Eating McDonald’s, or catching our flight

I’m lovin’ it!

Every year, I visit my family in Russia for three months in the summer.  This year, I made the cross-Atlantic journey with my mom and 5-year old niece.  We were flying from CLT (Charlotte) to JFK, and JFK to VKO (Moscow).  The morning of our flights, I prayed to myself for everything to go smoothly.  I made sure to repeat the prayer multiple times, and I did this not because I’m paranoid, but because I know that when I fly with my mom, things hardly ever go down without some sort of adventure.  I prayed, nonetheless.

When we landed in JFK at around 12:45 p.m., we knew that we didn’t have much time before our next flight at 2:20 p.m.  However, my niece kept yelling, nonstop, “I’m hungry!  I’m HUNGRY!  I’m H.U.N.G.R.Y!” Mom desperately needed coffee, and when I checked our boarding pass, it said, “Boarding at 1:30 p.m.”  I figured that, my goodness, we had plenty of time to stop for a quick bite!  So we took some time tracking down a McDonalds and placed a big order.  My niece started to crave pretzels after JetBlue offered her a small bag on the flight from Charlotte to New York, so her and my mom went shopping for pretzels while I waited for our order.  Nonchalantly, and out of pure boredom, I glanced down at my boarding pass.  Humming to myself, I skimmed through our seat numbers, airline name, and destination, before my eyes glided over the boarding time again.  My heart stopped beating for a second, and I reread the fine print, which clearly said, “Boarding until 1:30 p.m.”  I glanced down on my phone, on which, in bold, bright numbers, it read, “1:45 p.m.”

Now let me tell you that in my 20 years, I have never stepped away from a McDonalds order.  There are very few things in this life that are more important than my large fries and iced coffee.  However, if anything can top that list of priorities, it is missing a trans-Atlantic flight that cost us thousands of dollars with a hungry 5 year old, my wild mom (more on her later), and $20 in my bank account (I tend to shop a lot for these trips to Russia) in, of all places, New York.

So I drop everything, grab my bag, and begin to run around the airport like a half-baked fool.  Worst of all, Mom was no where in sight, and I had no idea where she went to buy the damn pretzels!  I run up to the nearest security guard, look her dead in the eye, and say “Idon’tknowwheremymomisandIammissingmyflightpleasehelpmetrackherdownortelltheplanetowaitorkillmecallsomeoneforhelppleaseIamdying.”  To which she, of course, replies, “Okay, do you know where they went?”

Ummm…

I didn’t even bother replying and continued running around the McDonald’s in circles with frantic eyes.  I finally spot a lanky child digging her hands into a large bag of pretzels, and run up to my mom and niece.  I thought of how to quickly explain the whole situation, but the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Hurry!  Late!”  I grabbed my niece and ran towards Gate B31 which was, naturally, located on the other end of the airport.  My mom was 20 feet behind, and I kept yelling at her to hurry, but all I saw was her muttering words under her breath (nothing good, I’m sure) before she completely disappeared from my view.  I just remember thinking, “Aw, hell!  This ship is sinking and I’m not going down with it! Sorry, Mom!”

At around 1:55 pm, we ran up to Gate B31, my mom coming up behind me a few minutes later, only to see a huge line going around the gate. The passengers had not even boarded yet.  While the flight was running a little behind, I knew that boarding would start any minute!  I turn to Mom, who swears one more time, and says, “What about the food?!”

Wait, what?  She can’t seriously be worrying about the McDonald’s order…

“The food!” She yells again, “We left our food!”

I look at her wild-eyed as she goes up to one of those airport golf-cart cabs, and asks the driver to drive her back to McDonald’s so she could pick up her order.  I stood there, watching her and not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry, until she got onto the taxi and drove off into the crowd.

Forget the flight, my mom wasn’t going to let anything stop her from getting McDonald’s.

Part of me wanted the flight to depart just so I could say, “That’s what happens when you choose a Happy Meal over boarding your plane!”  But then I thought about the aftermath of such a catastrophe, and figured, “Eh, maybe I don’t want that after all.”

