Social Media, Neither Good nor Evil

Social media has become a hot topic in recent years. When it was first unveiled Myspace and later Facebook were hailed as innovative. People flocked to join and become apart of this new trend. Recently these social media sites have been blamed for suicides caused by bullying among adolescents, as well a tendency for people to actually become less social. There is a new movement of people who are “deleting” their Facebooks and unplugging from social media. “Facebook” has become a dirty word associated with inflated egos, “selfies” and superficiality.Week-of-evil-400x255

I agree that social media platforms have attracted a certain type of attention seeking individual who feeds on praises from “friends”. It has brought about an obsession for sharing every detail of individual lives. The need to keep up with their friends and to shape their family photos into perfection! To be more interesting, thinner, and happier than everyone else on their friends list. 

I believe that social media is simply a stage! On that stage you can build anything you want. Some people choose to make it all about them and post “selfies” and pictures of their vacations or new car purchases. Others use that stage to discuss political issues that are important to them. I use my stage to share my family’s life with those that I love and care about.

I have three sisters and four brothers. I also have have 11 nieces and 1 nephew and another niece on the way! My husband is from India,  where his mom and two sisters and a niece and nephew still live. We both went to college in Southern California and now live in Northern California. I have traveled to South America. In short, Facebook is where I keep in contact with all of my family and friends. 

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We had a small wedding, most people found out about my wedding from a facebook photo like this

To be honest it hurts me deeply that I can not be with my nieces and nephews as they grow up. I have always wanted a close family, but for varies reasons we are scattered around the world. It fills me with so much happiness to see their pictures, videos, and milestones on my Facebook feed. This may sound corny but I feel as if I am there with them as they grow up. On the occasions I do get to see them in person I feel like I have not missed any time with them. I do not feel like a stranger. I feel that I know them and their interests and personality. I have seen them play sports, dance, sing. I have seen their videos and I have watched them blossom. I have seen friends wedding photos and births and graduations. I have laughed at jokes and video and cried and connected with people over tragedies.

I can send out emails to all these people in my life, but Facebook just makes it easier. I can post a picture of my daughter at ballet, and now my mom and siblings and family all can see this important event in my daughter’s life. I am not ashamed to say that Facebook keeps me connected. 

Social Media has allowed me to make new connections as well. To make new friends. I mean to use the word friends, not just the people on my facebook account, but real friend I actually care about and who care about me. Specifically Facebook has allowed me to meet other “Masala Couples”. When I first met and then married my husband I did not know any other mixed Indian couples. I had questions and concerns. We Masala couples face unique issues that only other Masala couples would understand. Since starting my group for mixed Indian couples on Facebook I have made so many friends. We have all connected and bonded over shared experiences.

The problem comes when people judge their self worth by how many likes they get on their photos, or by comparing their lives to others. In the past our life events were not judged and evaluated so easily by others. Facebook has made our lives more public.

I have fallen pray to comparing my life with others,  and feeling inadequate. I see a friends new house, vacation, or career. I feel my own self esteem sink. For a moment I feel like failure in comparison. The reality is that Facebook is a stage and we control what we put on it. We do not know all the details of that person’s life.

My favorite quote expresses my feelings pretty well on this issue. 10881630_10204797737377402_8605916332973807662_n

” Life is a Journey not a Destination” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have to remind myself of this often.

Everyone takes a different rout in life. There is no meter of success! No scale, no bench mark! It is all relative!

I have had people tell me that I am such a wonderful mom because I do so many activities with my daughter. I have heard people say they feel inadequate in comparison because they do not have the time to do those activities with their children. It was never my intention to have that effect on other people. No one sees the tantrums my daughter goes through. No one sees the doubts that I have as a mother or my feelings of inadequacy. I dont share all those things daily on social media. Sometimes I share issues I am having with my daughter because I believe in reaching out for support.

Social media is a communication tool, like a phone, letter, or email!

