requires true effort as well.  The couple must have a strong sense of commitment to each other and a willingness to communicate openly and honestly.

It has been five years since we started on this Masala journey and we have both made many changes in our lives along the way. It is a process, and we will keep working on this relationship.

My Four Year Old Writing Her Name in English and Punjabi

Nasreen received a chalk board as a house warming present from mommy and daddy. Our move across country from California to Michigan and then back to California was hard on her. Emotionally she is very mature and very aware of her surroundings.  Moving and having to leave things and people behind has left her feeling unsettled. We gave her the chalkboard as a way of saying welcome to your new home! She loved the easel and chalk board and spends hours drawing and writing on it.

Recently she has been practicing writing her name in both English and Punjabi letters. It makes me so happy to see her so passionate about learning how to write and speak in both English and Punjabi and I will support her in any way I can. She has an easier time writing in English because her school supports those lessons, but she is picking up Punjabi well. I am currently writing a Punjabi child’s picture dictionary to help teach her more vocabulary. I hope that it may possibly help other children learn Punjabi as well.