Twenty minutes later, before boarding ever even begins, Mom pulls up in a golf cart cab like the Queen that she is, towing a large paper bag filled with fast food.

Thankfully, we boarded the flight and safely arrived in Moscow, but we couldn’t have done it without some swear words, a golf-cart cab, and McDonald’s (which was delicious as always).

All is well that ends well.  I hope you have an awesome Thursday.

Much love,

my_signatue

A few of my favorite things

When we first moved to America in 2003, my family did not own a VHS or DVD player (back then DVD players were the hot new thing), and we only had the basic few channels you could watch when you broke a sweat twisting the antenna in all directions before finding an awkward position that removed the static.  I did not start watching Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel until years later, and as I look back now, this was a true blessing.  Instead, I watched the only movies that were offered on the basic channels — the classics.  The original Annie left me with such an impression that right afterwards I put on a skit for my parents in which I played Miss Hannigan (I always loved being the villain) and my brother tackled the role of Annie.  I felt the same way about Little House on the Prairie, Mary Poppins, and, of course, the Sound of Music.

I hum along tunes from my favorite movies throughout the day, singing “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow!” when I’m having a bad day, and “So long! Farewell! To you, and you, and you!” when I am leaving my shift at work.  Diane Sawyer did a 20/20 special with Julie Andrews on the Sound of Music, and I was reminded of another one of my favorite musical hits.

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things”

Here are a few of MY favorite things (in no particular order).

1. Drinking coffee in the mornings with my mother.

2.  Watering flowers on a warm spring day.

3.  Sleeping-in on Sundays.

4.  Driving with my windows down, belting out One Direction.

5.  Long car rides and road-trips with Katie and Brenda.

6.  Having black bread with butter and a slice of deli meat along with a hot cup of coffee.

7.  Cannolis from Bella Fresco.

8.  Landing at the JFK airport in New York and Grozny airport in Russia.

9.  Preparing pasta dishes.

10.  Hot bread.

11.  My niece Aiyana.

12.  My few dear, close friends.

13.  My family.

14.  Writing.

15.  The beach in July.

16.  Laughing until I get tears in my eyes.

17.  Reading a paranormal romance novel.

18. Kneading dough.

19.  Singing (even though I am really bad).

20.  Truly believing that great things are ahead.

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

I wish for you to have many favorite things to remember when you are not feeling so well.

All my love,

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Failure, and the vision within.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

– J.K. Rowling

I was having a conversation with a dear friend about the future, and I was telling her of all these plans and dreams I had, when she said to me, “Indira, you just have it all figured out!”  I find it amusing that this is the vibe I give off, because I truly have nothing figured out at all.  In fact, most days I think that I have no idea what I am supposed to do, and at the bottom of all of my insecurities lies a huge fear of failure.

At her commencement speech to Harvard’s class of 2008, J.K. Rowling said, “Poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.”  There are countless of people, both great and small, who are anxious to tell you that money does not buy happiness, and that failure is a great stepping stone to success.  While I am sure that there are cases when both of these statements are absolutely true, I can attest from my own bitter eye-witness accounts that they can also be false.  Because I have lived through times in my life when money would have most definitely bought my family happiness, and when failure was not a stepping stone to anywhere great.  It was just failure.  Period.  I’ve seen people fail.  I am afraid of failing like they did.

I have two great fears for how my life will turn out.  First, I am afraid of being poor.  I have been there, I have done that, and I have no desire to repeat the experience again.  Second, I am afraid of living an average, ordinary life.  These are my two great fears, but I fear being poor a teaspoon more than I fear living an ordinary life.  Which is why I am constantly questioning my decisions.

I live, breathe, eat my dream of being a world-renowned journalist. I talk about it all the time.  I practice speeches and mock-interviews in front of my best friends, Katie and Brenda.  I hoot and holler how I’ll win awards, and I write blog posts as if I have any business writing at all.  What I don’t ever talk about is the doubt that at time consumes me; the fear that enters into my heart when I read yet another article that talks about how journalism, as a career, will soon disappear, or when another wise adult says, “There is no decent paying work for journalists!”