Gossip, bullying and judgment has been around since the dawn of time. I bet the cavemen even criticized each other. You know they probably competed for best cave paintings! cavemen-art-critic

Forget about blaming social media! Its like blaming a piece of paper because a mean letter was written on it!  Lets instead realize that social media is just a tool for communication. Lets teach our children that happiness is more than things that money can buy. That popularity is fleeting and human kindness is more important. That no one is perfect, and that we should embrace the journey and not just the destination. 

Facebook has connected me with my loved ones and allowed me to be apart of their lives even though we are thousands of miles apart. It is a tool that I control, and is nothing more then that. Deleting Facebook is like destroying my mailbox for its potential to bring bad news. It does not make sense, and has more to do with the individual than the site.

Stuffed Karela!

Last week I wrote about our excitement about finding Indian vegetables at our local market! Today I finally get to post about using one of them in a recipe! Last night I made dear hubby stuffed Karela! He loves these tasty strong gourds but these are by far my mother-in- laws favorite food. I am so glad that I have learned to make them correctly. I can now make these for her when she comes to live with us here in the USA eventually. They take some work but they are very tasty and great in the summer!

Karela also called a bitter gourd is commonly known to have a positive effect on diabetes.

“The fruit contains at least three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which has been confirmed to have ablood glucose-lowering effect, vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p.These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels. It is also known that bitter melon contains a lectin that reduces blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and suppressing appetite – similar to the effects of insulin in the brain.” (i)

           Ingredients 

  • 6-7 small karela/bitter gourd
  • ¾ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¾ tsp red chili powder
  • ¼ tsp punjabi garam masala
  • 1 tsp amchur powder
  • 1 tsp fennel powder/saunf powder
  • 2 medium sized onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • salt as required
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Rinse and peel the karela. Do this gently, you do not want to peel off all of the skin, just the large bumps. I use a knife and rake it across rather than a peeler.
  2.  Make a long cut to open up the karela keeping the base intact.
  3. Remove the seeds and pith with your hands or scrape with a small spoon.
  4. Salt the Karela and place two tablespoons of lemon juice on them in a bowl. Let sit for an hour. You will then squeeze the juice from the Karela. This will cut some of the bitterness. Rinse the remaining salt water off the Karelas.
  5. Heat the oil and fry the karela in the oil till they are browned and cooked on all sides.Remove the Karela and place on a towel. 
  6. In the same oil, add the onions and fry them till they begin to brown add chilis and spices and cook until oil starts to release from the base and it is fully cooked.
  7. Use the cooked base and stuff the fried karela. Some people use thread to tie up the karela to keep the base in. Cook stuffed Karela until completely cooked and tender enough to eat. 
  8. Stuffed Karela are great with rotis, In our family we eat them with yellow daal and yogurt. They have a strong flavor that we all adore! I hope you enjoy!

Finally Found Indian Vegetables!

It has starting to get warm here in Sacramento, California. The first day of spring was this weekend and we are expected to be in the 80’s later this week. I feel like Sacramento skips spring and goes right into summer. The weather change initiates a change in our wardrobes as well as our meals.

Nasreen enjoying summer watermelon last year, she keeps asking when she gets to have watermelon again!

As a kid spring and summer in California meant watermelon, barbecued chicken, corn on the cob, potato salad and ice cream. My husband who grew up in India would look forward to mango shakes,coconut water, Tinda subzi, Kulfi and other summer/spring foods.

I have never had an issue finding Indian dried daals, beans, and spices in the United States. On the other hand Indian vegetables have been a challenge. Indians eat many of the same vegetables that Americans eat and grow locally. Foods like potatoes, peas, Okra, carrots and so on. There are a few fruits and vegetables that are unique to India, and are very quintessential to the summer palate.

GC, back in India passing out rose flavored milk drink to people on the street as part of a Seva project during the hot summer

When I visited India I went in the middle of the hottest part of the year! It was too hot to eat anything heavy. I enjoyed the light vegetable subzis (curries) that my mother in law made. After returning to the US I have been searching for these mystery vegetables ever since. Half the problem is the fact that my husband only knows the Indian name for these vegetables which puzzles the produce clerks at my local stores. I have searched at Indian markets but there is not alot of vegetable variety.

A few months ago I discovered this amazing grocery store called KP International Market! Its huge! Its right near where I live. Imagine a store catering to all the different types of ethnic foods. There is a huge section for Asian food, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese. There is a Middle Eastern section, Mexican, European.  It is an amazing market and the prices are so good! My daughter and I love going down the different aisles searching for new unique foods, different types of cookies. I looked through the vegetables but honestly I dont know which vegetables my Mother in Law used in the subzis. I just know they are tasty!

Karela, which is fried into a wonderful dish!

Every time I come home from grocery shopping I go on and on about how great the market is to my husband. This last weekend I finally got him to go with me! He was like a kid in a candy store! He found some of his most favorite vegetables that he had not eaten since India! Who knew we would get so excited for vegetables!

Fresh Methi!, so good with potatoes and rotis

Indian squash called Lauki, makes a yummy light subzi

Cardamon cookies

I then took him down the Indian section and he raved about their selection of Indian salty snacks and cookies! I had to remind him that we can always come back for more, as he loaded up the cart as if he was preparing a famine! I loved seeing him so happy and having the comforts of his home country! I am excited for using these vegetables. Yummy!

Salty snacks

“Seeing” My Sister Through My Viewfinder

Over the years I have had the great honor of photographing my family. These are by far my favorite people to photograph in the whole world. Photography is incredibly important and personal to me. To capture a moment in time and freeze it right there! I feel that it is my responsibility to do the very best that I can! 

When I was kid I loved photography! I did not own a camera of my own, but I sure used those cheap disposable film cameras to the best of my ability! I would dress my three younger siblings up in matching clothes and hang a sheet behind them and simulate what I thought looked like a photo shoot. Looking back at these photos I laugh! They really are quite ridicules! I cropped my sister’s top of her head off, I can see the wall in the background, and there is a stain on the sheet. Not to mention the photo is underexposed and there is a big teddy bear in the middle for no apparent reason!. My thirteen year old self thought these early pictures were awesome! I felt like a proper professional!

Left to right, My brother Brandon, Sister Crystal, and sister Rachael

Brandon, Crystal and Rachael

In some shoots I got more creative! One in particular I had my sisters dress like princesses and my brother like a pirate and they stood on the dresser in my room. It looks like a picture from Halloween, but no its just a normal day in our house!

As the years went on and I went to college and learned the proper techniques of photography I have had the opportunity to  photograph my siblings again, this time with better equipment.

This last weekend my youngest sister Rachael had asked me to take some photos of her for her college graduation announcements! It was such a honor to photograph my little sister for this momentous occasion. This may sound strange but when I look through the viewfinder of my camera I see more then I do with my naked eye! I see a new depth! A new inspiration!

Looking through my camera I really “saw” my sister!  She was not that tinny little girl with a bowl cut anymore. She was a beautiful young women about to start her professional life! I saw her joy radiate out from her!

I chose a beautiful location on the American River. Sure it was a bit chilly, the ground was slippery, and we often risked falling into the water, but it was a beautiful session!  Right when we were packing up to leave, the sky cleared and we saw the most wonderful sunset! The colors from the sunset reflected from the water and it was amazing! I took out my camera and took a few more photos! These turned out to be my very favorite ones!

Just like my photos from childhood, this photo was not perfect. There was not enough light on my subject because of the bright sunset in the background, but this picture means so much more to me than technique! This photo represents my sister; Warm, colorful, exciting, and beautiful! The whole photo shoot I kept trying to get that excited look from her for graduating, but without it being over the top or staged. When I put her in front of that sunset she literally glowed! I saw and felt her excitement! 