When I hear these things, I’m afraid I’m going to be poor and ordinary.  I’m afraid that I will fail at my life.

I scratch my throat because it has gone slightly dry, and my stomach does a little flip, I remind myself what sets apart those that fail, and those that succeed.  I have had the opportunity to see people fail, and I know that there greatest failure of all was to give up.  By giving up, you fail eternally.  So I close my eyes, and give myself a second to see the vision.  The vision I have had my whole entire life.  In this vision, I am Indira, a journalist, and I see lights and cameras, and somehow all of the attention is on me.  In this vision, I am not a failure, I am a great success.

No matter how many times I fall down, or how many more people I watch fail, I will keep my vision tucked close by my heart, and I will always wake up in the mornings to try once again.  Life is hard for everyone, but there are those who have the spirit to push past the obstacles, and those who let the obstacles take over them.  I was born tackling obstacles; it has become a talent of mine.  Which is why I know that all hardships come to an end eventually, and when they do, we need to be prepared to take control once again.  As the great saying goes, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

With all my love,

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Righting the Wrongs

“I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”
              – Maya Angelou

When I was attending high school in Russia, I was often told the popular saying, “Beauty is power.”  Young girls are led to believe that by being appealing to a man, they hold power in the world.  If you are considered unattractive, than you are pitied and destined for unhappiness.  Most girls choose to get married right after graduating from school, never believing in themselves enough to pursue an education.

Because we are girls, people often only look at our appearance.  They don’t see how we struggle to get through our days as we work hard to multitask between working and studying.  They are not aware that we have stayed up until three in the morning reading textbooks, only to wake up for work just three hours later.  They don’t see us fighting, crawling, and digging our way towards becoming individuals.  When they look at us, sometimes all they can say is, “You’re not wearing make-up today.”  With that sentence, they demean us to being “ugly” girls, considered lazy no matter how hard we truly work.  But I say let them for now, because we are going to make something out of ourselves, and then they’ll be forced to look at more than just our appearances.

In the United States, 2,319 men have served as Governors, and only 35 women.*  Women make up for approximately 50% of the world’s population, yet even America does not have true gender equality.  The media objectifies women as sexual objects with flawless skin, perfect features, and exposed bodies.  This is what the youth is influenced by.

Women continue to be oppressed in most of the world.  While countries such as Saudi Arabia frankly forbid women from going anywhere without a male chaperone, others such as the United States discreetly discriminate by paying a woman 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.*

Girls are in desperate need of role models who show them that women are capable of so much more than flaunting their bikini bodies at a photo-shoot.  I want to go down the road that Barbara Walters, Valentina Tereshkova, Jeannette Rankin have paved for aspiring young women such as I.  By continuing to shatter barriers and pushing beyond limitations, more and more women will realize that they are capable of achieving anything.  When this happens, men who hold power in business, law, and politics will have to move over and make room for the women, and gender equality will prevail.  In my bid for success, men play an insignificant role.  I’m doing it for the girls, so that when they look at me they will think, “If she can do it, than I can, too.”  I want for young girls all over this planet Earth to understand that beauty is not power.  True power is an education, a successful career, and most importantly, independence.

With all my love,

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* [Source: Miss Representation]

What it means to be accepting. 

“Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons.”

— Jessica Lange **

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I haven’t been celebrating Christmas my entire life.  In fact, I’ve celebrated the holiday exactly two times; both with my best friend Katie.  In all honesty, Christmas is now more about the movies, the food, and the presents than about the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  This is a fact many Christians are saddened to admit.  Katie, though, still treasures the true meaning of Christmas, so when we chose to spend Christmas together by drinking hot cocoa, having a delicious dinner, and watching Donald Duck’s Christmas Favorites, Katie also asked me to go to church with her.

I’m Muslim.

At first, I was mortified by the thought.  My goodness, I’d be betraying my faith and God!  After giving it some thought, I said yes.  I figured that Christianity is a monotheistic religion just like Islam, and I’ve spent enough time with Katie to know that our beliefs are, really, almost identical.  Most of all, I wanted to go and learn something new.  So many people choose to stay ignorant about different faiths, and I wanted to look at how other people worship.  I believe it is important to know this stuff, if only because it makes you think twice before judging someone by their faith.  This is especially important to me because my faith continues to be unfairly judged, and I wouldn’t want to make anyone else feel like I have often felt after reading the comments section of an article discussing Muslims.  Let’s just say that people are especially cruel when hiding behind the name Anonymous.

I had chosen to wear a purple sweater and jeans to wear to the Christmas service, but Katie quickly explained that jeans aren’t proper Church attire, so I swapped them out for a black skirt I had to borrow from Katie.  The skirt, in all honesty, looked much better with the sweater, and if I was nervous about going to church for the first time, at least I felt comfortable in my oh, so stylish! outfit.

Before we entered, Katie told me to immediately let her know if I felt uncomfortable, which was incredibly sweet and reassuring to hear.  I promised that I would.  The outside of the church was very modern, and the only thing that gave away it being a place of worship was a large sign listing the times of the services that would be held that day.  I was expecting a large cross to be perched on top of the building, but the only other thing besides the brick building on the lot was a playground and a parking lot.  No cross.  I let out a sigh of relief.

What surprised me the most was that the service was held in a gymnasium.  At my questioning look, Katie explained to me that there probably wasn’t enough room in the chapel.  The gymnasium was just like the one I had in my middle school.  There was a large projector, and plastic chairs were lined up in a semi-circle.  Still no large crosses!  I was beginning to calm down.

The reason I feared seeing a large cross was because I had the fear that by being beside a cross, I was betraying my Muslim faith.  While there are many, many similarities between Islam and Christianity, the cross symbolizes their differences. More than anything, it was a childhood fear of mine that being around a cross made you automatically become not Muslim.  While I realize that thinking this way is ridiculous, because your beliefs come from your heart, I still felt hesitant and nervous.

We met up with some of Katie’s older relatives — a few very sweet women in their 90’s.  The ladies were full of southern charm and gentility.  Everyone was very kind to new faces, although I refrained from mentioning my Muslim faith.  Our group sat down in the third row, and for the first part of the service I was observing my surroundings.  It was so interesting to me to think that I was inside of a church.  I thought about all of the times I met people who said, “Oh, I’ll be at Church on Sunday.”  I would think, I wonder what they do there!  Now, I feel like I’m in on the secret.  I know what people do at church.

We sang Christmas carols, and I really enjoyed this part, because I was familiar with most of them from movies and TV shows.  When there would be a line that obviously went against my Muslim beliefs, I wouldn’t sing it, and then would pick up again in the chorus.  When Katie noticed me doing this, she went into a fit of muffled giggles, which got us a few stern looks from those sitting around us.  Whoops.

After singing carols, there was a part where everyone had a piece of bread dipped in “wine” (I was told it was really grape juice).  When it was my turn to take a piece, I hid behind a door.  It’s not that there is anything wrong with dipping bread in juice, and I was so starving that I actually contemplated doing it,  but I didn’t want to participate without knowing the meaning behind the ritual.

My favorite part out of the whole service was the candle lighting ceremony.  Everyone stood in a circle with a candle, the lights were dimmed, and we were given a few moments in silence.  The dark room was beautifully illuminated by the candle light, and it was a very fascinating sight.

After the service, I finished cooking the lamb at home, and we had a very pleasant dinner.

I was very hesitant to go to church, and feared that I betrayed God by attending a Christian service.  However at the end of the day, I can only describe the experience as being incredibly pure.  I felt at peace.  I also realized that it doesn’t matter what house you worship at, because every religion is holy in it’s own way.  I know that there are some Muslims who would judge me for attending a Christian service.  I wish that I could share the experience with them.  I also wish I could get more Christians to visit a mosque.  If only we knew how the other worshiped, there would be less judgement and more understanding in the world.  Worshiping, no matter what faith you belong to, is all about love.  Love unites us all.