My sister’s boyfriend was a great help during the photo shoot. I tend to get pretty demanding of people around me when I zone in on photography, and he was a great assistant. Not to mention he kept my sister smiling 🙂  We were able to capture some beautiful couples shots as well during this shoot

Looking back at those early photos I see how much we have all grown, how much we have accomplished, and how close we still remain! Photography gives me a special power to capture these moments.I will never stop clicking away and learning new techniques. 

I don’t usually come out from behind the camera but I needed one picture with my sister!

I cant wait to see my little sister receive her diploma in May! I am one proud sister! 

My Little Ballerina: Nasreen’s First Ballet Lesson

This is her, “let me go meet the other kids face”! lol Annoyed at mommy taking pictures

My four year old daughter from the moment she could walk has stood on her tip toes. It is something that most people have noticed when they see her, because it is so peculiar. She runs and jumps all from the balls of her little feet. When we started considering sports and activity classes for her to take, ballet was at the top of our list. She loves to dance and has been drawn to ballet since she was very young, and her natural ability to walk on her tip toes was an added bonus.

It took some time to find the right program and timing that worked for our schedule, but I finally found the perfect class! She started last Saturday. On Friday night we went to the store and got her a leotard and tights and what I thought were ballet slippers. When we got home she was so excited to put them on. She looked so cute! Sadly the slippers that were in the section with the rest of the legitimate ballet stuff and were labels ballet slippers, were not authentic! They were more for play around the house then for dance. Luckily they had plenty of pairs for the kids to practice with at the studio.

Doing her stretches

In the morning I woke Nasreen up which did not take much effort at all, when I reminded her that today was her first ballet lesson! I did her hair in a little bun and she was so excited to look like a ballerina! The teacher is very warm, fun, energetic, and classically trained. The girls in the class, all four years old were, were all so sweet and inviting toward my daughter. When the teacher put on a pair of ballet slippers on Nasreen she told her to try them out by standing on the balls of her feet. Nasreen stood all the way on her toes and the ballet teacher was amazed, and told Nasreen that she had very strong toes! Nasreen blushed!

Sitting up nice and tall

The teacher led them in stretches and other exercises while teaching them the positions and forms. There was a focus on posture and maintaining a strong body. The teacher would go around and slid her finger down the kids spine reminding them to sit up straight and tall. The kids would laugh and sit up taller. I noticed that as Nasreen sat with the other girls that she looked like a ballerina. Her back was already so straight that she did not need to be reminded. Nasreen had so much fun and was not shy at all. When the class was over, Nasreen looked at me with the saddest face, and told me she did not want to leave yet. I reminded her that she will be coming back next week and this made her feel a bit better.

Since the class Nasreen puts on her ballet slippers all day and practices leaping and twirling around the house. I downloaded an illustration of the first 5 positions in ballet and she has been practicing them. It makes me so happy to see her enjoy herself and to use her natural energy and athletic nature for something so beautiful!

After the class I put a jumper over her leotard and tights and she asked me to take a photo of her, she was feeling so happy from her class!

Saying No to my Daughter: Teaching Delayed Gratification

Nasreen and her Special Easter Balloon

My daughter loves Helium balloons. There is just something wonderful and magical  about their bright colors and ability to fly that excites her so much. Whenever we would go into the grocery store she would see the helium balloons floating in the air and would get so excited! One day she asked, ” Mommy can I have a balloon”. She was so sweet and the balloon was only a couple of dollars. I thought to myself this would make her happy and it is something that I can afford. Why not get her that balloon. Then I remembered a study that I had read back in college about the effect of teaching delayed gratification. Teaching children the value of waiting for something rather than having their every whim and want fulfilled instantly. So I paused for a moment collected my thoughts and answered my smiling hopeful daughter. ” Nasreen today we are at the store shopping for food not for balloons”   Her smile disappeared! I continued, ” Balloons are for special times like birthdays or holidays.” Easter was coming in a few week so I asked her ” Would you like the Easter bunny to bring you a balloon with you basket.” Her smile returned instantly! “Yes” she replied.