 

I hope you have a wonderful 2015, full of love and happiness, and not one drop of hate.

 

Yours truly,

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**Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/acceptance.html#AVwsrs2DlJKXA5YR.99

 

First Lady: Surgery, Finals, and a trip to Washington, D.C.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

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Me, at the National Museum of American History.

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus, mostly because of a sinus surgery I had done, and finals taking over my life for two weeks.  The former I spent on the couch, popping pain pills and watching One Direction videos on YouTube.  The latter found me hunched over my coffee table, an espresso from Starbucks in hand, surrounded by sheets of papers strewn around textbooks.  I’m proud to say that I’ve gotten through both, successfully, and now have a minute to sit down and do what I love most — write.

In the midst of the surgery and finals, I also had the great honor of visiting Washington, D.C.  It was my second time in the Capital City, and my first touring the White House.  I was very excited, because not many can boast that they were ACTUALLY INSIDE OF THE WHITE HOUSE.  This trip was a much needed two-day getaway for me, my best friend Katie, and her mom (and also my dear, dear friend) Brenda.

We arrived in DC Thursday evening.  After stressing over the traffic in a big city, and finally finding a parking spot, we had dinner at Nando’s.  Nando’s was introduced to us through One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer.  I can describe the establishment in one sentence: They have amazing chicken.  So Katie and I dragged Brenda with us to be the ridiculous fan girls we are, ordering the same food Harry Styles allegedly orders when he dines at the chain restaurant.  Continue reading “First Lady: Surgery, Finals, and a trip to Washington, D.C.”

When you are sick, you are a child.

When I first moved away from my Mom, it was a very hard transition for me.  I would call her every single day, crying, telling her that I just wanted to come home.  A few times, her motherly heart breaking from my constant tears, she would actually tell me, “Why don’t you, Indira?”  Well, I toughed it out, and instead spent my three month summer vacation with my mom.  It was, as you can imagine, absolutely amazing.  We would go out together, and watch TV shows together, and I would randomly show up at her work and spend hours with her so she wouldn’t be lonely.  I’ve never been one of those kids that would constantly fight with their mom because she “didn’t understand me”.  Sure, my mom is usually brutally honest with me, and it’s most of the time her way or the highway, but I’m proud to say that I absolutely adore my mother.  So yes, it was hard for me to move away from her to go to college in the United States.

After my three month vacation in Russia, I have found it to be easier to cope with my Mom being so far away from me.  I still miss her, but I’ve also accepted it as a healthy part of any 19 year old’s life.  All of us eventually move away from our mothers so we could go conquer our dreams and make them proud.   I’m okay with that now…except until days like this come along.

I woke up yesterday with a sore throat, which in the night turned into a full-blown cold.  I had the aches and chills, a sinus headache, coughs, a runny nose…the whole ordeal.  I got about 2 hours of sleep (if even that), before eventually crawling out of bed to watch One Direction perform on the Today Show. The worst part was that I have sinus surgery scheduled for this Friday, and the doctor told me absolutely no medicine for two weeks prior.  So the only thing I could do was drink hot tea and whine about the pain.

I was laying in bed in the wee hours of the morning, thinking that if only Mom was here with me, she would make everything better.  She would know exactly what to do to heal me without any medicine, whether it be by sneaking goat fat into my tea (true story) or steaming my legs in hot water… She would know.  She could make it better.  Gone was all of the of thick skin I had acquired in the last year, and I once again missed my mom with my whole entire heart.  I missed her very much.

After finally being cleared by my doctor to take a little bit of Tylenol, I feel better.  But I also know that no matter how old I get, or how tough I get, I will always miss my mom.  When you are sick, and you are helpless, the only one that truly cares is your mom.  Always.

I hope you skip out on the cold this season.  Stay safe, healthy, and warm.

With all my love,

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