For the next few weeks she talked about that balloon, and speculated what kind of balloon the Easter bunny was going to bring her. “Mommy will he bring me a red balloon or one with flowers?” She was so excited. At the grocery store she would look at the balloons and say “Mommy the Easter Bunny is going to bring me a pretty balloon!” She no longer asked me to buy her a balloon while at the store. She even told the store clerk all about her balloon coming from the Easter bunny. On Easter morning she ran from her room saw the helium balloon tied to her basket! She beamed with happiness! She loved that balloon more than anything else in her basket! She had waited for it, counted down the days, and this made it that much more special to her.

You might be thinking to yourself, it was just a balloon! Why make her wait so long?! 

The answer lies in the the Marshmallow Study! 

Here are some exerts from that study, a link to the source has been posted at the end

“In the 1960’s a Stanford University psychology researcher Michael Mischel, demonstrated how important self-discipline is to lifelong success.He started his longitudinal study by offering a group of 4-year-olds one marshmallow, but told them that if they could wait for him to return after running an errand, they could have two marshmallows. The “errand” took about fifteen to twenty minutes. The theory was that those children who could wait would demonstrate that they had the ability to delay gratification and control impulse.

“How important is your child’s ability to delay immediate gratification? (Very important.) Is self-discipline a predictor of a child’s success later in life? (Yes.) Can a child who does not know how to delay immediate gratification be taught this skill? (Absolutely.) About fourteen years later, when the children in the experiment graduated from high school, the Marshmallow Study revealed startling differences between the two groups: the children who waited and did not gobble up the single marshmallow, were more positive, self-motivating, persistent in the face of difficulties, and able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. They had developed the habits of successful adults. The habits, the centerpiece of which is delayed gratification, point to more thriving marriages, greater career satisfaction which leads to higher incomes, and better health. On the whole, the preschoolers who were able to wait for two marshmallows, over the course of their lives, have a lower BMI, lower rates of addiction, a lower divorce rate and higher SAT scores.!” (i)

Life is all about delayed gratification, here are just a few examples

School/College

Graduating from college is one of my greatest achievements

Many of us spend four years or more in college to reach a professional goal. Lets face it college is hard, we work hard and study hard. We give up free time with our friends and family! Learning new knowledge can be frustrating and difficult. Its alot easier to quit!   We delay our gratification for the hopes of a larger reward in the future! The dream of achieving a goal!

Saving Money

For those that want to buy a house, go on an expensive trip, or buy a new car we all know that you have to save ! You have to cut costs. This may be in the form of decreasing food bills, so eating at home instead of out. This could also mean forgoing the purchase of new clothes or other expenses! Saving money is hard, no one wants to go without the things we enjoy! The rewards can be great! Well worth the sacrifices! Many people in the United States run up credit cards because they do not save money or wait to make a purchase!

Marriage

Marriage is hard! There are good times but there are hard times as well. The United States has a divorce rate of  of 50%. I honestly believe that alot of divorce is related to individuals inability to see the future good through the difficult situation.

 Life is a series of difficult choices!

Are we willing to forgo something now to get something better at a later time. Will you wait for the second marshmallow or gobble up the one you have now ?

This is an important skill to teach our children. This ability to delay gratification will have lasting effectw on their entire lives. We may have the means and the desire to buy our kids whatever they want, but should we ?

Does it truly make them happy?

What does it teach them about life? 

Is it preparing them for the real world?

I have the means to buy my daughter a balloon every-time we go to the store. I choose to make her wait for a special occasion. I choose to teach her that THINGS are not what make us happy. I teach her that waiting is beneficial, and that it can yield a larger goal. It is hard to tell a child no! They get upset and cause a scene at a store. They may interrupt your chores with their whining. It is easier to give in, to say yes, to bribe them with things!

The reality is that children need to hear no. The world says no, alot! I choose to prepare my child for the future knowing that she can work towards a goal and that it does not need to be immediate.  That waiting can make it that much better! That waiting and working can turn a no into a yes!